Monday, December 28, 2020

MCA Moving Forward Toward Full Accreditation: What That Means to Our Ministry

A little over three years ago, MCA applied to be accredited by the commission of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).  MCA is a long-time member of ACSI, which is the largest organization of Evangelical Christian Schools in the world, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  ACSI provides Christian schools with fellowship, professional services and professional development for staff, textbook series in core subject areas for students, student activities like band festivals, Math Olympics, Fine Arts competitions, district speech meets and a creative writing competition.  It conducts Christian leadership conferences for middle school and high school students and holds an annual professional development event for teachers in various states and regions across the United States.  

The ACSI accreditation commission is fully recognized to grant accreditation by the education departments of all fifty states.  It is modelled after the private regional accreditation agencies that provide this service to all schools, public, charter or private, across the country and has dual-accreditation arrangements with at least three of the other regional agencies, including Middle States, North-Central and Advanced Ed.  What that means is that when a Christian school is accredited by ACSI, the accreditation is recognized by the other agencies.  

Why Seek Accreditation

"Accredited schools are excellent schools and excellent schools seek accreditation."  

I'm not sure of the origins of this statement, but it is one that I've heard since becoming involved with ACSI over thirty years ago.  Private schools in Illinois can seek state recognition, which indicates that they have met a specific set of standards with regard to curriculum and instruction, school operations and quality of the academic program.  Recognition ensures that the credit students earn in their classes meets the minimum standards required by the state, so that the school can grant diplomas that are recognized by other schools.  MCA easily meets the standards for Illinois recognition which is all that is required to operate.  

But as  a private, Christian school, we believe we have a mission and purpose that obligates us to make sure that our students are getting what their parents expect from a school that is distinctively Christian in its educational philosophy and approach to education.  We are not here to imitate what the  public schools do, in fact, we exist because we have recognized that there are major philosophical differences in our approaches to teaching, especially in defining what is truth and recognizing that God is the source of knowledge and education is the process of helping students connect God's truth to the skills and objectives they learn each day in class.  

With humility, we are able to clearly see a major difference not only in how we define truth, but in the quality of the instruction and the curriculum as we lead students to understand and measure all of the subject content they learn using the Bible as a "ruler" and measuring rod.  Accreditation is a signal to parents that we are achieving our mission and purpose with our students and they can trust the results.  

Academic Excellence

Accreditation recognizes the quality of  the instruction in the classroom and the strength of the school's curriculum.  There are minimum standards expected.  MCA is able to document our academic achievement in several ways.  We evaluate our curriculum objectives against the state minimum requirements.  One of the measurements we use tells us what percentage of our students on each grade level are achieving at least the minimum benchmarks required in core subjects on their grade level.  At MCA, collectively, in mathematics and language arts/reading, over 90% of our students meet or exceed those minimum benchmarks.  That's compared to less than 50% of the students at one of the designated "scholastic" public schools in our part of the city, and less than 35% of the students in most of the public schools around us.  

We also compare favorably with other religious-based private schools in our part of the city, mostly the Catholic and Lutheran schools in our area.  Among those schools which publicize their scores, including three Catholic schools and two Lutheran schools, MCA students are slightly higher in their achievement of benchmarks.  Our academic offerings are limited because of our size, but the curriculum materials we use are of high quality and our course objectives are aimed at mathematics skills development and phonics-based reading.  All of our grade levels achieve percentile ranks that are over 20 points above the national average and in our last round of testing, we had three grade levels that achieved beyond the 80th percentile in both math and language arts.  

Distinctively Christian

Not all of our families are at MCA because of the school's Christian philosophy of education.  Christian schools meet parents' need for a safe environment for their child, both physically and intellectually, by focusing on the academic objectives and leaving out instruction in social issues and perspectives that isn't consistent with what families want their children to learn in school.  But measuring the school's effectiveness as a discipleship ministry is part of the accreditation process.  What is the expected spiritual outcome for students who graduate from MCA?  

Students in public schools are exposed to a progressive philosophy of secular humanism every day in every class.  Science, English and composition classes and Social Studies are specifically loaded with objectives which acknowledge human intellect as the highest power in the universe, ignore or deny the existence of God and which see education as an agent of social and political change.  Moral relativism, individual choice are seen as goals which lead to individual success and achievement and fulfillment of life's purpose.  In Illinois, objectives related to instruction of students in defining and understanding homosexuality and transgender identity have been moved out of the category of sexual education, where parents can object and have their students exempted, and into science, social studies and communication skills.  

Our philosophy of education is based on Biblical truth, centering on the existence of God who is the creator and sustainer of the universe.  We do teach morals and values in our school, all based solely on a literal-historical context of the Bible, which is the revealed word of God and which has truth for its content without any mixture of error.  Our students have a Bible class every day of every school year as a core, required subject and the school community worships corporately in a chapel service each week.  Biblical truth is incorporated into the course objectives of every other subject.  Our goals in this area are to support and undergird the work of the local church, leading students to see that church membership is part of their Christian identity and the church, the body of Christ, is the vehicle for their ministry calling and service.  We believe God has given them a life ministry, purpose and calling and it is our responsibility to help them find out what that is.  

MCA's Candidacy for Accreditation

The process has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Restrictions on gatherings and the nine-weeks period of E-learning with which we finished the spring created a setback in the schedule for all accreditations.  Everything was delayed and put on hold for all schools accross the country.  Because our period of E-learning in Illinois was longer than most states, our accreditation team visit was delayed indefinitely.  We have scheduled a tentative visit for November of 2021 which will complete our process by December 31, which is the current deadline.  

What does this mean to you?  

An accredited school is an excellent school.  Of course, we already know this.  But there are always people who need to be convinced with hard facts.  During the three years of our candidacy, MCA has consistently been fully compliant with the majority of standards in the Reach Accreditation Protocol we are using.  Our academic achievement is particularly strong, our spiritual life and Christian distinctiveness exceed the expectations.  Our school operation ranks high on financial efficiency.  The educational and experience strength of our faculty and staff is high and our measurable academic goals also exceed expectations.  So accreditation means that you have your child in an excellent school that is instructing and inspiring the "whole child."  

An accredited school has a high success rate in achieving its expected student outcomes.  This is visible in every aspect of our program.  "Best practices in education" are the driving force behind our instruction.  Best practices does not always mean rooms full of video, computers, and visual and auditory stimulation.   It means a room where the teacher has figured out how to motivate their students to learn, provides them with differentiation in their instruction to appeal to their learning style and achieves results rather than entertainment.   

An accredited school provides your child with teachers who see their presence in the classroom as a ministry calling, not just a job.  Teachers in an ACSI accredited school understand that teaching is a ministry calling.  They are here primarily to provide a measure of Christian discipleship to their students which leads not just to academic success, but to connecting Biblical truth to the way they look at life so that each student has an opportunity to sense God's calling in their life and be ready to make that commitment when prompted by the Holy Spirit.  

