teacher and lightbulb

Signpost To The Kingdom Of God

The best schools teach students to think differently about questions common to each generation. Students need to learn what is real and what will last. They need to learn who they are.
The United States and much of the world provides free public education. In fact, many western countries in Europe and Canada fund private Christian schools in addition to the public choice. This free choice was established and has subsequently maintained an outdated industrial model. This traditional model is outdated because the priority in the nineteenth century was a virtuous, efficient, numerate, and literate workforce. Schooling and students need vastly more than this simplistic goal. Basic literacy remains a significant priority today and it matters, but on its own it’s not a big enough reason for Christian school.
Christians need to ask if they have different goals that we have forgotten about today. That one-roomed schoolhouse was designed for an agrarian community that no longer exists. American schools now has an obsession with timetables, early starts, and after-school clubs. Don’t get me wrong they do have value. But, have you wondered about the fact that teachers used to have respect in the local community and that older children often instructed their peers? At Salem Christian School and most Christian schools, you will find that this is a goal of our parent-partnership.
Together, we want more for our young people than panning for limited vocations determined by class, race, religion, or gender. Don’t we want to keep what our ancestors thought? -religious and spiritual literacy were part of being an informed and well-rounded person. Today these things are often seen as dangerous tools of indoctrination. A Christian influence is the best pill for what ills the secular culture is spreading.
Why Christian school?”
I get the opportunity to hear from our students and visit other schools asking them questions. I would encourage you to do the same. I commonly hear about what they are doing in the future and the hopes they have. These are universal to humans in any place or time, aren’t they?
As an educational leader I often ask specific questions that parents are likely asking too. I am sure parents ask questions such as: How will this school equip this (my) child to succeed in the future? Will we (you) be teaching math and reading the way it was taught when I was at school? Will this (my) child fall away from the faith when they go to a university?
The point of school is teaching and learning. It is never less than that. It happens in school, at home, and in the place of worship. As a Christian, I think of a place of worship as my local church. But, all too often in our culture, that place of worship could easily be a shopping mall or sports field. When Jesus meets with us and shows Himself to be the answer to all that our culture lacks or destroys, He is teaching and forming us. In turn, we are learning and being formed by Jesus more and more into Christ’s likeness.
Dr. Beth Green of the Cardus study says, “Because this teaching and learning happens in the community, we need to participate in Christian community in order to know Jesus. We need to participate in Christian community so that the kingdom of God can shape us, and we need Christian community in order to be a blessing to our time and place. I have summed this up elsewhere as purpose, rigor, and service.”
I agree with her and many other educational authors that this doesn’t happen accidentally, as a by-product of one particular curriculum, or because everyone has signed a cooperative agreement. This teaching and learning happens intentionally as we look for Jesus to be the answer to cultural questions, crisis, and personal goals.
If you are interested in thinking more deeply about how today’s Christian school engages with culture, here is a checklist for you:
  • Have we asked the local community recently about what they might need from this school or what can the community give the school?
  • Have we talked with our school community about their hopes and fears for the future?
  • Have we asked our students recently to tell us what they think school is for?
  • Have we asked our children what they think about Jesus and the kingdom of God?
Recently I read, “Christian school at its best is a signpost to the kingdom of God. It is a way of showing what a flourishing community looks like with the potential to bless our culture for good. (anonymous)” My sentiments exactly.

Head of School Blog

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imagination

Imagining in a Christian Worldview

Often there is this emphasis on trust God and He will open or close the doors. Have you heard this? I have. And, I agree. Yes, here it is, but… He provided us with an imagination and the ability to envision change and growth. Currently, Salem Christian School, a mid-sized Christian school in Eastern Pennsylvania is imagining huge. Why? -We can accomplish big things because our God is unfathomably awe striking. After all, in Genesis 2:9, we find where God imagined and created all of earth’s vegetation with the pleasing beauty and awe in addition to utility. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:9).

First I must point out that there is such a thing as a Christian imagination. Imagination is not naturally evil. Rather, imagination is a gift from God that is endemic to His character. Thus, Christian schools need to fulfill their responsibility and challenge themselves, parents, and children to use their imagination. Moreover, the school needs to instruct and challenge itself and its stakeholders how to use their imagination within the Christian worldview. Ask ourselves, “How does God envision the future?”

