Our goal at CLA is to provide each student with a whole-person education. But what do we mean by this?
We do not have much material on the childhood of Jesus, but what we do have—in my judgement—is very instructive. Luke 2:41-52 records Jesus in the temple as a boy. Mary and Joseph travel yearly to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. On this occasion, they were separated from Jesus when they left. When they realized he was missing, the searched intently for him. The search led them back to Jerusalem where they found him in the temple.
There in the temple, he amazed the teachers with his questions, understanding, and answers. After questioning him, they took him home. In one verse, we are given a remarkable summary of his childhood. Verse 52 tells us, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
I think this verse gives us four important areas for a whole-person education.
First, we are told that Jesus grew in wisdom.
Wisdom is the application of God’s word “to live in such a way that God’s gift of physical life is completed and enriched by God’s gift of eternal life and abundant life.” Hence we are exhorted in scripture to get wisdom that we may live a flourishing life.
In its most basic form, gaining wisdom is a form of intellectual growth, which means one facet of a whole- person education is intellectual growth. This prepares children to live life well by equipping them to make godly decisions.
Second, we are told he grew in stature.
That is, he grew physically. Growth of the mind and growth of the body are not at odds. In today’s society, people are growing increasingly sedentary. Instead of vocations that require physical activity, we now have a great number of jobs that require great mental effort without much physical movement. Consequently, we suffer from numerous health problems and miss out on numerous benefits of physical exercise.
Proponents of a whole-person education realize that while we are spiritual beings, we are embodied spirits. We are stewards of these bodies, which means attending to physical growth. Thus a holistic program will leave room for physical activity as well as provide extra-curricular opportunities.
Third, Jesus grew in favor with God.
This implies spiritual development. Jesus grew daily through communion with his father. His spiritual progress was evident to all. Likewise, a whole-person education is spiritually focused. Christian school teachers recognize the spiritual dimensions of their work. That work is actually a ministry with eternal implications. God has created and wired each student in a unique manner. Teachers who truly embrace this fact work diligently to provide experiences for growth (Ellen Lowrie Black, “The Teacher, 22).”
Fourth, a whole-person education is concerned with social growth.
Humans are social beings. Through healthy relationships we display the glory of our Trinitarian God who exists in perfect communion. A whole-person Christian education does not foster spiritual growth in isolation but seeks to train students in biblical ways of relating to others.
The result is what David Dockery calls grace-filled communities. He writes:
On this foundational framework grace-filled communities will become a reality—communities that emphasize love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as the virtues needed to create a caring Christian context where undergraduate and graduate education, grounded in the conviction that all truth has its source in God, can be offered (Dockery, Renewing Minds, 22).
Such communities become a corporate embodiment to the world. Through biblical ways of relating to others, students grow into productive members of society who are able to work with others to accomplish a common purpose.