Prayers for the New School Year
It’s back-to-school season! This is a transition time and a very busy one. Our theme at Liberty Christian School this year is “Love Does” and we will be emphasizing Love in action with our students.
The Lord wants us to bring any challenges, nerves, fears, or anxiousness to Him. He invites us to talk to Him, to release our burdens, and receive His peace. We also should be approaching our Lord with praise and gratitude. Psalm 116:2 (NLT) encourages us to do that: “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!”
At the beginning of this school year—and throughout the rest of the year, too—pray these verses over your children, over yourself, and over LCS. He is listening and responding.
1. Praying for help with anxiety
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7
Lord, I admit I feel anxious about this school year for so many reasons. I am trying so hard not to feel this way. Yet, here I am, caught up in an anxiety loop in my head. Lord, my fears fuel my anxiety. I know this and am so grateful I can honestly share my struggles with You. I want to leave my anxious thoughts with You. Please take them from me and don’t let me take them back. I will try. But, when I do, please give me Your peace instead.
2. Praying to be more like Jesus
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” — Luke 2:52
Lord, I don’t know what this year holds for my child. However, I pray that throughout the year my child grows in wisdom–not just in the subjects taught in school–but that my child would also grow in wisdom of who You are, what it means to be Your child, and how to walk in Your ways. I pray that my child grows in character as well as in biblical wisdom. I ask for healthy physical, mental, and emotional growth as well. However, above all else, I pray my child honors You in every relationship and with every choice. At the heart of my prayer, Lord, is that my child would grow to be more like Jesus in every way this year.
3. Praying for strength and courage
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” — Deuteronomy 31:6
Lord, thank you for these words that you gave Moses to speak to the Israelites before they crossed over into the Promised Land. Back then and still today, these words remind us that You will go with us and never leave us. This year I pray that my child grabs hold of this truth at the start of each day. Some days will be harder than others as my child navigates friendships, challenging school assignments, projects and tests, teachers’ expectations, extracurricular activities, and the long days away from home. On some days, it will feel difficult to walk into the school building. On some days, my child will want to stay at home and in bed instead. On those days, especially, please remind my child that Your presence gives them strength and courage.
4. Praying to be a positive example
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” — 1 Timothy 4:12
Father, I ask that you help my child understand that age doesn’t matter. You can work in and through a first-grader as easily as You can a 40-year-old. I know you placed my child in this school, in this classroom, with these teachers, and with these peers for a reason. I ask that You help my child reflect Jesus in the words my child speaks, how my child acts, and how my child treats others. And, Lord, help me to parent my child in a way that reflects Jesus, too.
5. Praying for rest
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30
Father, the world is so different than the one I grew up in not that long ago. I know my child carries burdens that I never even thought about. I ask that my child takes those burdens to you. I want my child to be yoked with You, to learn from You, to go where You lead. Lord, I want my child to receive rest that can only be found when we release all of those too-heavy burdens and leave them with You. And, Lord, when my child cannot find the words to express their struggles or even recognize them, please allow me to see and lead them to do just that.
6. Praying for submitting to God’s will
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." — Proverbs 3:5-6
Lord, I thank You for this child you entrusted to my care. I am in awe of Your creation. I know you bend down to hear my prayers for my child’s present and future. You know the hopes and dreams I carry for this child. I lift and release those hopes and dreams to You. Help me to fully trust the steps and milestones You will determine for my child this year. Even though I don’t always understand, I know in my heart your path is best. Help me to remember and fully surrender to Your will and be the parent my child needs me to be.
In the spring of 1979, a nucleus of parents led by Pastor Don McMillan of First Baptist Church in Richland met to discuss the possibility of starting a Tri-Cities area Christian school. Pastor Mac (as he was affectionately referred to) served the Lord as pastor at First Baptist Church for 25 years and had a vision for a Christian school that would benefit children throughout the Tri-Cities academically and spiritually. The school began in the fall of 1980 with approximately eighty students under the leadership of Mr. Dale Phillips, the first principal.
As the school expanded, classes met in Sunday School classrooms at various churches around the Tri-Cities and even rented rooms for a time from Richland School District in the Spaulding school building. In 1997, a group of praying moms asked God to provide a building that Liberty could call its own. The Spaulding school building, which had been mothballed by the local school district, had a fire break out, destroying the north wing of the campus. LCS had previously approached the district to purchase the property, but the price was simply too high.
