Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Financial Stewardship and Planning for 2019-20: Tuition, Fees, Income and Other Things

The gospel is the center of all we do at Midwestern Christian Academy.  We are a school that exists to train students to think and act according to a Biblically based worldview that comes about as a result of their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  

Being Christ-centered and Biblically focused in the education that we offer is our most important core value.  It is why Midwestern Christian Academy exists and it is what distinguishes us and our fellow Christian schools from all other forms of education, whether they are tax supported or privately funded.  

In a Christian school, we are not offering a service in exchange for a fee.  Yes, parents do pay tuition and fees for their children to be enrolled here but what parents pay does not cover the cost of operating the school, nor does it "pay for" their own child's education.  An education has a "value" associated with it that is a calculation of the actual cost incurred in order to provide it and that cost varies with circumstances.

In Illinois, the average cost of a year of education in the public school system, rounded off, comes out to $13,500 per pupil.  Across the country, that figure is higher, about $15,900 per pupil . Charter schools in Illinois average $12,800 and nationally, $13,560*.  Most of that funding comes from the taxpayers, including those who send their children elsewhere.  So the cost to parents is spread out across all of the taxpaying entities in the community and is much lower per family.  But the cost per pupil establishes the value of an education in the public school system.

In private schools, the amount paid by parents goes up, but the cost per pupil is right in the same ball park.  In the Chicagoland area, an average private school tuition would be $14,000.  There is a broad range from school to school, from a low of $4,000 to a high of $38,000 as each school values its product differently.  Some of that has to do with the whole scope of expenses that each school has, and the resources that it has to cover them.  Secular private schools often use the cost as a means of excluding students that they don't want.  Catholic schools often subsidize the cost at each of their schools by money coming from the local diocese that reduces tuition cost for Catholic church members.

We calculate the value of the education we offer by comparing our tuition and fees to that of other private schools in our part of the city and by the actual cost of school operation.  If our parents had to pay the full cost of a year of education at MCA, the cost would be $8855.14.  That's an exact figure based on the use of a calculator to determine actual costs vs. "in kind" expenses and income.  Here's how we came to that figure.

Sponsoring Church Support
First of all, much of the expense of school operation is paid by support from the school's sponsoring church, Midwest Bible Church.  MCA is one of two extension discipleship ministries of the church, so the financial support from the congregation helps reduce the tuition parents have to pay by a significant amount.  Actual financial support from the church was $136,000 in 2018-19 which includes a regular budget contribution and some expenses which the church opted to cover on behalf of the school.  In addition to this amount, we calculate the rental value of the facility that the school uses at $74,000.  That is well below the market rate in our neighborhood.  We estimate that the church's support for the school is worth approximately $1,272.72 per student per year.  What that means is that if the school had to finance those expenses, the tuition would have to be higher by that amount in order to pay the bills and keep the school operating.

This does not include the financing provided by the church for the building renovations this past summer.  The church financed the whole project, which came in at over $350,000.  None of that money came from school funds.  I've been in Christian school ministry for over 30 years and I can tell you that it is rare to find a conservative Evangelical Christian church that will invest that much money in Christian school education.

Faculty and Staff Ministry Commitment
In order to teach or work here, our staff must realize that MCA is a ministry and be committed to serving as one who is called by God.  The difference between a teacher salary at MCA and one in the public school system at the bottom of the scale is $19,000 per year.  If MCA paid its teachers the base salary scale of the local public school system, it would cost parents an additional $1,910.00 per student in tuition each year.  So if it were not for the support of Midwest Bible Church, the school's graduates and former students and the sacrifices made by its teachers, the tuition would be almost $3,200 per student per year higher than it is now. 

Our teachers are required to have the same credentials as those in the public school system and most of our teachers have achieved a level of training well beyond the minimum requirements.  The evidence of their qualifications shows up in the academic achievement of our students who perform well above their public school peers on standardized test measurements as well as their counterparts in other private, religious-based schools in the city.  But the primary expected outcome of our students is that they be prepared for "kingdom citizenship" in Christ's church.  The record of our alumni in this regard is proof of the success of the ministry of the school's teaching staff as ministers of the gospel of Christ.

