The Purpose of a Mission Statement

Most organizations today have a mission statement. Some are very focused; others seem to be a bit more, how shall I say this, ephemeral. Regardless of what it is, an effective mission statement does, or at least could/should, serve a purpose.

The main purpose, as I see it in a school context, is that a mission statement sets the direction and focus for a school. Schools are educational institutions and teach children, and yet each school, depending on geography, specific student and staff body, time period, or leadership (however that gets defined) would and should have a slightly different mission statement. The main reason for the differing mission statements is that the focus can be fine-tuned to the student body and the greater school community. A school an in inner city versus a Christian school should have very differing missions.

Once the specific mission is set, the school community can then start to become a mission-driven school. What that means is that every policy and every procedure, from admissions to technology, can then be filtered through that mission statement. If a policy, procedure, resource, instructional strategy, no matter how good or effective, does not line up with the mission statement, then that gets dropped; only those things that further the specific mission of the school are utilized.

A clear mission statement also serves the marketing of the school. The mission statement becomes something to rally around; a calling that will attract some and repel others. It is much easier to attract like-minded people with a clear, effective mission statement than it is without one. More importantly, it helps to filter.

Jim Collins, in his book From Good to Great, coined the phrase ‘getting the right people on the bus.’ This concept was later expanded to getting the right people on the bus in the right seats (with a bus driver who is going in the right direction). In this context, the people on the bus are staff, teachers for the most part. A clear mission statement helps to filter out teachers so that the ones who really get behind the mission remain and others choose to leave. The same filter holds true for students (and their families). A clear, effective mission statement will attract that families that are desired and will help filter out those families that do not support that specific mission.

In light of these various reasons, it becomes imperative to have an effective mission statement, one that can actually be followed and leads to the fulfillment of the planned vision. Words (and concepts) matter. A clear mission compels; an unclear mission muddies the waters.

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Becoming a Steward Leader

In this post I’d like to expand some more on what it means to be a steward leader. I’m taking some of these ideas out of Rodin’s book, The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations and Communities. I like how he phrased many of his thoughts and so I will use his thoughts when appropriate.

One of the first points Rodin makes is that being a steward leader means being anointed by God for the work He intends before being appointed to the task [italics are my own emphasis]. Do we even consider this when we look at our students? Now, anointing does not mean that the person anointed always perfectly obeys God (just think of King Saul). However, when we consider Scripture, we see that those who took on leadership roles were always anointed before they were appointed.

The second point Rodin makes has to do with the nature of leadership. A person can be considered a steward leader if “those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? Steward leaders are stewards over the people they serve. They cultivate people” (p. 16). He adds, “Steward leaders empower their people, give away authority, value and involve others, seek the best in and from their people, and constantly lift others up, push others into the limelight, and reward those they lead – all so that God’s will may be done in a more powerful way. They seek no glory for themselves, but find great joy in seeing others prosper. They take no account of their reputation, be desire that Jesus’ face be seen in all they do…. I have come to understand that the call of the steward leader is a call to a lifestyle of ever-decreasing thirst for authority, power and influence, where our quest for reputation is replaced by the confidence in the power of God’s anointing” (p. 17).

One concern that many people raise when contemplating leadership, is that they do not feel like they have leadership qualities or that they do not feel like they know how to lead. Rodin addresses that point as well, “Throughout history God looked to the least, the weakest, the outcast, the untalented, the sinful and the rejected to give great leadership at historic times. I don’t think he has changed that approach today. If we are honest as leaders, we know that our capacity to lead is easily exceeded by the size and complexity of our call. We know that there are others more talented, more prepared, more spiritual and more courageous than are we. But great, godly leaders have always worked at that miraculous intersection where humility and faith meet the awesome presence and power of God’s Spirit – and the miracle of leadership happens” (p. 21).

A steward leader, in other words, cares more about Christ’s reputation than his/her own and seeks to build His kingdom more than their own. And, the leader is anointed to that end, regardless of which specific title or responsibility her/she carries.

