Monday, October 26, 2015

A Most Memorable Sermon

Sometimes, a preacher begins a message, and you know you're in for a word from the Lord. A week ago Friday morning, the first speaker on the ACSI Nexus program was Dr. Vernard Gant. I don't think his presentation was intended to be a "sermon" as such, but the moment he stepped to the podium, that's what transpired.  It certainly generated many "amens" from the teachers gathered to watch it in the student center auditorium at Erie First Christian Academy. Dr Gant has quite an impressive resume, mostly as an educator, an advocate for disadvantaged children, and a college professor.  I didn't see preacher or pastor listed there, but Dr. Gant most definitely stepped to the podium and delivered a word from the Lord.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1:8, NIV

Dr. Gant linked the indwelling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to the process of education as an essential element for students who are developing skills, and faith.  In essence, what he did was confirm, for those of us who have known since we became involved in it, that teaching and working in a Christian school is a ministry tied directly in to at least one of the Biblical functions of a church.  What occurs in a Christian school is Biblical discipleship, because teachers who are born-again believers in Christ have a spiritual connection to their students that allows them to connect spiritually, on a deeper level than simply being in charge of the acquisition of  knowledge for nine months. 

One of the examples he used as an illustration was one that I found particularly inspiring when it comes to the work that we do.  A government education official once told Dr. Gant that Christian schools actually "cheat" when it comes to academic success, and the progress that our students make because we weed out undesirable students, and accept only those that come to us ready to learn.  He used a deck of cards as an analogy, saying that a Christian school shuffles through the deck, discarding the twos, threes, and number cards, and selectively chooses the aces, the kings and the face cards based on a variety of factors, from previous academic success and behavior patterns to economic and social background.  The official said that if a player went through the deck of cards prior to playing a game, and "stacked the deck" that way, it would be called "cheating," and that was his perception of the way Christian schools did education. 

Dr. Gant countered by saying that, while there may be some Christian schools that do separate out the students, stack the deck, and choose only those with the advantages, the bottom line of a genuinely Christian philosophy of education was exactly the opposite, and the proof of our educational philosophy comes when we do what Jesus did.  Instead of discarding the lower value cards, a Christian school should separate the deck, and then start by laying down the twos and the threes, and making room for those students to have a seat in our educational ministry.  If we're truly operating under a Christian philosophy of education that states our mission and purpose is to help all students realize their full potential in order to serve God, then we must measure our success by deliberately choosing the "lower number cards" in the deck, and providing a Christ-centered education to them, regardless of the circumstances. 

Isn't a Christian school, full of teachers and staff members who are believers, along with many of the students, the best place for a student who needs more attention, help, and guidance than others?  Where do they go, to get what we claim to offer, if we don't make room for them, include them, and take an interest in their success?  How do we reconcile our mission and purpose if we selectively eliminate those who need this ministry the most?  Who are we, and what are we accomplishing if we have excluded students because of intellectual, social, or economic disadvantages?  Aren't those the very people that Jesus spent most of his time with? 

Amen, Dr. Gant.  Amen. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Warrior Legacy Fund

Established in 2012, the Warrior Legacy Fund is now beginning its fourth year of service to PCS.  It is an annual fund established for the purpose of providing a source of funding initially for the purpose of supplementing the school's financial aid program by stabilizing and evening out the irregularities in the EITC/OSTC contributions which the school receives.  An allowance was also made for the fund to help provide money for what is hoped to be a developing and forward moving technology program.

With initial assistance from a consultant provided by GraceWorks Ministries, the Warrior Fund was launched.  Utilizing direct mail, a phone-a-thon, and endless piles of envelopes passed out at various school events like Open House, Grandparents Day, even graduation, the fund has successfully raised between $40,000 and $60,000 each year, "annually" as it is supposed to do, without having significant impact on the school's other fundraising capability.  In fact, the Warrior Fund has increased the dollar amount raised through fundraising by just about the dollar amount it raises each year.  Well, that makes sense.  It is always a risk, especially in a school our size, that any new fundraising venture will just cut into the old funds coming from the same place, but the Warrior fund really hasn't done that.  Much of the money has come from people outside the current school community, like alumni families and families of former students. 

We do have EITC contributors who provide for financial aid through the Children's Tuition Fund of ACSI at PCS.  EITC is set up for business contributors, because it offers tax credits against their state corporate tax liability at a rate of 90% of the actual contribution.  But that is not available to individual contributors who don't pay business taxes in Pennsylvania.  The Warrior Legacy Fund is a way for individuals to demonstrate their support for Christian education.  So the contributions are smaller, but the need, and the effect they have on meeting it, are still the same. 

The Warrior Legacy Fund got a great start a week ago Saturday with the first annual PCS Vendor Event.  Final totals are not in  yet, but the event was a success all the way around, and provided a nice contribution to the Warrior Legacy Fund as well as a good day's business for the vendors who came.  We deeply appreciate their support, and hope to see them again.  After hearing their comments about how well that event worked out for them, I think we will. 

I know that most of the people who read this blog are currently connected to the school, but not everyone is.  The Warrior Legacy Fund aims at raising funds outside the immediate school community.  There are a lot of very good reasons, besides the tax breaks, for your contribution to support Christian education at Portersville Christian School.  Please allow me to elaborate on a few.
  1. Portersville Christian School is the only private, Christian school serving students in Pre-K through 12th grade in Butler, Lawrence and Mercer Counties that is fully accredited.  We are dually accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and by the Association of Christian Schools International. 
  2. For more than a decade, PCS has been the academic leader in its area, with test scores at the top of the field in its region, and measurable academic excellence in the list of colleges and universities that are first choices for graduating seniors.  Elementary students also show measurable progress and exhibit the ability to master high academic standards. 
  3. The school has made significant measurable progress between the date of the survey given by GraceWorks in the initial year of the annual fund, and the school's most recent accreditation visit.  PCS met every goal set by the visiting team in 2006, and the level of parent satisfaction with the school and its program has showed major improvement since 2010.  PCS has truly become one of the top Christian schools in the Greater Pittsburgh area, and it continues to make progress in academics, spiritual formation and development, fine arts and athletics, and is an educational institution of distinctive Christian value and academic excellence.
  4. All of the measurements used by private schools in evaluating their effectiveness are present at PCS.  Enrollment has increased by 25% over the past five years.  All of the tests and measurements used by the school, including the ACT, SAT, PSAT and Terra Nova Achievement Test, show academic progress and stability.  The school has expanded its offerings and increased the number of special needs students it can serve.  And it continues to produce students who are very aware of their spiritual life, and desire to have a ministry regardless of the career that they are called to serve. 
I cannot think of a better way to utilize the effectiveness of the money that you contribute, than to give it to Portersville Christian School's Warrior Legacy Fund, and help someone choose to be here for their education.  God will bless you for it, as he has blessed us.