MCA is committed to providing an educational choice for parents that is distinctively Christian in both the content of the curriculum and the operation of the school.  It is a genuine "covenant" relationship that involves shared sacrifice made to cover the school's expenses between those who are employed by the school and the parents. 

Budget Considerations
Since this is a partnership involving shared sacrifice, when we are involved in planning our budget and setting tuition rates, we work to make the amount parents have to pay as reasonable as possible.  Operating a school is not a "cheap" proposition.  No one makes any money out of this arrangement.  The school, because it is a not-for-profit organization must budget to make sure that at the end of its calendar year, there are only minimal funds available for remaining expenses and no "profit" is made.  The church does not receive any funds for the school.

Our largest single expense is the payroll.  Staffing expenses constitute about 75% of our budget.  This includes salaries and benefits for teachers and staff, support staff, professional development and training for teachers and equipping and supplying the classroom.  Textbooks, student supplies and things like the copy machine lease are about 8% of our budget.  Maintaining and cleaning the building and paying the utility bill accounts for another 8%.  All other expenses involved in operating the school, including things from professional memberships, accreditation expenses, promotion, events and licenses are 5% of the budget.

Tuition increases are causes by a couple of items in the budget.  One is textbooks and supplies.  It costs more than $200 to provide one kindergarten student with all of the books they will need for their learning experience.  If the price of those materials goes up, tuition has to be budgeted to cover the increase.  And the only way we have to give our teachers a raise is to increase tuition to cover the difference.

What You Get at Midwestern Christian Academy
There's no question that a Christian school gives you "your money's worth."  We strive for excellence in all we do.  We are the only place where you can get a Christ-centered, Biblically-aligned, distinctively Christian education.  Our academic achievement is a by-product of our commitment to Christ, not the other way around and we are careful not to use academic achievement as a means of excluding students.  On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that our students exceed the expected outcomes of the public school system by a wide margin.

MCA is a candidate for accreditation in 2020.  Accreditation is an evaluation of the school and the education that it provides based on an accepted set of standards of excellence.  MCA has maintained its candidate status for two years, meeting all of the requirements.  Accreditation is a mark of excellence and will involve a peer evaluation of the school's performance by a visiting team of educators.  Accredited schools are excellent schools and excellent schools seek accreditation.

Reports we are getting back from our students in high schools around the city demonstrate that the foundation they received at MCA is strong. 

I believe God blesses us when our mutual sacrifices are put together to accomplish a kingdom objective to lead students to Christ and to an understanding of how to live, work and make life decisions from a Christian world view guided by the Bible.  We have a genuine "ministry" taking place and God is glorified by that.

For 2019-20
The administration and board has prepared a fee schedule that includes a decrease in the enrollment fee from $300 to $250, no increase in tuition for Pre-K, and only a small increase in tuition for students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade.  The $250 registration fee is available until March 31, which is a $100 discount off the regular rate of $350.  We rolled the building use fee into the monthly tuition payment so parents will not have to pay it all in one month, included the cost of books in tuition and came up with an annual tuition fee of $5,000 for 2019-20, which, when you subtract the building use fee, is only a $100 or $10 a month increase. 

We will also have some additional financial aid available on a first-come first-served basis.  This is income based assistance.  In order to qualify, you must re-enroll for the 2019-20 school year with the $250 registration fee paid by March 31.  We do not anticipate that any funds will be available after that date. 

We hope that you consider taking advantage of the early fee discount and re-enroll your child at MCA before March 31 for the coming school year. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

James 3:7-8

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:7-8 ESV

After 35 years of service in Christian school education, a career that began as a combination English and history teacher in a Christian high school in the Barrio of East Houston and that has led through five schools in three states, and from the classroom to service as a principal and lead administrator, I have collected enough material to write several books.  One of the books would be on the value of a Christian school to the ministry and mission of the church and to the lives of the students who were given the opportunity to be educated in one.  The other would be a word of encouragement that would help those who are called to Christian school ministry as teachers, staff members and as parents of students to avoid the sin that causes setbacks and disappointments and creates stumbling blocks to spiritual growth and the faith community that develops in a Christian school.

