Five theses on Christian educational leadership — Dr. Albert Boerema

Five Theses on Christian Educational Leadership

Dr. Albert BOEREMA

Albert BOEREMA (BOEREMA) received his PhD in leadership, policy, and organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School of Education. He is now Professor of Educational Leadership at Calvin College. His research interests include leadership development and school change, and he has published numerous articles in this area. He helps future leaders to develop frames of thinking that allow them to navigate the institutional limitations while capitalizing on collaborative opportunities to activate such institutional changes as they meet the challenges of the 21st century. 

BOEREMA outlines a framework for leadership in schools that has a biblical foundation. One of the central issues is recognizing the uniqueness of leadership in schools, and acknowledging that leadership is not a neutral activity but always advances some agenda.  For Christian leaders, the agenda is working to advance the Kingdom of God, and the suffering will come as part of that work.  One of the leadership development activities is to seek being immersed in the biblical narratives. 

Leadership has two dimensions—giving direction to group effort and coordinating that effort.  BOEREMA proposes five theses that can give a framework for the directional dimension of leadership in schools that seeks to serve the Kingdom of God.

Thesis One: Leadership in schools is different from leadership in other sectors. In educational institutions, the function is to be educative, while in profit-seeking institutions, the function of the institution is to realize profit. The problem that school leaders face is that the business, for-profit organizational image is frequently applied to educational institutions. Leadership is also, at some level, managing the tension between the routines that make life in schools manageable and the space for individuals to grow.  Schools are, ultimately, centers for development, not centers for production.  The important difference between the developmental and production metaphors is that students are responsive agents in their own development, not just objects to be produced. To lead schools from this perspective is to provide the space for students, both individually and collectively to develop, and this is better done in settings that are more family-like than business-like. School leadership conceptualized in this way should be more focused on community building and maintenance than creating command and control structures.  

Thesis Two: Leadership is fundamentally an ethical activity.  Leading in schools is often seen as solving problems, taking care of all the large and small tasks that need to be attended to.  However, there is more to leading schools than getting the job done. In relation to academic theories, BOEREMA points out that the spirit of both the transformational leadership theory and critical leadership theory are animated by an ethical vision. Ethical visions are often implicit, providing an interpretative and normative vision of life, giving it meaning, orienting how life should be lived. The Biblical idea and image of the Kingdom of God provides an alternative ethical vision that can shape and animate leadership.

Thesis Three: Leadership should be enacting some aspects of the Kingdom of God. Leaders always make directional choices on a continuum between leading that promotes the status quo or advances the aims of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not about rules or behaviors, but rather the relationship and the direction of one’s heart with respect to God. The work of school leaders has to have two prongs:  first, to proclaim the coming Kingdom symbolically through challenging school practices that are oppressive or reducing people from image bearers of God to rankings and grades in our mark books; and second, to shape schools that at the very least could provide a cup of cold water to those who are struggling. 

Thesis Four: Those seeking to serve the Kingdom of God will encounter suffering.

BOEREMA expounds that in moments of struggling and suffering that causes emotional intensity, leaders are defining or defending the school’s mission and vision.  It is in those moments that leadership is taking place. He then explores and elaborates this idea of struggling and suffering from the perspective of the book of Acts. He continues to encourage us that boldness is always linked with suffering in Acts and Joy came as a result of persecution and suffering for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Thesis Five: The primary conversation partner for Christian leaders should be biblical studies. What is the place of the Bible in leadership studies or Christian scholarship?  Can the Bible give us guidance for the specifics of leading and growing into being a leader? BOEREMA expounds that the Bible can give a framework of reality and providing the light to understand that reality which functioning as a worldview. The Bible also provides basic themes and norms which shape scholarly work—creation, stewardship, and telling us about the nature of God, man and the world.  The key pieces for leadership come from the overall biblical themes that should be shaping how leaders are chosen and developed to carry out their tasks, and the direction that shapes their leading.  Moving the Bible to a central role in informing leadership practice will help us become stronger in implementing a vision for the Kingdom of God in schools.

BOEREMA concludes that an ethical framework is important for thinking about and enacting leadership in schools by those who claim the name of Christ. This framework is used to guide decision-making both in the daily life and activities of the school, as well as in thinking about and responding to new societal initiatives and forces that arise on the educational landscape, such as globalization, post-modernity, and the use of digital educational technology.  Finally, to prepare for this work, to continue to develop as a Christian leader, one must be immersed in biblical narratives.


