At WCCS, it is our hope for our students to not only receive an excellent education, but to discover the God-given talents the Lord has given to each one of them, and in discovering those gifts, to use them to impact the world around them. When we connect classroom learning with service outside of the school walls, we give “hands and feet” to the concepts they are learning.
Service learning is incorporated into curriculum at both the upper and lower school. Just next week, our 4th graders will participate in our annual Box City project. Like most people, the students are accustomed to eating at restaurants and enjoying traditional Thanksgiving dinners to celebrate the holiday. However, on this day, the fourth graders will each bring in a large box and one blanket as well as a rain poncho or garbage bag in case of bad weather. The box is intended to be the student’s “home” and to give them the experience of celebrating the holidays as a less fortunate or homeless person might. Teachers and their students will discuss what they have learned, pray for the homeless and less fortunate, and write about their thoughts in an essay. On Tuesday, they will travel to a soup kitchen, where they will serve lunch to locals. This is just one great example of service learning at our lower school!
So far this year, we have had upper school students serving at the Salvation Army, the Children’s Attention Home, the Adult Enrichment Center, and Pilgrim’s Inn. Art students have done numerous service projects this year including completing art pieces for a local adoption agency and first responders as well as serving at a local church fall festival! Our Beta Club and National Honor Society have several service projects lined up for the remainder of the school year as well.
As parents, we know that you share this desire with us and long for your children to want to be a part of God’s work. It’s never too early or too late to begin cultivating the trait of servanthood in your child.
For this week’s blog, we have invited Nick Turner, Westminster Presbyterian Church Pastor of Families and Children, to share some practical ways in which you, as parents, might instill a sense of genuine servanthood into the hearts of your children.
“How do we teach our children to serve?” Good question, especially in a world that has us staying so busy. As a parent myself, I realize this firsthand. However, the impact that your influence has on your children is invaluable. There is no better way to spend time with your family than to volunteer together and not just during the holiday season, but year-round. Here are a few thoughts…
How Do We Teach Our Children to Serve?
Acknowledge your own struggle. Jesus redefined greatness as serving others in love (Mark 10:35-45). Serving is difficult. Serving with the right motivation even more so. On this side of eternity, our best service is imperfect. We must own our failure to serve, repent, and receive grace from the One who served us.
Model service for your child. While preaching on God’s design for family discipleship in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Matt Chandler said, “God’s design is so thorough, so good, that you are making disciples. The question is…What are you discipling them in?” Our children will learn to serve by watching us serve.
Keep it Simple. Teaching our children to serve does not require going on a mission trip or creating a fancy service project (though nothing is wrong with both). Simply evaluate where you are currently serving the Lord and bring your child along with you. For example, if you are delivering a meal to someone in your church have your child by your side.
Talk About It. Tell them along the way what you are doing and why you are doing it. Ask questions afterwards like, “How did it feel to serve that person?” or “What other ideas do you have to help others?” or “How do you feel when someone helps you?”
As you talk with your child, remind them that we do not serve Jesus to earn His love. Our service is a response to His love. In love, He laid down His life for us. We serve because He served us. PS – lay down the smartphone…no pictures or video. We are teaching our children that we serve for His glory alone, not for “likes” on an Instagram page.
Looking for ways you and your family might serve others in the Rock Hill community? Check out this comprehensive guide to serving in Rock Hill.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
In the next few days, our WCCS friends and family will be receiving letters from the school asking for support to the Annual Fund. In advance of this, we wanted to share a personal testimonial from former Westminster principal, former parent, current grandparent, and current board member, Kristen Rhyne. Whether it is giving to the WCCS Annual Fund or another worthy cause, we hope you will consider how generous God might be prompting you to be with the resources he has given you!
Money…Is there ever enough? If we are honest, all of us struggle from time to time with this question. When our finances are stretched, we ask ourselves “What is really important?” That question is the starting point of any financial planning, so it is one all of us continually ask and answer.
There is a familiar verse I love that I often use when I speak to families, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Your decision to enroll your children at WCCS is evidence that Christian education is important to you. Because of the significant financial investment, you thought about and prayed about that decision long and hard before you made it.
In 1978, 40 years ago, we enrolled our son in the first four-year-old program at Westminster Christian School. This year, my oldest granddaughter will graduate from WCCS after 15 years of Christian education at WCCS. Over time, children in our family have been enrolled for 61 school years! I bet you are wondering WHY anyone would make that type of commitment over such a long period of time. It must be REALLY IMPORTANT!
