Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Celebrating Christmas

It is difficult for me to understand how the celebration of the birth of Jesus can be turned into simply a "holiday season" without some kind of reference to the origin of the holiday and its traditions.  After all, even the word "holiday" is a shortened version of "Holy Day," and in spite of the fact that the date and season are not necessarily consistent with the time of the actual event, the purpose of the celebration is pretty clear. 

So at Portersville Christian School, we celebrate Christmas. 

We teach our students that their salvation from sin is possible because God allowed Jesus to come, live among us, teach and lead us by his example, and then become the sacrifice required to atone for the sin that separates us from God.  The way we have come around to celebrating this event is complicated.  We know that it probably didn't occur on December 25, and that over time, human tradition has distracted from the message, pulling out the significance of Jesus.  There's nothing wrong with generosity in giving, or emphasizing peace on earth, though sometimes sentiment replaces sincerity even in those things.  But those are side issues, compared with the true meaning and purpose of the celebration of Christ's birth.

We can get excited about a lot of things that don't really mean very much.  As kids, the thought of what presents we might get was far more exciting than thinking about our spiritual connection to God made possible by Jesus.  So one of the things we want to do here at school is to emphasize to our students the importance of celebrating the coming of our salvation.  We do some decorating, and we do some celebrating, but we leave out some of the aspects of Christmas that have a tendency to focus on ourselves, and we put the emphasis on Jesus. When you see students, especially younger ones, begin to show an understanding of what Christmas is all about by actually putting the spiritual emphasis above their excitement over presents and parties, you know they're getting it. 

Our students will gather together on Wednesday, December 17 in the gym for a school-wide Christmas celebration, led by our faculty.  Parents and friends are welcome and invited to join us at 8:30, if you are able. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

ACSI Student Leadership Conference: Well Worth the Time and Effort

Ten of our students, accompanied by two faculty and the administrator, participated in the 2015 ACSI Student Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia November 23-25.  It was time well spent. 

Each year, there's a focus toward which the conference leaders direct the sessions for the students.  Last year, it was toward career and calling, this year the focus was on relationships, beginning with the most important one with God through Jesus Christ.  Conference speakers made it clear that once that relationship is where it needs to be, it becomes possible to have other healthy, productive relationships. 

There are a couple of things about this conference that elevate its importance for our students and their participation in it.  One is the willingness of the conference speakers to be open and honest with the students.  Most of them realize that the room they are addressing is full of high school students drawn from the leadership of the Christian schools they attend, and that they are capable of handling the subject matter in a mature way.  There's not a lot of theoretical conversation, or skipping past problems to get to the happy ending.  Speakers don't "soft petal" their presentation, most of them shared out of their own experience, including their failures and disappointments, not concluding with "it will all work out in the end" but by showing students how to handle those things in a mature manner, and avoid defeat. 

I'm also impressed with the fact that the conference doesn't avoid topics that aren't necessarily neat or politically correct.  Racial issues were part of the discussion, a particularly well-done presentation by two speakers who related their personal experience within the context of the Christian community in which they were raised, and in which they still participate.  Both brought a unique perspective to the discussion.  Both had plenty of reason to accept defeat and walk away, but instead, they committed to overcome and work through it, and along the way help others deal with discouragement and disappointment. 

This conference, though it is scheduled in a time block of sessions running from Sunday evening to Tuesday morning, with Monday afternoon set aside for visiting the Nation's capital city, also incorporates worship into the schedule.  This gives students the opportunity to have some reflection and commitment time and the response to that is visible among the students. 

The effectiveness of the message here is in the way it is presented.  It's not "you should never have any problems if you're a good Christian," but "being a Christian is the best way to develop the maturity and strength you need to handle the problems that a real world will bring your way."  We live in a fallen, not a perfect, world, and we are prone to fall as well.  But a fall shouldn't beat us.  I'm grateful that a group of potential student leaders from Christian schools, including ours, have an opportunity to receive that message. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sharing a Need

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19, ESV

When the Apostle Paul was in need, some of the members of the Philippian church mentioned it, and God prompted the members of the church to come forward with gifts that helped sustain his ministry.  Paul really didn't even have to mention his need, God took care of that for him and supplied him with what he needed.  The Philippian Christians weren't necessarily prosperous people, in fact, most of the church members were slaves, and many of them were women.  But God used them to meet a need.

We have a need at PCS that has been created by the tax credit scholarship program we utilize, EITC, reaching its capacity for allocations during the past couple of years.  Scholarship money, donated by businesses for the purpose of helping income-qualified families have an educational choice for their children, comes from private business firms who receive a tax credit based on the amount they contribute.  They get a 90% credit for a two year commitment, 75% for a one year commitment.  Because it is a tax credit, the dollar amount is capped by the state at $50 million.  That means that there will be some businesses who get placed on a waiting list when they re-apply, once all the available credits have been given out.  That is what happened to financial aid at PCS this fall.

The cap has left us about $125,000 short of scholarship money, which would be added to the budged on behalf of families who applied.  We are committed to keeping all of the students that God has sent our way, so if we are not able to find some way of replacing these funds this year, we will have to make some budget adjustments and changes that will affect the school community, including the ability to provide our teachers with a salary increase. 

So, we are making God's people aware of our need.  There are several avenues through which contributions can be made to help meet this need, and to provide for future financial aid so that we are able to know what we have available before we ask families to commit to a tuition contract. 

Warrior Legacy Fund
Contributions to the Warrior Legacy Fund can be made directly, without any application process or approval through a scholarship program fund.  This money goes directly to scholarship for income-qualified families, and is the best way for individuals who feel that they've been blessed by abundance from God to contribute to PCS.  Though there is not a state tax credit tied to this contribution, all gifts to PCS are tax deductible.  An outside firm has determined the eligibility of all families who receive financial aid or scholarships from PCS.