I don't point fingers.  During those 35 years, I have made plenty of mistakes and have learned from them.  Mainly what I've learned is how to let God be God, discern his will and seek direction and counsel in resolving problems and issues from the Holy Spirit.  A Christian school is a discipleship ministry that aims to teach principles of "Kingdom citizenship" to our students, including their academic skill development as part of the same experience.  We do that believing that education is the process of understanding and discerning what God has already revealed about who we are and what is the purpose of our life.  Because we are laying a foundation for the future with children and  youth, most of the issues and conflicts that arise as we do our work are attacks from the enemy aimed at disrupting what we are doing and bringing down a ministry that is making disciples and helping them grow to maturity.  And most of what we deal with involves exactly what these verses in James are addressing.

Issues related to our words are the biggest problem I've encountered in every single Christian school where I've served.  Every one.  I can't understand it, except in the context of it being an enemy attack on people of faith.  It is important that the teachers and staff of a Christian school have a complete understanding of the mission and purpose of Christian school education in order to be effective at their job.  It is important for parents to understand that these individuals are making a similar sacrifice as they are making by paying tuition for their children to be enrolled.  It is important for our mutual trust to be rooted in the unity that comes from all of us belonging to Christ and having him as our savior, which links us together as brothers and sisters and fellow members of his church.   Selfish interests are the source of what James is talking about in this passage, words and attitudes that reflect attitudes that poison the atmosphere.  The enemy does not want schools to strengthen the faith and spiritual formation of young people.  And so he stirs up dissention that causes discouragement, poor decisions, gossip and slander.

Social media makes it easy to spread gossip.  It is difficult to work on resolution of a problem when you do not have to face the person with whom you have the problem.   In an isolated environment, you have access to media that allows your personal perspective to get a head start on the facts, to "get ahead" of a problem and to try to use the influence you have to control the outcome of an issue.  False information leads to bad decisions.  Selfishness is the root of our sin problem, the elevating of our preferences and needs over others, and over God.  Gossip is the byproduct of selfishness.  The hurt that it causes fractures relationships linked through the fellowship of Christ's church and damages ministries.   It kills churches, and it can kill Christian schools, too.

I do not see any model of ministry in the scripture to which Christians are called to sit back and be served.  The ministry model I see is one where those who are part of a ministry, for whatever reason, are charged with the responsibility of bringing their spiritual gifts into it and working together with others who have done the same thing to build an effective ministry that accomplishes its mission and purpose.  That includes the parents and students who come to a Christian school.  This is a Christian community, and we are all responsible for helping it to achieve its mission and purpose.

If you've enrolled your children here, then lift us up in prayer.  Don't talk bad about us when we don't live up to your expectations, help us by praying for us and using your gifts to help us improve.  If you have a problem, don't criticize us on social media first and then come and talk to us later.  We're here because we've been called by God to serve as we do and because we love your children.   We've trained at our own expense to be able to offer this ministry of education and discipleship in the hopes of teaching and nurturing children, your children, to grow up with love and respect for God, to experience his salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and to hear his voice and fulfill his purpose for their life.  We have your child's best spiritual interest at heart.

You are making sacrifices to place your children here, we are making similar sacrifices to make that possible.  We're on the same side, with the same goals in mind, fighting against the same enemy who does not want children being taught in a place where they are being prepared to fulfill their calling in God's will.  The poison of the tongue, set on fire by selfish ambition, only makes it more difficult for you to enjoy the abundant blessing that having your child in a Christian school can be.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

MCA in 2019 and Beyond

Midwestern Christian Academy has been providing a Christ-centered education based on Biblical truth to children for more than 60 years.  Since the modern Christian school movement and the growth boom that accompanied it dates back to the 1970's, that means MCA is older than most conservative, Evangelical Christian schools in operation today.  And in spite of changes which have caused many religious-based schools, including many Evangelical Christian schools like MCA, to
close, we are still here.  I believe the reason for that, in spite of many changes that have happened over the years, is that the school remains committed to a mission and purpose that is based on Biblical truth, honors God as the creator and as the source of all truth, and glorifies Jesus as our savior from sin.  That is the foundation on which our philosophy of education rests.

