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Covenantal vs. Missional Education

Explore the differences between each type of education and how it affects Christian Schools.

Each Christian school must answer the question,

“What is our purpose in the community?”

While there are many aspects to the answer of this question, there are two primary schools of thought: Covenantal Based and Mission Based. The Covenantal approach focuses on existing Christian families and sees its purpose as educating Christian students. The Missional approach focuses on the entire community and seeks to bring Christian education to all students regardless of current faith.

How do these two approaches look different in the practices of the school? Admissions is the primary practice effected. Covenantal schools require enrolling students or families to sign a statement of faith. Missional schools, however, make the mission of the school clear to enrolling students but do not require them to be Christians in order to attend. Beyond the admissions process, each school’s perspective on its purpose in the community informs how they teach their students and interact with their community. In short, Covenantal schools are more inwardly focused and have a mission to build strong faith-based families, while Missional schools are more outwardly focused and have a mission to share faith with the community.

What are the benefits of a Covenantal approach to Christian education? Covenantal Christian schools take seriously the Biblical call to Christian parents to raise their children as members of God’s covenantal family. Christian schools then are to teach children Biblical truths about who we are and who God is. Students and families at Covenantal schools are well connected to a church and focus on maintaining the consistency of a worldview across church, school and home.

What are the benefits of a Missional approach to Christian education? Because Missional Christian schools do not require their students or families to sign a statement of faith, the school has the opportunity to teach a Biblical worldview to the broader community. Not only are unbelieving students exposed daily to the real love of God, but students regularly participate in service and interaction with non-believers outside the school. Involvement in a Missional Christian school exposed not only the non-believing student but the entire family to Christianity.

What are the challenges or drawbacks of each approach?

Covenantal Christian education has been criticized for being too exclusive or withdrawn from society. Missional Christian education, on the other hand, has the challenge of keeping their staff focused on their mission of teaching a Biblical worldview despite potential challenges from parents or students. Non-believing families might put pressure on the school to prioritize academic or extracurricular endeavors above Christian education. Missional schools have the challenge of keeping a God-centered school rather than folding to the pressures of secular priorities.

Which approach is best? What do you think?

For further reading on Covenantal and Missional Approaches to Christian Education, check out these articles:

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