OUR MISSION. Our mission is sustainability. First, we want our students to be able to independently and creatively devise lifestyles of economic sustainability. Second, we want them to be able to sustain a lifelong commitment to learning, to thinking, and to acting upon that which they know to be right and good. And third, we want them to sustain a focus on the essential call to truth and wisdom that informs their being while in this world.
We welcome all young adults who want to engage with us in these tasks, but we especially welcome graduates from the independent-schooling community. We see this community as being the most willing to consider and embrace non-conventional methods of pedagogy, and it is often through the non-conventional that out-of-the-box thinking and truly committed intellectual ownership take place.
CORE BELIEFS. Our core beliefs are as follows:
That truth is accessible by the human mind, and that the mind naturally forms a non-contradictory system of values and beliefs that guides one's actions.
That human language is capable of constructing and conveying sentences that ethically and truthfully correspond with a single, basic state of reality.
That reality is ultimately single and stable.
That the universe shows more evidence of intelligent design than of evolution.
That since the non-existence of God has not been proved, the notion that God exists must be seriously entertained.
That the interpretation of a non-fiction, non-poetical text should be literal when there is no contextual reason to treat its meaning figuratively.
That it is not to be assumed that the human spirit is naturally aligned to truth or justice.
That since it has not been shown that humans are not eternal creatures, the notion that they are eternal creatures must be seriously entertained.
That science is a method that produces only probable statements that speak only of events that are repeatable, public, and measureable.
That science speaks only to the physical characteristics of reality, and that the whole of reality itself is more than that which is commonly denoted as physical.
That knowledge, if it is knowledge, is true, and that knowledge is available to human minds via means other than solely scientific ones.
That humans have presuppositions, and that these presuppositions are held prior to scientific or empiric data.
That if there is only one single ultimate reality, that it is possible to be incorrect about that reality.
Students do not have to ascribe to these core beliefs. However, they must be willing to allow their instructors to form and express conclusions that are drawn from these core beliefs, and all must agree that by definition contradictory opinions expressed in mutually understood terms cannot be both true at the same time in the same sense. This latter point is the foundation for the success of one's search for truth, and what is the purpose of education if not to find the truth?
HOW WE TEACH. Our philosophy of education is that the mind is not meant to be treated as a store for data but instead is primarily to be trained in critical thinking and in aesthetic and philosophical apprehension. The mind needs effective and flexible ways to analyze problems and invent solutions. If practiced diligently throughout one's lifetime, these ways will result in a practical reasonableness that more approaches wisdom than intelligence.
The pedagogical path that best suits this outcome is one that is a mix of class discussion, group reading, independent study, and mentorship. Our best classes strive to incorporate in some way most, if not all, of these elements, always operating on the principal that students ultimately learn better and retain more via a combination of hearing and doing rather than hearing alone.
We want our students to develop the conviction that the mind cannot be compartmentalized. A person may develop a conventionally recognized expertise in a subject, but this should not stop one from thinking critically about things outside this subject and from being able to seriously discuss these thoughts with others. However, there are proper ways to carry out a critical analysis on a topic, and we believe these proper ways can be taught.
What the instructor must stress are the methods of definition, staggered and poly-lateral reading, multi-modal access of information, real-life engagement that properly brings the student into knowledge of the topic, and techniques of archiving the whole investigation so that one remembers what was learned.
When the student sees this whole process modeled by the instructor, the student begins to acquire the framework that will empower life-long learning. If we can get our students to this place—the place where they realize that on their own they can continue their education way beyond their Ravenburn experience—then we've succeeded in our pedagogy.
JOB PLACEMENT. We can't promise a job in the ministry, but we can work really, really hard to try to make one happen for each and every student. How? Four ways.
First, each student has to complete a practicum every quarter. This means 20 practicums over the course of 5 years. In the practicum, the student works alongside a mentor or supervisor in a practical, on-the-ground activity for the Kingdom of God. This can be helping with a specific pastoral ministry, or assisting in curriculum development for Sunday School, or co-managing a certain job at a Christian nonprofit ministry. In this way, students get to know people and also get to be known. These mentors and supervisors can serve as valuable references for our students upon their graduation.
Second, God has given us a rather extensive network of pastors, Christian business owners, professional advisors, and parent boosters. We keep each one informed of the employment needs of our upcoming graduates. These godly men and women can use their own friends, acquaintances, and contacts to spread the news about our future graduates and their needs for employment within the Kingdom.
Third, we insist that our students embrace a default mindset of bi-vocational ministry. God may eventually lead them into a full-time position in ministry that provides a livable wage, but it is best to start out being willing to work in the community while ministering to it. One incredible thing that arises is a very strong bond with the working members of one's congregation or ministry group.
Fourth, if students graduate without a place of employment waiting for them, we have a travel circuit set up for them. If they wish, they can move through a network of partnering churches, staying anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at each. Housing will be provided, and the students will be expected to do anything the host church wants them to do. On our side of things, we encourage them to simply look, listen, love, and pray for those God brings into their paths as they travel. Of course, throughout the whole venture, they will be dropping off resumes and asking the people they meet to enter into pray for them concerning employment.
It's an adventure, to be sure. The core question is, How should one respond to the future material needs he or she can envision having? The answer: with courage, and with an absolute conviction that if one seeks the Kingdom of God first, everything else will fall into place. Everything.