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How to best partner with churches has been a true conundrum for CSI Christian schools in recent years.
Cultural changes and shifts in church membership, coupled with students coming from a broadening number and variety of churches, have left schools confused about how to keep the home – school – church triangle intact, or even functioning at all. At the 2007 CSI membership convention we attempted to highlight the issue and make some progress on the issue of our common connection – the faith development of the students we share. If you are interested you can go back to earlier blog posts: here is the original post about the work, the report on the work we did at the convention, how it could be used with churches, and a subsequent post about how some schools attempted to follow up. One of the common difficulties in our larger (and even mid-size!) schools is that there are often over 100 churches represented in the student body. How can a school effectively connect with all of them, let alone do any planning together?
In the light of this persistent challenge, it was my pleasure last week to chat with Len Stob, superintendent, and Ben Dykhouse, Director of Christian Leadership, at Ontario (CA) Christian and to hear about their mentoring/discipleship program.
I will let Ben explain:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, writes that “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” In Growing True Disciples, George Barna gauges the responses of students involved in mentoring relationships. 30% of the students reported the experience as “life changing,” 60% said it was “really helpful,” 10% thought it was of “some value,” while less than 1% decided that it was “not helpful” (pg. 51). At Ontario Christian, we believe discipleship is a primary goal of the church, home and school. Thus, Ontario Christian is offering a Discipleship Program for students that will partner church, home and school to foster these characteristics of a disciple. Ontario Christian’s aim for this program is to give students another opportunity to grow in discipleship. So, what is Christian discipleship? Christian discipleship is acknowledging Christ’s Lordship and following him in all areas of life. Specifically, a true disciple will experience transformation in his/her relationships with friends, coworkers, family, and fellow church members. A true disciple will also embody a distinctively Christ‐ like lifestyle. Another characteristic of a Christian disciple is involvement with Christ’s church. Finally, a disciple has the desire to bring reconciliation, justice, and righteousness to his/her immediate community and to the world at large. One part of this program will be a mentoring relationship. Each student in the program will be paired with a mature Christian who attends the same church and is of the same gender. This mentor must be approved by the student’s parents, and she/he must meet certain requirements (see info via wiki link below.) This relationship will give the student the opportunity to experience spiritual growth in Christian community, dialogue with a mature Christian, and establish roots in her/his church that will last beyond high school. We strongly believe that whole‐life Christian discipleship does not happen without fellowship among other Christians. In other words, it does not happen primarily in personal devotions. This mentoring relationship is outlined in great detail see sections II‐IX on the wiki (see the link below.)
A second component to this Discipleship Program is partnering with the student’s home. With the goal of discipleship in mind, families of students in this program commit to eat a meal together at least three times per week. The family will also commit to have family devotions at least three times per week. Again, this is to emphasize God’s call to families to disciple their children and to put the arena of discipleship in the context of community. Materials for family devotions will be provided as a resource. However, families will not be bound to using these for their devotional time. Parents will also attend two meetings while their student is involved in the Discipleship Program.
Beyond discipleship growth and the forming of cross-generational bonds, Ontario Christian sees a “return” on the kind of positive campus culture that these sophomore and junior student leaders are able to assist in building. They are processing this work with their own staff at the end of each semester and are also hosting a symposium for youth pastors. They report that, due to the mentoring, students get more rooted in their own churches as well. It seems like a very exciting program that has strong promise to not only develop student leaders, but to strengthen church, school, and family ties.
If you are interested in knowing more details about this program you can contact Ben Dykhouse, Bible Teacher and Director of Christian Leadership at Ontario Christian High School. His phone number is 909.984.1756 ext. 39 and his email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. To see more details about the program including mentor qualities, tips for effective mentoring, qualities of an effective student disciple, contracts for mentors, students, and families, and discussion starter questions, please visit the DC (Distinctively Christian) Tools for Schools wiki.
I share this post with you for two purposes – for the content that can help us better discuss a Biblical perspective with students and a new piece of technology that pretty easily be used by you or others at your school. You may be more familiar with the content my friend Michael Essenburg is talking about than the web tool he has used to produce it. The tool is Screencast and there are similar tools such as Screenr and ScreenToaster that allow you to do the same thing. Check out this video and the tools – you may find both helpful in your setting.
I believe that teachers in Christian schools have one of the best and most powerful jobs in the world. I share three stories of gratitude with you, dear reader.
- Being a connector can be satisfying work! This past week I got into a conversation with a friend, a retired educator who has been in several positions of responsibility for leading Christian institutions. He wondered if I knew a former teacher of his, and I replied, “Know him! He attends my church.” My friend talked about how this teacher had impacted him in his high school days for good and sent along greetings to him. Now I don’t go to a large church, and so it just happened that I saw this former teacher in church. When I passed along the greetings I saw his mind churning through the grade books of former classes and he was not only able to identify my friend, but reminisced about others in the class and how much he grew as a professional and teacher in that school community. He left with a big smile on his face, having had his memories pleasantly stirred and realizing that his work had not been in vain, but instead had a significant impact on a life.
- A month ago I was with another friend and he told me a remarkable story. He was a bit of a rebellious youth (his own words!), and he wondered at the time if he mattered to anyone in his community. He was having a hard time finding his place or knowing how to get on with his life, and was wasting time in the meantime. His pastor asked him to ride along with him to a distant city and on the ride talked with him about his life and his aspirations. When they arrived at the city and the destination that the pastor needed, he turned over the keys to his car and encouraged my friend to drive on to another city and meet with admissions people at a college. Now I am not sure many of us would turn over our car keys to one of our rebellious youth and tell them to drive to another city to look at a college! Yet this pastor saw something in my friend, or was listening to the leading of the Spirit that inclined him to take a risk on him and trust him. Of course, as they say, the rest is history – my friend began an educational journey that continues to this day – because someone believed in him.
- A freshman at a small high school failed to pass the tryout for choir. This was a crushing blow as music was very important in his family. The next year the student fearfully tried out for choir again and not only made the choir, but the director seemed to see something in him. He suggested voice lessons and then after a few months, suggested that he would be singing the traditional senior Christmas solo. The director continued to build the confidence of the student, helping him with other opportunities for performance and encouraging him to try for, and obtain a scholarship to summer music camp, which was a life-changing experience for this student from a small, rural farming community. The performances that the student did helped him to get used to being up in front of people and were most helpful for a later speaking career. After college and many years went by, the student re-connected with his mentor and expressed his gratitude. I am that student and am grateful to God that I was given that opportunity to properly express to him (before he died an early death) what his belief and support of me meant and how it changed my life.
Who is in front of you that needs you to believe in them? Have you thanked the teachers and pastors in your life for what they poured into you?