IF YOUR son or daughter is a student at one of the Methodist schools, then you have chosen what is often referred to as a mission school for your child.
What can you expect? What does a mission school offer that others may not? Here are some of the things you can expect.
1. A commitment to truth. You might think that this is obvious. Of course schools are committed to enquiry and the pursuit of truth, you might think. But we live in a time when students, and maybe some parents, are tempted to think that there are no absolute truths and that everything is relative. Particularly in questions of morals and in matters of religion, nothing, it may be thought, is absolutely wrong or always right. It depends upon your opinion or it depends upon the situation.
But a mission school is one where there is an underlying conviction that God has created the world and established its laws and that they are absolute. Students are encouraged to question, to investigate, to explore ideas and to challenge opinions
in the belief that there are ultimately right answers to be found.
2. A commitment to certain values. All schools must have some value system – that is, certain standards which they try to uphold in their community life and which they aim to inculcate into their students.
A mission school will believe that these values have a religious basis. Christians see these values exemplified in the life and teaching of Jesus and students in Christian schools will be challenged to commit themselves to follow Jesus.
But whatever their personal commitment, students will be encouraged by the school to have Christian values in their lives. These include things like mutual acceptance of one another, compassion, forgiveness, humility, honesty, global responsibility, justice, commitment and faith.
These values will provide students with a framework for their own lives. Of course, individual students may choose to reject these values, but they will, at least, have been challenged to think about them.
3. A commitment to individuals. Mission schools believe that everyone is created by God and therefore that each individual is of infinite worth. They will therefore be committed to the all-round education of each person – mind, body and spirit. They will have programmes of personal development, a wide range of CCAs and a high level of pastoral care, not as additions to the curriculum but as central to it.
They will offer a broad choice of subjects and courses to cater to individual talents and interests. Above all they will try to tailor the educational programme to the needs of individual students and help them achieve their God-given potential.
4. A commitment to build the school as a strong and disciplined community. One way of thinking of religion is that it is a way of living together as a community.
In particular Christianity involves loving one’s neighbour as oneself, and in the spirit of Christ, accepting one another as brothers and sisters.
In a mission school, we are not just a group of people who need to learn to be able to live and work together. We see the school as a community in which we grow as people, the place in which our values are learned and lived out.
5. A commitment to service. A mission school will encourage students to see the whole world as God’s creation and to be committed to service to the wider community, locally and internationally, especially those in need, and committed too to caring for the environment. It will, therefore, provide a programme of service education that is a core part of the curriculum for all students.
6. Finally, a commitment to prayer. A mission school is one in which teachers pray for students and students are taught to pray for one another. A mission school is one in which God is consciously placed at the centre of the school’s life; it is a place where God is praised for achievements and in which His help and guidance is sought for the future. It is this which puts everything into its proper perspective.
It is my prayer that this is what you will find at all of our Methodist schools. – ACS Echo.
The Rev Dr John Barrett is the Principal of ACS (International). An ordained British Methodist minister, he is currently serving as the Chairman of the World Methodist Council.