This stewarding has four dimensions to it. “We are called first to be stewards of our relationship with God. That means that our worship, reading and study of the Scriptures, personal devotions and prayer life are acts of stewardship.

In our redeemed relationship with ourselves we are now caretakers of our understanding of who we are as children of the kingdom of God. This is a delicate balance; we are precious and beloved by God but also humble, thankful and obedient to His Word. As we maintain that balance with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are stewards of our self-image.

We are also stewards of our relationships with our neighbour. We are called to be in good, whole, right, loving relationships with one another, seeking to love our neighbour as ourselves, working for peace and reconciliation, and serving our neighbours’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as the Spirit directs us. We are called to make sure our relationships with one another are never means but always ends.

Finally, our restored relationship with creation calls us to be stewards of God’s creation and all the material possessions that we have, placing them and all of God’s beloved creation in the service of one kingdom of Christ.

The calling of a steward leader is built on the theology of the godly steward. As such it is a theology of worship as a joyful response to the God who is for us in Jesus Christ. A godly steward is a new creation in Christ. A godly steward is a joyous servant in the kingdom of God. A godly steward is a child of the King. A godly steward has a mission and a purpose in life. A godly steward is one who knows God in real, personal and certain terms, and who knows that God is for us. In all of this, a godly steward is free” (pp. 48-49).

Bibliography

Rodin, R.S., (2010). The Steward Leader: Transforming people, organizations and communities. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic.

My Vision for Christian Education

My job as a Christian school principal is to provide leadership and direction for the school as a whole, support and encouragement for the teachers, and ensure that all the students are learning and growing (in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men-Luke 2:52). Because I am the principal of a Christian school, that learning has two dimensions: an academic and a spiritual dimension.

One of the verses that shapes how I do what I do is Col. 3:23, ‘And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men’. In other words, my leadership and the efforts of the teachers should result in students achieving both academic excellence (as far as each student is able) as well as spiritual depth. While these two goals are admirable, they do not clearly embody a vision. A vision must go beyond that.

My vision for graduates of Christian education is that they would become change agents, impacting families, churches, communities, and societies. There are two ways to proceed in mentoring students into becoming change agents. The first way is to develop servant leaders. Many schools, including Trinity Western University, have chosen to go this route, with quite a level of success. However, from what I have been learning, there is a more effective (and more biblical) way of achieving an even greater result, and that is through developing steward leaders.

My problem with servant leadership is not that I have a problem with serving. Serving is vital;  it is what we are asked to do as Christians. To be a servant is to obey the instructions of the master (and we ought to obey the instructions of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ). However, Luke 17:7-10 comes to mind….”And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” The problem is that a servant is told what to do but is not really given room to think for him or herself. Initiative, personality, training, and experiences are not factored into a servant’s obedience; a servant just obeys (or at least, ought to just obey).

However, it is different with a steward. A steward is appointed (anointed?) by the master to do business on behalf of the master. There needs to be communication between the two as the steward needs to understand the heart of the master in order to properly conduct business in a way that would please the master and meet the master’s intentions even during times of turmoil and changing circumstances. Initiative, personality, training, and experiences are significant factors in a steward’s obedience. As Rodin puts it, steward leadership “requires nothing less than a complete, wholesale submission of your life in service to God and God only. It is the ‘losing’ of your life to the work that God wills to work in you to benefit your [family], school, church, or organization [or community]” (Rodin, p.14). The kind of leadership that is developed as a steward leader is “not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest” (Rodin, p. 16). And the only way a steward leader can truly move ahead is when they understand and live out Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”.

Bibliography

Rodin, R.S., (2010). The Steward Leader: Transforming people, organizations and communities. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic.

Introduction Part 2

In my last email I shared a bit of my professional and work history. In this post I’d like to share some of my family history.