As we begin a new year on the calendar, we are near the middle of the current school year.  It has been a year of transition and change.  The change is necessary to continue meeting the needs of families in our area who desire to see their children educated in a distinctively Christian environment. The school's leadership has made some specific steps toward its commitment to provide Christian education in our communities and neighborhoods and it has taken positive steps forward in planning for continued change.

Facility Upgrades and Expansion
More than $300,000 was invested in a complete make-over of the main elementary building on the MCA campus this past summer.  Though the construction took longer than expected and there are still some things that need to be completed, the Pre-K building and the elementary building have been upgraded.   The space provides for expansion of the school's programs, reduces maintenance costs and with a new HVAC system, will operate at a much lower expense for heating and cooling.

The school is moving forward with plans for a new gymnasium facility with groundbreaking to take place as soon as the permits and applications process has been complete, hopefully before the school year ends.  This facility will be multi-purpose, giving the school the ability to expand its extra-curricular and athletic programs and also adding classroom space for fine arts programs.

ACSI Accreditation
MCA is an Illinois Recognized school, which means that its operation and instructional program have been subject to a peer evaluation based on specific standards.  While some private schools in Illinois do not seek state recognition, earning this recognition means that we have met a minimum set of standards which are considered a measurement of the school's academic program.  Schools are evaluated on the curriculum objectives, the use of best practices in instruction, and the assessment of expected student outcomes.  It is a rigorous enough evaluation that some schools, mostly public or charter schools that serve special populations, do not earn a passing grade.  MCA, however, has achieved this recognition.

Accreditation is an evaluation based on a higher standard.  While Illinois doesn't require private schools to be accredited, MCA is taking this step because accreditation is a mark of excellence, and excellent schools seek to be accredited.  We are working through the accreditation commission of the Association of Christian Schools International, which is a commission recognized nationally for its rigorous standards.  The benefit of this accreditation is that it also examines the spiritual life and operation of the school in accordance with Biblical standards and the members of the visiting team that come are all from other Christian schools.

Program Expansion
MCA has made some big steps this year in expanding the use of technology in the classroom.  The expense of equipment always makes this a struggle for small, private schools but the fundraising projects carried out by our PTF have made the purchase of computers possible.  MCA now has a fully equipped, designated laptop computer lab and wireless access throughout the campus and the computers are available for individual use in any classroom.

The addition of the computer equipment has made it possible for the middle school to add a course in Computer Applications.  We are anticipating adding a STEM program with out-class instruction for elementary students in the fall.

An increasing number of students with special learning needs are finding success in Christian schools.  It has only been in recent years that private, Christian schools had the ability to admit these students and work with IEP's to achieve success.  A former student of mine who struggled with ADHD put his whole situation in perspective when he told me that God must have made him the way he did because he would need someone with his energy level and attention focus to do something special.  Resource education has changed in the past couple of decades to the point where Christian families no longer have to depend on the public school system to provide services and differentiated instruction for special learning needs kids.  It is our hope to be able to expand our ability to serve more students in this way in the future.

We were able to add Spanish to our middle school curriculum this year.  We are looking at having team teaching and ability-levelled mathematics instruction from grades 3 through 5 next fall, as well as adding a dedicated Algebra 1 course for students going into eighth grade who test well and qualify.

Spiritual Life
We continue to look for ways to connect our students to ministry opportunities, even our younger elementary students.  We are making some changes in our chapel program to increase student-led participation.  We want to make connections with local churches who can provide ministry opportunities for our students in which they can participate as a class.  We hope to become more pro-active in providing opportunities for our students to continue their Christ-centered education after graduating from MCA.

