Putting a Smile on God’s Face!
I often get asked, as the Executive Director of All Belong, why Christian schools, mainly from the Reformed tradition, have Inclusive Education missions.
Now before I begin to answer that, let me please state very clearly ALL that you really need to know (in a nut-shell) about establishing student specific support services for students with moderate to significant disabilities
in any Christian school (known as “Inclusion” in educational circles).
The answer to this question must come from our deeply held theological tradition here at All Belong!
Practicalities (the how to’s and what if’s) by necessity flow out of our beliefs and convictions, but they only represent earthly realities that we have to figure out due to life in a “fallen world”. God sent us His Spirit to help us figure “IT” out (whatever “IT” is). That is why we all believe in the educated mind, and also why schools tend to hire All Belong to help guide them through those practicalities.
So here it is – are you ready?!?
In all seriousness though, there is really only one good answer that I can come up with to the question, “Why have an Inclusive Education mission in your Christian school?”
Let me be so bold as to submit that it’s because “it puts a smile on God’s face!” That’s it in a nut-shell as far as I’m concerned!!!!!!!!!
However to be a bit more specific:
First – In terms of Reformed Theology our Christian Schools are dedicated to the “Lordship of Jesus Christ” as reflected in the body of believers and outlined in I Corinthians 12. Our brand of Christian Education is responsible to that witness, and in order to do that well we need ALL God’s kids front and center!
Second – Christian Education from a Reformed perspective is “covenantal” by its very nature. Following the example of the covenant between God and Abraham in Genesis 17, the congregation of believers in the Reformed tradition takes responsibility (with the parents) for raising a child in the Christian faith (which includes a commitment to Christian education). With this in mind, how can we exclude a child (regardless of their learning differences), who is already in? It’s probably not a good idea from a practical point of view to mess with the Creator’s intention here.
Third – If our job in the Reformed tradition is to proclaim the “Sovereignty of God”, (that all things are under His rule) then how much better to do that than to show that everyone belongs and is counted on to contribute whatever gifts God has given them! The question (and answer) really centers around “reciprocity” – not just what WE can do for students with moderate and significant disabilities, but what THEY can
do for us (i.e. – in service to the Kingdom).
Fourth – If a big part of our mission within Christian Education is to teach “discernment” (12 Affirmations – Vryhoff et. al. – 1989), then how do we do that in isolation if part of God’s Kingdom (i.e. persons with disabilities) is segregated from our daily reality? In order to teach true discernment we need to reflect the full and complete Kingdom Of God.
And what better representation of that fact than when “all God’s kids” are educated together!?! So let’s get moving Kingdom-dwellers; let’s all together put a “smile on God’s face”!
So there you go – now you get it too, right?!?
R.H. “Bear” Berends has been the Executive Director of All Belong (formerly Christian Learning Center) for 33 years. He has a Secondary Teaching Certificate from Calvin College and a Masters in Cognitive Impairment from Michigan State University.