Sunday, February 28, 2016

Champions!

Last week was championship week in the Southwest Christian Athletic Conference (SWCAC).  PCS was represented at every level.

I am very proud of our junior high boys' and girls' teams.  Both of them had seasons in which they had to rebuild from the loss of a lot of eighth graders from the previous year, and both were back at the top of their respective conferences.  Both finished second and qualified for the playoffs, and while they both lost in the opening game, they played hard and represented our school very well.  Congratulations! 

The girls' varsity basketball team put PCS back in the SWCAC championship after a three-year hiatus that included a year in which we didn't even have enough players to put a team on the court.  After restarting with some girls who hadn't played before, and some eighth grade girls who were willing to give it a try, their commitment and dedication led PCS back to the championship game this season.  They lost in the finals to a team they'd already beaten twice this season.  And while it is unfortunate that a trophy, and some recognition, are associated with that one specific game on Saturday, one game doesn't change the course of the season.  The Lady Warriors played with class and dignity, respect for their opponents (including actually cheering for the same team that beat them by one point in the title game) and with their acquired skills and talent.  We are proud of your ability as a team, and proud of the Christian character that you demonstrated all season.

It was a little different for the boys' varsity team.  Boys' basketball championships have been rare at PCS, evidenced by the blank spots on the SWCAC championship banner that hangs in the gym.  The frustration of recent years, when we've had excellent teams, but when seasons were changed by key injuries in the last couple weeks of the season, melted away Saturday afternoon with the Warrior's 40-28 victory over Cheswick Christian, the defending champions.  PCS made the championship game last season, but came up short, so this season's 30-1 record, and the championship trophy, are something special to celebrate.  

I was particularly proud of the way that our team shared the load all season.  We had numbers, and we had talent, skill and experience.  Everyone got to play a lot of minutes, because our starters, who all work hard, and who had earned their spots on the team, were generous enough not to complain when they didn't even get in some games against struggling opponents.  Their reward includes the championship run, and the upcoming tournament in Ohio, where they'll get plenty of time to play.  And their Christian character was also visible and evident as they played. 

Athletics is an all-volunteer activity at PCS.  The coaches are volunteers, the members of the athletic committee are volunteers.  Oh, we hand out a few stipends to help with expenses, but it's a volunteer operation.  And that makes our school a winner, regardless of what happens during the season.  Some of our volunteers are parents of alumni, not current students, and they give their time because they love the students, and they love teaching them about a sport that they love.  They also teach about their faith in the process.  And that is a blessing that no trophy can hold a candle to in comparison. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Should be Expected from Students in a Small, Private, Christian School?

"You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  Matthew 5:48 ESV

Normally, when I see something on social media that relates to an issue or problem at school, I don't respond.  The context of most social media posts is obvious, the perspective is slanted in the direction of the person making the post, and frankly, most of those kinds of issues and discussions are nothing more than casual gossip.  We have a pretty clear, and very open policy which recognizes the Biblical nature of the partnership in education that we share with parents, so if what's happening isn't important enough to follow the agreement, and address it directly with administration, then it probably isn't important at all. 

Recently, I saw a post that I've seen on occasion before, and decided that it related to a topic that probably needs to be addressed from time to time.  I won't reference the specific situation, but on occasion, the question about the expectation conduct of students at a small, Christian school, where everyone knows everyone, when it comes to interpersonal relationships, does come up.  Should there be a difference in the way that students in our school, where families are required to provide evidence of a Christian testimony, and a connection to a Biblically sound church, compared to others who either don't share the same kind of educational environment, or a Christian testimony? 

The obvious answer is yes.  But being in a school where most of the other students have made a profession of faith in Christ, and come from homes with families that have a commitment to Jesus and his church does not guarantee perfect behavior when it comes to relationships with each other.  People in the church have, on occasion, been known to exhibit exclusive, judgmental, and mean spirited behavior toward each other.  In a school where most of the students are at the younger end of their spiritual life, it would be difficult to expect a higher standard of behavior than you find in the churches from which they come. 

That's not an excuse.  It's a reason.  Those who have experienced a school environment in a much larger public school would tell you that things are much better in our little Christian school in this regard, and they are right.  That's evidence that the basic Christian principles of repentance, forgiveness and restoration, are being taught, and caught, by our students.   Nor is the grass any greener on the other side of the fence.  Over the course of the past 30 years, I've had an up close, front seat to observe students in small, private, Christian schools, and in this regard, the problems and issues are the same, as are the ways that schools and school personnel have adopted in dealing with them, particularly as it relates to interpersonal relationships and the behavior that is expected.  If the Bible is the sole guide to faith and practice, as we declare, then the Bible must influence the choices we make, and the resolutions to problems that we seek. 

Jesus himself had something to say about relationships between his followers, particularly when it came to the subject of logs and planks. 

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye"  Matthew 7:1-5, HCSB

We want our students to grow and develop spiritual maturity when it comes to their understanding of repentance, forgiveness, redemption and restoration, and to make those principles part of their spiritual DNA.   We also want them to stop making excuses when it comes to their behavior, and start accepting responsibility.  It's unrealistic to think that our kids are not influenced by so much of what they see and hear in the culture at large, especially when it comes to their place in it.  "It's all about me," is a popular theme, so judging other people by a set of standards that almost requires them to be perfect, while at the same time excusing our own lack of perfection, is a very common cause of conflict between students in a school setting.  Three fingers always point back, which illustrates where the responsibility lies in restoring a broken relationship, or healing a conflict, or dealing with people who are behaving in a manner that is mean spirited and rude.  Part of the measure of the spiritual, social and emotional maturity of a Christian is being able to recognize their place in its resolution, which includes accepting responsibility for their own actions, acknowledging their own lack of perfection, and being willing to let things go instead of holding on to them for dear life. 

An honest evaluation of the social atmosphere at our small, private, Christian school by virtually all of its students would clearly show that things are much different here than they are in the public school system, and that the Christian culture that we do indeed expect to be developing is very much a part of the atmosphere of our school.  But we need to understand, especially as adults, that our students are just at the very beginning of their Christian experience, and they have a lifetime ahead of them which will shape them into the "little Christs" that constitutes the spiritual identity of a mature, wise, follower of Jesus.  One of the things which makes our school distinctively Christian is that we provide guidance, instruction and practical application of the Biblical principles which deal directly with their spiritual, emotional and social growth, so that they can learn from their mistakes. 

It takes an extremely mature Christian to turn to someone who has been rude, hateful and mean, with the kind of grace and gentleness that Jesus showed to us, and which is expected of us.  That's totally against what our culture teaches, models, and expects.  Our patience is put to the test when we seem to be repeating the same things over and over, and yet still see the same behavior.  It tempts us to simply run away, or isolate ourselves, or huddle in the corner and be critical of those who don't meet our expectations, but none of those things accomplishes a resolution to the problem, or teach a Biblical principle.  Given time, and patience, our students will develop the kind of spiritual maturity we expect, which reflects the character of their savior. 

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.   2 Corinthians 12:9, HCSB