EITC/OSTC Tax Credits
The Pennsylvania legislature has established a tax credit program for private school scholarships based on financial need.  This is not "state money."  The money comes from private contributors who designate an amount to a specific school's scholarship fund, and in exchange for that, the state provides them with a credit against their corporate tax obligation, 90% for a two year commitment to the program, 75% for a one year commitment.  The legislature recently created a "swinging gate" between the two sections of this program that will allow credits from the OSTC side that hasn't reached capacity, to be applied to EITC scholarships after January 1, 2015.

Businesses which apply now, and are approved before the end of the year, can have their contribution go through the "swinging gate" and be applied after January 1.  If you are interested in this program, which also provides a tax deduction for the contribution on your federal tax liability, please contact Miriam Lowery, through the school office.  You can also contact the office of the Children's Tuition Fund at ACSI in Lancaster, PA, and inquire about designating a tax credit contribution to Portersville Christian School.

Please join us in prayer as we ask God to provide for our need, by meeting the financial needs of the families who have exercised their choice to have their children educated in a place that worships and honors God, and serves him by serving his son, Jesus. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Prayer Foundation

The modern Christian school movement in America can trace its origins to 1962.  That was the year that the Supreme Court handed down the Engle vs. Vitale decision which struck down state-written and recited prayers in public school, and subsequent decisions which made prayer in school unconstitutional under the establishment clause. 

In Portersville, Pennsylvania, at a small Christian and Missionary Alliance church outside the city limits, these decisions were not taken lightly, and there was an immediate response, the result of which was the establishment of Portersville Christian School in the basement classrooms of the church.  There were two teachers and 26 students.  It's hard to understand how you can have education taking place, when knowledge and wisdom are things that are revealed by God and not discovered by man, and not be able to keep in touch with the source of those things. 

Though its history, the school has been dependent on prayer for its very existence, as well as for establishing and sustaining its mission, vision and purpose, and for attaining the desired student outcomes when it comes to a mature, developing, growing faith in Jesus.  There have been times, I'm told, when resources did not appear to meet needs, when needs became overwhelming, and when the only option seemed to be to just close the doors and move on.  But people prayed, and God honored their prayers by revealing his will, and answering them.  Though the school has never had the luxury of having extensive capital reserves, God has always met the need when it was given to him. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil."  Proverbs 3:5-7, NASB

There are 260 students who come to our campus each weekday, and spend about 6 1/2 hours of their time here.  And while they mostly come from good Christian homes and families, there's not any way to know what troubles, burdens and problems those students bring with them.  Things happen in life which can undermine faith, kill self-confidence, and subvert the will of God in someone's life.  And so things happen with students which require teaching beyond the classroom, in the lessons of life, spiritual maturity, consequences for behavior, and abundant grace that can only come from the love of God himself. 

Perhaps, because of seeing these things occur, and dealing with students, faculty and staff every day, I have come to a point where I cannot even comprehend trying to resolve issues and deal with circumstances without first going to my knees (so to speak) and giving the whole thing to God.  That's not easy to do for a professional, complete with degrees, who wants to have confidence in himself.  But it is absolutely necessary if you want to honor God and do the right thing.  And when it comes to tempering consequences of sin with grace, the Holy Spirit is an expert at blending those things together.  Prayer makes this happen.

And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19, NASB

We often associate this verse with our own prosperity, in the context of material blessings.  But it is set in a passage that speaks about riches which are spiritual, and not necessarily material.  The "need" may be as simple as how to help one of my students understand this math concept, or how to teach students that a particular historical event has had an affect on their culture and way of life.  It may be a deeper, spiritual need in order to deal with a life issue that has become a burden, or a hindrance to our faith, or even an attack of the enemy intended to wreck spiritual progress.  The passage of Philippians where this particular verse is found is also the place where you read, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me," 4:13 and "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."  4:8-9. 

At youth camp many years ago, in a rustic setting in Arizona's Chiricahua Mountains, at the Pine Canyon Methodist Camp, Philippians 4 was our theme, and we spend the week "practicing" its principles on each other.  Of course, it was a sheltered environment, and most everyone there was from one of the 13 churches that sent groups to the camp.  But I will never forget the acronym that the camp pastor taught us to remember the principles from this passage.  The acronym is the word JOY, which you can have if you put Jesus first, the needs of Others ahead of your own, and Yourself last.  If you get these priorities straight, you will see that God is indeed a God of his word, and can be trusted to supply all your needs.

He might even use you to help supply someone else's. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Time for some "Thank You's"

The news regarding the EITC/OSTC reform bill that we have been watching go through the house and senate in Pennsylvania over the past couple of weeks is good.  Both houses passed the bill, the Senate made a few modifications, the house concurred, and the bill is now on the governor's desk, waiting to be signed. 

Generally, the private school constituency in Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, is not large or influential when it comes to the legislature.  But because of the cooperative work of several groups that were interested in this particular legislation, mainly ACSIPA and Catholic Conference, the legislation succeeded.  The fact that we were told only last spring that it would be very unlikely for such a bill to go through in the session right before an election, shortened to 10 days, only adds to the excitement of seeing this pass. 

The main provision of the bill will create a "swinging door" between the EITC and OSTC scholarship program.  EITC scholarships are privately funded for students attending private schools, based solely on their economic circumstances as a qualification.  OSTC scholarships have the income requirement, as well as the provision that recipients must reside in one of the state's lowest performing school districts, those which rank in the bottom 15%.  While there is no state funding involved, businesses receive tax credits for their contributions.  Since the EITC program is at capacity, and allocates about 85% of its funds before a single application is received, it was difficult for new businesses to get involved.  But on the OSTC side, about $18 million in tax credits went unused last year.  This bill links the two programs by giving OSTC until January 1 of each year to assign scholarships, and after that, EITC qualified recipients can get the scholarship money. 

For schools like PCS, which have limited access to areas where there are a lot of low performing schools, this is a real blessing.  It will allow us to continue to recruit new businesses for our ETIC program, and ensure that they are accepted, and can access the tax credits.  It will also allow us to allocate unused scholarship money that we already have in our EITC scholarship program. 

