Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Too Much to Take for Granted...Count Your Blessings...and other cliches

Our annual accreditation report is on its way.  It's been two years since the visiting team was here, and we're well on our way to meeting the major recommendations which resulted from our self study, and three days of observation by the visiting team.  I just finished serving on a visiting team myself, this past week, and was reminded again of all the work that goes into this process which gets condensed down into three days of observation.   

We've had some great things happen here during the school year.  Starting with Seth VanGent, a sophomore who earned the title "state champion" by earning the highest score among all high school archers in the state of Pennsylvania, and the middle school archery team which qualified to compete in the national tournament, it was a banner year for athletics.  A soccer and boy's basketball championship, girls volleyball and basketball as runners up, and junior high teams making the playoffs, all add up to a lot of accomplishment. 

We opened a new stage addition that makes our gym into one of the nicest multi-purpose buildings owned by Christians schools in our area. 

But we've had some other things happen that might not be on everyone's radar screen because, well, they're getting to be routine. 

We have another senior class approaching graduation that exceeded national and state averages on their collective SAT scores, and are headed off to the colleges of their choice.  Many of them are taking scholarship money with them, one is going to a specialty school, and it's another tight race to the top for the potential valedictorian and salutatorian.  This is pretty much a regular occurrence now, but these students have some accomplishments worth mentioning. 

Did I mention that we also had another National Merit Scholarship recipient among our senior class?  Yes, the second one in four years, and it almost slipped by because we didn't get a notification until later in the year.  Potentially, there are two or three in the junior class, based on PSAT scores.  We'll have to wait and see.  But 12 out of 18 of our juniors scored in the top 25% nationally on the PSAT they took in the fall. 

And if this all sounds academic (it is), we had some ribbon winners at the speech tournament, and we are looking forward to the math Olympics.

About 30 of our students ventured down to the Dominican Republic over spring break, and came back not only with great reports about what happened there, but having experienced some spiritual renewal of their own.  It's a noticeable influence on our campus each year, and I hope it continues. 

The Student Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia in November has the same kind of effect.  Things change because of the students interaction with the speakers and the ministries they represent, and the issues they discuss, and it's a change of spiritual renewal.  Then they come home, and they become salt and light. 

There are some other blessings for which we are grateful.  Our re-enrollment, which ended on March 30, exceeded 95%.  That's not only good for planning for next year, but it says that the confidence and trust that our families place in our school is very high.  We love teaching your kids!  And we're glad you want them here with us.  Our finances are healthy, and we are going to be able to offer our teachers a raise next year. 

We know that none of this happens without God's direction and blessing.  Our staff prays for God's blessings in many ways, including together in prayer partners and as a group in devotionals every week, and they put feet to the prayers by working hard.  It's fun to love what you do for a living.  We appreciate your prayers, and we're asking that God continue to bless this ministry. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Core Values and Student Discipline

One of the most difficult aspects of Christian school administration is student management and discipline.  For one thing, most parents don't really think their kids need it, and some of them don't react well to the news that there's been a problem in this area.  For another, many people think that Biblical principles, applied to this area of school life, is all about forgiving and forgetting.  And there are people who think that there's not really much of a need for discipline in an environment where most of the students are professing Christians. 

Guess again.

Christians aren't perfect.  They are just forgiven.  And while I would most definitely agree that there are fewer problems in a Christian school environment, the fact of the matter is that we deal with what just about everyone else deals with too, including parents who don't think their kids do anything wrong, or who don't have a solid grip on the reality of what their children are doing, or who don't have a correct understanding of the Biblical principles involved in this process. 

The whole message of the New Testament has to do with God's ultimate plan for resolving the problem of human sin, which separates mankind from him.  The main difference between human reason and wisdom, and the Bible's revealed knowledge comes down to the resolution of this issue.  From a Biblical perspective, discipline methods are derived from the same process by which human sin is forgiven and forgotten by God.  It's the very simple formula of the conviction of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person and generating feelings which we refer to as conviction of sin.  We cannot come to this point on our own, because we cannot see sin for what it is.  But God used the miraculous and pervasive influence of the spirit to bring us to this point. 

The response to conviction that leads to salvation is remorse and grief over our condition as a sinner, and a desire to repent, or turn from that sin.  In the process of doing this, we are covered by the blood of Jesus which saves us from our sin.  We are forgiven.  And he erases the memory of the sin from his presence.  The Holy Spirit responds by sanctifying our soul and giving us grace which God provides to seal us in Christ. 

There's a big difference between the kind of grief expression that brings about genuine repentance, and simply being sorry for what we've done, or sorry that we got caught.  The concept of discipline actually rests on this particular aspect of the whole process.  Repentance requires change in behavior.  There can be sorrow and guilt which causes pain, but if it doesn't cause a change, there's no repentance and no restoration. 

"Endure trials for the sake of discipline.  God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?  If you do not have that discipline in which children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.  Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us and we respected them.  Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?"  Hebrews 12:7-9

Parents discipline children that they love.  God disciplines his children that he loves.  The purpose of discipline is to generate respect for those in authority, and ultimately to prevent someone from getting so far away that they cannot, or will not come back.  It brings conviction as the recipient realizes that what they have done is wrong, and are put on the path of making it right.

I think it's important to distinguish between discipline and punishment. Punishment is a consequence; discipline is guidance that brings conviction.  Since discipline is likely to result in repentance at some point, we want to make sure that there is a way for the person who is receiving it to respond, and turn from the behavior that caused the discipline.  Punishment is what happens when there is no repentance, and no change of heart or mind.  Because we are created in the image of God, and have a free will, both are possible in our life.  At school, it is our hope that discipline results in repentance, not punishment.

The support of parents is the key to the success of discipline.  When parents realize that other people, particularly adults who understand their children because of years of experience and a wealth of training, have insights into behaviors and attitudes that they might not see, or might overlook because of their relationship, and allow those people to provide their children with discipline, it has a chance to succeed.