Imagination should engulf everything.

Assuming that imagination is a part of how we reflect God’s image, then as stakeholders in His ministry, we are compelled to allow imagination to permeate our content material and our pedagogy. Furthermore, our own learning experience tells us that when our teachers (either parents at home or educators at school) balance trusted nurture with the imaginative and joyful surprise of the unexpected, the potential for meaningful learning increases enormously. The imagination-filled joy of learning among students is enhanced when accompanied by the imagination-filled joy of teaching among teachers.

Expand with imagination

A Christian school (any institution) is always on the move. It is either growing or dying. The fuel to growth and flourishing is imagining what God can do and planning accordingly. The EdServ Director in Australia, Richard Edin, recently wrote, “When communities allow an economic rationalist perspective to dominate the curriculum space to the degree that aesthetic subjects are squeezed out or imaginative approaches to subjects are replaced by cerebral “teach-to-the-exam” routines, we are practicing an idolatrous pre-emptive capitulation that is detrimental to our students and detrimental to the vibrancy of our wider culture.” Although I agree with the sentiment, I would say that a rational subject like science does not disallow imagination. On the contrary, the ultimate example of understanding according to the education research by Bloom is creativity. And, creativity requires imagining the content or skill within a new context.

Essence of Christian Schooling

Sadly, Edin in his blog references research by Cooling and Green (2015) that confirms the “Essence of Christian Schooling” survey conducted by dozens of Christian teachers in Australasia. In both of these studies, the overwhelming majority of teachers in Christian schools imagine that the primary relationship between their Christian faith and their teaching is in the area of interpersonal relationships and so-called spiritual matters such as Bible memorization and personal salvation issues. We know that the Gospel changes everything. Thus, we are convinced that Christian education done properly and imaginatively, Christian school education within the subject areas themselves will challenge students with the hope-filled wonder of God and His world.

Salem Christian School teachers imagine their vocation differently—to see the worldview assumptions of education in general, the context of learning, and the very nature of the subjects they teach, as being deeply oriented in the Christian faith. I just read in a blog this statement, “There is no division between faith-based schooling and non-faith-based schools. All schools are faith-based in that they work out from convictions about what makes for good education.” Every school, private, public, and Christian cannot escape the fact that the students are impacted by the convictions of the system they school within. For, all schools have student outcomes in mind that reflect a certain set of beliefs about the world and our places and tasks in it. A Christian school certainly has some commonalities with a secular approach, but at its heart and in its goals, practices, and outcomes, a Christian pedagogy and cultural ethos that will be distinctively different. This is why a proper Christian education ultimately develops students who love God with all their minds, bodies, and souls.

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top7

Top 7 Reasons For Christian Education

I know that there are many many reasons for Christian education. And, I try not to be arrogant enough to presume it is the only proper choice. However, I am completely convinced that when Christian education is done well it soars above the competition. Here are my top 7 reasons why.

SEVEN REASONS Why You Should Send Your Child To A Christian School:

God holds parents accountable: What your children are taught in school should be a direct extension of your parental views (Proverbs 22:6, Luke 6:40)
God expects a high level of instruction: Christian schools offer a better level of instruction. Standardized test scores have shown that the scores of Christian school students are consistently higher than state and national averages of their peers in public schools (Stanford Achievement Tests, ACT, SAT…).
God expects us to think like him: We must transform ourselves into the likeness of Christ. We cannot do so if we do not know the world as He would have us to see it. Christian school educators teach all subject matter from a Christian context. They put the Bible at the center of the curriculum and ask the student to critically engage all they see in the world through the eyes of God.
God is the origin of all truth, knowledge, and understanding: Ask Adam and Eve how they found out about knowledge. Children do not grow spiritually stronger in a non-Christian environment. Students do not become stronger Christians by being taught non-Christian thinking…and there is no such person as a “neutral” school teacher who neither advances nor inhibits religion. Practically, public education is centered on aesthetic or agnostic views. And, is primarily antagonist or ambivalent, each of which are not appropriate if we are developing children who love God.
God’s Word is the most important text in a person’s life: Whether we accept it or not, education without the Bible is akin to the blind leading the blind.
God expects the Church to support each other: Some are given the gift of teaching, while others are not. Those of us who have been honored with this spiritual gift and calling have the responsibility to partner with Christian parents who desire their children to experience a Christian education.
God gives children as a gift: There is no better way to honor that gift than by raising these children to honor the giver. Parents are responsible to train their children according to His Word not only at home and in church, but in school as well.

