January 1 marked not only the start of the new year, but also two-and-one-half years of my service as Superintendent of LCS. As an educator, I have a couple “new year” opportunities annually- the beginning of the calendar year, and the beginning of the school year every August; I take advantage of each one to reflect on the past year, pray for wisdom from God, and set goals and direction for the future. I ask you to invest a few minutes of your time as I share some thoughts about Liberty Christian School as we look ahead into 2017.
I believe a key to the future success, sustainability, and excellence at Liberty lies in our ability to unite the mind and the heart of our students in their educational experience. In our efforts to train the minds of our children we must never forget the importance of community.
COM∙MU∙NI∙TY │ \kə-‘myü-nə-tē\ │ noun │ 1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2. The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common. (Oxford Dictionary)
Four realizations have come to the forefront concerning community as I have read and reflected on this definition, particularly through a blog I read by J. Warner Wallace (coldcasechristianity.com) and a video I watched by a professing atheist, Bart Campolo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IDoNAWOC5g), who in recent years rejected Christianity after being raised by a famous Christian evangelist father:
LCS is a FAMILIAL Community
I have been in Christian school education for over thirty years. I have been the head of three different Christian schools during that time, but I have also interacted with dozens of other schools- Christian, charter, public, magnet, etc. I have noted a distinct difference between the cultures in schools; it has to do with the sense of family they experience. Many communities and schools are united around a common interest, while the Christian schools I have been a part of are united by a common Father. It’s tempting to forget this and undervalue the sense of family we ought to experience as Christians. But this familial quality is a Christian distinctive.
That’s why I feel a great sense of responsibility as the Superintendent to have an administration, faculty, and staff who are servant leaders, able to teach academics and Christian worldview but also be paternal, maternal, and pastoral. I have seen many schools, even Christian schools, who appear more interested in the program than the people. I think we sometimes lean in this direction because we are a school and should not neglect academics and knowledge. But we should never forget this Christian distinctive that unifies us: we are the family of God, united as God’s children. We are to be more than teachers; we are to partner with you in parenting our students, uniting them in our Heavenly Father, and demonstrating the unique love of the Christian family.
LCS is a PURPOSEFUL Community
The success of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life should remind us how important it is for every person to answer the question, “Why am I here?” LCS must help our students answer this question for themselves (individually) and for the group (collectively). Are we here simply to go to school? Are we here simply to learn academics? Or sports? If these are the limits of our ambition, we will never have more than a group or a club membership mentality. Communities are driven by more transcendent goals. We must recognize the power of mission.
As our students are provided a Biblically-based education, marked by academic excellence, in a nurturing atmosphere, they must rally around the causes of God and enjoy the common sense of purpose experienced in Christian community; they must devote their lives to loving others and making the world a better place, impacting it for Christ. You see, families are united in mission and purpose. As the leader of our Christian school, I must constantly examine our activities and program to see if they reflect the mission of God. If an outside observer were watching our school, would they see anything distinguishing it uniquely from other schools? Would the love of God for one another and for the world around us be evident? We are to be more than teachers; we are to partner with you in parenting our students, uniting them in our Heavenly Father, and demonstrating the unique love of the Christian family.
LCS is a Community that needs to GROW
Families grow naturally. When two people marry and continue to love one another deeply, the consequence of this loving union typically results in offspring. Healthy, loving families grow. The Christian school movement across America is in decline; the factors are many, but that is not the purpose of this communication. At Liberty, we have plateaued in our enrollment over the past few years but we are preparing for growth. One of the keys is continuing to develop our familial community. Young people, in particular, are interested in family. At Liberty, we have the perfect opportunity to engage our students in thoughtful, familial Christian communities celebrating (and challenging) the life of the mind as they learn their academics.
We also have to get the word out about the LCS community. There is great power in missional community and the desire most people have to join and support such communities. At LCS, we have developed a healthy, loving family worthy of support. In fact, many of our core donors support Liberty because they remember the familial community LSC was for them or their children. We MUST continue to create a transformational community that our students and families will want to replicate (and support) when they are older. Spread the word about LCS to your friends and neighbors! We are to be more than teachers; we are to partner with you in parenting our students, uniting them in our Heavenly Father, and demonstrating the unique love of the Christian family.
LCS is a Community PARTNERSHIP
I would like to share a couple areas where I need your partnership in having a transformational community at LCS:
1) We have a continuing need for volunteer time to fully accomplish our mission of providing a well-rounded program for our children. Areas that come to mind are helping with clean up at our many school events, from major events like the Christmas Bazaar, Car Show, and Auction to other special events like the Veterans Day Assembly and Christmas Programs, to ongoing help with recesses, lunch, and all our sporting events (tickets, concessions, scoring, clock, etc.). If everyone pitches in a little, we can cover these areas- it’s a great way to give and it engages us in being a familial community.
2) We believe God has led us in the establishing of our Partnering with Parents Workshops to equip our parents with practical information and tools in the raising of our children. Workshops earlier this year included “Protecting Our Kids in a Technology Driven Society,” “College and Career Readiness,” and “Bully-Proofing our Kids.” We are excited that Thrivent Financial is sponsoring “Building Deeper Roots” on January 25 at 6pm, including a catered dinner and age-appropriate workshops for the whole family on household finances, stewardship and money smarts. Please mark your calendars and sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/partnering-with-parents-financial-workshop-tickets-30359447926 to reserve spots for your family at this free workshop.
I will confess, I often feel impatient in the slow growth of the school and the challenges of uniting all of us around this mighty mission of preparing our children for life and eternity. As the school leader, I am tempted to bury myself in the details of the program and swing on a pendulum of over-emphasizing the academic excellence we must grow and the spiritual formation we must cultivate. Our Christian school is to be built on BOTH. The key to growing our school lies in our dependency on God, our ability to unite the mind with the heart, and our willingness to be part of the community.
“And he (God) gave… shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…. when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16
Won’t you join me for a great 2017?
In His Service,