ACSIPA played a major role in getting this legislation passed, and in bringing the issues of private education to the legislative table in Pennsylvania.  We spearheaded the effort with the legislature, introducing them to the need last spring, and then utilized our voter voice on line application, which eventually reached over 1,000 contacts, to demonstrate the level of support in the state and encourage state legislators to pass the bill.  They did.

This will also open the door to getting their attention on future issues that affect us.  They now know that ACSIPA represents an active group, and can be a positive force in getting legislative things done in Harrisburg.  Those meetings of the committee that I've attended in Harrisburg each nine weeks, mostly at my own expense, have paid off.  We now have the ear of our Senators and representatives, as well as the governor.  I'm guessing that will come in handy.

Thank you to those of you who were willing to get on voter voice and send a message.  The volume of traffic on that site from Portersville, Butler, Cranberry and Slippery Rock was as high as any region in the state.  If you get the opportunity, thank those legislators for their help.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Navigating the Waters of a Changing World: The Future of Christian School Education

We live in a world of demographics and surveys.  In a school that is affected by demographic changes and community trends, our vision and plan for the future of our school require us to take a look at everything that could impact our ability to deliver quality, distinctively Christian education to our students and families.  In addition to demographics, change within the Christian community also has an effect on our ministry here.  I'll share a few things that we have observed carefully over the past few years:
  • The conservative Evangelical churches from which we draw most of our enrollment, are going through a process of both aging and declining.  The few "megachurches" which are growing are drawing their members from smaller, older churches.  Actual "Kingdom growth," by winning new converts to Jesus, is not happening.  This means that the number of potential students from this particular constituency is declining. 
  • Economically, the cost of providing a high quality Christian education, in both a school or home setting, is becoming increasingly difficult to bear for the middle class families that have been the primary constituency of Christian schools.  Since the mid-1990's, the number of students in Christian schools has been declining, and the number of school closings on the rise.  The cost of providing an education has increased faster than families' ability to afford it.
  • In our area, every school district except Seneca Valley is seeing a decline in the number of students.  The population is declining in all but a few townships in the southern part of Butler County.  The evangelical conservative church membership in our area is also declining, and aging.  Many of the students in our school are the only school-aged kids in their church, and there are churches in this area which don't have any school aged kids at all.  
All of these factors contribute to an increasing difficulty for families to choose an educational alternative that meets their spiritual needs and is compatible with their faith, and that, in turn, will have an effect on the continued existence of Christian schools, including ours.  It's hard to predict the future, but we can have a vision that will center us and help us plan and prepare for what we might face.

Our school was founded as a place to keep prayer in the educational experience of students.  It has always relied on a foundation of faith in God, and there have been times when human wisdom has dictated that it could not go on, and yet it has.  So any vision, regardless of the practical considerations, must have God at its center.  And while it is easy to say that, putting it into practice is difficult.  We speak of operating and teaching a "Christian Worldview," but there are many things that are not consistent with scriptural teaching which have crept in from our culture, identified as "practical" or "logical" that are not consistently Christian.  A Christian Worldview is not a political perspective, or a six step program to financial success.  It is a lifestyle, and a way of looking at the world like Jesus would look at it.

We've worked really hard, over the past four years that I can speak of, to improve the educational quality and the Christian atmosphere of our school, and these were both cited in our recent accreditation as accomplishments and commendations.  Those are, in my opinion, the most important aspects of what we have to offer.  Our students have the opportunity to aim their academic achievement at high goals, which will benefit them over the long haul, and they are in a place where Jesus is Lord, and his principles are both taught and practiced.  As we look to the future, these are two areas where we must continue to pay close and careful attention, and continue to keep them as priorities.  That's a given.

As the paradigm shifts in the culture, we need to have a vision that allows us to move this forward, and continue to draw students who will benefit from what we offer.  We need to look at ways to make our program available to a wider range of students, continuing to focus on meeting the needs of our conservative Evangelical constituency.

With finances being the main reason students leave our school, adapting to the shifting paradigms of our culture must include some "out of the box" thinking with regard to the way we finance our operation.  I think there are some Biblical models for this.  Currently, we help about a third of our families through financial aid programs that are based on tax credits from the state for business contributors.  The increasing popularity of these programs, combined with the cap on the amount of dollars available has put us into a bind in this regard over the past couple of years.  The vast majority of students in the constituency that will benefit from a Christian school education come from families whose income can't support tuition payments in addition to education taxes.  So finding a way to provide additional funding for scholarships would be one way to reach more students.  Expanding our appeal and ability to offer more would be another.
  • Continuing to press for a political solution is a viable option.  States are increasingly adding "voucher" programs where at least part of the tax money allocated to education goes to schools with the students, rather than to an educational monopoly.  While the possibilities of such programs depend on political trends, we need to continue to speak with a unified voice in pressing for this. 
  • Increasing, and maintaining a near-capacity enrollment is critical to the future of the school.  We need to do everything we can to keep our enrollment at or above where it is now.  We've worked to improve the quality of our academics, and the spiritual life, and these are major attractions.  We now need to work to eliminate "finances" as the primary reason for families leaving the school.  This is something in which you can become involved, and with which you can help us achieve.   
  • Our constituency is Christian families.  This means serving Christ's church.  Our relationships with local churches need to be increased and improved, both within the denomination with which we are affiliated, and with others who share our vision and mission.  This is something you can help with, starting in  your own church.  Since we consider ourselves a discipleship ministry, we need to let churches know we're here, and how we can serve them. 
  • Developing plans for practical expansion are also important.  We are near the capacity of our current facility due to considerations with the septic system and the well, and the possibility of expansion of classroom space is limited.  Having a second campus has been talked about for years, but we may now be on the verge of a time when it becomes a necessary means to reaching new families.  
  • The bottom line is that, as a Christian ministry that places its faith in Jesus, our ministry needs to reflect an attitude and a worldview that puts meeting people's needs first.  It requires sacrifice to do that, but when we signed on with Jesus, we signed on with a guy who gave his life to make sure that we had the ability to be redeemed by God's grace.  Contributing to the health and well being of this ministry isn't limited to financial support.  Everyone has talents and spiritual gifts that God provided, and this is one way that you can give back.  We can't afford to contract with professional firms for services, so if there's something  you can do for us, we'd love to hear from you.  
There will be opportunities for those individuals who desire to use their expertise in planning and development to participate with us.  The Development Committee is expanding, and it needs leaders who are willing to serve, be creative, think out of the box, and help move the school forward.  You are our greatest resource.  And if you're not a leader, perhaps you can find a place to serve where your help would be a valuable asset.  Volunteers run everything here from athletics to technology, and I'm sure you could find something that would appeal to your interests and make a real contribution to this ministry.  