The Future of American Evangelical Christianity Rests on Catching a Vision for Christian School Education

Progressive secular humanists succeeded in gaining control of the teacher training curriculum in the colleges and universities in American in the 1920's.  Led by John Dewey, a professsor at the University of Chicago, their aim was to bring about social reform and political change in America through control of the curriculum of the public school system.  Long a domain of Protestant influence, over the course of two generations, American colleges and universities turned out hundreds of thousands of humanist-trained teachers.  Students were exposed to their philosophy and social change aims in the school where they spent seven hours a day, five days a week.  

The church, where children and youth who are active in attendance and participation, has the students in its possession for maybe two or three hours a week, if their family is regular in attendance.  There is no way that they could compete, ideologically, on that bases.  Church researchers began to notice in the late 1970's and early 80's that Evangelical Christian churches were seeing a decline in attendance and membership that was unusual, taking place among its 20 to 30 year olds.  

The influence of secular humanism in schools was having an effect.  By the early 1980's groups like Lifeway Research and Barna were noticing that 80% of young people who were active in their church during high school had dropped out altogether by the time they finished college.  Enrollments in college-aged church ministry groups was dropping substantially.   In the venerable Southern Baptist Convention, college and young adult Bible study enrollment fell to historic lows in the 1980's and 1990's.  

The one consistent statistic in what was happening was that students who were educated at home by their parents, or who spent five or more years in a Christian school environment were not leaving their churches, and were fulfilling the leadership roles in both vocational and lay-led ministry.  One study done in the early 2000's showed that fewer than 10% of the students who were active in their church while attending a Christian school every day actually dropped out of church.  

We feel the work we are doing on accreditation, which is part of our effort to revitalize the ministry of MCA, is worth it.  We hope your family benefits from our efforts.  We'd love to have you affirm our work by re-enrolling your child for the 2021-22 school term.  


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Legacy and the Future of Midwestern Christian Academy

The COVID-19 pandemic is, without a doubt, the biggest disruption of life in the United States since the Second World War, and since there are few Americans alive today who are old enough to remember the Second World War, it's become the crisis of a lifetime.  Health care services are in a crisis mode and the effects of the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19 have affected everything from the economy to church services.  

The Effect of the Pandemic on MCA

Like other schools in Illinois, MCA shifted from in-person instruction to E-learning in mid-March 2020.  We made the shift as smoothly as we could, learned some lessons along the way and finished the school year strong.  Our teachers worked especially hard to make sure that their classes achieved their expected outcomes in every subject area at every grade level.  We were grateful to be able to return to in-person instruction this fall, even with the limits and restrictions that were put in place.  

Christian schools everywhere have seen enrollment drops and have had to make budget cuts and adjustments to cope with the effects of the pandemic, and MCA is no different.  Many of our parents work in retail or own businesses like restaurants and immediately felt the effects of the stay-at-home orders while layoffs and job loss came more slowly for others.  On the plus side, the CPS decision to go with E-learning through the first two quarters did bring us some new students.  Our experience has been very similar to what most other private, Christian schools are going through in terms of a drop in enrollment and subsequently, tuition dollars which support the budget.  The pandemic is the difference between where we planned to be and where we are now.   

However, as Mark Twain once said, the reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. 

Most Christian schools operate on a very tight budget with little wiggle room for unexpected expenses and a very small reserve.  There's a delicate balance between the resources, most of which come from parents who pay tuition for their children to attend, and the expenses, which are kept low by a variety of ways, including staff members who make sacrifices to work for salaries well below that of their public school counterparts in order to keep expenses low.  But the bottom line is that we are a ministry in which we acknowledge that God supplies all our needs.  

Before They Call, I will Answer

This school has been favored by the Lord through sixty-six years of ministry and it has faced all kinds of crises that have threatened to close the doors.  As Peter says, our enemy is always prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour and a Christian school with a mission and purpose committed to preparing students to go out into the world testifying to salvation by grace through faith in Christ and serving in the church does not suit his purpose.  But God's power comes through Peter's words.  He cares for you.  Humble yourselves.  Cast your cares on Him.  Be sober minded and watchful.  Stand firm in your faith.  

We have no plans to close the school.  Like most other private schools, we have contingency plans and the ability to adjust our expenses to accommodate short-term emergencies and situations that we didn't anticipate.  The viral pandemic wasn't something we could plan for.  So we are reaching out to alumni, former students and friends of the ministry for help.  This is something we have rarely done in the past, but it is part of what most other Christian schools do to make ends meet all the time.  And it is proving to be a means by which God is answering prayer and providing for the school's needs.  

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.  Isaiah 65:24

The Legacy and the Future

There aren't many Christian schools around today who can trace their history back to 1954.  MCA has had the blessing of sixty-six years of ministry on the northwest side of America's third largest city, but the impact and influence of this small school has spread around the world.  Christian schools support and undergird the work of the church by teaching students to connect everything they learn to Biblical truth.  Through the classroom, students are directed to fulfill the purpose for which they have been created and called by God.  Students who once walked the halls and occupied the classrooms of MCA are not only serving in Christian vocational ministries around the world, but they are also salt and light in the communities where they live and work.  

We need to ask ourselves the question, "If our school were gone, would it be missed?"  

The need for schools which support and undergird the work of the church has never been greater.  Most churches would consider themselves fortunate to have those children who come to their services and programs under their care and teaching for a couple of hours a week.  The public school system has most children in their classrooms seven hours a day, five hours a week.  The curriculum is derived from a set of "religiously neutral" objectives which do not make any acknowledgement of the existence of God and which increasingly has removed the influence of any kind of Christian faith from the classroom, even to the point of ignoring the role of Christians and the influence of the church in history.  

This ministry is in God's hands.  It has served faithfully and remained true to its original mission and purpose.  If you look back at the school's legacy, there are many, many places where its ministry would be missed if it were gone or had never existed in the first place.  God puts visions like this in the hearts of his children in order to accomplish his will.  Looking ahead, it is not hard to imagine all of the places where students whose spiritual foundation and growth was strengthened and matured because of their daily exposure to a Christian atmosphere and solid Biblical instruction would be missed if our school wasn't here.  

We're grateful for the opportunity to be part of the effort to make sure Midwestern Christian Academy continues serving students and their families in Jesus' name for many more years.




Friday, November 20, 2020

A Word of Recognition and Encouragement for Teachers

 This is from a social media post by Dr. Nathan Finn, former Professor of Historical Theology and Spiritual Formation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC and currently Provost and Dean of the Faculty at North Greenville University in Greer, SC.  