Just the Beginning
We are glad for the families who have committed to provide a distinctively Christian education for their children.  MCA is one of the few remaining conservative, Evangelical Christian schools in the city, and on our side of town and as we renew our commitment to our mission and purpose, we depend on prayer to discern and follow God's plan for our school.  Everything can always be improved and MCA has taken the first steps toward a long-term commitment to a quality Christian education in Chicago.

You've enrolled your children here and you can help.  Will you make a commitment to pray for our school community every day?  You're not just a customer who pays for a service, you are a fellow believer in Christ who has expressed a belief in the value of educating children in an environment where Jesus is Lord and God is glorified.  We are empowered to serve by the Holy Spirit.  Your prayers help make that happen.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Declaring What is Right

I am the LORD and there is no other.  I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain.'  I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right."  Isaiah 45:19 ESV 

We believe in God, who is identified for us in the Bible as Jehovah, the LORD, the almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present Spirit that hovered over the face of the deep as he created the earth and everything in it.  He is the power of life, the element of existence who created humanity, breathing life into a body made of the dust of the earth.  As this verse says, "there is no other."

As created beings, with life originating from the power of the Lord, we are a creation which demonstrates the remarkable nature of Him.  The uniqueness of human beings in creation is the image of God.  The human body is a wonderful combination of chemical reactions and electrical impulses blended together in a way that defies explanation by natural, random means.  What is miraculous about it is not so much the chemistry, but the intelligence.  The human mind, a thousand times more complicated than a computer, is capable of decisions and thoughts that go beyond that of any other creature on the earth.  The ability to discern what is right from what is wrong, and act on that decision is not something an animal can do.

Human intelligence is also capable of defining what is right and distinguishing it from what is wrong without consulting God or apart from what he has revealed.  The mind can be trained to evaluate the morality of an action or behavior by developing its own set of standards to determine right and wrong.  The standards that are used to make choices apart from the truth that God has already revealed are based on belief that the human mind is the highest form of intelligence in the universe and the human will is the most powerful creative force in the universe.  Those who believe this say that the God of the Bible is an invention of the human mind, an explanation to cover things that could not be explained or cannot be explained until pure science discovers the truth about the source of whatever knowledge we have acquired.

They point to all other religions and the "gods" they have created, all based on human observation and intelligence, all flawed in their ability to function because the minds that created them were limited by time and space and were unable to observe or explain things they did not understand.  So as human wisdom and knowledge increase,  the need for fictional gods and explanations of metaphysical things become less and less necessary.  In that way of thinking, known as Humanism, salvation is found through education.

Education is something totally different in Christian thought and practice.  It is the process by which knowledge, already revealed by God, is discovered and applied.  Education goes hand in hand with discipleship, which is growth in the disciplines of the faith that lead to a closer and more meaningful relationship to the God that created us, enabling us to understand what has been created better.  Paul does an excellent job of defining and explaining the difference between becoming educated in the world's wisdom and having "the mind of Christ" in a narrative found in I Corinthians 1:18 through 2:16.

"But people who aren't Christians can't understand these truths from God's Spirit.  It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means." I Corinthians 2:14 NIV

As a Christian school, MCA is an extension of the Biblical church function of Christian discipleship.  We are a mission-driven educational institution with a mission that is rooted in this Biblical function.  That distinguishes us from all other kinds of educational institutions and it is what makes us unique.  Whatever it was that drew you to this school, and caused  you to enroll your children, our Biblical mission and purpose, to provide an education to children and youth that acknowledges God as creator of the universe and his written word as truth, and the foundation of all learning.  It is that one thing, not academics, athletics, or activities, that should be the reason parents seek us out to provide an education to their children.

It works best when parents are on board with that.  Too many times, what parents expect from a Christian school is not consistent with the school's mission and purpose.  Living out our faith leads to the expectation that we will do things to the best of our ability, but that is not our primary purpose.  Our academics should be excellent, but our commitment to a strong academic program shouldn't interfere with our Christian mission.  Our doors are open and the invitation is to anyone who sees the value of a Christian education that rests on a foundation of Biblical truth.  That's our niche, what sets us apart from other educational institutions and it should be the main reason parents want their children enrolled in our school.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Weather: Deciding When to Close School

The first "blizzard" of the season happened on November 26.  Starting on Sunday evening, the snow came down hard and the wind blew it hard.  Some places got 13 inches, at my house on the far west side of the city, 7 1/2 fell, though some of that melted before it got cold enough to stick.  But any snowstorm of that magnitude is going to generate questions about whether school will be open the next day.

