Church history is filled with stories of great men of God who have seen personal collapse, of churches that have dissipated into impotence and even abandonment. Harvard and Princeton began as Christian colleges but have now transformed themselves into secular universities which, other than having centuries-old inscriptions on the original buildings and monuments, show no visible sign of any Biblical influence. Even when a mission is clear and everyone on the front end of a business, school, or a church is ‘on-board’ with the original goals of the mission and how to attain them, it can lose its way.
Recently, I came across a concept of this ‘mission-distractedness’ that I found intriguing. It is applicable to us as we try to hold true to the course set before us as a school which has, at its root, a desire to help our families help their children to become all that God calls them to be.
In his book, Overcoming Your Shadow Mission, John Ortberg asserts the following:
"Then one speaker said something that stuck with me. He said that if we don’t embrace our true mission, we will by default pursue what he called ‘shadow missions’- patterns of thought and action based on temptations and our own selfishness that lead us to betray our deepest values. The result: regret and guilt.
You and I were created to have a mission in life. We were made to make a difference. But if we do not pursue the mission for which God designed and gifted us, we will find a substitute."
Ortberg asserts that there can be issues on several levels that lead to an organization’s eventual demise as a result of shadow missions. On the personal level we each have spiritual shadow missions. Scripture is filled with examples: Solomon’s wealth, Job’s listening to his ‘friends’, Saul’s power and control of the kingdom, Peter’s personal safety in the face of Jesus’ danger.
Then, there are larger, ‘organizational’ shadow missions. In a church or a Christian school this can be caused by worshiping created things and not the creator. It can happen in taking the path of least resistance and not standing up for what is right or against someone or something that has power or influence.
At PCS it will likely come from things that are ‘good’ things but become areas of worship: enrollment numbers, keeping parents (or the board, or the faculty) happy, allowing co-curricular programs to influence teacher hiring decisions, the admissions process, or having aspects of those programs dominate our time, effort, enthusiasm, and our asset base.
As a parent, a shadow mission might be the achievement of a scholarship for their child, better school facilities, a certain grade achievement by their student, a certain college entrance exam score, or whether or not their child is simply ‘happy’.
As a school we have a clear mission statement. We are not the 7-Eleven, nor hopefully, like the chicken restaurant that is now out of business. Although we like for everyone to enjoy each day, we don’t, nor should we, cater to make the ‘customer’ happy, as a primary goal. Our ‘business’ is about stretching ourselves, our families, and our students to help them to “become all that God calls them to be.”
Sometimes it is fun – a ‘7-Eleven’ coffee experience. Sometimes it is a grind and involves uncomfortable meetings and possible confrontation. It is based on relationships, both with the student and with the parent. And, it is likely that the ability to overcome difficulty will be directly proportional to the spiritual maturity of both parties involved, as well as the depth of their personal relationship.