The teachers around you are anxious, weary, and exhausted. I’m talking about teachers at every level and in every type of school, whether 3rd grade or high school English or college Chemistry. Public school or private school. Religious school or non-sectarian school. All of them. These men and women almost certainly became teachers because they love students (of whatever age and stage) and want to make an impact in students’ lives through the classroom. They probably love their vocation and find significant satisfaction in being a teacher. But the last nine months has probably been the most difficult period in their career--even if they’ve been teaching for decades.
Teachers have been endlessly flexible in recent months. Many have adapted to various technologies to enable them to teach at least some students remotely, rarely with an ideal level of institutional investment in resources and training to help in this transition. Many have been forced to roll with scheduling or attendance changes, often with little advance warning from decision-markers. Even in cases where teachers have been able to teach mostly in-person, they have often endured quasi-isolation from their colleagues and their students. In many cases teachers have had to help “police” student conformity to protocols about face coverings, social distancing, quarantines, etc. Or, they have been anxious because students have refused to follow such protocols, potentially endangering those around them.
Decision-making has been more “top-down” than is normal in education. (Especially in higher education.) Budgets that were already probably too tight have been further cut. Needed positions have been tabled or eliminated. In many places, good teachers have lost their jobs because of financial realities. In other situations, teachers have left the vocation they once loved voluntarily because they no longer find it to be satisfying. Like everyone, teachers have opinions about how regions, communities, or particular institutions respond to the pandemic. And, like everyone, teachers may not agree with how their particular institution (school board, university system, school) has responded.
Teachers are also real people outside the hours of the school day. Many are married, so they may well be dealing with pandemic-related anxieties connected to their spouse’s job. Many are parents. This means they not only navigate the complications to their own teaching, but they have to navigate the complications affecting their own children’s education. Many are themselves adult children or have other close bonds with older loved ones who are in high-risk categories should they become infected. And many teachers themselves might be in one or more high-risk categories. Also, like everyone else teachers are anxious about all the other stuff: the economy, politics, etc.
What I don’t want to convey is that teachers are the only folks who are struggling with 2020. Everybody is struggling and every profession has is unique complications. What I do want to remind you of is that teachers play a unique and critically important role in our society. Their job is really important all the time and really difficult much of the time. And this year has been especially hard. This fall has been especially hard. Today is especially hard. So encourage the teachers around you. Pray for the teachers around you. Find tangible ways to support the teachers around you.
And for those of you reading this who are teachers: thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you are doing to make the best of a really difficult time. Hang in there. Please don’t give up. We all need you. God bless you.

Monday, November 16, 2020

To the Praise of His Glory!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober minded and watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  I Peter 5:6-9

These verses are loaded with a message to Midwestern Christian Academy as we face our sixth month of operation during a viral pandemic.  Our school was already in a recovery and rebuilding process from a previous complicated issue that had caused conflict.  We were seeing hopeful signs of recovery including a very promising re-enrollment and a potential influx of new students when we stopped in-person learning and made the switch to E-learning last March.  

A Prowling Enemy

Christian schools have been around as long as the church, but the modern Christian school movement in America dates back to the period of time just after World War 2.  Protestant Christianity was the primary influence over the philosophical foundations of most of the public education system going back almost to the very beginning of compulsory grade school education.  It was so influential, that the Catholic church started its own school system to get the children of their families back under the instruction of the church. 

Schools started and operated by Evangelical Christians began to pop up in the 1950's as a response to the progressive education movement which by then had gained control of the instruction and curriculum of most American public schools.  The progressive movement saw the public school system at the primary means to bring about social reform in America.  They succeeded in removing the Christian influences and teaching in the schools by getting the courts to use the establishment clause of the Constitution to invoke "religious neutrality" and replaced God with the belief that human intellect is the highest power in the universe and that education of the intellect is the solution to resolving humankind's problems.  

Chicago was one of the first places where progressives succeeded in getting control of the public school system.  One of the early progressive movement leaders was John Dewey, a professor at the University of Chicago who established teacher training schools in the city where many of the public school teachers earned their degree and certification.  As Christians began to see the effect of this turn toward a completely secular, humanist philosophy of education and the removal of Christian influence and even historical references to church history in the curriculum, some saw starting their own schools as a response.  Midwestern Christian Academy was one of those schools, founded by Midwest Bible Church, a non-denominational church with a strong Evangelical perspective.  The school's legacy spans sixty years of providing a strong, Biblically-based, Christ centered education to thousands of Chicago children who have passed through the doors.   

The establishment of Christian schools where biblical truth is the foundation of the educational philosophy and students get instruction which supports their faith formation and shapes the spiritual calling of God in their lives has attracted the attention of the prowling lion.  The disadvantages faced by schools that are balancing resources provided mainly by tuition coming from families that are already paying taxes to support a public education system they aren't using are amplified by operating in a city like Chicago, where high density development makes acquiring property and operating buildings expensive.  In this city of 2.8 million people, America's third largest, there are fewer than 10 schools with a strong Evangelical Christian background currently in operation, only three high schools and a combined enrollment of under 1,000 students.  MCA is one of the oldest among that group.  

As one of those who has survived for over sixty years, MCA can point to enemy attacks which have been aimed at putting it out of existence, silencing its voice and eliminating its influence.  This is not the first time the school has experienced a crisis and according to the words of Peter's epistle, it is not likely to be the last.  

MCA was recovering from a time of conflict and turmoil which caused difficulties, impacted the school's finances and led to some changes that included a setback in an attempted start of a high school program in the 2017-18 school year.  In spite of those issues, there were signs that the school was recovering and being blessed.  We were looking at a re-enrollment percentage of over 90% of eligible students returning in the fall of 2019 and the enrollment of 30 new students.  Early enrollment for the fall of 2020 was exceeding expectations and new student applications were up over the same period from the previous year. 

Then the roaring lion appeared.  COVID-19 closed in-person instruction in mid-March and stay-at-home orders were issued.  

Many of our students' parents work in retail.  Altogether, 20 of our school's families faced either a temporary layoff or a job termination.  A few were still able to consider paying tuition, but most were faced with the difficult decision of having to drop.  We are not sure how many prospective students were affected, but we know many parents who have Pre-K children decided to forego enrollment because of the possibility of a return to E-learning.  We were able to enroll 19 new students this year, including several who have come in because CPS is still on-line with no certainty of a return to in-person instruction.  But it is clear that COVID-19 is the obstacle that stands between us and an enrollment that represents a strong recovery and a balanced budget.  

Our Instructions

Humble yourselves (v.6).  Everything that we accomplish as a Christian school ministry comes from complete dependence on God.  Our teachers work for a salary that is far below what any of them could earn in the public school system.  They are here because they have submitted their lives to God's will and believe this is what he has called them to do.  We are serving Him by serving our students and their families.  

Cast all your anxieties on him. (v.7).  It is difficult not to worry about the future.  God has blessed MCA for over sixty years.  What seems to be a big bump in the road to us is easily overcome by Him.  