One of the things I learned from this experience is that it is probably not a good idea to follow what the Chicago Public Schools decide to do.  Their goal is to remain open if at all possible in order to ensure that they keep providing needed services to students.  They are a large organization with resources at hand to assist getting students to school on bad weather days.  We will need to made a decision independent of CPS, particularly if they choose not to close.  Most of our families come to school by car and while I did notice that the city gets the streets cleared pretty quickly and tries hard to keep traffic moving, that can be a bit of a challenge.

I know the students think that one of the more exciting jobs of a school administrator is that he can decide whether there is school or not.  Leave that decision up to them and we know the outcome!  But there are a lot of factors which go into the decision to close school for the day.  Many of our families have two parents who work and most businesses don't close for the weather.  They have to find babysitting at a moments notice.  How bad is the weather?  Is it just snow, or is there ice on the road?  Is the power on in the school?  And looking at forecasts, do we want to have students in the building if the weather is deteriorating in the afternoon?  The bottom line comes down to making the decision that keeps everyone as safe as possible.

So the next time we have a blizzard in the forecast, we will have several ways of notifying parents in place.  We will use WGN's Emergency Weather Center and put the school's status on it.  We will notify parents through our Gradelink system via email announcement.  And we are working on developing a phone chain for each class so that parents can confirm the decision has been made to close school for the day.

Snow days are nice.  For someone like me, who grew up in Arizona and rarely knew the pleasure of an unscheduled school holiday, its worth the makeup day later on.  A late November snowstorm is probably a sign of several snow days to come during the winter.  We're in good shape with built-in days and holidays we can use as snow make-up days without having to extend the school year.  So enjoy the weather!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

So How Much Does a Christian School Education Cost? And Who Pays For It?

Providing a Christian school education for your child requires consideration of your family budget and its ability to make tuition payments because Christian schools are privately supported and don't receive tax dollars.  And the other side of that issue is that parents are also paying taxes out of their income which go to the public education system where they help pay for an education in schools their children are not attending.  Because Christian schools are are private and do not get any tax dollars, the funding must come from those who enroll their children in the form of tuition payments. 

But Christian education isn't designed to be a privilege only for those who have the means to afford it.  The "average" cost of a year of private education in the US is over $13,000 per year.  In Illinois, it is somewhere around $12,000.  A year in the public school system costs the taxpayers about $14,000 per student, because of services, programs and the transportation they must provide.  All costs inclusive, parents of students at MCA pay $5,200 if they have one child enrolled, and with the discounts averaged in, the average cost per student paid directly by the parents comes out to about $4,300 per year.  That's a bargain. 

So how does that work? Someone else is "paying" the other part of that annual expense in order to make attending a private, Christian school a reality for your children. 

The "Teacher Scholarship"
The payroll and the maintenance of the facilities are the two biggest expenses of a school.  And since most of the staff is made up of teachers, who are qualified professionals with a specialized degree equipping them to do their job, the payroll includes benefits like professional development, which also cost money. 

We know that parents make a financial sacrifice to send their children to MCA.  On the other hand, did you know that the teachers here make a financial sacrifice to enable you to send your children here?  You pay tuition.  They give up the salary and benefits they could be earning if they worked in a local public school.  The difference between what a public school teacher in Illinois makes after ten years of teaching experience and what an MCA teacher makes after the same years of experience is over $25,000.  In addition to that, public school teachers get some benefits, including having most of their retirement benefit paid by the school they work for, as much as 90% of their health insurance premiums covered and at least part of their dental plan, disability, unemployment tax and life insurance premiums paid.  MCA teachers get a small paid life insurance policy, and a partial payment of their health insurance premium, and that is a difference of almost $5,000 in additional benefits.  In Chicago, public school teachers make slightly more than the state average.