    Friday, August 29, 2014

    Aren't You Glad You're Here?

    Well, we just finished our first full week of school, and have a nice, Labor Day holiday to celebrate! 

    There are some other things to celebrate at PCS.  God has brought our little school a long way in the past few  years.  It's not been without a lot of hard work on the part of the whole school staff. 

    • The school successfully completed a re-accreditation process.  For Christian schools, accreditation is especially important because it is a mark of excellence, and it tells prospective parents that the quality of the education their children will receive will be high.  
    • We were commended, in the accreditation report, for our Christian distinctiveness.  More than anything else, including the academic excellence we were also commended for, this was our main goal. 
    • Our current senior class has achieved an average SAT score of 1658, quite a bit higher than the state and national averages. 
    • Our Terra Nova achievement test scores, in grades 1-8 continue to show improvement that is well ahead of grade level expectations. 
    • We had 7 special needs students in our school in 2010.  Today, we have 27. 
    • 34 of our students spent their spring break in the Dominican Republic, doing mission work.
    • 95% of the students enrolled in our school last year, minus the senior class of course, returned to school here this year, and we added 44 new students.  Enrollment has broken the 250 mark for the first time in at least six years. 
    • We are working to initiate an IPad in the classroom initiative with our ninth grade students.  Hopefully, there will be some patience with this, as we have encountered some glitches, but we'll work those out and get it going! 
    There are challenges.  We continue to face each day looking to the Bible for our sense of mission and purpose.  We are committed to maintaining our distinctive Christian atmosphere, and our academic excellence.  Please join us in prayer as we ask for safety on our campus for our students and staff, and for God to bless us.

    Oh, and by the way, we are beginning the third year of our Warrior Legacy Fund, which provides scholarship money for qualified families.  We have some needs which must be met, and a commitment to keep.  If you would like to contribute, please put your check in an envelope and send i to
    Portersville Christian School
    343 E. Portersville Rd. 
    Portersville, PA  16051.  

    And thank you!   

    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    Portersville Christian School Begins its 51st Year

    The Christian school movement in the United States has, historically been part of our history since the earliest days of colonial settlement here, but the "boom years" began in the 1970s.  Churches and church groups were establishing new schools at an accelerating rate, and it didn't look like it would stop.  But a saturation point occurred fairly quickly.  Schools appealed to conservative evangelical Christians, but couldn't find a way to finance their operations outside of tuition and fees, and once the top 20% of the constituency had been reached, there was no place else to go.  There wasn't much "out of the box" thinking, not much in the way of locating resources to expand, and schools began to close. 

    Portersville Christian School started just a few years before the "boom" in 1963.  It was founded by a church pastor who, reacting to the Supreme Court decision removing prayer from the public school system, founded a school with prayer as its foundation.  We've been here ever since. 

    There are some factors that have helped many Christian schools survive, where others have had to close.  As far as our school is concerned, there are some principles in place which I believe have contributed to our survival, and in fact, our "thriving" during a time when many schools are declining and closing their doors.
    • The school has remained faithful to its foundational Christian principles, and has worked through its mission and purpose.  It is committed to being a distinctively Christian discipleship ministry.  While that has not always been easy, it has "prayed through" hard times, and has been blessed.
    • We have been committed to academic excellence.  We remain as the only fully accredited, private, Christian school with a PK-12th grade program in our area, and our accreditation is a mark of excellence.  While our program offerings are limited by size, the academic rigor of our classes is high, and our students are generally able to secure admission to their first choice college. 
    • We have kept costs as low as possible in order to keep the price of the school affordable to a wide segment of the evangelical constituency. 
    • Ultimately, we depend on God.  As long as we are obedient to his will, he will keep the school open.
    So we begin our fifty first year. 

    Our enrollment is at or near the school's capacity.  While many Christian schools have seen steep decline in enrollment over the past five or six years, PCS has experienced both an increase in the percentage of students who return from year to year, and in overall enrollment due to an increasing number of applicants.  We are once again over the 250 mark.  And while we have increase our publicity and promotion, much of the increase is due to internal factors as well.  Many improvements have been made in recent years, and the increase in enrollment indicates an increase in the satisfaction level of parents whose children are here. 

    Our recent accreditation noted areas of the school's program that have shown significant improvement over the past four years.  We already have strong programs in athletics and fine arts, and adding to those has helped.  The visiting committee commended the Christian distinctiveness and academic excellence of our school. Those are all factors in our growth.  But there are a lot of internal improvements that have been made, which may not be as noticeable.  We continuously upgrade and improve our curriculum guides to reflect best practices in education.  Our teachers put in a lot of effort when it comes to continuing education, several of them pursuing Master's degrees for the benefit of their students.  In the spiritual life of the school, we have pursued several Biblical themes in the past three years which place an emphasis on teaching our students about relationships with each other as fellow believers in Jesus.  We've softened the arbitrary tone of some school policies, evaluating their necessity and value, finding better ways to work together. 

    We've come a long way, and we want to keep moving in the right direction.  When things go well, and when God blesses and people benefit from it, the enemy is not too far behind.  Your prayers can help shelter our school ministry from attacks that are designed by Satan to interfere in a good thing that God is doing.  We're prone to failure and weakness, and he knows it.  Don't contribute to unproductive gossip, but instead, find positive words to uplift this ministry, and bring it to the throne of grace.

    We're looking forward to great things happening.