Be sober minded and watchful. (v.8)  We aren't just conducting business as usual.  We are carefully planning and using the resources we have, being as efficient as possible.  We are on guard against the possibilities and we take the situation with the seriousness that it demands.  We take our responsibility as stewards of this ministry seriously.  We trust in God's protection.

Resist him, firm in your faith. (v.9) MCA has been around for over 60 years and we believe it is God's will for it to be around for at least another 60.  There are never any guarantees in a ministry like this, but students who graduate from Christian schools are equipped to make a difference in the world when they understand God's plan for their lives and commit to fulfilling their mission and purpose.  The impact of MCA's ministry is effective and far-reaching.  We place our faith and trust in God, who has given us Jesus as our savior and the Holy Spirit. 

In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  Ephesians 1:13-14 

MCA will continue to serve the Lord, to the praise of his glory! 

An Investment in the Future of MCA

So during this time of crisis, we are asking those who have been blessed by the ministry of MCA, as a graduate of the school, former student, parents who sent their children here, a Christian who sees the value of a Christian school education or a Christian who lives in Chicago and sees the impact that a Christian school has in this city, for your help.  

We need to make up the budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and put the school on a solid financial footing for the upcoming school year.  We don't know what 2021-22 looks like right now.  We are, like everyone else, hoping that medical science will be well on its way to conquering this virus.  The effects that it has left behind will still be around.  We need to think of families whose lives were turned upside down and who will need a longer time to recover.  

We need to be ambitious and hopeful for what God wants to do with our school in the future.  Here's how you can help: 

  • If you are a family with a currently enrolled student, please make an early commitment to re-enrollment.  Our diligence in planning is helped greatly when we have a good idea of how many students to expect.  We've set a March 31 deadline for re-enrolling early and are offering the incentive of a registration and tuition discount for those who do this for us.  Your commitment to us is always a blessing. 
  • You have friends in your church and community who need to be informed about what MCA offers.  Let them know that it works for you.  
  • If you are a graduate, former student or parents of former students and MCA was a blessing to you, please share something with us out of the abundance of your blessings.  No gift is too small.  Everything you can do is appreciated deeply.  If you can give regularly, we have many ways to put your gift to use, including in student scholarships for which you can receive a tax credit.  
Thank you.  God bless you. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Christian Schools Instill a Protestant Family Ethic (reposted with credit given)

Link to a great article about the influence of Christian education on its students.


https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/report-christian-schools-instill-a-protestant-family-ethic/

Monday, September 14, 2020

Who Influences Your Child for 7 Hours, 5 Days a Week?

Information from a couple of recent local news stories helps underline how important it is for parents to understand why Christian schools exist, why those of us who work in them are committed to the kind of personal sacrifice required to serve in this way and why parents need to be just as committed to the same kind of sacrifice to make it possible.  

No "Opt-out" Option for Parents

https://southsideweekly.com/queering-the-curriculum-lgbtq-history-classroom/

The Inclusive Curriculum bill passed in Illinois last year now requires schools to teach objectives which include objectives about the positive contributions made to history by persons of alternative sexual orientation or gender identity.  The stated purpose of the instruction is (1) to introduce students to the concept of sexual orientation and what being gay, lesbian or bi-sexual means, and gender identity, and what it means to be transgendered, and (2) to provide students with information which shows the historical achievements of persons of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered persons in order to cultivate a favorable view of "alternate lifestyles" related to sexual orientation or gender identity.  

Teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in school is nothing new.  What's new about what is happening this school year under Illinois' new "inclusive curriculum" mandate is that parents are no longer notified when this will be taught and are not able to opt their children out of the instruction because it is integrated into the regular curriculum.  As far as we can tell, it is part of instruction beginning at Pre-K4.  

These are issues related to behavior choices and moral values.  Parents should be able to decide when it is appropriate to introduce this instruction to their children and from what perspective they will approach this issue when it is time to discuss it.  In the public school system, you are not offered either of those options and while you have no idea how the teacher who is presenting these objectives will approach it, you can be fairly certain that it will not take into consideration your family's Christian values or perspective on these issues, which has been mischaracterized as "hateful bigotry."  

Would you be comfortable placing your child in the hands of a school system that considers the Christian perspective on sexual orientation and gender identity "hateful bigotry"?  

Required Hindu Instruction in CPS?

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-chicago-high-school-quiet-time-meditation-david-lynch-bogan-20190725-72so6zr2gvganb2c54k4eq24zm-story.html

Apparently several Chicago public schools have introduced transcendental meditation techniques to assist with classroom control and to assist in reducing disciplinary incidents in schools with high percentages of violent incidents.  The activity, which was required at several schools, is called "quiet time" and involves Hindu worship rituals during the meditation. No parent permission was sought.  Students in schools where this was occurring were required to participate in the sessions.  The denials that this activity was "religious" are appalling in that those who are advocating it do not seem to have the ability to recognize that transcendental meditation is a worship practice of Hinduism.  

The other disturbing aspect of some of the responses made to this activity comes from school officials who don't really seem to care that "quiet time" is inherently religious in nature.  They're OK with that, as long as they get the desired results.  The effort to keep any mention of what is going on at school with their kids and to keep parents in the dark is also, for lack of a better term, appalling.  

Your kids spend at least seven hours a day, five days a week, at school.  Let that sink in for just a minute.

These Aren't Rare Events

The public education system claims to operate under the principle of "religious neutrality."  If that were really the case, then neither human sexuality nor any kind of meditation practice falls within the scope of its mission and purpose.  But "religious neutrality" means that there is no place in the educational process for acknowledgement of the existence of God and as a result, the prevailing philosophy which governs the development of all curriculum objectives required in public schools follows the humanist philosophy which acknowledges human intellect as the highest form of intelligence in the universe.  

And just a word about Charter schools.  Charter schools are publicly funded and follow the same curriculum objectives and educational philosophy as the public school system.  Many Charter schools have a mission-driven purpose that can be hostile to any kind of Christian perspective and some are operated by groups that are openly hostile to any Judaeo-Christian influence.  And from an academic perspective, they are generally not as strong as most public schools.  

Sexual orientation and gender identity are just the tip of the iceberg.  One of the goals of the humanist movement as it began to fill in the vacuum left by the enforcement of "religious neutrality" on the public school system is to eliminate influences which they consider negative.  The founders and most of the adherents of humanism are atheists or agnostics, so as a consequence, they have developed a curriculum which is not specifically "neutral" when it comes to Christian faith in particular, but which is hostile toward it.  This secularization has invaded every grade level and every subject area and it permeates all instruction.  It makes an effort to conceal itself from parents to avoid complaints and it prompts schools to spend time teaching a social agenda rather than basic skills, and that has affected academic performance. 

And if your kids attend a public or charter school, they are exposed to this every day.  