In order to pay MCA teachers at the "average" rate of those in the public school system, we would have to add $2,500 to each student's tuition cost.  Some of our families could pay that, but if we had a $2,500 increase in tuition in one year, we wouldn't have very many students return. 

Our teachers and staff do this because they are called by God and because they see how being in a Christian school can be a life changing, life-sustaining experience for children.  I've been in this business for more than 30 years.  Those who work in Christian schools are at least equally qualified as their peers in the public school system, many of them have received additional training at their own expense to be able to continue what they do.  Oh, by the way, the teaching staff at MCA exceeds the average public school when it comes to the percentage of its teachers with advanced degrees.

Subsidized and "In-Kind" Expenses
Last year, Midwest Bible Church provided $130,000 in direct support to MCA.  That does not include the $285,000 cost of the building renovation.  While the amount of church support varies each year with the cost of operation, among conservative Evangelical Christian schools and churches, it is rare to find a congregation that supports the school it operates with financial assistance, much less to find one that does it at the same level of support as Midwest Bible Church does for this school.  In order to cover the costs that the church now provides, parents would have to come up with an additional $750 per student. 

Over the years, the number of individuals who have graduated from MCA is pretty large.  We actually have grandchildren of former students enrolled.  Grateful to the school for the education and spiritual guidance they received, some of those alumni occasionally give financial gifts to the school.  So do some church members and some friends of the school in the community who just feel led by the Lord to give.  It is difficult to measure the value of these gifts to the school in terms of how it reduces the cost to families, but I would venture to guess that the amount is significant.

We just finished a candy sale that will provide over $6,000 to the school.  The things that the proceeds from this kind of fund-raising activity will buy helps reduce the cost to parents, because the cost of those items does not have to be included in tuition and fees.  The efforts of students and their families makes a direct contribution to the school. 

Work to "Make it Work"
There is a lot of work done by school staff and by parents which doesn't always get noticed, but which helps keep the cost of the education offered here as low as possible.  From those who give hours for free and do work behind the scenes to those who look for bargains, seek donations of equipment and materials, or work to find the best costs, or ask vendors and businesses to cut us a break, this is also an amount that can't be measured either in dollars or in the value received by parents and students when it comes to paying their bill.  But it lowers the cost in terms of tuition and fees required to pay the bills. 

Our school is also not frivolous when it comes to spending its resources.  Our budget is always carefully and prayerfully considered.  Expenses are only considered if we believe them to be necessary in providing the kind and quality of education we expect of ourselves. 

Depending on God
We don't start Christian schools and then ask God to bless what we've done.  This ministry was started from a vision, and it has a mission and purpose that has been connected to that vision for over 65 years.  It is a mission and purpose rooted in the scriptural function of Christian discipleship, which is one of the five Biblical functions of a church.  Education is part of Christian discipleship and can't be separated from it and still fulfill its purpose. 

"And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness."  

Recognizing that our resources come from God, we know he will supply the needs of those ministries which he has used us to establish and operate.  We follow his will in obedience and we pray for his presence.  All of the resources we have are provided by him, whether it is tuition and fees, contributions or a successful candy sale.  Sometimes, he's also in for a surprise.  Parents sacrifice in making tuition payments compliments teachers making sacrifices in salaries, and that's a spiritual foundation.  That's why this works.

May God continue to bless Midwestern Christian Academy. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A School with a Distinctively Christian Character...

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and which now is in the world already."  I John 4:1-3, ESV

Midwestern Christian Academy describes itself as a school with a "distinctively Christian character."  The term "Christian" is part of our name, and is put there intentionally so that those who seek to enroll their children here know exactly what to expect in terms of the kind of school that it is.  But what does it mean for a school to describe itself as having a distinctively Christian character?

Here's what that means to us.

1.  It means that the content of all of our instruction rests on the foundational belief that God exists, that he created the universe, including humankind, out of nothing, and that in order to redeem a humanity that had separated itself from God by falling into sin, he sent a savior in the person of his Son, Jesus.  