I grew up in British Columbia. Even though I attended an elementary and junior high in BC, I actually graduated in San Marino (a suburb of Los Angeles). I then moved to Vancouver, BC, with my parents while I attended UBC. I met my wife while I was a student at UBC (she was attending Simon Fraser University at the time) and we got married the day after my last exam.

We lived in the Greater Vancouver area until 2003 and our four children were born there: 3 girls and a boy. I was actively involved in our church, Rose of Sharon Baptist Church as one of the preachers. I was also involved in itinerant preaching in a variety of churches in the Vancouver area. We then moved to the Williams Lake area (we lived out of town) where my kids grew up. My oldest two, both girls, graduated in Williams Lake. Both of them went through UBC as well (my oldest was an English major, Philosophy minor; my second daughter was a geography major and a psychology minor).

We then moved to Campbell River (on the east coast of Vancouver Island) where my younger two graduated. My son then started his environmental engineering program at the University of Northern BC in Prince George. His program includes two years at UNBC, then two years at UBC, and then a final semester at UNBC. When he finishes, he will have a dual degree: an engineering degree from UNBC and an engineering degree from UBC. My youngest daughter graduated this past June in Campbell River and will be heading to Trinity Western University this week to start her Kinesiology degree.

My oldest is now settled into her career: she is the executive assistant to the CEO of GAiN (Global Aid international Network-the global aid division of Power to Change). My second daughter just got married; her husband also graduated from UBC the same time she did. They will be working in the Williams Lake area for the next year as they seek God’s will for their future. My two youngest will be continuing with their education.

So, this year brings changes galore. My wife and I are now empty-nesters. Virtually all of our family is in BC (and now we are not). My wife is still looking for a teaching position. We have settled into our house, and I am settling into my role at SCS, but it will still take some time before we feel settled in Saskatoon. In light of all these changes, we will continue to count on the stability God provides to keep us grounded.

Introduction

Seeing as this is my first blog post for Saskatoon Christian School, I think it would be good to share some of my academic background with you.

I have spent most of my years in British Columbia. I graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Arts. My major was Canadian History and my two minors were English and German. I ended up being a substitute teacher in the Surrey and Mission school districts for 2.5 years. This was not a full-time equivalent job, so I ended up managing an RV parts department for those years as well. That is where I was working when I first got into education.

I got a phone call in early July asking if I would be interested in being the principal/teacher of a new Christian school. In that first year, I taught grade 4-10, was the full-time principal, secretary, bus driver, and janitor. After classes ended, I would vacuum the building and clean the bathrooms and empty out the garbage cans. I had three students that first year: grade 4, 7, and 9. In my second year, the only thing that changed was that I had students in grade 5, 8, and 9. That school grew from 7 students in my first year, to 76 students. In my last years there, I taught most subjects at the grade 10-12 level. During those years I was also on the preaching team of the church that governed the school. I was at that school for 8 years. During this time I earned my Masters in Education in Administration from George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.

I was then called to become the principal of a Christian (church) school in the Interior of British Columbia. I now ‘graduated’ to teaching only at the secondary level (most subjects at the grade 10-12 level) as well as being the principal. Over my 10 years at that school, enrollment grew from 48 to students to 176 students. My full title at that school was Associate Pastor of Christian Education.  I served as one of the pastors (and was ordained through the Evangelical Free Church of Canada) as well as being principal and teacher. That is where I started working on my doctorate in Education.

I was then called to a Christian school on Vancouver Island. I again taught part-time (English Language Arts and Bible) and was full-time principal. My task was to strengthen the academic and discipleship aspects of the school. I finished my doctorate in Educational Leadership through Northcentral University in July 2016. My dissertation topic was a case study on how to help boys succeed in a grade 8-12 Christian school context. I also served as transition pastor of a struggling church in the area.

That brings me to Saskatoon Christian School. I am excited to be here and see what God has planned for me, my family, SCS, and the greater SCS community. I look forward to meeting you and working together to develop a Christian school that honours God, exalts Christ, and disciples students to prepare and encourage them ‘to serve the Church, strengthen communities and influence the world’.