Let's be Proud but not Prideful

There's no doubt that if your children attend MCA, they are spending their seven hours a day, five days a week in an environment which acknowledges God's existence, glorifies his Son Jesus and depends on his Holy Spirit for leadership and discernment.  That's what sets us apart from publicly supported education and is the distinctive purpose for our existence.  

But you're not sacrificing academic achievement and quality to be here, either.  By all of the measures established in public education for determining the academic progress of students, MCA students demonstrate a level of achievement that is well above the surrounding public and charter schools, and even exceeds most of the religious-based private schools in our part of the city.  Our alumni are easily admitted to the most challenging academic programs and generally distinguish themselves when they get there.  They have a background of Biblical study and training that is not easily swayed.  There's no doubt that they are in a place where their faith will grow, but they are also in a place where their level of achievement will exceed expectations as well.  


Monday, August 31, 2020

Not the Week We Planned, But Still Counting Blessings

On Monday and Tuesday, our students came back excited and happy to be back and school, but their parents appeared to be even more joyous.  We spent multiple hours over the summer planning for what we knew would be a very different and unusual school year, but at least we were here and able to conduct classes face to face. We are weary from trying to navigate through this viral pandemic, wondering what surprises are waiting tomorrow after we've experienced today's trials.  

We did not expect to become involved in contact tracing and E-learning for all students the first week of school.  But like everything else involved with this viral pandemic, we had to initiate procedures for handling a potential contact with a case of COVID-19 the second day of school.  

Our procedures worked well.  We were able to make the announcement and conduct a parent meeting via zoom that evening, got everyone involved tested the next day and had two full days of E-learning as the testing results came back.  The news turned out to be all good, confirming that the procedures we have in place work very well and accomplish their purpose and providing us with answered prayer and assurance that God is, indeed, watching over our campus. 

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses....

There is a perspective that can be placed with all of this.  Last week, many friends of mine who live along the gulf coast in Southeast Texas, where we lived for over 20 years, spent their week boarding up windows and preparing to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Laura, which turned out to be one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the gulf coast in decades.  Though some parts of Texas got lots of wind and rain, Lake Charles, Louisiana was directly hit by this category 4 hurricane.  Schools there will not be opening for some time, maybe not before Christmas in some cases, because the damage was catastrophic.  We need to thank God that our brush with the virus worked out well and turn our attention to praying for and looking for ways to help people in Southwestern Louisiana.  

"Let us therefore draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

This will not be the last time we have to do contact tracing, quarantine or testing of someone in our school community.  Until medical science gets this under control, either through testing and isolation or by coming up with a useable vaccine, there will be other instances where someone must quarantine or get testing and some students may wind up spending time in E-learning as a result. Hopefully, since we have followed guidelines and grouped students into cohorts, it will not require closing the whole school down again.  But we always have the ability to find strength through prayer and we can always take comfort in knowing that God is watching over us, protecting us and knows exactly what we need when we need it.  This is a great time for our students to get an object lesson in the power of prayer.  

Please pray for the people of Southwest Louisiana.  On top of everything else, they now have the aftermath of a hurricane to deal with.  They need to have some mercy and grace directed their way. 




Sunday, August 23, 2020

Insights Into Midwestern Christian Academy's Decision to Open for Classes August 24

 The doors at MCA will open to students on Monday, August 24 for the first time since classes were sent home to do online learning on March 16.  We're still in the middle of a viral pandemic, though in both Chicago and Illinois, the numbers have gone down considerably since the peak last April.  Many considerations were taken into account in our decision-making process to open back up this fall.

Faith in God and Belief in the Power of Prayer  

As a Christian school, we believe in the power of prayer and that God provides both guidance and protection as an answer to prayer, and as information was received from multiple sources for the purpose of making this decision, we depended on that guidance for the ability to discern truth from error when making this decision.  Today, members of Midwest Bible Church came to the school after the Sunday service, praying for all of our staff and our students who will gather there tomorrow, adding the element of God's protection to the discernment already provided.  

 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.  Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16 CSB

As multiple sources of information were provided and considered, decisions were made prayerfully, asking God for discernment to determine facts that would lead to practices which would protect students and staff from infection, allowing us to open the school in complete compliance with state and city health department guidelines and orders.  We've also prayed for God to keep those who come to school each day safe and trust in his power and presence to accomplish his will.  And that, very simply, is why we are opening on August 24. 

Compliance With the Law

In discerning exactly how to open and what procedures are necessary for the protection of our students, we are following the guidelines developed for COVID-19 through medical science, distributed by the Centers for Disease Control, the state and city boards of health and the recommendations of key hospital and medical care entities which provide accurate health data.  

  • All students and staff will wear face protection.
  • All students and staff will practice social distancing everywhere in the building. 
  • Handwashing, hand sanitizing and general health safety practices will be elements of daily instruction until they become routine habits. 
  • The building will be cleaned and disinfected several times each day. 
  • Movement between classrooms by students is limited to only that which is absolutely necessary.  Students are grouped into "cohorts" with group size fitting the footprint of the classroom to which they have been assigned.  
  • Wellness checks at home and at school, including a daily screening and temperature check, will be performed.  Students with suspicious symptoms or a fever will remain at home until a negative test is established or the symptoms have been resolved for more than 24 hours.  
These measures have a well-established track record of preventing the spread of coronavirus and are supported by current, up-to-date medical research.  

Under the current phase of the Illinois emergency act related to the pandemic, schools are permitted to open with these measures in place and with limits on the size of gatherings and class sizes.  MCA is in compliance with all of these measures and is opening in accordance with the conditions of the current phase for our region.  

See Romans 12:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-17 for Biblical principles related to this specific matter.  If we are teaching our students to be obedient to God's word, then so must we be obedient to it.

Considerations in Our Own Unique Situation

While our local public schools, along with many other school systems around the state and the country, have determined that it is safer for them to keep their students in an online learning situation, we have based our decision based on our own school community.  We received the support of an overwhelming number of the members of our school community in a recent survey.  Over 85% of our parents favor re-opening, leading us to offer both a face-to-face classroom experience and E-learning for those who prefer to keep their kids at home for a little bit longer.  

Class sizes in the public schools are too large to effectively "social distance" students in most of their classrooms.  Our class sizes don't overwhelm our facility, and the caps we placed on our numbers allowed us to accommodate our numbers.  Our class size limits now are smaller than they were prior to the pandemic, but the classes we have will fit within the classrooms with the ability to distance safely.  If our classes had been much larger, we may have had to consider a "hybrid" plan to keep from turning away students but at the present time, the balance between students who will be on campus and those who will be E-learning allows us to accommodate everyone who wants to come to school.  

Most Christian schools across the country have similar circumstances.  They can accommodate their students and the familiarity that exists between families and the school allows for much tighter control of circumstances than the public schools may be able to exercise over their students.  There are many advantages to being small, and this is turning out to be one that is significant during a time of need. 

