Mustard Seed is a school that lives its mission.
Mustard Seed was founded in 1979 to address the educational needs of the urban community, to stimulate and broaden the experiences of city children, and to educate students in an intercultural, interdenominational Christian setting. Mustard Seed has an intentional mission to the urban poor.
Between 1986 and 1989, several Mustard Seed staff members participated in conferences in Chicago focused on energizing and improving Christian schools. The key ideas of those conferences were summarized in the book 12 Affirmations: Reformed Christian Schooling for the 21st Century by Steven Vryhof, et. al., (Baker Book House, 1989). In 1992 the board of trustees adopted the 12 Affirmations as a statement of goals.
In 2011 Dr. Vryhof updated the book: 12 Affirmations 2.0: Christian Schooling for a Changing World (Christian Schools International, 2011). The affirmations below continue to guide the pedagogical practice at Mustard Seed.
Twelve Affirmations 2.0
- AFFIRMATION ONE:
Clarifying and Applying a Statement of Mission
The Christian school’s mission is clarified to shape all policies and practices. Parents, staff, and students discuss frequently and confirm by consensus the school’s goals. They rephrase and restate from time to time the biblical rationale for the statement of purpose so that it makes sense to each new generation. Structures are in place to keep practice in line with mission.
- AFFIRMATION TWO:
Developing an Optimistic Theo-Centric Worldview
The Christian school community stresses the restorative power of God’s grace in individual lives and within the world community. In an age of cynicism, fear, and hopelessness, Christian school people leave credit/debit theology to God and focus on redemption, restoration, and renewal—as seen in history, as depicted in literature, as celebrated by the church, and as lived out in the daily life of a grace-filled community.
- AFFIRMATION THREE:
Cultivating Cultural Discernment
Trusting the Holy Spirit’s leading in the life of the community, Christian schooling offers opportunities and provides guidance to exercise discernment – the making of informed Christian choices. Christian school people navigate a money-and-media-dominated culture to get to biblical worldview and Christ-like living. When community members disagree, they commit to preserving their relationship and continuing in conversation.
- AFFIRMATION FOUR:
Fostering Caring Engagement
Christian schooling preserves the full range of God-given emotions and cultivates the desire to engage with and care for others. Concepts of stewardship, peace-making, justice, and compassion are translated into practice. In the face of sensory overload (which distracts and desensitizes and numbs) it prevents community members from becoming flat-souled people by providing life-giving opportunities for sabbath and service.
- AFFIRMATION FIVE:
Preparing for and Participating in a Changing World
Christian school people take the future seriously by confronting the realities of how and where and with whom and to what end they will spend their lives. As enormous and rapid change continues—in families, in churches, in the environment, and in society—the Christian school experience equips all not only to live in such a world but also to transform it to reflect Christ’s kingdom of faith, hope, and love.
- AFFIRMATION SIX:
Addressing Real Problems and Generating Real Products
Christian schooling offers learning experiences that are meaningful and relevant. Because Christian school people strive to see the world with clear-eyed honesty, they seek whole life stewardship in which work is worship and brokenness is healed. Vocation-minded people penetrate the status quo and work for Christian alternatives that replace injustices and failures with peace and beauty.
- AFFIRMATION SEVEN:
Building Essential Understandings and Life Skills
The Christian school community has an ongoing dialogue about what is essential and how we use knowledge to grow in wisdom. Christian school people know the story of God and his people, the central realities of the natural world, the expressions of the larger culture, and a sense of history and of how the world works. They practice skills such as reflection, initiative, creativity, perseverance, collaboration, and lifelong learning.
- AFFIRMATION EIGHT:
Attending to Each Individual’s Development
Christian schooling pays attention to and affirms each person’s gifts and opportunities, potential and capacity. Learning strengths are identified and people are positioned for personal, educational, professional, and vocational success. Pedagogy is first of all effective and meaningful for the student, not convenient and manageable for the teacher.
- AFFIRMATION NINE:
Promoting Christian Community
The Christian school is a community in which covenant, not contract, is the foundation for relationships. People are not simply trading money for services, grades for good behavior, or a diploma for seat time. Trust, cooperation, and shared seriousness for the task characterize all interactions. Christian community means not only worshiping and celebrating, but also widening the tent and welcoming the stranger.
- AFFIRMATION TEN:
Recasting Traditional Roles
Christian schooling allows for people’s strengths and artistry to be fully utilized. Members of the Christian school community – students, too – relate to each other as facilitators and collaborators in several ways at several levels. All are learners and leaders, donors and keepers of the vision, and instigators and entrepreneurs.
- AFFIRMATION ELEVEN:
Structuring Schools to Support Learning
The Christian school is the product of thoughtfulness and dialogue and determination. School practices – from calendar and schedules to book selection and learning experiences, from expectations and assessments to values and school culture – reflect the best of what’s known about creating spaces for learning. School structures both reflect and shape the life of gratitude to God.
- AFFIRMATION TWELVE:
Growing Responsive Learning Communities
The Christian school community institutionalizes in a way that is small, nimble, and transparent. It is continually responsive to God’s Spirit, the cultural context, and the needs of all learners. It is an “un-institution” that continuously seeks a more excellent way by planning and structuring for improvement. Commendable practices are emphasized; undeserving ones are de-emphasized.