Is Protocol “Starched, Stuffy, and Stiff?”

Classical Conversations’ Challenge communities organize chaperoned Spring Protocol events each year for their Challenge I-IV students. Students choose dressy attire, eat together in an upscale setting, and may attend a cultural event (such as the theatre, opera, or symphony). Many communities have individualized Protocol training using Sandra Boswell’s book, Protocol Matters.

Spring Protocol allows students to practice proper etiquette for formal occasions. This trains them in the skills of participating in formal functions with ease. The children we are homeschooling will one day be leaders of their homes, churches, local organizations, and communities. Quite possibly, some will even be leaders on a national or international scale.

Classical Conversations puts the highest value on equipping our students with the skills combined with the wisdom they will need to know God and to make Him known. To neglect to teach them the skills of formal events would be to overlook an important component of what they will need as adults leading their generation and those who will follow after them.

Protocol = love one another

The purpose of Spring Protocol encompasses the practical, but it delves deeper than that. Protocol provides valuable insight into one of Christ’s most important directives: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34, NIV).

Classical Conversations is raising up students to value what is true, good, and beautiful. It also seeks to spread an appreciation for truth, goodness, and beauty as they fulfill the Lord’s purposes in their lives. No matter where or to whom they are called to do so, they will need to wield skills of courtesy and grace through appropriate manners and considerate behavior. They will need to know how to manifest Christ’s dictum to love others through their dress, speech, and actions.

As our young men and women fellowship during Protocol, they learn to show focused consideration to those with whom they are keeping company. They discover that it takes not only knowledge but effort to be gracious to others with whom they are expected to socialize, regardless of whether they have interests in common.

Protocol teaches high regard for others

Protocol produces an environment in which young adults practice different ways they can show high regard for each other in an age and within a secular worldview which dismisses such consideration as simply meaningless, empty “formality.” Indeed, we live in a culture which tries at every turn to informalize—in effect, downgrade—how we treat one another. This has resulted in a society which seems to have only a faint idea of how to be respectful of elders and those in authority, let alone peers.

Perhaps it is human nature for one generation to reject the mores of the generation that preceded it. This is a phenomenon often referred to under the umbrella phrase, “the generation gap.” It is important to consider, however, the following questions and conclusions as we prepare for Protocol:

Questions and Conclusions

  • If one is eager to reject the manners and standards of one’s elders as being pointless and simply “for show,” you can be sure that the generation that follows will mimic those attitudes.
  • That generation will also reject the values which the previous generation deems important. Consider how this may make one feel later in life, walking amongst those in a society who not only reject, but condemn, concepts of good behavior that one holds dear.
  • It is vital to ponder at what point the erosion of standards will stop. Where will society draw the line? Does such a line exist? It is possible that the erosion never ceases until there remains nothing to erode. Is this a place we really want to reach?

Spring Protocol is, therefore, about exploring how to behave with deep respect for one’s fellow human beings of all demographics, who are made in the image of God. As Christians, we are called to put others before ourselves. Protocol provides students with the opportunity to practice what Scripture teaches about the value we should accord every person as a human being created by God, with His holy intent and purpose. It helps train our students to “love one another,” but it also helps train them to be aware of how their treatment of one another is a witness: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).

Protocol is a blessing: a grace-filled time of fellowship, conversation, and appreciation of the arts and delicious food. This is made possible through the extra care participants take with their appearance, manners, and consideration of one another, putting others before themselves, from the moment of planning their appearance through the moment of farewell.

Starched, stuffy, and stiff

Does this mean that the event is “starched, stuffy, and stiff” (all modern synonyms for “formal”)? This is what our postmodern culture would claim as it promotes exultation in the philosophy of the “generation gap.” But nothing could be further from the truth. As Christians, we realize that this Christlike kindness helps us to show grace to one another, to include one another fully in our care and conversation, and to be sensitive to others. The cumulative result is that no matter the dresses or suits, no matter the restaurant or the cultural event, all participants enjoy true fellowship together.

Protocol is an important part of Challenge I-IV, in which students are honing significant social skills, as well as Christian character and integrity. It is about learning to use proper manners at formal events. Even more than this, however, Spring Protocol is about learning to show Christian love towards others: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV). There is nothing starched, stuffy, or stiff about that!

Originally posted by Kate Deddens on Friday, 26 April, 2013. Updated by Terri Dunseath.

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