Month: October 2017

Vision

I am starting to frame a vision statement for SCS. I have a VERY preliminary version available at the moment: To develop stewards of God’s grace who glorify Christ intellectually, spiritually, socially, and physically. Our motto would then be re-worked to say Stewards…glorifying Christ.

I would like to break this down section by section.

To develop – students, actually anyone for that matter, do not just become something/someone. They need help (as do we all). It is a part of our role as teachers that we help students in this process (as does the Holy Spirit). Both parents/guardians and educators (teachers/EAs) help in this process. To develop is a verb that indicates an iterative process and revision; it is not something that is easily happens.

Stewards – this is, perhaps, a new concept for many. I have blogged about this word in the past. The main difference between a servant and a steward is that a servant does not need to (or get to) know what the master is thinking; a steward must understand the mind of the Master in order to fulfill the duties wisely. Developing stewards implies that each of our students at SCS is growing closer in their relationship to God as they seek to more accurately understand His will for their lives and what that looks like for them on a daily basis.

of God’s grace – this phrase modifies the word ‘stewards.’ By adding ‘of God’s grace,’ there is a recognition that we do not represent ourselves. We have been ‘bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s’ (1 Cor. 6:20). Our redemption is based on God’s grace, not on our accomplishments. As Peter explains in 1 Peter 1, 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. In both these passages, we are reminded of our salvation; this helps us see ourselves in the correct light: we are sinners in need of salvation. It is impossible to maintain our pride in light of this admission. Being a steward is already an admission that prohibits pride; our need for salvation drives that point further home.

who glorify Christ – our main goal in life ought to be to glorify Christ. Both the Heidelberg and the Shorter Westminster Catechism state: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Glorifying and enjoying indicate that we have subsumed our desire for importance and have replaced it with a desire to make Christ pre-eminent. This thought carries with it the idea that we love Christ ‘We love Him because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19); why else would we seek His glory? It would not be out of fear, as Christ repeatedly said, ‘Do not fear’ or ‘be not afraid.’ We seek to demonstrate our love for Him in four specific arenas:

intellectually – how do we love God with our minds? There have been whole books written on that topic. Some of the authors include Harry Blamires (The Christian Mind), Phillip Dow (Virtuous Minds), James Sire (The Discipleship of the Mind), Bruce Lockerbie (Thinking and Acting Like a Christian), and J. P. Moreland (Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of Your Soul). The main aspect here is that students learn what they need to learn as part of their normal education, but through a biblical lens. Another way of putting this, is that the development of a biblical worldview is of paramount importance. Every subject in school must be taught through that biblical lens so that students know how to properly see the world. When students see the world as God does, they will be able to act in such as way as to glorify God.

spiritually – this aspect of student life is, in many ways, the most important. As a Christian school, we offer daily devotionals, both first thing in the morning with O Canada and a devotional, as well as a classroom devotional, chapel, Christian Education, and Christian service opportunities. By the time students graduate, we want students to know their Bibles and know how to properly read, understand, and apply Scripture. We want students to be both hearers and doers of God’s Word (James 1:21), this this is what brings glory to Christ.

socially – this aspect of student life is developed, whether the teachers are involved or not. However, the key here is that students will not develop as they ought to without direct intervention of the teachers and the work of the Holy Spirit. Teachers spend time discussing, showing, and modelling appropriate social behaviour. Even in the secondary classes, many teachers take the time to explore appropriate and inappropriate social behaviour. It is also a good reminder to us, as adults, to always be aware that we, too, are modelling appropriate (or inappropriate!) social behaviour. Even though the world looks more at our outward behaviour and the Lord looks more at our heart, having a difference in our behaviour also brings glory to God (but only if the outward behaviour is a reflection of the inward reality).

and physically – even though this aspect comes last, that does not mean it is not important. Since our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 1 Cor. 6:19), it behooves us to take care of our bodies, both physically and spiritually. The spiritual aspect I have already addressed. However, in terms of the physical development, this is achieved through the physical education classes as well as inter-mural sports and team (competitive) sports. SCS also maintains an outdoor education program for the secondary students. However, it is not enough that we offer opportunities for sports (and nutrition); rather, these are opportunities to demonstrate Christian character (sportsmanship) in a competitive, athletic environment. Athletics is one activity where tempers can flare and where inner character gets revealed. This provides our students with a wonderful opportunity to let the light and love of Christ shine as they are competing against others.