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    The Theme for 2014-15: Colossians 2:8

    "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."  Colossians 2:8, ESV

    There's always a good reason for choosing a specific theme verse for the school year.  The theme verse directs our attention to specific Biblical content that will help us teach our students and emphasize a particular Christian principle during the school year.  We ask our chapel speakers, especially during the first part of the school year, to base their texts and messages on related principles, not necessarily the specific theme verse, but something that is related, and supports the principle we are emphasizing.

    So what are we going to learn from Colossians 2:8?

    In this part of the letter to the Colossian church, the Apostle Paul is distinguishing between religion that requires a specific set of actions, duties, or rituals which, when completed, lead a person to forgiveness of their sin, and Christian faith, which brings salvation by grace through Jesus, who is the Christ, or savior, sent by God for that purpose.  The distinction is made between religion that is based solely on human experience, wisdom and knowledge, and genuine faith, which is based on revelation provided by God through Jesus and through the Holy Spirit who inspired the writers of scripture.

    There has always been a philosophical war between Christian faith and human wisdom.  The narrative of Adam and Eve's fall in the garden emphasizes the conflict between what God had told them, and what they wanted to do.  They were tempted with the thought of becoming like God.  That was certainly appealing, since they knew him rather intimately.  But selfishness, which is exactly what that temptation was all about, has always been the opposite of godliness.  And selfishness has led humanity to develop all kinds of philosophies and religions which are based on resolving the problems of humanity without believing in, or consulting, the God who created them.

    This same philosophy, which we call Humanism, is the dominant worldview of our age and culture.  I think we are now at a point where this verse is particularly relevant not only to our culture and society, but to the reason for the existence of our school.  We are seeing a large number of people, mostly those between 18 and 40, leave the church when they leave home, never to return, either to the church or to the faith that it professes.  Most researchers who study religious demographics tell us that about 80% of those who are raised in the church as children and youth will leave it by the time they are 20-22, and all but about 8% of them won't be back.  The studies that distinguish between those who attend Christian school, are home educated, or are enrolled in the public school system show that they are far less likely to leave the church if they've been enrolled in a Christian school, especially during their formative years.  Imagine that. 

    Humanist philosophy has an activist element to it that involves people in promoting it.  The public education system is one of the most powerful tools available to shape the thinking of future generations, and build a society according to whatever worldview dominates it.  The secular nature of our government-provided public education system is naturally removed from the influence of the Christian church by the applied interpretations of the concept of "separation of church and state."  That's been a deliberate move on the part of a number of secular humanists.  Their idea was to control who colleges and universities hired to teach in their classrooms, so that curriculum content would reflect a humanist perspective, and then through that process, train those who would be teaching each succeeding generation of children in the education system.  It worked.  The content of the curriculum in the public school system in America points children right toward humanist philosophy and worldview, and as a result, many of them abandon Christian philosophy and world view as soon as they are old enough to escape the daily teaching of mom and dad.

    Why would humanists want to control public education?  Because it gives them the means to shape national policy according to their desires, and their philosophy.  The nation's institutions, from its corporate and business community to its government, operates from a humanist worldview, and uses the principle of separation of church and state to distance the Christian influence from those institutions, particularly government supported education. 

    Christian schools like ours exist for the purpose of teaching students a worldview and philosophy of life that recognizes God as our creator, and the only means of redemption being through faith in Jesus Christ. We teach everything else that goes along with that, not only in Bible class, and through the preaching in corporate worship, but also in every subject area where the truth, integrated into the curriculum, provides students with an intellectual basis for their faith.  We hope that by not separating their faith from their educational experience, they will develop a worldview that doesn't see faith separated from corporate and business life, the government, education, the military, and any other national institution.  We want to accomplish this because the Bible points out that being peacemakers, and loving our enemies are signs that we are the sons of God, and we want to see people have a redemptive, productive relationship with their heavenly father.  We hope that our students, when they graduate from our school, will become leaders in whatever field they are called to serve, and will use what they've learned here to make a difference in the lives of everyone they influence. 

    Towards the end of Colossians 2, Paul points out that the principles of humanity are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  We want our children to be better equipped in all areas of their life, and to have a faith that empowers them.  Humanism cannot succeed in doing this.  They need to know how to submit to, and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  That's what we teach.  That's why they're here. 


    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    Enrollment for 2014-15 Nearing Capacity

    We are experiencing a great blessing!  We are seeing a large number of new families apply for admission to PCS this coming fall, and a high percentage of current families who are planning to return.  I believe that this is an indication that our goals are being met, and that the satisfaction with the school and its academic and extra curricular program is increasing.  Several grade levels are at or near capacity, especially in the high school area, and with the remaining applications that we have received, it is possible that our fall enrollment will be the highest that we have seen since 2006. 

    If you are a current family, and have not re-enrolled, you need to do this as soon as possible!  Applications are being received almost daily, and if a grade level fills, and you haven't re-enrolled, a waiting list will be created.  We would not want to tell a current family that there is no room for their students, but we can't exceed the capacities that are set at each grade level.  So you need to get your re-enrollment fee and paperwork in as soon as possible.

    As we enter our fifty first year, please continue to pray for us.  We will have a few new faculty and staff members joining us in the fall as well.  New textbooks are arriving, supplies are coming in and before you know it, orientation will be here. 

    Our theme verse for the 2014-15 school year is Colossians 2:8:

    "Make sure no predator makes you his prey through some misleading philosophy and empty deception based on traditions fabricated by mere mortals.  These are sourced in the elementary principles originating in the world and not in the Liberating King, so don't let their talks capture you."  The Voice Translation

    I think that is especially relevant, as the world's traditions are increasingly being advanced through the public education system, and the introduction of common core standards which leave out any acknowledgement of God's existence, and teach principles that are rooted in humanistic philosophy.

    What you'll find at PCS are curriculum objectives that integrate Biblical principles into all subject matter, and which acknowledge the existence of God, and the salvation of hos son, Jesus.  You'll also find teachers and staff members who are committed to their Christian faith. 

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

    Your Help Needed: Save EITC!