布利馬教授(布教授)是美國范德比大學哲學博士,現任加爾文大學的教育領導學教授。 他的研究範圍包括領導學發展和教育改革,並在此課題範圍內出版了不少文章。他致力幫助未來的領導者拓展思想框架、讓他們能夠充分利用互相合作的機會去推動所屬機構進行教育改革、俾能面對21世紀的挑戰。

布教授為學校領導勾畫出一個有聖經基礎的領導學框架。基督徒領袖的工作使命就是為迎接上帝國度的來臨,並且可以欣然地接受世間的苦難。 領導學的拓展框架之一就是能夠活用聖經的故事。 

布教授指出了領導學的兩個不同的層面,一個是為團隊工作指引方向; 另一個是要協調團隊中成員們的相互合作和努力。他亦建議教育領導學其中的五個要點,作為學校領導者尋求服侍上帝國度的一個指標框架。

第一個要點是:學校領導者是有別於其他機構範疇的領導者。 作為教育機構的學校功能必須是有教育性,而其他機構較重視利益取向、其功能卻是要賺取更多利潤。 學校領導者是要面對學校日常管理生計工作和關顧個人成長之間的張力,因為學校最終的目標是建立一個有助成長和發展的中心、而不是一個純為生產物品的中心。 發展和生產工作主要的分別在於它認定教育的對象是學生、是成長的個體而不只是生產的對象。 單從這個層面看學校的領導,便可以清楚看到學校必須要提供學生成長的空間,要提供一個家的感覺而不是一個商業的環境。 因此,學校領導者應該是聚焦在群體生活的維繫而不是在製造命令和只著重控制的架構。

第二個要點是:學校領導基本上是一個具倫理道德性的活動。 在學術上,領導學理論必定是以倫理道德作為基礎及指標的。《聖經》裏關於上帝國度的概念和形象是可以提供一種另類的道德倫理指標,也是可以塑造及啟廸領導學的。

第三個要點是: 從基督教領導學的觀點看,領導者的使命應該是宣告和倡導上帝的國度。上帝的國度不僅是關乎行為和規條,而是要培育學員對上帝存尊敬的心、並與上帝建立關係的。 學校領導的工作是要兩條腿走路,一方面是宣告上帝國度的來臨,挑戰那些壓逼人性的學校措施,或是那些將人是上帝形象的象徵貶低者,例如是:校內評分等級和分數等; 另一方面,學校領導亦需要塑造學校成為一個實現上帝國度的地方,例如是:為那些在痛苦生活掙扎中的人提供一杯涼水等。 

第四個要點是:作為致力尋求服侍上帝國度者,學校領導必然會面對苦難。布教授又指出學校領導必須隨時作好準備,面對掙扎和受苦時刻的來臨,因為他們是要為學校的使命和異象付出代價、也是要在這些掙扎和受苦的時刻中仍能保衛他們的教育使命。 布教授進一步用《使徒行傳》去解釋服侍上帝國度者必須要受苦,並且要勇敢地面對苦難,而那些為上帝國度受苦的人最終的結果就是「滿足的喜樂」。

第五個要點是:基督徒領袖的對話夥伴就是《聖經》。《聖經》在領導學研究和基督徒學者中是佔有一個明確且重要的地位的。 布教授解釋說:《聖經》可以提供一個現實框架和亮光,讓基督徒領導者能夠明白現實世界和基督徒世界觀是如何運作的。 《聖經》提供了不同的主題,讓我們認識上帝與人、及世界的本質,也幫助領導者明白領袖是如何被揀選、被塑造和發現他們工作使命的方向的,如何承擔及執行領導等。在教育領導學上,《聖經》確實是佔有一個重要的核心角色,也讓學校領導者們在實踐上帝國度的使命時,表現得更強壯和更有活力。

布教授最後總結說:對願意宣揚基督聖名的學校領導者來說,一個符合基督教倫理的道德框架是十分重要的。這個道德框架可以幫助指引學校領導者在他們的日常生活和事務上作出明確的決定,並且懂得如何面對全球化,後現代主義和以數碼科技為本的教育活動及議題、作出適切的回應。 還有一點,學校領導者若要裝備自己成為一個可持續發展的基督徒學者領袖,就必須進深地研究《聖經》的教導。