I honestly cannot believe I am already talking about starting a new school year, but here we are! Many are already back at it while others of you who finished school in June are still soaking up the final days of summer. As a new year beckons, I want to use this blog to offer a challenge, one I wish I had taken many years ago. Before I say what the challenge is, I first want to lay some groundwork so all of you reading will be compelled to say, “YES! I accept the challenge!”
Let me start by posing a few questions.
· Do your lessons always go according to plan?
· Are students unpredictable?
· Are educators sometimes misunderstood?
· Can teachers feel isolated?
· Can job expectations be overwhelming or unreasonable?
Consider these questions which view an educator’s life from a more positive perspective.
· Can teachers change the trajectory of a child’s life?
· Is teaching a rewarding profession?
· Can educators provide encouragement for their colleagues?
· Can love be expressed by how we teach?
· Do our words to students and others speak life?
These questions provide a small window into the many layers of complexity faced by every educator. Days are filled with ups and downs, successes and failures, challenges and uncertainties. To say there is never a dull moment is probably an understatement. It may sound crazy, but I think this is what I loved about being an educator. Teaching may be hard at times, but it is certainly never boring! I always felt called to teach, and because of this calling, the pros have always outweighed the cons.
There is one thing I wish I had done earlier in my career that I did not do. I never sought to meaningfully and purposefully unite with other believers in my workplace. I’m using the word unite to emphasize the importance of gathering with fellow believers around a common desire to connect, support, and grow spiritually. I’m talking about creating a tribe of sorts—to be there for each other, to pray for each other, and to remind each other of what we know and believe, especially when we find ourselves grappling with the not-so-enjoyable aspects of our work (see questions above). This takes me to the challenge!
I don’t want you to have to “go it alone.” None of us knows what this new year will bring. Living through a pandemic has taught all of us to expect the unexpected. There may be days this upcoming year when we need a shoulder to cry on, or we may need to provide that shoulder for someone else. It’s very possible there will be days when we need a word of truth spoken over us to remind us the enemy is a liar. Perhaps an overwhelmed and depleted colleague will need prayer in order to make it through the day. No matter the situation, it can always be made better if we surround ourselves with a spiritual tribe.
Herein lies your challenge. Form your own Victorious Educator (VE) Tribe for the 2023-24 school year! I can already hear your protests because I would have thought the same things. Who am I to formulate a tribe of believers? What if no one wants to join? What if I get ostracized? Where do I start? Let’s quickly take tackle each of these challenges, just in case one or more are swirling around in your head!
Who am I to formulate a tribe of believers?
You don’t have to have it all together or be the most spiritual person on staff to take the initiative. We all have a long way to go in our spiritual walk. Remember, it isn’t about you but Christ in you. In our flesh we fall short and will never be perfect, but allowing Christ to work in and through us opens doors we could never anticipate. When you are feeling unqualified, hold onto these truths.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
Take time to pray and ask God if this is something He is calling you to do. If so, move forward and don’t question your own abilities. He always equips those He calls (2 Peter 1:3).
What if no one wants to join?
Don’t worry about numbers. The Bible says where two or more are gathered, God is with us (Matthew 18:20). We will never know the ripple effect created by one person impacted by the Gospel or one person growing in spiritual maturity. The Bible reminds us God is able to accomplish within us more than we could possibly ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). The late Charles Stanley was famous for saying, “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.” It isn’t about numbers. It is about service and obedience.
What if I get ostracized?
It is easier said than done, but we can’t be worried about what others think. While there is nothing wrong with wanting people to like us, as believers we must be more concerned about pleasing God than the people around us (Galatians 1:10, I Thessalonians 2:4). When we meet God face-to-face and give an account of our lives, we aren’t going to care one bit about what the colleague down the hall thought about us. If there is criticism, use it to pat yourself on the back. Jesus calls you blessed (Matthew 5:10). Paul says you will grow in character and endurance (Romans 5:3-4), and David reminds us God is our deliverer (Psalm 34:19).
Where do I start?
I hope by now I have convinced you to seriously consider this challenge! I am going to give you a suggested plan, but by all means, use it as a starting point and customize it to fit your tribe’s needs. This isn’t about following an agenda but forming a community to support and encourage one another in our faith journey as Christian educators.
Seek out one or two other believers on staff. Share the idea with them. Meet and pray about the next steps which could include how to make the announcement (e.g., purpose, time, location).
Talk to your administrators and let them know your plans.
Set a regular meeting time that does not interfere with pre-established activities (e.g., the first Friday of the month before school).
Advertise your meeting time and the purpose behind your gathering. This can be done by word of mouth, e-mail, or paper invites. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Here is a potential first meeting outline to get you started. This is just an example. Do what works for you and your tribe.
a. Welcome everyone and open in prayer.
b. Make introductions. Introduce the leaders of the tribe and all participants if the group is small. Start with an icebreaker. Keep the question light. For example, “What do you enjoy doing on vacation?” This can be done in pairs or quads if the group is large.
c. Share the purpose of the group. For example, “We are meeting to form a community of support. We serve a God who loves us and has called us to be educators. We want to encourage and lift each other up on difficult days. We want to help each other shine the light of Jesus as we teach, guide, and work. We want to pray for our school, our leaders, and our students. We desire to walk alongside each other as we live out God’s calling on our lives.”
d. Lead a short devotional. Utilize Scripture and make a few comments. You can use resources like our blog posts (www.victoriouseducator.com/blog), Our Daily Bread, Jesus Calling, or any other devotional you like.
e. Take prayer requests. These can be shared verbally, or you can have people write them down and email them to everyone later.
f. Pray for the group.
g. Establish the next meeting time.
Keep it short and light, especially at the beginning because people need time to get to know each other. Be respectful of people’s time. Keep focused on the agenda, but at the same time allow the Holy Spirit to lead. You want people to leave feeling encouraged and supported.
I realize this challenge may be a bit radical. Do it anyway! Can you imagine how much better the year could be if believers in your workplace would unite to connect, support, pray, and grow spiritually? Will you take the lead? Remember, our identity is in Christ. He gives us the confidence to move forward because it isn’t about us and what we can do; it is about Jesus and the work He does through us! In His strength, we can take the initiative. In His strength, we can look past the numbers. In His strength, we can ignore the criticism. In His strength, we can build a community, a VE Tribe!
ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE!
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12