Relationships, especially with other believers, are some of the most precious things we enjoy in this life. They give us a foretaste of heaven as they are the one thing we get to take from this life into the one to come. As John Fawcett writes in his beloved hymn, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” it is a blessing for believers’ hearts to be bound together in Christian love, for “perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity.”

We should strive to promote and protect relationships—between and among faculty and staff, students, and families—in our schools. After all, David described brotherly unity as pleasant (Psalm 133:1), and Christ commanded us to seek peace and reconciliation with one another (Matthew 18:15-20). But not much research describes the nature and importance of relationships, particularly in a Christian school context.

Relationships Between Principals and Teachers

Christian Schools Relationships - ties that bindThree articles in the latest issue of Research in Brief focus on relationships. I’m delighted to share some of my own work using data from the Flourishing School Culture Instrument (FSCI). Focusing on the relationships between teachers and school leaders, I look at teachers’ perceptions of supportive leadership and find evidence of important benefits of leadership for both teacher well-being and school sustainability. Teachers who feel more supported by their leadership express higher levels of wellness and are more likely to recommend their school to friends and family. This research is made possible through Christian schools’ participation in the FSCI, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some of our findings with you.

A second article focuses on the relationships between teachers and school leaders. Dr. Angie Lyons, superintendent of Peoria Christian School, examines teachers’ perceptions of leaders and how they shape school culture. Leadership, in both technical and relational dimensions, matters to school culture. Dr. Lyons finds that teachers who perceive school principals as exemplifying positive leadership practices and embodying warmth and mutual respect are more likely to report that their school has a culture of collegiality, professionalism, and academic excellence. They are also less likely to describe their school as a vulnerable institution.

Relationships Between Teachers and Students

A third article examines the relationship between teachers and male students. Prior research documents evidence of the potential for teacher-student relationships to influence student outcomes, and the way in which male students perceive relationships with their teachers may be particularly meaningful. Can teacher-student relationships help build resilience and mitigate stress?

Dr. Travis Moots and Dr. Philip Alsup, both school leaders and university professors, share some of their recent research on this question. They find students’ perceptions of their teachers’ positive regard for them to be a particularly meaningful predictor of student wellness. Their important work has clear and immediate implications for Christian schools.

International, Flourishing Schools

In this issue, I’m pleased we could share an article focusing on an important part of the ACSI family—our international schools. ACSI Regional Director for International Schools, Tim Shuman, and I highlight some of the findings from the recent International Tuition & Salary Survey, focusing on salary and benefits. In the next issue of Research in Brief, we’ll discuss findings related to tuition, revenue, and enrollment.

We’re also bringing back two brand new sections from the last issue: “The Latest in Education Research” and “Insights from Flourishing Schools Research.” Three years of FSCI data has given us the ability to see what’s changed for Christian schools. Particularly notable was the fact that Best Practice Orientation, Data-Driven Improvement, and Wellness (reverse-coded Stress) were all significantly higher during the most recent administration of the FSCI, relative to previous years. Together with four research articles, this issue is full of insights into Christian education.

Research in this most recent issue finds compelling evidence that relationships in Christian schools matter—to school sustainability, culture, and the wellness of school community members. May God continue to bless the tie that binds together these relationships in your schools.

Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

—John Fawcett, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” (1782)

Editor’s Note: Download the Spring 2022 Research in Brief. You can find former issues of Research in Brief on the ACSI Thought Leadership webpage.

About the Author

Matthew Lee - ACSI AuthroMatthew H. Lee is the Director of Research at ACSI. He can be reached via email at matthew_lee@acsi.org and followed on Twitter @hmatthewlee.

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