Value Placed on Academic Achievement

MCA places the highest value on our Christian identity and atmosphere, but we also place a high priority on academic achievement.  Our students achieve mastery of academic benchmarks at a much higher percentage than their counterparts in the public school system, even those students in selective enrollment and honor programs or academic charter schools.  E-learning at home served as a stop-gap measure as we figured out how to navigate during a viral pandemic, but it can't replace what happens in one of our classrooms.  Our most recent standardized achievement test results indicate over 90 percent of MCA students meet the expected student outcomes in mathematics, reading and language arts, and an even higher percentage in social studies and science.  That's 40% higher than the top achieving "scholastic" public school in our part of the city and ranks among the top-performing religious-based private schools in our area. 

We have no control over how this virus will spread and whether or not that will affect the operation of our school down the road.   We are praying that the worst is over and that we can remain in school without interruption throughout the school year.  We see this window of opportunity as a gift and we're grateful for it.  

Please Join Us 

We have chosen Philippians 2:4 as our theme verse for this school year.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.  Like many of our fellow Christian schools, the pandemic has had a long term negative effect on our whole ministry.  Contributors were unable to support our scholarship fund to the extent they had done previously.  We have reached out to help as many of our families in need as we can, but we have some families who are now in circumstances that have prevented their return to MCA.  

The best thing you can do for us is to join us in prayer.  This is something we can benefit from each day.  Be patient as we make adjustments and figure things out.  That's a daily struggle.  We have families who can use a hand financially.  Are you blessed?  Think about helping meet someone else's needs.  

During a webinar last spring, after a presentation on E-learning strategies, an education professor from Grand Canyon University, my alma mater, said that this pandemic is giving Christian schools the opportunity to show that this is our finest hour.  It is my hope and prayer that these coming days will be the finest hours of Midwestern Christian Academy.  


Monday, July 20, 2020

Open Letter to the MCA School Community About Re-Opening


July 20, 2020

To our Students, their Parents, our Teachers and Staff Members: 

Under the present Phase 4 re-opening status issued by the State of Illinois, Midwestern Christian Academy is planning to begin classes on campus with the first day of school being scheduled for Monday, August 24, 2020.  After closing out the previous school year with online E-learning, we are anxious to get back together as a school community.  We are grateful for all of the work our teachers and staff did in preparing for and conducting nine weeks of distance learning, but as Christian educators who place a high value on both the spiritual atmosphere of the school environment and on the quality of the academic program, we know there is no substitute for the order and dynamics of classroom learning. 

The security and safety of our staff and students is one of our highest priorities.  The process of developing a plan for re-opening school has taken many hours to develop, has involved the input from multiple sources, requiring discernment to make decisions about re-opening that will keep all of the families of students and staff members safe and healthy. 

Prayer is the Foundation
With information coming from many different sources, the school’s commitment to being a Christian ministry has led to our dependence on prayer during this time of planning and decision making.

Trust in the Lord with your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:7-11 NRSV

 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 NRSV

We trust God to answer our prayers and give us the wisdom and discernment we need as we gather the information we need and make decisions regarding the measures we will take to keep our students, staff members and parents safe during this pandemic.  We believe God answers prayers and encourage every student, parent and staff member to pray for the safety of our campus every day! 

Credible and Reliable Information Sources
During the process of developing plans for the re-opening of school, along with contingency plans to address potential situations which may emerge as this pandemic continues, receiving reliable information from credible sources is an issue of major importance.  Recognizing that this virus brings with it a whole new set of issues, we have determined that our decisions will be based on credible information that is supported by medical research.  Consensus has been reached regarding what is known about the spread of COVID-19 in multiple public and private venues around the world. 

This information is provided to us through various public health agencies including the Federal Centers for Disease Control, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health.  Information affecting decisions we must make regarding how school will re-open this fall is also confirmed for us by individuals within our own school and church communities who are medical professionals and who keep us up to date on any recent development that have been supported by medical research.  

Consultation and Consensus in the Larger Christian School Community
Since we are not a public school, there are many situations and needs that we do not have in common with our local public schools.  Our decisions must be made based on the needs of our students and staff members and reflect what is best for them.  The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is a valuable resource in giving general interpretations and applications of each of the re-opening phases of the state to the schools.  It is up to us to interpret and apply this information to our situation.  

We have much in common with other Christian schools, especially those who minister and serve in other parts of our own city.  Both the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the Chicago Christian Urban Educators (CCUE) Bright Promise Foundation have provided us with valuable resources and information that is much more relevant and applicable to us.  Through these connections, we are in direct contact with other Christian school leaders and are able to share information and insights which have helped us develop a plan for re-opening that will meet our unique needs. 

Christian Community is Necessary for Success
 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,  make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:1-4, NRSV

Putting together a plan to re-open school during a viral pandemic has been physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting.  The responsibility we have for making sure our students are able to learn effectively and grow spiritually is already a daily challenge and the level of responsibility has been greatly increased by the risk, at whatever level it may exist, posed by the uncertainties that still exist surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic. 

But MCA is a ministry of Christ’s church, and it is made up of people who are Christ’s followers.  Our common bond in education is the faith we have placed in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and that is a trust that is powerful enough to bring about spiritual unity that conquers fear and gives us an abundant life.  In most cases, parents have placed their children in this Christian school because that is how they want their education to be seasoned, with the salt and light of God’s grace through faith in Jesus.  It is why our teachers and staff make the sacrifices they do to work in this ministry. 

This is a time which calls for us to come together in a spirit of unity and in the power of the Holy Spirit and be God’s people.  Our school can do this successfully by trusting God.  We have made a written plan which we hope addresses every possible contingency we may face over the next nine months.  But we have a written Bible that addresses the issues we need to overcome to get through these coming days and weeks and give our students what they need to become the people that God is calling them to be.  Let’s step out on faith, trust God and see what he does.

R. Lee Saunders
Principal



Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Time to Pull Together: Spiritual Unity During Difficult Times

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4 

One of the songs that we used to sing at summer Bible camp and in Vacation Bible School was a little chorus called "Down in My Heart."  It started with a verse that repeated the word "joy" four times, so you'd remember it.  The word was embedded in my memory as an outline of the priorities we value as a Christian.  If you have true "joy," that means you put Jesus first, others second and yourself last.  I've always remembered that, and there are multiple places in the Bible which provide corroboration and support for that particular order.

The Holy Spirit is the bond that draws Christians together.  We are in a spiritual family relationship, brothers and sisters in Christ.  In the Baptist church where I grew up, adults would often address each other that way, as "Brother Jim" led the music in worship and "Sister Johnnie" played the piano.  In sixth grade, I had to get used to hearing my homeroom teacher called "Sister Jeannie" at church, because at school, to me, she was "Mrs. Mangum."  The church is a unique spiritual community that brings believers in Christ together in a community that has a shared vision, mission and purpose.  And at Midwestern Christian Academy, where parents have enrolled their children because they share a common vision, mission and purpose for their education, the Holy Spirit brings us together in community that is united by a bond of faith in Jesus as our savior.