Now with the fire, Richland was ready to sell. God works in amazing ways. Even though extensive renovating would be required, Liberty now owned a school building on a beautiful 19-acre campus in the heart of Richland.
In the fall of 2000, K4 through sixth grade held their first classes in their very own school. It was a day of great rejoicing, but there was still much to be accomplished to complete a secondary wing. Three years later, the entire school, K4-12, was finally housed on the same campus. A brand new science lab was provided through a grant from Battelle Laboratories. However, it was through the sacrifice and dedication of hundreds of volunteers, parents, and Golden Grandpas that Liberty Christian School was now ready to take on the future. It was the fulfillment of many prayers and strategic planning by the board.
One part of the building remains to be renovated. The old cafeteria is a large space currently used for storage and maintenance.
During the early 2000s, Liberty experienced growth until the nationwide economic recession brought in a season of challenges. Through much prayer, effort, sacrifice, and by God's grace, the school weathered those storms. Enrollment stabilized for the 2012-2013 school year after a loss of several hundred students. Since that time, the school has had an enrollment that has fluctuated annually between 380 and 410 students.
During a time of unexpected quarantine, the Liberty board and administration quickly decided to pursue all of the requirements to open for on-campus in-person, physically distant classes for the fall of 2020. Our mission is to provide a biblically-based education, marked by academic excellence, in a nurturing atmosphere. Spring of 2020 demonstrated to our staff that online learning was not sufficient in educating the whole child: academically, physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Our school has been held in-person and unshaken since the last week of August 2020!
While our entire community has been unable to do much in the face of the government restrictions on gathering indoors, we have students on our waitlist at all grade levels, and due to space limitations, our facility is unable to accommodate any more students.
The Lord has led us through 40 years of ministry and we are excited about where He will lead us in the next 40. A little bit of unfinished business from the original vision for the LCS campus is the Old Cafeteria. We are referring to it now as our valley of dry bones as it’s explained in Ezekiel 37, and God has positioned LCS to start the work of putting sinews and muscle and flesh on this area of campus and have Him resurrect it for the benefit of our students!
The old cafeteria will become the new Fine Arts Wing of the campus, with the ability to set up three classroom spaces or open it up for performance space. The kitchen will be modified to provide for our food prep and lunch program (lunches will continue to be eaten in classrooms). An additional instructional and activity space, bathroom facilities, a student coffee shop area, and a food court are also planned. Covered hallway space connecting the gym, secondary wing, and fine arts wing are strategically placed. There is also space for maintenance and janitorial supplies and storage.
Donor relationships, grant proposals, and next year’s fund-a-need are all key resources we will be seeking. God blessed us with over $125,000 in seed funding through the generosity of supports through the 2021 Patriot Auction Fund-A-Need Appeal.
We will be sharing some further breakdowns of the phases and timelines as they develop. We are committed to moving forward with the project without encumbering LCS with any further debt.
Here is a rough breakdown of the funding needed to complete this project:
*Fine Arts Wing Remodel and Expansion = $2 Million
*New Parking Lot = $135,000
*5-Classroom Addition on Elementary Wing = $925,000
*New Field House = $540,000
*TOTAL for all Projects = $3.6 Million
Please pray along with us and pitch in with your time, treasure and talent as opportunities arise to accomplish this project for our student and their future!
LCS…Preparing Global Ambassadors
This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones, “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.“ Ezekiel 37:5
Transitioning into the Development & Marketing Coordinator position here at Liberty mid-year was quite a challenge. However, the Lord's grace remains faithfully evident through donations and the financial provision as last school year ended. Our auction raised over $105,000 and the 2018-2019 fiscal year Patriot Fund total exceeded our yearly goal. I'm forever thankful that His hands are in the middle of my work, and I give the honor to Whom it's due.
Our donors not only met our Patriot Fund goal but provided money for this year's Fund-a-Need project, a new phone system, which was installed over the summer break. We are so grateful for each and every donor who has sacrificially supported us financially, as well as those who sacrificially give their time.
Our fundraising events play a huge role in how we bridge our tuition income and operating expense gap. But our donors are not the only part of our community that can make a significant contribution.
Tammy Mattoon has served on the auction committee for several years now. Part of her volunteer position is to help facilitate the procurement of donated items. Tammy, each year, approaches several businesses to inquire about potential donations. After three years of only receiving baskets from Gesa Credit Union, 2019 was different. They donated a beautiful basket and sponsored the event!