    The Educational Improvement Tax Credit program in Pennsylvania allows businesses to designate contributions for tax credits which provide scholarship money that levels the playing field and allows families a choice of a quality, private, Christian school for their children.  The program has been in place for quite a while, and the legislature has increased the allowable tax credit amount to a total of $50 million in tax credits.  It is such a popular program, especially for Christian schools, that all of the tax credits are used in this program. 

    A newer version of the program, called OSTC for Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit is specifically designated for families who live in a school district that requires their children to attend a school which is rated as "low performing" in the bottom 15% of Pennsylvania schools, based on their test scores.  This program was open to the $50 million dollar level as well. 

    We've been told by legislative leadership that, while the dollar amounts may not increase this year as the budget needs to be tightened, these programs, along with the bussing allocation and the textbook funds, would not be touched by budget cuts.

    But earlier this month, the Republican party, which controls both houses, previewed a budget plan which will slash $20 million from the tax credit program for private schools.  Apparently, the scholarship program is not safe from the budget slashing axe. In term of what the state spends on its public education, including a significant amount that goes to its failing charter and cyber schools, the money from the tax credits is a drop in the bucket, along with the bus money and the textbook fund. 

    In order for this to be reversed, the Republican leadership in the legislature needs to hear from us, the families and constituents of the Christian schools in the state.  There is a way to do this that is easy, and will take just a few minutes of your time.  Go to the ACSIPA website, at http://acsipa.org, and click on the tab that says "Voter Action Center."  Click on that tab, and follow the instructions to send the standard message regarding EITC to your legislators, and to the governor.  You can also author a message of your own.  Legislators count these responses, and it has an effect on their decisions.

    The reason that EITC is on the potential chopping block, in the Republican party, is that our votes and support are taken for granted.  Unless these leaders understand that these issues are important to us, by hearing from more than just a few administrators on a lobby committee, we will continue to lose ground.  It's been the Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature that have sustained this program, and even promised to move forward on the issue of school choice in Pennsylvania.  But this action shows that we aren't moving forward, and that we might even lose the few gains in this area that we have made. 

    The impact this would have on Christian schools in Pennsylvania, where over 100 Christian schools have closed in the past decade, would be devastating.  It is a major concern for us, where 40% of our families receive some level of financial aid from EITC, including some who are from the school districts that are in the lowest 15%.  We receive very little of the tax money that we pay which goes to education, yet what we accomplish, in terms of both Christian distinctiveness and academics, far exceeds what the state gets out of their money. 

    I encourage you to go to the website and help us out. 

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    Don't let even one...

    ...rotten word seep out of your mouths.  Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most.  Ephesians 4:29, The Voice

    When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I remember having a conversation with my next door neighbor, one year older than me, about the practice of confession in the Catholic church.  The prospect of having to sit down with my pastor and confess my sin on a weekly basis was a terrifying thought to me, not any less than the thought that if we did that in our church, he'd also tell my parents and then I'd really be in trouble.  So I got an explanation, from a middle school perspective, that the priest couldn't tell anyone else what you said, and that my friend was always worried about whether or not he had confessed everything, in order to receive forgiveness for it.

    It seemed easy to remember the big things.  It's the "little" sins that are hardest to remember.  But they're still around, and they are probably the most harmful and destructive.

    You can evaluate your priorities by taking a look at your checkbook.  You can evaluate your tongue by looking at your facebook account and your text messages.  I told that to our students in chapel this morning, and there were some facial expressions and body language that said there was a measure of discomfort with that thought.  I challenged them to go back through their texts and communications with other people and find examples where their speech had lifted someone up in a time of need, and then compare that to the times when those messages represent put downs or gossip.  Well, I'll leave that thought with you.

    Most of the issues between students that require some assistance in resolution are related to the information that has been passed along and the conversations that have occurred over relationships and social activity.
    These occurrences are frequent, and they are a reflection of one of the most common failings among Christians when it comes to a problem with sin.  There's a correct expectation that gossip shouldn't be a major problem in a Christian school, and I'd agree with that, but it goes along with the expectation that we will fix the problem.  We might work on that, except that it comes from home.  If you think the students do not listen to what you say, about whom, how often, then you are living on a different planet.  The gossip that goes on among adults in a Christian school community, parents and staff, is why the students do not see any reason not to indulge in it themselves.  Some of the most common phrases in conversation about school are "well, other parents are telling me....", "the parents on that grade level are saying..." "you should hear what parents are saying about this..."

    "...offer only fresh words that build up others when they need it most."  

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    PCS Recommended for Re-Accreditation

    It is my pleasure to announce that Portersville Christian School has been recommended for re-accreditation with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.  This is an accomplishment which places a mark of excellence on the school and its programs, and affirms for parents and potential constituents that the education they seek for their children here is of a high quality, the school is a safe and secure environment, and above all, is a distinctively Christian ministry with a primary purpose of providing discipleship to students who will be the future leaders of the Christian church. 

    Accreditation is important, especially for private, Christian schools.  As an increasing number of parents seek educational alternatives to the public school monopoly, it gets more difficult to determine what is the best, most effective option.  Cyber schools and charter schools are gaining in popularity, but research and test scores indicate that the quality of the curriculum and instruction is frequently questionable, and sometimes causes difficulty for students who want to get into a specific college, or a competitive field of study.  Accreditation by a recognized and reputable accreditation commission is a sign of excellence.  It's a byword in the education world that excellent schools are accredited schools and excellent schools seek accreditation. 

    Even though the accreditation commissions of ACSI and MSACS are recognized by the state department of education, the accreditation process for a Christian school is rigorous, and involves having the visiting team observe whether or not the school adheres to its foundational principles and Christian distinctiveness as well as evaluating the quality of its educational program and extra-curricular activities.  The team's report will be reviewed and approved by the commission in May, and will take effect on January 1, 2015, when our current accreditation expires. 

    There are some things that you already know about your own school, but it is always good to have people who are experts in the field of Christian education come and take a look, and share their observations with you. That helps to provide confirmation that you are following the path that God has set before you, and you are accomplishing a mission and purpose that is consistent with his will. 

