‘Anxious times for Christian Teachers?

Equipping Christians in schools to face the future with confidence’

Antony Spencer, CEO of Mill Hill School (and a TISCA Trustee), gave a keynote talk at the June 2021 TISCA Annual Conference. Here is a shortened version of his inspiring and challenging talk.

Missionary times

As Christian teachers in this country, these increasingly feel like missionary times. We can’t rely upon background knowledge or implicit support as we seek to live out the gospel in our schools. Wisdom is more important than ever. But God has a purpose for us being in schools, and we perhaps need to re-connect with the responsibility that entails.

Our culture influences us, and it’s marked by anxiety.

A couple of years ago, eco-anxiety led to school strikes. One pupil wanted to go on a protest and emailed me:

“I recognise that climate change is coming rapidly and preparation for the future will become worthless as we will not have one worth living.”

Soon after, plastic face masks became the new disposable rubbish as other anxieties appeared.

There are many reasons Christian teachers may be anxious, from the normal daily demands of life, balancing work and home, to entire schools facing financial challenges. There are society pressures, making religious identity divisive, even at school gates. Social media’s power, and the growing prominence of a cancel culture, can lead Christians to think they’d best stay quiet, in case an aggressively secular culture costs them their jobs.

We are privileged to live in a society with a rule of law, with many legal protections, but ultimately what we need is an attitude of hope.

Where does our Hope come from?

Psalm 121 is clear where ultimate help comes from:

“ …from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”

This isn’t teacher therapy, but a reminder of true, everlasting hope.

1 Corinthians 13 concludes: “..these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”

The Pauline triad reminds us that hope isn’t in isolation, lest it becomes grim determination. Hope, faith and love are mutually reinforcing strands of the Christian life.

As Christians in schools, all we do should be grounded in our faith. Our faith is not to be hidden but by deed and word is to be evident: “You are the salt of the earth.” We should be distinctive, in the right way, for the right reasons. Let’s speak and act the truth in love, free of appearing just objectionable.

The all-consuming school day

Schools can be all-consuming. Time for our families, and for the family of church, ends up losing out and what follows is spiritual malnutrition. We fall into the super-hero trap of relying on our own strength, a particular temptation for school leaders who need an aura of authority that doesn’t allow for an acceptance of weakness. Yet we are not called to walk the Christian life alone, as Hebrews 10.25 reminds us. An antidote to personal anxiety is to remember the needs of others, supporting our fellow Christians in education, in prayer and deed.

Secure in God’s love, we are equipped to love the world. And our schools need love! Christian teachers should be the best teachers in their schools. Perhaps there are others with superior qualifications or experience, but what should mark us out is our attitude- one of selfless caring that walks the way of our Saviour. They don’t teach that on a PGCE. So, Christian teachers: does the care you show for your pupils and colleagues reflect the gospel? In these anxious times, others should see a fundamental serenity in us- read 1 Peter 2.

As Christians, we have immense opportunities to live this out in our schools.

Look to our future confidence

One day, our teaching career will come to an end. Some years after, we will leave this world. Revelation 21: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. That’s our future confidence, free of all anxiety, because God’s own Son took our place.

It’s a future reality that should transform our today.