Monday, September 7, 2015

Why Mission Matters...

Note: The following article is a line-by-line discussion of the mission statement of Calvary Christian Schools. It was first published in two installments on the cover of the final two school newsletters of the 2014-2015 school year.

When we say something was done on purpose, we mean it was not an accident, not a random sequence of mishaps, not an afterthought.  It was planned. It was intentional. This can be said of creation itself, and it can be said of the institutions in place that help us carry out God’s plan in this world.
The following is an abridged version of the CCS Mission Statement you see in all of our documents. It is abridged because we have recently been encouraged to trim the 37 words down to 18 words. This example is 6 lines with 3 words in each line to help us remember them. The first part of this article covers the first three lines:
Partnering with parents
to equip students
toward personal excellence
and the pursuit
of God’s purpose
for their lives.
Line one: "Partnering with parents…" This joint venture is based on the assumption that the responsibility of “training up a child in the way he/she should go” (Proverbs 22:6) falls first and foremost to the home. The Christian home should not fully delegate this parental responsibility to any institution, public or private, but it can choose to partner with educators who humbly serve “in loco parentis.” This Latin term literally means “in place of parents,” but it does not mean “instead of parents.” It more accurately implies “from the place where parents stand.” In other words, does it not make common sense to choose training partners who stand on common ground?
The staff at CCS strives to reflect parental care as they come along side to help instruct, direct, discipline (discipleship), and love their students. This being true, the “product” of the Christian school is not the student that the home sends to the setting, but more rightly the setting and service that the school provides to the home.

The average student spends over 15,000 hours under the influence and supervision of school teachers during his/her K-12 education. Imagine the educational advantage of having a like-minded partnership between the school and home. Imagine a school setting that purposefully integrates learning with life, science with conscience, facts with faith, theory with wonder, and wonder with belief.
Being like-minded is not being “close-minded” to differing perspectives—it is agreement on essential truths. It is as inclusive as God’s Kingdom but as limited as His narrow way. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Like-mindedness is best achieved through unity in essential matters, liberty in deferential matters and charity in all matters.
Line two:to equip students...” The word equip comes from the Old French esquiper which means “to fit out or outfit for a voyage.” The Scandinavian variant, skipa, means “to put in order and man a ship.” The term “skipper” comes from this word.  The word equip strongly implies that a journey is ahead, one that requires forethought, outfitting, training, direction, and leadership. For this reason, CCS often describes our program as “life prep” rather than “college prep.” The objectives of Christian education extend far beyond college (though college is the next step for 85+% of our students.)

Line three: “Toward personal excellence” is the process of striving for one’s "personal best” in the formative endeavors of life. Scripture teaches that we are not equally talented in all areas and that we must work together to truly excel.  Becoming a leader is simply helping others strive toward personal excellence on the right path.  Effective leaders are people whose character, knowledge, and judgment command respect. They often lead not by taking charge but by being an example.  Striving toward personal excellence in community is a more worthy goal than trying to “be the best.” Thinking one must be “the best” will lead to either defeatism or elitism. God calls us to neither extreme. Our Heavenly Father asks only that we seek His help to do our best with the gifts and the circumstances He grants us.

Pressing toward personal excellence implies that God’s calling is a pursuit not a place, a journey not a destination. These thoughts are continued in the final three lines of the mission statement, which we will discuss in the next newsletter. 

Part Two of the Mission Statement Article was in the Summer 2015 Newsletter. It covers the final three lines:

Partnering with parents
to equip students
toward personal excellence
in the pursuit
of God’s purpose
for their lives.

Let’s  resume our discussion at the fourth line: in the pursuit…”
 “The pursuit of” are words etched in history and our minds because of their use in Thomas Jefferson's “Declaration of Independence.”

These familiar words are part of what Jefferson called “self-evident truths”: “That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…. 
In the Calvary mission statement, however, we add an understanding of happiness that transcends the feeling produced by favorable happenings and leads to the more enduring state of joy.
The difference between happiness and joy is similar to the difference between the word hopes (with an s) and hope (without the s). It is fine to have hopes, dreams, goals, etc. in life, but it is more important to have hope (singular) as Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” This thought rings out in an old hymn:
My hope is in the Lord 
Who gave Him-self for me
And paid the price 
Of all my sin at Calvary”.
And so it is our goal to make sure CCS students understand that both passing happiness and lasting joy will come not from pursuing happiness as an end in itself but rather from pursuing God’s purpose for their lives.
Some may wonder if this part of our mission sounds educational enough for a school. After all, shouldn’t a school’s primary pursuit be high academic achievement?  Please understand, that these are not mutually exclusive goals. Calvary does pursue academic excellence. Our students do shine on standardized test, in the community, and in the college placement process.
For instance, there is no other school that comes close to producing the number of Law Day speech contest winners that CCS has through the years. This contest is open to all schools in Muskegon county; it is hosted by the Muskegon Bar Association; and for over ten years, CCS has had won well over a dozen top winners in this highly competitive public speaking forum.
Come to any CCS commencement program and you’ll see first-hand the countless academic achievements our students earn from various institutions beyond our walls
But good grades, high honors, and a fine education are not ends in themselves. They are bi-products of the equipping process (see second line of mission statement). Knowledge and skill sets are tools meant to be used. Used for what task?
 For what purpose are we equipping students? 
God’s purpose for their lives. That purpose is not a point on a calendar or a map or an org-chart. That purpose is an unfolding plan that students cannot fully understand at age 18… or age 38… or age 58 because God is never finished equipping us for his service.
Knowing God’s purpose on a daily basis involves striving to love God and our neighbor (as Christ summarized Mark 12:30-31). Keeping the vertical relationship (with God) and the horizontal relationships (with man) in order is part of God’s plan for believers.
Career choices, college plans, life partners, etc. are part of the unfolding pursuit--not of happiness as Jefferson said--but of the joy, contentment, and happiness that comes from seeking and fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. God has a plan for each of us. Our calling is to press on in His name.
Each summer we celebrate the 4th of July, the birthday of the document mentioned above. Last May, CCS graduated its Class of 2015. It was a blessing to hear the students share their hopes and plans, but it was even more rewarding to hear them speak of their hope (without the “s”), their hope in the Lord, their desire to pursue His will.
It is understanding the difference between happiness and joy, hopes and hope, that will see our students through the highs and lows of the long, rewarding journey shared by all who follow Christ.                                  
 Tom Kapanka
CCS  Administrator

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