Parenting is not easy, and we can not do it alone. As a new believer, I understood the responsibility of teaching my children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tell us: “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to yours sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” God tells us to teach our children His way all the time. Our time to accomplish this with them is short…and precious.
"God tells us to teach our children His way all the time. Our time to accomplish this with them is short…and precious. "
God has entrusted these precious ones to us to raise for Him for His purposes. The home, the school, and the church are three important legs of the stool that work together to teach the child what he needs to know to become all that God gifted him to be. As the home, the school, and the church fulfill their vital roles, day in and day out, for the long term, they shape the child to fulfill the role God planned for him to play in His extraordinary story.
With that in mind, we can surely agree that Christian education is an important investment, one that pays eternal dividends! Westminster Catawba Christian School “educates students to bless our world as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It supports your role as parents to shape your children and your family for generations to come. It only takes one generation for the family’s love for and commitment to Christ to be lost. From that perspective, the financial investment is priceless. There truly is no greater treasure or joy than to know your children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4)
Did you know that the tuition and fees you pay only cover part of the cost of Christian education at WCCS? It is only because of the Annual Fund that the cost is not greater!
So…why should you give to the WCCS Annual Fund?
The Annual Fund provides money for teachers and programs that expand opportunities for students to explore learning beyond the basics-- including the fine arts, sports, and other extracurricular activities.
We are blessed to be a blessing. God has entrusted His resources to us to use to accomplish His plan and His purpose. Christian education is a vital part of shaping future leaders for Kingdom purpose wherever they serve.
The Annual Fund allows you to make a difference for all our students as they experience the fullness of Christian education at WCCS. Your donations are crucial to making this opportunity possible to many qualified students who could not otherwise join our school community.
Now…I would love to talk to you personally and hear your story! Soon after I retired God gave me another opportunity to share my experience as a Certified Financial Advisor ® and Certified Kingdom Advisor® in the role of Executive Director of Westminster Ministries Foundation. As I serve at the Foundation, I am privileged to chat with many folks to discover ways I can help them. I love to share my passion for helping others live generously and explore ways to give back. My door is always open, and I hope you will stop by any time, give me a call at 803-493-4498, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, I encourage you to consider where your treasure lies. Won’t you join me in supporting the WCCS Annual Fund?
This week's blog comes from Katie Tassy, who we all know as our Upper School Assistant, but did you know that she is also teaching our SALT class (Serving and Learning Together)? Check out this great post about learning to serve in a fallen world!
What is service? How does it fit into the Biblical lens of human history—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration? How do we discern our motivation for serving? What is the difference between Christian service and philanthropy?
This year, I have the privilege of teaching a new elective class called SALT—Serving and Learning Together, and these are just some of the questions and topics we are discussing with students. SALT is the brainchild of Lora Holladay, our school board chair, who has a vast amount of experience with serving in the Rock Hill community. Currently, six seniors are enrolled in this class, and it has been a joy to dig into this topic with students in learning to identify and use our gifts to serve and glorify God.
One of my passions as a teacher is helping students understand how serving in our communities and the world around us flows out of our acknowledgement that God has given each one of us gifts for the purpose of being a blessing to others. At the beginning of the year, I wrote the familiar scope of Creation—Fall—Redemption—Restoration/Reconciliation on the board. Between each of those four captions were arrows to show the flow of human history through the lens of a Believer. My question to the students was this: “Where does service fit in to this model of human history?” Through our discussion, we agreed that the WHY of service came from the Fall—that all of life is broken because of the Fall; therefore, we serve as we respond to brokenness in a sinful world.
Student, Seth Russo, put it so beautifully, “I think service is the arrow between Redemption and Restoration. We are redeemed by Christ, we go out to serve, which brings reconciliation. Some of the ones we serve will then be redeemed themselves, and they also will go out and serve.” Brilliant! I was done for the day!!
"Service is the arrow between Redemption and Restoration..."
One highlight for us has been hosting our outside speakers every Thursday. Our students are hearing from guests with service experience in organizations such as the United Way, Renew Our Community, the Salvation Army, and more. As we listen to the journeys of each one of our speakers, it is obvious that God is so personal in how He utilizes different gifts and passions for His glory in service to the world around us.
