Looking Ahead: Wisdom & Resilience for a New School Year
By: Brian Jensen
I spend many of my days in conversations with Christian school leaders from coast to coast. What I’ve heard repeatedly over the past year would not surprise anyone. Yes, exhaustion is a regular part of those conversations. Yes, figuring out a ‘new normal’ is strategized. And yes, words like unprecedented and pivot continue to pepper our discussions. However, there’s one thing that repeatedly energizes me: the continued resiliency I hear in their voices and the excitement they have for what God is doing through their work.
Leadership in Christian education can be challenging, with or without a pandemic. This is difficult work, but the importance of Christ-centered, excellence-pursuing education only continues to increase. This field, and ultimately Christ’s Kingdom, needs committed educators who will lead the way forward. But this work is not for the faint of heart.
In his daily devotional, The Way of Wisdom, Tim Keller writes:
"Wisdom is listening to the advice from others. But it also includes listening to what life itself tells you through experience. Suffering can grow us (Hebrews 12:7-11)--breaking us of overconfidence, making us more sympathetic, showing us our weaknesses, and helping us to become more resilient and dependent on God."
I would venture to say that we’ve all learned a lot through our experiences of the past year and a half, both personally and professionally. We must hold onto these lessons as we lead forward. As you begin a new academic year, here are four things to keep in mind while continuing to learn, grow in wisdom, and lead with resiliency.
Life Lessons. Life teaches us a lot. As Keller so aptly puts it, we must listen to what life teaches us through experience. The simplicity here is profound, but often overlooked. Make it a habit to audit your life experiences on a regular basis. What are you learning that needs to stick? Where, if you’re being honest, have you made leadership mistakes that you need to own and adjust accordingly?
Multiple Counselors. Wisdom also includes accepting advice from others. By God’s design, we cannot fly solo on this journey. It is not good for man to be alone. Who are your trusted advisors? Does your leadership posture allow for others to speak into your life and into how you lead?
God’s Word. Obvious? Sure. But we can so easily slip into negligence when it comes to spending regular time studying His word. Personal devotion time is a critical spiritual discipline. But are you also relying upon the deep wisdom found in the Scriptures when considering your leadership practices? Are you making it a habit to ask, “what does the Bible say about this?” when faced with current challenges or decision-making opportunities?
Institutional Heritage. Many of your schools have a long history and a rich heritage. Yes, adapting to current realities and innovating for the future is necessary. But we must also listen to those that have gone before us. Treasure the wisdom you may find by listening to the voices of those who have led your school through victories and challenges over the course of its history.
Later on, Keller continues, “Adversity drives some people deeply into God’s love but convinces others that a God of love cannot exist.” As school leaders who often have to navigate difficult terrain, may you be leaders that hold onto the promises of the Scriptures--knowing full well the love and faithfulness of God- and always depend upon Him for our strength. This is hard work, but it is good work. Be encouraged.