    The visiting team was most impressed by the Christian atmosphere, and the Christian distinctiveness of the entire school community.  They commended the faculty for its mentorship of students in matters of faith, and observed that the school is fully committed to its foundational Christian philosophy and to living out the Bible's principles and precepts.  If they had not commended anything else they found at PCS, this one observation made the entire accreditation process successful. 

    But they did commend other aspects of the program at PCS. 

    Academic excellence was also observed at PCS, from Kindergarten through the 12th grade.  The continuous review and development of the curriculum, the instruction in the classroom, and the progress made by the students were all observed and noted by the team.

    So now you have a rare combination--a school with a solid reputation for Christian faith, and academic excellence.  But there's more. 

    Though it is small, and limited by the size of the school, our activities program was commended by the team, both the fine arts department and the athletic program.  It may have helped that we were just a few days away from the opening night of The Sound of Music, though none of the team members actually had a chance to see it.  There was a lot of enthusiasm around the school as a result. 

    The team met with our faculty and staff, volunteers, nurses, parents, and students from grade 5 through 12.  They concluded that we have a wonderful school, committed to Christian education, excellence in academics and a program that helps students understand their role and their calling as members of the body of Christ, whatever career field they enter.  Their observations blessed us.  They also helped us set some goals which will continue to improve our school, and expand our ministry.  We are blessed. 

    If you ever wondered whether or not you had your kids in the right place, well, this might not give you a direct answer, but you've got your kids in a place where the people involved care about them, love them, and are willing to work hard to help them become the person that God wants them to be.  I think you've made the best possible choice, and you couldn't really do any better. 

    Friday, March 28, 2014

    Spring Things: Tuition, Fees, Re-Enrollment and Asking for Money

    The title suggest that this will be quite an interesting post.  So please, read on.  These are all things which should be considered at this time of the year.  Here's some information about the way we do things that is important to you. 

    Tuition and Fees
    I put this topic first, because it will get a lot of attention. 

    The nature of a private, Christian school is its private funding.  Many of the advantages that we enjoy from an educational and operational perspective are due to the freedom from regulation that we have because we do not receive tax dollars to provide educational services.  We are able to integrate the principles of Christian faith right into the curriculum and operations of the school, in fact, we can operate the school as a functioning Christian discipleship ministry.  And currently, as in the case of most private, Christian schools, we are dependent on the tuition money that parents pay to finance the operation. But not completely. 

    The actual cost per student for the 2013-14 school year at PCS can be rounded off to about $7,250 for the year.  That's a little more than $1,300 per student more than the current highest tuition rate.  The additional funds come from a variety of sources, mostly donations and contributions, or fund-raising projects.  And that does not include the operations of the athletic or fine arts departments, which are self-sustaining.  The average cost per student in the public school system in our area ranges from $11,384 in the Butler school district, and $12,289 in Seneca Valley to $21,000 in the Pittsburgh school district. 

    So what are you getting in exchange for your tuition?  You're getting a lot, compared to both the actual cost per student at PCS, and the cost per student in the public school system. 

    1.  You are getting a distinctively Christian education which supports the morals and values your children are learning at church and from you at home.  I think this point, if there were no other benefits, makes it worth the cost. 

    2.  You are getting a superior quality academic experience.  All of the indicators, including standardized tests and curriculum mapping, provide evidence that the quality of the education received at PCS is superior to most surrounding public school districts.  As the area's only fully accredited, PK-12th grade private, Christian school, what we offer is unique.  Accreditation is a sign of excellence.  Our standardized test scores show that our students perform above national norms, and our SAT average score for 2013-14 is 1650, which is significantly higher than the state and national averages. 

    3.  You are getting the opportunity for your child to participate in extra curricular activities.  Many Christian schools our size are not able to offer this benefit.  Volunteer hours, fund raisers and contributions make it possible for us to offer six different athletic activities, and a fine arts program that includes band, vocal music and theater. 

    4.  You are able to access resources for students who have special educational needs identified through testing and evaluation.  Christian families are not exempt from learning issues that affect a high percentage of the student population, but those families should not be excluded from having the choice to place their children in a school that supports their faith.  We are able to offer most of these services at no additional cost to families. 

    5.  Your child is in an environment with a faculty that is highly trained, and wants to be here with them.  They are in a place where their future matters to their teachers, and where their teachers take the time to pray with them, and help them through difficult spots.  They are in a place where education is happening, and ministry is taking place. 

    There are a few other things that you need to consider.  Our tuition rates are well below the national averages for private, Christian education.  Even here in Western Pennsylvania, a year of education at a private school with the same level of accreditation and quality offered here can run up to about 40% more than we charge.  Remember that fund raising and the donations we receive provide each student with a $1,300 "scholarship." 

    Something else you need to consider.  Our entire staff serves God by serving you.  There is no one who works here who is paid what their colleagues in the public education system or in the business sector, receive for the same level and quality of work.  Our teacher salaries and benefits, which include the school paying for 80% of their health insurance, and a tuition remission for those with school aged children, average out to about a third of what the public education system pays in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  If we raised our teacher pay to the level of compensation that is considered "average" for private, Christian schools in the US, it would require an increase of more than $1,850 in tuition for each student enrolled in the school.  Consider that a "PCS Staff Scholarship." 

    Our school practices good stewardship of its resources.  Our facilities are debt free.  Considering the cost of operations, we don't load up the budget with frills and perks for the buildings.  We have a practical, well-used building that is adequately heated and cooled, and which serves the purpose of accommodating the school and its educational, athletic and fine arts programs.  We share with our fellow Christian schools in that we are willing to host league events free of charge. 

    And I think it needs to be pointed out that we are generous in terms of handing out financial assistance to qualified families.  We will provide over $125,000 from various sources to families in our school based on their need.  If Christian schools didn't do this, then the education they provide would be only for those wealthy enough to afford it.  By participating in several programs that provide scholarships and aid, we can increase the number of Christian families who are able to exercise their personal choices in educational providers for their children.

