By Renee Miller
Over the years many unique and interesting families have been a part of our community: Christian, non-Christian, gifted children, special needs children, above average children, below average children, families with means, families who sacrifice to pay tuition–the list goes on. With so much diversity, how do we handle so many people as they come into our communities? How do we even create community? For those of us who feel passionately called to Christian education–both at home and in the private school setting–one of the most difficult areas in which to find balance is between family and community.
Where is the healthy balance? After many years of homeschooling and private schooling, I can assure you that I do not have the answer. However, I think a continuing dialogue is important.
As we cast about for a vision of Christian community and Christian education, it will likely emphasize rebuilding paradigms around healthy families, raising abysmally low educational standards, and promoting Christian ideals in dress, courtship, and basic civility. Creating this kind of culture is a full-scale battle. So how are families approaching this community-building?
On one extreme, I’ve observed families who focus entirely on their own children’s gifts and talents, and see the community as a threat to raising Godly progeny. These families can be quite critical of the areas where community falls short. Somehow, the community never measures up theologically, behaviorally, socially or otherwise. They tend to have unreachable and naïve expectations of what can be accomplished with a group of sinful, fallen people awash in the sewage of our generation. Jesus can transform us all in amazing ways, but it is hard work on everyone’s part.
In the other extreme, parents rely on and continually seek other people to do the job for them. These families hope that the parenting thing will not be too costly or time-consuming. They are often more consumer-oriented, on board as long as it is working well for their children. Their commitment can be short and fun, and like our general consumer culture they move quickly on to the next bigger or better thing. They’re glad to benefit from other people’s hard work and investment yet very reluctant to sacrifice for someone else.
All families need people who will come alongside them and help create safe havens of community where they can be challenged and nurtured. Families need for us to not simply say we don’t have the expertise, money, or experience to deal with their difficult situations. We are keenly aware of the millstone around the neck story and the incredible challenge to bless children and not irrevocably harm them. So we need to be careful to not whisk by in our minivans with fish on the back and leave families lying bruised by the roadside.
Working with people and being in community is hard but rewarding. It is the very practical side of learning to work with people we can’t stand, who are merely reflections back to us of all the miserable things we don’t like about ourselves. It is about modeling for our children how to resolve conflict and develop the discernment to know what is of eternal significance.
Fortunately, we are mercifully in possession of God’s Word, which has the wisdom to help us navigate the rocky roads of relationships creatively–and sometimes miraculously! It’s in the Word that we can find solutions to the problems that come to us.
Our triune God exists in community. He calls us into community. He calls us into families. When we get it right, however fleeting the moment, it reflects the character of God to the world in a way that few other things can.
You are Invited to Respond: What’s a situation you’ve been in where you’ve seen a true community at work?
Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School”). Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.