Please let me know your thoughts on this topic. I would love to have a conversation around these ideas and see what you, the SCS school community, think.

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Discipleship Versus Evangelism

Just as an opening disclaimer, I know that this post will probably be (somewhat) controversial.

I have heard of open enrollment Christian schools who accept any (qualifying?) student. These schools are often labelled ‘evangelism’ schools. By using this term, I believe people are saying that most students are not Christians nor come from churched families and so need to be evangelized. Evangelism, then, seems to be the most important aspect of the spiritual life of the school.

Other schools, SCS included, label themselves as discipleship schools. The thought is that the students are Christians, or, at least, one parent is, and the students are predominantly churched. In this case, discipleship is the most important aspect of the spiritual life of the school.

In an ideal world, schools might be able to choose one or the other focus. However, in the real world (this is my bias coming through) both are required.

A common scenario is that Christian parents who regularly attend church with their children still have unsaved children. If there are multiple children in the family, that does not mean that all of them are saved. If there are unsaved students from strong Christian families, I believe they need to be evangelized. How does that fit into a discipleship school though? That brings me to a further question. At what stage in a person’s salvation story does evangelism end and discipleship begin? Could discipleship begin before salvation? What about the work of the Holy Spirit? These are all questions I have struggled with in dealing with this situation.

That line of questioning pre-supposes the parent(s) is(are) saved. I have come across faithful church-goers who have not been saved. I have met with one family where both parents attend (and have for years) a church and have been baptized and yet are (most likely) not saved. They wanted to enroll their children in a discipleship school. The family was not accepted because there was no evidence of salvation on either part of the parents. They protested and used their church attendance and being baptized as evidence that they were Christian. In talking with them, they had no conception of what salvation included. (We had two standard questions: who is Jesus Christ? and why should God allow you into His heaven?) In their minds they were Christians; in the minds of the admissions committee, they were not. Making this distinction made me feel like I was taking on the role of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t (and don’t) like feeling like that.

A third issue is a family (parent(s) or child(ren)) who are seeking God but have not yet found Him. They are attending a church but have not come to Christ yet. I know this family would not be accepted into a discipleship school. And yet…. My heart goes out to them as they are searching for and desiring salvation; they are just not there yet.

A final issue I have had to deal with included having students who were saved (usually through a Christian camp) but with unsaved parents. The children now wanted to attend a Christian school for discipleship purposes, but their parents were not saved nor attending a church. The children attended Sunday school and/or youth group. What does a discipleship school do with children (potential students) in that situation?

In dealing with these four issues, I have changed how I view admissions. I did not like the role I was placed in in trying to determine who was Christian and who wasn’t. The wording of my mission statement had been something along the lines of ‘support Christian parents….’ The mission statement eventually changed to ‘assist parents in meeting their God-given mandate….’ This removed the requirement for me to play Holy Spirit in trying to determine if a parent was truly saved. The onus was now on the parent(s).

This opened the admissions door to ‘Christian’ and ‘non-Christian’ families. However, because we were now a mission driven school, it meant that parents were committing to helping us (school staff) produce ‘active disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Parents who were truly saved could easily agree with that goal AND non-Christian parents who were seeking God, or were open to their children seeking God, could also agree with that end goal. That invited the school staff (and administrators) to freely evangelize AND disciple all students. Over a two year period, we saw probably 12 students get saved and five baptized. We were able to do away with the pretense that all students were saved and focus on what the students really needed: entering into an active, growing discipleship-relationship with God.