We view education as the process of discovering knowledge revealed to us by God about ourselves, and the world in which we live.  The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are the written word of God, inspired by his Holy Spirit, and are the measuring rod of truth, so education becomes the scope of learning skills that enable us to be spiritually discerning, evaluating all things by the principles and precepts of the Bible. 

In contrast to that, the predominant system of education in our culture accepts the idea that the human intellect is the highest form of intelligence in the universe.  According to this philosophy, if the human intellect is properly educated, it is capable of developing a level of reason which will resolve all of humankind's problems.  Human intellect is capable of learning to avoid previous mistakes, therefore, with the passage of time, the world becomes a better place because human reason is at work.  This philosophy denies the existence of God, and of any human need for a "higher power."  Students in the public school system are taught from this perspective in every subject, every day. 

2.  It means that everyone who works for our school, from the administrator and teachers, to the secretary, and the cafeteria staff, has a testimony of becoming a born-again believer in Jesus as their savior, and believe their work on behalf of the school is a ministry to which God called them to serve.  

Students spend seven hours a day, five days a week at school.  That means the people they are with all day long are among the primary influences in their lives.  They are people who can be involved in the education of the "whole child," and believe that the work they do with children is a ministry with a specific purpose related to their faith.  They are people that parents can trust to support their family's values and who will support their God-given role of training up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." 

3.  It means that worship and the study of the scripture are a regular part of the school day so that students see these things as being essential and important to the learning process, and a normal, natural part of the educational experience.  

Students perceive their school experience as authoritative.  Teachers are experts in their subject areas.  They are learning new things and having new experiences.  When the content of what is preached and taught at church is left out of that experience, kids tend to compartmentalize those things in their thinking.  The educational authorities in their lives are not teaching things which support their church experience, and in many cases, which contradict it. 

That doesn't happen here.  Our students worship together, and through that experience, they learn what worship is, and they learn how to give glory to God.  The study of the scripture becomes an experience of applying other learning experiences and skills to something that can be practically applied. 

4.  It means that our students come to school every day, and they are confronted with the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus as their savior.  

Here, they see people who are living out their faith in a way that is visible, that glorifies God, and that encourages others to do the same.  The gospel message is relevant to everything, and it is integrated into everything.  It's not pounded like a drum, or used as a club, but there is a clear demonstration of the relevance of the gospel present in each classroom every day. 

We have come to a point in our society where a secular philosophy of living has become the predominant expression of our culture.  Open expressions of faith are rare, and the most visible people in our society aren't associated with any kind of religious identity.  While Christians are migrating from smaller congregations to larger, more visible "megachurches," the total number of church attenders in the community at large is declining at a relatively steady pace, and the number of people who self-identify as "born-again" or "Evangelical" Christians has declined by more than 20% over the past two decades.  The Millennial Generation has become the most unchurched in history, with fewer than 10% claiming regular church involvement. 

A Christian school offers students an environment that differs from the culture at large, and is a place where the expression of faith is a normal thing, and an expected behavior.  So students are able to develop a healthy respect for Christ's church, and good spiritual disciplines to strengthen their faith.

5.  It means that the quality of the academic program, curriculum and instruction is high. 
We do our best to give glory to God.  While our size limits the full scope of what we can offer, we are committed to excellence in the classroom, challenging our students to perform to the best of their ability.  We don't aim our goals at the lowest performance possible, or at "minimum standards."  We have a highly qualified teaching staff, all with degrees, several with advanced degrees, and all who have completed a teacher certification program.  Our curriculum objectives aim our expected student outcomes higher than the minimum standards of the state, or of common core.  The annual assessment of learning we conduct in the form of a standardized achievement test, shows that we are reaching our academic goals, as our students perform as expected and score well above the achievement levels of their peers in the public education system. 

All of these things together make the character of our school distinctively Christian.  When you visit the campus, you can visibly see this character.  The building is just brick and mortar, but the students and the staff are where the distinctively Christian character of our school can be seen.  And beyond that, we hope that it is visible in each student and employee, when they are scattered out among their neighbors across this part of the city.