    The God we worship, who gave us his son as our savior, is the God of everything, including business practices.  And he has his way of financing and providing for those who are called to minister in his name.  He does this through his people.  A former pastor used to say that the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and when he needs to provide for his work, he sells a few of the cattle.  That's why we ask you to help.  We don't know which people who are involved with the school, or who have been involved with it in the past, are the beneficiaries of God's most recent cattle sale.  But He does.  So we pray to determine if what we are asking for is consistent with God's plan, we put the word out about our need, and we wait expectantly for his provision. 

    So consider these things as you look ahead to your children's educational future.  I'm convinced that you can't do any better by your children than having them in school here, and if that's where God wants you, he'll provide.  He already has. 

    Is there something that God is leading you to provide? 

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Is Spring Really Just Around the Corner?

    You would not have known that spring was so close with yesterday's snow and cold temperatures.  Today, however, the sun is shining, the snow is melting and it is warming up.  And with that, we have some excitement going on around the school.


    As this article is being written, the PCS Archery Team is competing in a state championship meet at Penn State University in State College.  This is our first year to field a team, and quite a few of our students decided they wanted to be involved, travel to the meet, and compete.  We are excited about the possibilities, since many of them did so well in the preliminary competitions that have been held.  Watching the practices in the gym is exciting, as the arrows fly and find their way to the targets.  At the beginning, there was excitement when an arrow hit the target.  Now, the excitement is more restrained, and reserved for the times when the arrows hit in the inner circles on the target. 

    Alumni News

    Mary McDonald, a 2012 graduate of Portersville Christian School, was named the Most Valuable Player for the Grove City College Wolverines Women's basketball team this season.  Mary, a sophomore, is also in her second year of basketball.  She set a number of records while playing for the Lady Warriors here at Portersville Christian School.  Congratulations, Mary! 

    Jordan Harbison, a 2008 graduate of Portersville Christian School, set records at Geneva College, and was recognized for the number of three pointers he had successfully made during the past two seasons.  The Butler Eagle recently carried a story that featured Jordan.

    50th Anniversary Celebration Banquet

    The 50th Anniversary Celebration Banquet will be held on May 17 at the Robert M. Smith Student Union ballroom at Slippery Rock University.  The banquet will begin at 7:00 p.m.  If you are interested in sponsoring a table, please contact Chris Woods at cwoods@teksystems.com

    We will have a great time that evening.  All alumni, former students, their families, and friends of PCS in Western Pennsylvania are invited. 

    Accreditation Visit

    A team representing ACSI will be present on our campus April 6-8 to recommend the re-accreditation of PCS.  Accreditation is an important consideration, especially for private, Christian schools.  It is a mark of excellence which verifies the classroom content, Christian atmosphere and program offerings of the school.  ACSI provides Christian peers from several other schools to visit the campus and make recommendations.  Teachers, board members and parents are invited to attend sessions and dialogue with the team. 

    ACSI accreditation is rigorous enough to qualify schools to automatically receive Middle States Association accreditation.  This will be the third accreditation process for the school.

    New Student Applications and Enrollment

    We are anticipating a large number of new students applying for admission to PCS in the fall.  We already have a larger number of applications at this point than we have had in the past four years.  If you are interested in enrolling your child, please call the office and have them send you an application packet.  We are anticipating that some grade levels will reach capacity, so please apply as soon as possible.

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    A Legacy and a Future

    "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
    For 50 years, Portersville Christian School has been providing a quality, distinctively Christian education to children from Christian families in Western Pennsylvania.  The school's location in a small town is centrally located, and over time, has turned out to be a major asset, allowing students to be bussed from seven different school districts.  We're right between Cranberry Township and Grove City, Butler and New Castle, and inside that radius, we remain the only private, Christian school which offers a PK-12th grade educational program that is fully accredited. 

    During our 2012-13 Warrior Legacy Fund drive, we discovered that the alumni and supporters of our school can be found in all walks of life, all over Western Pennsylvania and beyond.  The school's graduates serve as doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, school administrators, college professors, coaches, missionaries, ministers, business owners, housewives, you name it, they do it.  They are our legacy, and for the most part, they are faithful believers in Christ, and faithful supporters and members of churches.  I don't know what the actual numbers would show us, but after four years of meeting literally hundreds of our alumni and families who sent their children to school here, one of the things I have observed is that there is a direct connection between the discipline of the Christian life that connects us to the body of Christ, and having attended school for some period of time at PCS. 

    For a number of years now, those who are involved in research related to the trends and movements of the Christian church have been telling us that an increasing percentage of young people who are raised in the church, and are active in its youth ministry through high school, drop out of church by the time they graduate from college,.  From the late 1970's to the present, that percentage has grown from approximately 70%, to over 80%.  And while it was once thought that many of those students eventually come back, either when they get married and start a family, or before then, the fact of the matter is that in the more recent research, the fact is that they aren't really returning at all.  Fewer than 10% of Americans between 18 and 35 are members of, or claim involvement with, a relatively conservative, Bible believing Christian congregation.  And with more than 50% of American church membership now past 55 years of age, the future of the church is definitely changing.

    There are some factors which research shows help young people stay committed and involved in the local church.  One is if they are able to connect with a church, or a campus Christian ministry of some kind, when they first arrive on a college campus.  Students who make a deliberate attempt to find a local church, and get involved in a local campus ministry are much less likely to drop out of church than their peers who don't do this.  A second factor is whether or not they attended a Christian school prior to college.  The longer they were enrolled in a Christian school environment, the more likely they are to stay connected to the church through college and beyond. 

    The alumni of Portersville Christian School seem to fit that data pretty closely.

    So how about that?

    It would seem then, that pastors and local church leaders would want to promote PCS to the members of their congregations, since we provide a discipleship ministry that thoroughly trains their kids each day they come to school, and will support and undergird the work of the local church body.  They would want to encourage families to consider a Christian education for their children, because they care about their future, and whether or not they remain in a Bible believing church that honors and worships God by preaching Jesus. We've got a legacy that points to the good work we've been doing in this area.  Why not help us promote our enrollment and disciple your kids?