Why I love leading a Christian school

Tim Argall shares key reasons why he is so happy at work

I’m wandering across the school’s campus on a cold Melbourne March morning, making a beeline to the prep-grade building. I enter the foyer – four prep-grade classrooms open into this space. I get distracted by a mum (volunteer helper) introducing herself to me.

I’m still “the new principal.”

Little Jez* wanders across the foyer and I catch his movement out of the corner of my eye. Then he disappears. I keep chatting to the mum I’ve just met. (*BTW, Jez’s name has been changed.)

That’s why I love working in a Christian school.

Suddenly, I feel a tug on the corner of my coat. We look down – it’s Jez. He is beaming. “Mr Argall, Mr Argall – I prayed for you this morning.”

“Thanks Jez, you’re a legend. Bless you,” I reply.

“No, no – you don’t understand” he says insistently.  “I prayed for you … out loud!” he finishes with a cheeky grin, as he shouts the last three words.

That’s why I love working in a Christian school.

I’m sitting at the information evening for year 9, 2018.

You are so happy, my daughter observes

The year 9 coordinator introduces the evening: “Probably the best question to ask at this stage is … What does God say?”

“God says that he knew these kids before they were in your womb. That they were made in the image of Christ. He says that each one of them has a part to play in the body of Christ. He tells us that we were all bought with a price.

“These young people at times have the confidence of giants and, within a second, can feel fragile and isolated. Our role is to educate them to see the world through a biblical lens that equips them to be in the world but not of the world. One that teaches them to recognise their value and identity in Christ. To know they are made for a purpose.”

The freedom to articulate this paradigm shift that we seek to embed as our definition of education – that’s why I love working in a Christian school.

Jess, my eldest, gives me a big bear hug, one of the deep ones she has been known for over her 23 years of life.

“I have never seen you so happy in your work,” she says. “Yeah, it’s been a good day,” I reply. “No Dad – not today – every day.”

I share this with Mary (our younger daughter) on Skype. “Dad, it’s ridiculous. I live 15,000km away, and I can feel it. Stop denying it, you are so happy,” Mary says, with the joyful directness she has been renowned for over her 21 years of life. Ben, the deep-thinking third of three, wanders past – he nods violently – his mane-covered head in danger of being loosened from his 198cm frame.

OK – I hear you, Lord – I love working in a Christian school.

God is ultimately the one we want to give all the glory and honour to.

I spend a night watching all 580 primary students on stage for an evening at the local performing arts centre. A multitude of faces full of joy, having a ball, delivering to the audience not one, but two shows: “Fill Your Bucket” and “Shrek Jr.”

This is how the Head of Primary summarised the evening at its conclusion: “We hope that you have heard clearly some significant themes that we have been encouraging our students to focus on as we have prepared for production. These have included the importance of seeing beyond people’s outward appearance to their heart and the importance of the gift we can give others when we extend friendship to them.”

“Ultimately our desire at this school is that, in the joy and creativity of our children, you will be reminded of and pointed towards the wonderfully creative and joy-inspiring God that we wish to honour tonight. He is ultimately the one we want to give all the glory and honour to.”

The group of boys and girls … spontaneously make this decision to hand over a very difficult situation to God.

Continually, overtly, publicly focusing on God as our creator and the giver of life and all the blessings we enjoy – that’s why I love working in a Christian school.

A (much better than average) sportsman, Jack*, in Year 7 takes a very bad tumble at lunch, hurting himself significantly. What happens next is remarkable. Two friends go to his care and speak quietly to him, another two go to get first-aid help, and the growing crowd who have approached, having witnessed the accident, form themselves into a series of huddles (about five in each) and begin praying for Jack, his injury and his recovery. No adult has arrived, but the group of boys and girls, none older than 15, spontaneously make this decision to hand over a very difficult situation to God.

Seeing these kinds of expressions of faith in the young people of junior secondary – that’s why I love working in a Christian school.

Living out Christian community among a staff of 150 followers of Jesus from 48 different denominational backgrounds (I didn’t know there were that many in Australia, let alone the east of Melbourne!); partnering with parents of more than 750 families, who are all actively involved in their local church and associated ministries, in the God-given gift of educating their children for their primary and secondary schooling; wrestling daily with my college board colleagues to ensure that our founding forebears’ vision for the college is not watered down or lost within our daily activities and busyness; sharing in the education processes that are growing the next generation of Christian leadership for our nation; being part of a movement of schools focused on authentic Christian living and biblical frameworks surrounding all our schools’ programmes – these are a small subset of the reasons why I love working in a Christian school.

Tim Argall is Executive Principal at Donvale Christian College, Melbourne, Victoria.