Each school year, leadership (Board of Trustees, Administration) reads and discusses books covering a wide array of topics. Recent and memorable books include Harvard Business Review’s Managing Yourself as well as Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches. This spring, we are reading a book titled Culture Making by Andy Crouch. Many of us first learned of Crouch through his speaking engagements at Christian and classical conferences. He is an author and speaker and, up to 2016, executive editor of Christianity Today.
In Culture Making, Crouch encourages Christians to consider the ways in which we interact with culture. He points to four typical responses to culture – condemning, critiquing, copying or consuming. Each action or gesture has its time and place. It is right, at times, to condemn elements of our culture. It is also right to critique it. Also, we often find ourselves copying and consuming it. The problem arises, says Crouch, when these gestures become fixed – when they become the sole means by which we interact with culture. For some, condemnation may be the only way in which it seems right to interact with culture. For others, mindlessly consuming culture may become their only response. When these gestures become fixed as postures, we become incapable of living according to our created intent.
Genesis teaches us that mankind was formed for the purpose of creating and cultivating. To create and cultivate is to be an artist and gardener. Crouch observes:
The postures of the artist and gardener have a lot in common. Both begin with contemplation, paying close attention to what is already there. The gardener looks carefully at the landscape; the existing plants, both flowers and weeds; the way the sun falls on the land. The artist regards her subject, her canvas, her paints with care to discern what she can make of them.
And then, after contemplation, the artist and the gardener both adopt a posture of purposeful work.
Crouch points out that those who adopt the posture of the creator and cultivator are the ones who earn the right to condemn, who have the authority to critique, who can copy without becoming imitators and consume without becoming consumers. He also reminds us that creating and cultivating are disciplines – “long apprenticeships in the rudiments of a cultural form, small things done over and over that create new capacities in us over time.”
As school leadership discusses Culture Making, we consider what implications it may have for our school. A few are obvious. We want our students to adopt the postures of creator and cultivator so that they can live as our Creator intends. These postures also enable our students to affect culture more deeply through gestures of condemning, critiquing, copy and consuming. Finally, we want to encourage our students to desire the demanding discipline that is essential to the tasks of creating and cultivating.
If you would like to learn more about Culture Making but lack the time to read the book, you can see Andy Crouch in action by watching this YouTube video of a lecture he gave at Biola University in 2013. I believe you will find the 30 minute video well worth the time.
Head of School