Events of this past spring have had a major impact on the operation of our school. Our classroom instruction was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of schools in Chicago on March 16.  At MCA, our administration and staff invested in some quick adapting and planning to continue with whatever means was left to us, mainly electronic communication via the internet.  Our staff put in the extra work that was necessary to provide our students with up to 3 hours a day of live, on-line instruction and additional guided practice helping students meet the expected benchmarks in their core subjects.

Our parents have provided us with both encouragement and feedback from this experience.  We are equipped, if it becomes necessary at some point down the road, to return to a distance learning experience that will be much more organized and polished than what we offered this past spring.  We listened, learned, observed, compared, analyzed and concluded.

We have also prepared our campus and adjusted our schedule and our way of doing things to make it possible for our students to return to school on August 24 to an environment that is academically excellent, spiritually unified and encouraging and physically safe and healthy.  We have had to change our way of doing some things to make this possible.  But our staff desires to lead the way in setting an example of humility, willing to sacrifice personal comfort and preference so that our students can return.  There is no substitute for students gathering together and learning in a classroom environment.  

This is one of those moments when our whole school community needs to "pull together" and be unified in the Spirit so that this works for everyone.  Some routines will be changed, some classes will be different and there will be changes.  Teachers and staff are willing to do what is necessary to make this work.  We are asking our parents to do the same, to seek out a spirit of unity through prayer and be willing to do what will be asked of them and to pitch in and help out when they see a need.

This isn't going to be easy.  But in all of our planning and preparation, above everything else, we place our trust and hope in God.  This isn't a surprise to him.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has in every respect been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV

So let's ring the bell, open the doors and get the school year started.  Here are some ways you can help us out.
  • Join us in approaching His throne of grace on our behalf, asking for mercy and grace to help in our time of need.  
  • We have given hours of prayerful and careful consideration to our planning for the re-opening of school.  Please read the information you are provided and take on a cooperative spirit of unity as you prepare and send your child to school each day.  Please be patient, especially during the first several days of school as students and teachers adjust to new routines which may slow things down and take some adjusting time.  
  • School may look quite different in the fall than it has in the past.  Be prepared and willing to accept changes even though they may not be your preference.  The decisions we must make are to provide for the safety of all of our students. 
  • We have some families for whom the stay-at-home orders last spring have put in a bind.  Can you share some of what God has given you with them so that their children don't have to leave their school as a result of something over which they had no control? 
  • If you have the ability to volunteer and help out, please speak up and let us know. 
  • Information that we receive comes from reliable, medically sound, scientific research-driven sources.  We consider this information prayerfully when making decisions that involve the safety and security of our students and staff.






Thursday, July 2, 2020

God Does Have a Plan for Your Child's Life (Part 1)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28, NRSV

Several years ago, while serving at another school, we had the fortunate circumstance of seeing the enrollment of a class moving from fifth to sixth grade increase to the point where we needed two homerooms and two teachers.  Sixth grade was a busy year that included a year-long history class project and it was also the year that students tested for math aptitude for placement in Pre-Algebra in seventh grade.  So getting the class size a little smaller was important.

Finding a teacher who would be willing to work for the salary we paid was always the first consideration whenever there was a staff opening.  Sixth grade in this particular school was still a self-contained classroom, meaning the homeroom teacher would provide instruction in the core subject areas including Bible, math, science, social studies, reading and English/Language Arts.  The other consideration that always pops up when there is more than one class on a grade level in a Christian school is whether or not parents will be allowed to choose their child's teacher.

God is always faithful when it comes to providing teachers who are committed to their job and willing to work for a salary that is, in most Christian schools, not a lot more than minimum wage when you consider all the work that must be done.  In this case, he provided a teacher who had been a former high school student of mine when I was teaching at a Christian school in another state.   Brought to our area by her husband's job at a time when the public schools in the area were consolidating campuses and laying off veteran teachers, I became aware of her presence and her interest through what appeared to be a random social media post, but which was, of course, the way God chose to answer prayer.  It was a blessing to hire someone I knew, who was trained, fully qualified, had attended Christian school since Kindergarten and was working on a degree as a math specialist.

The sixth grade was blessed that year.  The other teacher was a veteran who was getting ready to retire at the end of the year.  At some point, she'd taught every grade level in the school over the more than 20 years she had served there.  Her specialty was reading and language arts.  She was also very familiar with the history class project for the year.  Both classes would have excellent preparation as they crossed the bridge to the middle school.  At least, that's the way I saw it.  But of course, controversy comes along when you least expect it.  Fortunately, God is able to provide his wisdom and direction when it is needed.

Though the school had a policy which stated parents were not permitted to request a specific child for their teacher when there was a choice, this particular class had never been split prior to sixth grade.  And of course there were parents who felt that if they were paying for it, they should get their preference.  Both teachers, along with the fifth grade teacher, were included in the process to assign the students to the two homerooms based on what we felt would be a good arrangement from a social and academic perspective.

In a Christian school, which is a discipleship ministry, I believe that each teacher who crosses the pathway of each child has been placed in that position because their approach to teaching, their commitment to their students and all of the things that make them who they are will contribute exactly what that child needs to grow and develop and help them get to the point where they know and accept God's purpose for their lives. Decisions like this should be made with prayerful discernment, considering professional observation from an objective perspective by those who will be held accountable for resolving problems and solving difficulties.

I certainly hope that the day will come at MCA when we have a few classes that require being split into more than one homeroom on a grade level.  But even now, as students move from one grade to another, knowing in advance who their teacher will be, I believe that their pathway through their education is being guided by the Holy Spirit, who is giving each child the teacher who has the ability, personality, set of spiritual gifts and academic skills to teach "the whole child."

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.  Romans 8:29-30, NRSV

That's what follows the scripture that I cited at the beginning.  God knows your child intimately.  He is their creator.  He has brought you and your family to this school for a reason in exactly the same way he brought a former student of mine to a previous school for a reason. God does indeed have a plan for their life.  God's Holy Spirit has led you here where their paths will cross with a succession of teachers who have also been predestined, chosen, called and justified by Christ's sacrifice who will, in their own unique way, give that of themselves that will meet the needs of each student who crosses their path.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Teaching Students to Have the Mind of Christ

This is always our basic educational philosophy in a Christian school.  It will be the theme for our 2020-21 school term.  

