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.