Being my first Denim & Diamonds auction, the evening of April 27th was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I remember not necessarily knowing what to do as all the pieces we prepared were now in motion. I sat back, tried to take it all in, and made observations of potential improvements for years to come. After I introduced myself and closed the night, two gentlemen from the Gesa table pulled me aside and asked to speak with Jim and me. They began to tell us about how their company is passionate about schools, educators, and students and would like to partner with Liberty.
Flash forward to yesterday, August 15th, 2019. Gesa hosted co-branded debit card reception announcing the total awards for the participating school districts. Richland School District raised just over $43,000 and Kennewick $42,000 through Gesa's Affinity Card program. Mr. Cochran and I, along with a table of other staff and faculty representing Liberty, accepted a $2,000 award for the launch of our partnership with Gesa starting this fall. Soon, you will be able to request a co-branded debit card at any Gesa Credit Union branch. This card will not only create visual awareness for the community, but Gesa donates back to Liberty every time each card is used.
There will be more details to come, but for now, I am beyond thankful for every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, alumni, staff, and beyond whom choose to continually come together in unity with their individual giftings making Liberty what it is today. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you.
Here's to braving new heights this 40th year!
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us" - Ephesians 3:20
UPDATE: The cards are now available at any of the 18 Gesa locations. It is absolutely free to switch your card.
Development & Marketing Coordinator
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,
We want to welcome you to the Liberty Christian School Blog- the “Liberty Blog.” The purpose of this space is to share with you- encouragement, musings, philosophy, resources- and provide a place you can go for a little deeper experience of the journey of life at Liberty and life in general. Woven throughout it all will be awareness and recognition of God’s work. We will often share others’ words and perspectives that speak to our mission at LCS to “provide a Biblically-based education, marked by excellence, in a nurturing atmosphere.” Following is one such story shared by Ken Smitherman, former President of the Association of Christian Schools International, that illustrates where the distinctive of Christian schooling plays out. Enjoy…and come back again!
As a parent you are more than aware of the cost of raising children, a cost that includes not only finances but a substantial investment of love, time, and energy. You have chosen to make a major investment in your children's education through Christian schooling.
Christian school education is a distinctive kind of education. It goes beyond preparing your children in the academic disciplines, developing their skills in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking. Of course, the intellectual development of your children is more than important; it is vital. But the distinctive of Christian schooling is that it integrates spiritual formation into the intellectual development of each student.
Christian schooling is about educating the whole student, for it is the student's knowledge and understanding of Scripture and its application in life that makes the difference. This difference may be best illustrated in the following account of Paul Wylie, a 1988 Olympic skater. The passage is reprinted from his essay "On Gravity and Lift" in the book Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians.
In 1988, Paul Wylie, one of three Americans, has taken the ice for his figure skating competition in Calgary at the winter Olympics. As he sets up for the first jump in his program he is no sooner in the air than he realizes something is horribly wrong:
A flash later my hand touches the ice; the blade will not hold. I start slipping and now I realize it: I am falling. All I hear as I collapse to the ice is the emphatic groan of what seems like a million voices. I struggle to get up, hustling to get to the next move, thoughts racing through my mind as I try to cover the disappointment. There is no way of erasing a fall from the judges' minds, nor can I jam the television transmissions to the living rooms of friends and family watching at home. This is live and I have just blown it.
I have four minutes left and one important choice to make. Either skate through the rest of the program believing that something constructive will come of the mishap, concentrating and performing through to the end, or continue to dwell on the fall and its consequences, inviting more mistakes caused by a negative frame of mind. A Scripture flashes through my mind that helps me with my decision: "The righteous shall fall, but they shall not be utterly cast down." I suddenly grasp God's perspective: He will use our successes and our failures to teach us about ourselves and to show the world His glory. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). I move on, accepting a new role. I admit imperfection and decide to skate "... heartily as unto the Lord"-for God's glory rather than my own results.
At the end of the program, the audience surprises me with a rousing ovation. They appreciate the comeback after the initial mistake, having sensed the abandon and determination I felt to redeem the rest. The audience forgave the initial glitch, but the judges-they never do.
Here is where the distinctive of Christian schooling plays out. As we seek to develop each student to his or her full potential in Christ, two things happen: First, students learn the truths of Scripture and how to apply those truths to their lives, even as Paul Wylie drew on his understanding of Scripture in a time of need. And second, like the crowd at that Olympic event, the Christian school cheers the student on, helping to turn falls into victories.
Ken Smitherman, President Association of Christian Schools International