What were to happen if thousands of missional-minded Christians were to enter the public school system and develop relationships with even more students and their families? Anthony Bradley, a professor at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, argues that what (especially in urban areas) students need is teachers who are willing to “serve the city” and that “teaching in public schools may be the best place to have the greatest impact outside of the work of local churches.”
His article is aimed most particularly at urban youth and the para-church ministries, but the implications of living with this missional mindset in any public school in any area is huge, if only we could wrap our minds around the sacrifice this would take to be so invested in the lives of students (and the teaching jobs in general).
But this is what missional living is about. Becoming “insiders” in a culture with such a wide gap between the church/Christians and the rest of the world. Isn’t this what we are called to? To enter our city, our workplace, our classrooms with the intention and a passionate heart for the people around us, and to enter into their lives. This is where the greatest impacts will be made.
Here’s a few excerpts from the article (italics are mine):
Do para-church urban youth ministries need to be dissolved and collapsed into neighborhood churches? Do we need urban ministry-minded Christians placing more efforts into teaching in inner-city public schools in order to truly serve the city? I think this may be the way forward. For those Christians with a calling to serve the needs of inner-city youth, teaching in the public schools may be the best place to have the greatest impact outside of the direct work of local churches. The para-church model is out of a 1950s playbook and may not be best use of human and financial capital to meet emerging needs.
The para-church model for helping black and Latino males has expired and does not have the full scope of influence that missionally minded teachers could have being in a school setting working directly with local churches. Teachers have the advantage of being with students most of the day for about nine months out of the year. No urban youth worker could come close to that many “contact” hours. If the minds of urban youth are not being cultivated, we aren’t really helping them become makers of culture here and now.
As public school teachers, administrators, and coaches, urban-minded missional Christians wouldn’t have to raise support either. Moreover, until America begins to re-think our public school system disaster for black and Latino males we will have to work with the current system. As such, the public schools need a cadre of missional Christian teachers, thousands of them, who understand that forming human dignity is spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional.
Gosh, if Christians took hold of this and really believed it, what kind of changes could be made, both in the school systems and in urban culture? If there was a movement, so much could happen. Obviously, this is an issue that is much more complicated than any one person could ever articulate or even do 100% effectively, but it does cast vision for an idea that could help to redeem the educational system in which we live and which affects all of us. Where else will some students see and taste the gospel being lived out?
It is a high, high calling, but one which with God’s grace has the potential to bear much fruit. And it is one more slice of our society that needs be saturated with the gospel. After all, Bradley ponders on his blog, “shouldn’t urban ministry be about discipling minds as well–like algebra, physics, literature, etc?”