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“Family reunion.” Those two words can conjure up all kinds of emotions. If, like me, you’ve experienced rich reunions with your family in the past, you’ve probably been yearning for them during this time of distance. On the flip side, I imagine that we have all either heard of, or experienced firsthand, family reunions gone bad. Well, get ready for a “family” reunion in early 2022—and it’s going to be a good one!

When we gather in San Diego for Converge 2022 (formerly known as the Global Christian School Leadership Summit or GCSLS) in March, it will be two years—almost to the day— that many of us experienced a massive interruption in both our professional and personal lives. I don’t know about you, but I thought we would be out of school for only three weeks, have Easter break, and be back in business. Boy, did I have it wrong! I imagine we all did. For my friends outside of the United States, your experiences were not exactly the same, but we have corporately experienced a unique and challenging global phenomenon. 

Through it, we have learned what is possible in education—much more than we ever dreamed, even for the big dreamers. How timely and how tremendous that we will converge for a gathering of the hearts, minds, and souls of Christian leaders from around the globe at Converge 2022: Leading Courageously, Renewing Hope. The big, big dreamers will share, lead, and inspire us all to courageously and boldly consider the possibilities for Christian education.

The picture that I get when I think of the word converge is of two streams or rivers coming together to form one, more powerful body of water. In melding definitions for the word converge, let’s define it as (things) coming from different directions and meetings at (a place) to gradually change in order to become similar or develop something in common. As individuals, we have a wide range and very diverse experiences as school heads, but we do have a common purpose. Looking at the word “similar” in our definition does not mean “the same,” and our something “in common” is the desire to see God honored and glorified in our schools as we develop disciples and tomorrow’s Christian leaders. That is the beauty of Converge 2022

Listening and Learning . . . Together

Two keywords that I often use when asked about important characteristics of leadership are the ability to listen and the willingness to learn. At Converge, we will have the unique opportunity to do both from leaders from across the world. As I look back on the previous two GCSLS events, I can identify several key sessions that have impacted my thinking and my leadership. Sessions on inclusion/diversity, spiritual formation assessments, cultural and social challenges to schools, building team and leadership capacity, and legal issues come to mind. 

The formal sessions are amazing, but the gaps between sessions—the early mornings, lunches, evenings, and late nights—are where some of the real magic happens. It’s where relationships are built, ideas are honed, and innovation is inspired! God’s call to relationship and the reminder that we are just a small part of a large body of believers that reaches far beyond the walls of our buildings will ring true at Converge. The commonality of doing God’s work across the globe brings such comfort through this shared experience. At the end of our three days together, we will return back to our schools in many different countries with new ideas, new contexts, and new friends. It has been my experience at past global gatherings that I will be both challenged and reinvigorated to see a global view of the work that God is doing, along with an inspired vision for what is possible at my own school.

I’ve also experienced the amazing opportunities to learn from other leaders at global gatherings. I don’t know about you, but I love to hang out with people who are much smarter than me. Converge 2022 is a perfect place to do that! As heads of school, there is sometimes a perception that we are in that role because we know everything about everything. (True confession?) I don’t have all the answers, but in getting together with and getting to know others who have the same role in a much different context, I’ve figured out that it’s okay to not know everything. Bringing different perspectives to our work within my newfound group of friends and colleagues, there is always someone who knows and freely shares advice and experiences (some more than others—you know who you are!) I believe this is how Christ intended His followers to be—open to sharing, supporting, and loving each other from within and outside of our buildings, so the truth of the Gospel permeates every corner of every place in the world.

Before You Come . . . 

To maximize your experience at Converge, might I suggest a few things? Be sure to bring:

  • Shorts! San Diego is a great place to be in March.
  • Ideas to share
  • Problems to solve
  • A willingness to grow, learn, and discover
  • A sense of adventure and a willingness to have fun!
  • An open mind, open heart
  • A desire to grow in your faith
  • A desire to make new friends
  • A desire to innovate

And make sure to get enough sleep before you come, so you can pack in as much conversation, collaboration, and community-building as possible!

To my friends from Philly, Chicago, Canada, Brisbane, the UK, and Africa—I cannot wait to see you again! We belong to a global community, connected by the mutual understanding of God’s grace freely given. So, let’s look forward to Converge as a time to learn, laugh, commiserate, and celebrate all that God is doing in the Kingdom. As Tim Keller says in his book Every Good Endeavor, “We GET to do this work.” It has been good, hard work in the past months, and what a beautiful way to celebrate the work with friends and colleagues—really, our Christian education family—from around the world. This thread of Christian education that is woven between us will be fortified, as we look toward the future with a deep hope of what God will do in and through us—together. 

Jennifer Thompson has served in Christian education for almost twenty-five years in various roles from basketball coach to science teacher, elementary principal to head of school at schools in both Florida and California. A native of Vermont, Jenn has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Wheaton College and a master’s in science in Educational Leadership from Florida International University. She completed the Fellows program at the Van Lunen Center for Executive Management in Christian Schools at Calvin University and currently serves on the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) board. Jenn is the chief executive officer of Christian Schools International.

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