Sunday, March 14, 2021

Demolishing Strongholds

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV

It's that time of year when parents of MCA students give consideration to another year of Christian school.  Having been in Christian school education for a long time, I know that for many families, most in fact, there are always circumstances that must be taken into consideration before a commitment is made.  Sometimes, there are situations beyond our control that will have an impact on the ability of a family to send their children back to their Christian school.  

"Be sober minded, be 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 5:8-9 ESV

We have an adversary and it doesn't suit his purposes to have children gathered together every day under the instruction and care of Christians who are engaged in a discipleship ministry aimed at making more disciples and preparing them to become disciple-makers.  There are already obstacles around which we have to navigate in order to provide a Christian school which supports and undergirds the work of Christ's kingdom and around which parents must also navigate to provide it for their kids.  We need to be aware of the adversary's work from the inside, as the scripture says, demolishing arguments that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  

MCA isn't perfect, but neither is any other educational institution.  Our commitment is to do our best with what God has given us to give to our students so that they develop into mature followers of Christ who make a difference in the lives of everyone around them.  And as the scripture says, we do not fight with the weapons of the world.  We are taking something that the world is using to have influence and bring about social change according to its own human intellect and thinking, and using it to make disciples who will change the world by pointing it to God through faith in Christ.  And we hope that we have helped give them enough spiritual "weapons" to fight the battles they will face and overcome them by faith.  That's the main reason we exist.

That isn't all we do.  Like almost all of our fellow Evangelical Christian schools around the world, students at MCA also get a solid academic foundation, measurably more successful from an academic perspective than the education that the "world" provides.  Academics are important.  Though educational philosophy varies from school to school, Christian schools are successful because they link Biblical truth and Christian educational philosophy to the way they approach instruction and learning. When our academic progress is measured by the same standards used by most of American public education, MCA students show scores which place more than 90% of them in the top two academic quartiles, with average percentile ranks falling right at the dividing line between the first and second quartile.  

There are reasons for this, inherent in our basic educational philosophy.  I'll share a few: 

  • During a seven-hour school day, between 5 1/2 and 6 hours is spent on instruction in core subjects.  We replace the time that public schools spend on "social" education with our Biblical studies classes and corporate worship in chapel. The rest of the time is spent in core subject instruction supplemented with classes that promote cognitive development like music, art and physical education.  Add that up and it's over 1,000 hours in a school year, compared to an average of 880 hours in most schools in Illinois.   
  • We emphasize development of basic skills in reading, language arts and mathematics in the lower grades, actually starting in Pre-K3.  We use research-based methods that have proven records of success. We teach things like phonics, grammar, math facts and writing.  
  • We pray in class.  Our staff prays for the success of their students.  
  • The primary qualification for our teachers is that they have the spiritual gift of teaching.  But all of them have a degree, certification and are keeping up with re-certification requirements.  And they have all had training in Christian school educational philosophy  
  • We will work as hard as we can and do as much as we can to add some extras for students to expand their interests, including more extra-curricular activities and some in-school enrichment. 
There are some questions and comments that are pretty common at registration time and for most of these, my response to parents is to simply consider the potential influence of the alternative, and decide if you think it is worth it. 

I'm concerned that there is only one other (boy or girl) in my child's classroom and the opportunity to make friends may be limited.  

That's not as uncommon as you may think.  But limited options in this regard might be a blessing in the long run. We have done things like combine the girls or boys from smaller classes with the same gender for PE or elective courses.  In a small school sometimes it happens but it can just as often be a good thing.  

There's only one class on each grade level, so I can't pick my child's teacher. 

Even when there are multiple choices, not all schools let parents choose.  And the fact of the matter is that no two teachers are alike, teach alike, or manage students alike and through as many as 14 years of elementary, middle and high school, your child is going to have many different teachers with many different teaching styles and methods of classroom management.  You'll love one or two, like about half the rest and not really care for everyone else.  That's OK.  Handle it in a Christlike manner and you'll find that it was not as bad as you thought it was going to be.  The bottom line is the expected outcome for your child.  And know this.  Your child is still in a Christian school and your child's teacher will love them, care about their experience and do their best to produce the expected outcome.  

My son wants to play football and the Christian school is too small to have a team. 

Some Christian schools do have football, and offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities.  Along with that, you must consider that these options are not included in tuition and parents must bear the cost of their child's participation which can be high.  It is a trade-off.  At MCA, as we look at post-pandemic planning, our goal for extra-curricular activity is to provide wholesome activities which help students build relationships and through which we can show students how to practically apply their faith.   

It costs a lot for me to send my child to a Christian school and it's a sacrifice. 

One of the enemy "strongholds" is the fact that tax dollars go to support the public education system and other than charter schools, which operate under the same secular philosophy of education, the public schools monopolize tax dollars.  Parents have a "choice" in theory, but they can't use their own tax dollars toward education to make the choice.  Those who now hold the stronghold have made it virtually impossible for most families to choose an educational alternative other than the public system.  

But the sacrifice is mutual.  Our teachers, knowing that this involves sacrifice, are willing to accept a salary that is well below what their public school counterparts make in order to keep the cost low.  Your tuition bill would increase more than $2,000 a year per student if we paid our teachers the lowest annual salary offered to a Chicago Public School teacher.  And our teachers have to meet higher qualifications.  Midwest Bible Church provides the facilities and support and also contributes from its church budget. That's worth another $1,500 a year to our families.  We believe in what we are doing and are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.  It's a partnership and we ask you to join us.  

There aren't many alternatives.  Home schooling is one, but not very many people in our society are either equipped for it or can do it because of the time demands.  Charter schools may be mission driven, but they are still public schools and in some cases are even more aligned toward using schools to bring about social change as the public school system.  On-line education, which does not offer the academic quality, is still public school if it is publicly funded and there is not a high level of accountability.  Private on-line education charges about the same amount of tuition and fees as we do.  

Christian schools are one of the weapons we have "to demolish strongholds."  We have them because parents like you choose to send your children to us.  Our responsibility is to do as well as we can in order to earn your trust and have you bring them back.  Your responsibility is to take what God has given you, listen to his voice and support us.