“Christian values” can seem a nebulous term—what are those values supposed to be? What makes the nominated values specifically Christian, are they not universal values in some way?
This is actually a question it can be difficult to answer, because any culture such as ours which has absorbed centuries of Christian teaching can hold “Christian values” at its heart without actually realising how these values originated and making that link as to how they were embedded into the national psyche.
Christian Values on this website
Two Images of Christian Values
The two images described below try to explain thinking about Christian values, and could be applied both to the Christian Church and to the life of a church school.
The first image is the carefully crafted wheel made of three distinct parts—each has an important part to play in the functioning of the whole and should one fail the wheel collapses! At the centre of a wheel is the hub, the core which holds the whole together and on which everything depends—the wheel cannot be built without it.
For a Christian this has to represent their belief in and relationship with God, and the teachings of the Bible which is the core of their being. In a church school this could be encapsulated as the two Great Commandments—love of God and love of neighbour.
From the hub comes the spokes—these are what could be called Christian values. The values are firmly rooted in Christian teaching, they are not free floating, and Christians will be able to link them with the teaching and example of Jesus or other pertinent Bible teaching. Christians (and church schools) are called to be Christ-like and rooted in God, just as the spokes are “rooted” in the hub.
Finally comes the rim—the part of the wheel which meets the road or the world. This is effectively what everyone sees of the Church or the school. In the church school this could be policies, relationships etc. It may be that in appearance these outworkings of the church school look strikingly similar to those of other schools, but if you follow back the route taken to reach these decisions you should be able to find they go back to Christian principles.
The second image is a stick of seaside rock. The chief characteristic of the rock is that the same words run all the way through every stick rolled from the first lump. So it should be with a church or a church school, if Christian values are at the heart of the organisation and shared effectively with the whole community through collective worship, relationships, policies and teaching, then “cut” the church or school anywhere and there should be an appropriate level of understanding of the Christian principles which undergird it.
Using the materials to think about your School
Often church schools talk about their school being “built on Christian values” , or a similar statement, but it is sometimes difficult to tease out exactly what these values are in real terms.
Often the Christian values are expressed in terms of being a caring community, but this is only a part of the whole, as the rich variety of nominated values on this website demonstrate. Can you actually identify what your key Christian values are and where you find them?
Take the time as a group of professionals (staff and governors) to look at the “What is…..?” sections of the values on this website—you can do this as individuals, pairs, or any other grouping—discuss the Bible base of the concepts and select those values which you feel particularly gel with your school and the way that it works as a community.
It is very possible that you will be tempted to say “yes” to all of the values listed, but it is probably more helpful to limit yourselves to no more than half a dozen (or even just three) in the first instance! Agree as a group the values you are now going to work with.
Leave yourselves open to the possibility that there may be key Christian values described here which it would be good for you to adopt and to work on as a school, perhaps because there is some imbalance in the way pupils treat each other for example. It is always good to have something to aim for and develop!
Explore the questions in the ‘…in school’ section—if you feel the value you are looking at is one the Christian values strongly represented in your school, does it show itself in real actions (where the wheel hits the road). If not, why not? There may be ideas on http://www.christianvalues4schools.co.uk/ for how you can put this value into action—take time to watch some of the real life videos and comment on them together.
Now you need a plan! Decide how you are going to work at these chosen key values and share them with your pupils. Collective worship is an ideal vehicle for this.
It may be that you would wish to think in terms of promoting particular values at different times within the school, with a weekly ‘Child of Compassion Award’ or similar. You probably already have awards of this kind—so why not overtly link them to your school’s Christian Values? What about highlighting a Value for a term or a half-term? Particular values could fit closely to times of the Church’ s Year e.g. agape, service, and courage would all link with Easter, peace would be particularly appropriate at Christmastide.
And finally, don’t forget to go back to those Christian values in staff meetings or governor meetings when new policies, strategies, etc occupy your minds! Are your key values an integral part of school life, and of your policies? After a year or so do you need to revisit the exercises in this booklet? Don’t be tempted to divorce the value from its Biblical base—remember that as a church school you are talking about Christian values—revisit the hub!
Governors can take ‘walking audits’ of their school over time—asking e.g. “if this school promotes peace as a key value, what evidence do we see that this is the case? What do we encounter in our walk? What would we hope to see that is not there? What are our pupils and staff telling us?” Remember, the questions in the ‘…in school’ section.
Display your Christian values in the hall or entrance—perhaps your pupils could design appropriate posters when they have spent time thinking about the values in circle time or PSHE. This display could include child friendly definitions of the values and photographs of children being ‘caught’ in appropriate actions. Create similar boards in your classrooms (especially the photographs!).
A useful devices which could be used to share the chosen Christian values with the school as a whole, is to create a “school backpack”. Fill the backpack with tangible items which help tell the story of your school ethos and use this as a stimulus for collective worship and classroom work. What values would you like your pupils to carry with them in their backpack as they leave your school and move on into the world?
Use Bible stories which have a clear Christian message as a focus for RE, literacy lessons, and as a stimulus for putting Christian values into action. Give pupils a clear way of thinking about how key values would affect the look, the sound and the atmosphere of their classroom.