Of course, there are children in the Christian school that do not follow Jesus. Well, anywhere there is a human being there is a sinner. Thus, the Christian school provides an opportunity for your child to witness for Christ. The presentation of Christ is not only welcome but is integral to a Christian school. We are sold on the commands of the Gospel to spread the news, baptize, and disciple others.


Head of School Blog

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school-choice

Winds In Favor of Christian Education?

I find it interesting that everything that is specific to schools or school uses are way overpriced. I also find it interesting how private schools out perform other choices even though things are stacked against them. School desks and chairs, for example are exorbitant compared to that of general office supplies. Textbooks are another example. Could this be that there are deep state pockets that drive the price up at the expense of the smaller more financially strapped non-public school? Imagine what a Christian school could do with the finances that our public sector has in their coffers.
Pennsylvania is an important state in the fight for proper support of school choice. However, after meeting with several Commonwealth senators and representatives, we have some challenges. Each of them said that they are excited and willing to promote school choice legislation; but, each time they have championed something their constituency has stayed silent. That was disheartening to hear. Christian education is the answer. to what students need. We need an even playing field with other choices like charter and public schools.
Many nations in Europe and elsewhere have long provided government aid to private elementary and secondary schools, including religious schools. These countries have already faced such questions as whether to regulate private schools. To see what the U.S. might learn from them and to stimulate further discussion, the Center on Education Policy reviewed information from research studies, government documents, and other sources about private school funding and regulation in 22 nations. The think-tank looked at Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Private schools in many nations receive direct subsidies from the government. This situation contrasts with the U.S., where private K–12 schools receive virtually no direct government support and only limited indirect aid, such as bus transportation, textbook loans, and federally funded services for children with special needs. In most of these other countries, the funding of private schools does not provoke the controversy that it does in the U.S. Often the arrangements between government and private schools were established decades ago to protect the rights of religious denominations or to recognize the traditional role of religious schools in the overall education system. Understandably, there are challenges but, Christian schools can thrive in these environments.
Recently, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other proponents of school voucher programs are praising a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said a Lutheran church was wrongly denied a state grant for its preschool playground. But opponents say the ruling is far from an endorsement of the use of public money for religious schools. That is yet to be determined.
The Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, sided with Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, which had sought a state grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground. “We should all celebrate the fact that programs designed to help students will no longer be discriminated against by the government based solely on religious affiliation,” DeVos said after the justices ruled Monday that Missouri violated the First Amendment in denying the grant.
The Missouri, church pre-school sought the grant under a non-profit reimbursement state program they planned to use in order to install playground surfaces made from recycled tires. The Department of Natural Resources denied the application stating the state constitution prohibits the use of public money “in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.”
The church’s challenge was watched by both sides of the debate over whether states can let parents choose to send their children to religious schools through publicly funded programs.
According to news feeds, teachers unions, which oppose vouchers as diverting money from public schools, said the narrow ruling dealt a setback to voucher proponents by leaving intact the state’s constitutional provision that prohibits state funding of religious actions.
The Center for Education Reform,a pro-school choice proponent, said that the justices had bolstered the choice movement by condemning the denial of a public benefit to an otherwise eligible recipient solely on the basis of its religious identity. This is still true even though the court did not review the constitutionality of Missouri’s prohibition on the use of state funds at religious institutions.
The current administration and recent rulings all seem to be favorable for non-public and religious schools. Many say that the government money comes with strings attached. I would contend that under the current cultural climate and progressive activists agenda that the Christian school is already under pressure. The only difference is that the Christian school does not have the funding it could use more wisely. Are we going to sit by and lose another opportunity to promote this crucial cause? What are we going to do about it?

Head of School Blog

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