However, in the presence of mature believers, we do impart true wisdom—not the phony wisdom typical of this rebellious age or of the hostile powers who rule this age. Despite what you may think, these ruling spirits are losing their grip on this world.  But we do impart God’s mysterious and hidden wisdom. Before the ages began, God graciously decided to use His wisdom for our glory.  This wisdom has not been grasped by the ruling powers of this age; if they had understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. But as the Scriptures say, 
"No eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard and it has never occurred to the human heart all the things God prepared for those who love Him."
God has shown us these profound and startling realities through His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep mysteries of God. Who can see into a man’s heart and know his thoughts? Only the spirit that dwells within the man. In the same way, the thoughts of God are known only by His Spirit. You must know that we have not received the spirit of this rebellious and broken world but the Spirit that comes from God, so that we may experience and comprehend the gifts that come from God. We do not speak of these gifts of God in words shaped by human wisdom; we speak in words crafted by the Spirit because our collective judgment on spiritual matters is accessible to those who have the Spirit. But a person who denies spiritual realities will not accept the things that come through the Spirit of God; they all sound like foolishness to him. He is incapable of grasping them because they are disseminated, discerned, and valued by the Spirit. A person who walks by the Spirit examines everything, sizing it up and seeking out truth. But no one is able to examine or size up that kind of spiritual person, for the Scripture asks, “Does anyone know the mind of the Lord well enough to become His advisor? ”But we do possess the mind of the Anointed One. I Corinthians 2:6-16 The Voice
This is one of those passages of scripture where it seems that the author was looking directly at the world we live in now, and writing to it specifically.  In the sense that God was inspiring the author to write, he was speaking to us with relevance and meaning.  Human intellect has never been powerful enough to overcome the problem which is at the base of all of humanity's problems, and that is sin.  Only God can do that, making these words as relevant for Christians today as they were for the Corinthian church to whom they were written.  When the church relies on the Holy Spirit, God reveals his will.  That's the difference between our definition of "education" and the world's definition of it.  
Developing a Distinctively Christian Worldview
When you send your children to a Christian school, one of the goals that set us apart from other forms of education comes directly out of this passage of scripture.  We frequently reference the phrase, "helping children develop a distinctively Christian worldview."  Many of the elements of that objective are found in this one passage of scripture.  The "world," meaning the philosophical foundations which drive our society and culture, sees the lifestyle that is produced by submission to the principles and values of the creator God we worship because we believe that what he wants to give to us is better than what we can come up with on our own.  
The prevailing philosophy in the western, American culture in which we live is a humanistic view that acknowledges the human intellect as the highest form of intelligence in the universe.  And according to that belief, education is the key to resolving all of the problems of humanity.  So the public education system that we have in this country has as one of its goals the salvation of humankind through education.  That's been the predominant view for at least a century now, yet education has clearly neither solved any of the more prevalent problems in our society nor can it point to any real progress in doing so.  Whatever progress we might have thought we've made has paled when placed against the dramatic backdrop of events which have occurred since mid-March.  It has become quite clear that human intellect has failed, and that only God has the power through his spirit to resolve these problems. 
The priority for our little Christian school, one of the few still remaining in the heart of this huge city, is to train our students to listen to God, be redeemed by the blood of Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  "Blessed are the Peacemakers," said Jesus as he enumerated a set of core values that become part of the character of spirit-filled people, "for they shall be called sons of God."
There is Value in Academic Achievement
Many people, even parents who have enrolled their children in a Christian school, tend to look past the academic achievement of the students.  We do not believe that human intellect alone is capable of resolving human problems like poverty and racism.  But that doesn't mean we don't place appropriate value on the quality of an education.  The more we learn, the better capable we are of understanding who God is and who we are.  Who knows us better than God, who created us?  Education is one of the main functions of the church, a process through which God's wisdom is revealed to us in a systematic, orderly way.  It provides us with the means to interpret the revealed wisdom and knowledge of God in a way that puts us in a position to be salt and light.  
A person who walks by the Spirit examines everything, sizing it up and seeking out truth. So in our Christian school, we challenge our students to achieve the highest academic goals possible at their age and to work to do their best as "unto the Lord."  Look, compare and see how our students perform when it comes to measuring what they have learned and the ability they have gained to practically apply it.  The world needs people who understand how to take the wisdom and knowledge given to us by God in his written word and not be afraid to exercise the kind of leadership that, more than any human effort, brings the very Spirit of the living God right into the middle of the problem.  
An Environment Where the Truths of Scripture are Models on Display
Your local public school is a microcosm of the community from which the students come.  What that means is that within the walls of a building where a student spends from seven to nine hours a day depending on how involved in extra-curricular activities they are, children from as young as 4 in some cases, 5 in most, up to 18 are exposed to whatever comes through the door with the rest of the student body.  Most of what they encounter will be something for which they have not been prepared at home.  And in many cases, if they come from a home environment that doesn't conform to the influences of the social norm, they will be ridiculed, tormented and made the victims of someone's derision or insecurity.  
That philosophy that I mentioned earlier, the one that dominates our culture, including its educational institutions, seeks to make converts.  When you think "school," the content that comes to your mind is learning how to calculate math problems, learning to read words, phrases and sentences, learning how to spell and communicate in written form, learning about George Washington's presidency and the impact of World War 2 on America, and making calculations in order to get a chemical reaction from a drop of sodium in a beaker of water.  But that's only part of it. 
For seven hours a day, part of what your child will also be taught, in an authoritative manner designed to mold and shape their "worldview" will include acceptance of moral principles which are based on human reason, leaving out any acknowledgement or mention of God, or the Bible.  They will be taught a subjective view of right and wrong, values based on personal experience and feeling which, for the most part, reject Christian principles and deny the existence of God or claim that the idea of an all-powerful creator is a product of human reason without scientific explanation.  
"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy because I am holy."  I Peter 1:13-16 ESV
We're certainly not perfect, and when kids get together, because they lack maturity and haven't learned quite yet how to treat others, it is up to us to model and teach that to them.  A Christian school is a place where parents can send their students and expect that their intellectual ability will be challenged, their spiritual life will be discipled and fed, and they will be in a social atmosphere that sees each one of them as a special creation of God, loved by him equally and treated by us as equals.  They should be able to come together here, learn how to get along with their peers despite differences, feel safe and loved, understand that they will receive discipline to correct what's wrong and praise to reinforce what's right.  The school's staff needs to be color blind, but also able to discern and understand that most kids have already developed sensitivity to racial and ethnic differences and a sense of security and acceptance needs to be present.  
A Christian School is Worth the Sacrifice
There are several generations of Christian school graduates out there working and changing the world around them.  There are no guarantees and of course, not every student responds or appreciates everything they are given when it comes to Christian school.  But most certainly do.  Christian character development is certainly easier when your church ministers to your family to help you with it and the same thing happens in a Christian school, especially since your children will spend far more time in school than they will spend anywhere else outside your home while they are growing up.  
Midwestern Christian Academy has been here for over 60 years, and we have generations of students who have left here with the character and the tools they need to make a difference for Christ in the world.  We have graduates making a difference as policemen on the streets of Chicago, lawyers in the courtrooms, business owners who serve their customers with integrity and homemakers who are raising their children to understand what it means to be a peacemaker and believe in God.