I realize that every school situation is different. What was a possibility at one school may not be a possibility at another school. That is only to be expected. However, it is still a good idea to think and process some of these concerns/issues/topics. Please let me know your thoughts on the subject. I would love to have further conversation around these thoughts.

The New SCS Mission Statement

Having a compelling mission statement makes it easier for everyone and everything to work together to meet the one goal of furthering the mission.

The SCS Mission Statement is: SCS exists to assist Christian parents by providing a Christ-centred education to prepare and challenge students to strengthen the family, serve the Church, and impact the world.

Let me break that down a bit to see where we are heading.

SCS exists to assist – to assist means that we, as teachers, do not have the primary responsibility over the children. The parents still bear the full responsibility for the education of their children; parents have delegated some of the ‘academic’ part of the education to SCS and its teachers. Parents still work with their children on various assignments, homework, and test prep as well as help reinforce the academics over the summer holidays.

Christian parents – SCS is primarily a discipleship school. (The question of where evangelism ends and discipleship begins is a topic for another day). As a discipleship school, the expectation is that at least one parent is Christian. (Again, the definition of ‘Christian’ can become challenging the further one tries to define what this looks like). Regardless of the particular definitions, the goal is to have a Christian influence in the home so that the Holy Spirit can do His work of conviction and teaching. There is also a common understanding of and support for the Statement of Faith.

by providing a Christ-centred education – This is one of the biggest differences between SCS and any other school within SPSD. Every school teaches its faith through the practical application of its worldview. SPSD schools have their faith perspective: secular humanism. SCS has its faith perspective: Christianity. The easiest way to differentiate between the two is for us to focus on Christ. The more we focus on Christ, the greater the difference is going to be between SCS and any other SPSD school. We will strive for a Christ-centred education. The Lord Jesus IS the Truth; as we focus on Him, we focus on Truth. This is a focus we have been engaged in over the years, but perhaps not as effectively as we could or should. This will be a major focus for the teachers this year. What that means is that we view the content for every subject through the lens of Christ: both in terms of what He has said about the subject as well how we can honour Christ through that subject.

to prepare and challenge students – For most of the elementary years, the students get prepared to explore and understand all sorts of topics, from ELA to PE and all subjects in between. As the students get older, instruction moves from understanding the content and building skills to discovering how to use that content and those skills after secondary graduation. Teachers start to challenge the students to use their skills and content knowledge to make a difference. Where can or should that difference- making skill be employed? That is dealt with in the next three phrases.

to strengthen the family – The family is under attack in more ways that ever. Politicians, the media, society in general have all come out against the family. The biblical ideal of a husband and wife with their children (see Gen. 2:24 and Gen. 4:1) is being replaced. It is not difficult to see the results of tampering with God’s order. The family, as God has structured it, is the key building block of society; as the family goes, so goes society. Christian parents have a mandate to raise their children in such a way that the children will take the biblical example they have been given and live that out in their own family lives. In the school context, we will be helping the children learn some of the skills needed to strengthen the family and will then challenge the children (young adults by graduation time) to strengthen their own families as they prepare to leave school and after they have left school.

serve the Church – The second institution God created is the Church. Just as the family is under attack, so the church is under attack. Our graduates not only need the skills to serve the Church, they need the inspiration to do so as well. The graduating class takes on greater spiritual responsibility during their final year, which stands them in good stead as they graduate and then have the opportunity to become more active within their church (and not merely because their parents have been involved). It will be a part of our mandate to prepare and challenge the students to take on active roles within the Church, regardless of where they end up living.

and impact the world – Finally, graduates who strengthen the family and serve the Church will impact the world. At that stage, students don’t need to try to change the world, they will be well underway to being a positive influence. We have been challenged to be salt and light in our community (see Matt. 5:13-16).

I would welcome your comments as we seek to flesh out this new mission statement over the course of the year. I invite you to pray for us and with us as we implement this mission.