This week, we even gave senior students an opportunity to use their gifts throughout the Rock Hill community, serving in various organizations for Senior Service Day. Senior, Ann Preston Campbell chose to spend the day at the Adult Enrichment Center in Rock Hill. “I didn’t realize the number of non-profits in our area and the ways those non-profits extend help to our neighbors. I have come to realize the need for more services to effectively help [others] in our community.”
From these interactions and through various exercises which help us to explore our own gifts, it is a treat to see these students become passionate about various social issues such as homelessness, addiction, mental illness, veteran needs, and others. Our hope is that our students will develop the skills and discernment that they can evaluate any community of which they are a part—college, work, or town—and decide how they can use their gifts to help build into that community. These students have some amazing ideas, and I cannot wait to see how God uses them to continue to build His kingdom!
Below is a link to a comprehensive guide to serving in the Rock Hill Community. My prayer is that each one of us--no matter how old, or how young, would learn to serve wholeheartedly in this fallen world—to look for opportunities to truly be a blessing to those around us. I know currently our 3 year old classes are collecting socks for Renew Our Community (ROC), and in the month of November, our 4th graders will partake in “Box City” where they learn about homelessness and serving in a soup kitchen.
Won’t you join us in serving in this fallen world?
Chaplain, Jake Tassy, shares some great, practical discipleship advice for parents in this week's blog!
There was a time where you could say "What's up Dawg?" and people would immediately know that you were asking “How are you?” Nowadays, I might get the smile or laugh I was looking for (maybe even the “cool guy” head bob), or it might just date me…I don’t know which! Today, I’m gonna talk to you parents about “keeping it real” with your kids, and something I like to call “D.A.W.G –Discipleship As We Go.”
Before I get started, let me remind you of the WCCS theme verse for the year:
13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:13-15 (NIV)
Christ's love should compel us to parent as best as we can! This verse should penetrate our hearts so deeply as parents that from the overflow, our children begin to understand His grace and love.
Now, let me “keep it real” with you for a minute and remind us of something we all know, but sometimes forget. You have 18 brief years with your kids to disciple and have those faith-forming conversations, and there is no “perfect” moment to have them in this imperfect world.
Opportunities to teach what you feel you need to teach are just flying by! As parents, we each have different and varied stories (long, good grace filled marriage, divorce, separation, single parenting, still grand-parenting, guardianship). Along with those stories, there are so many distractions, flaws, issues, mess, junk, and frustrations that affect us being compelled by Jesus' love as parents. Our children know it. We don't naturally migrate to being real and authentic. Are you starting to feel overwhelmed? Wondering what you can do?
D.A.W.G. = Discipleship As We Go.
Let’s take a lesson from Jesus. He simply walked alongside people (1 John 2:6)! Parents, if you are waiting for the perfect moment to disciple your kids, you are going to miss out on all the real, imperfect moments to authentically pour into the hearts of your kids. Jesus simply asked good questions of his disciples as he guided them through the real life moments, and if we are to live as Jesus lived, then we should do the same. It’s okay to disciple as you go, D.A.W.G! Here are a few practical suggestions I have come up with to get you started:
Take time to just BE with your children: I’m talking side by side and ear to ear! Detox from media, television, and technology and do something hands on with your kids….have a picnic at the park, play basketball, make a fun dessert or a messy craft, go on a walk together, go camping, let them stay up late talking to you. These are where the real conversations happen!
Aim at the heart and not the behavior when disciplining: Our aim as parents should always be to point our kids towards Jesus. Remember, God is much more concerned about your child’s heart than he is their behavior. Teach your child the gospel and let that transform their hearts! They’ll learn to love and obey him.
Teach by example: Your kids will learn much more from what you do than from what you say. Do you ever tell your kids you’re sorry when you mess up as a parent? Are you spending time soaking in God’s Word, sharing what you’ve learned with your kids and letting them see you live it out in a practical way? Are you the type of Christ-follower you want your child to grow up to be? Modeling your own faith walk in front of your kids is powerful stuff.
Create a safe place for your kids to be “real”: Let your kids ask the hard questions without fear of your reaction. Don’t be afraid to remember back to when you were their age and facing the same temptations, fears, and struggles. The things that God taught you out of those times can be of great aid to your children now. Be the first to bring up those “touchy” topics and get the conversation rolling. Talk about Truth in those real life moments when it’s not showing up in the world (an ugly exchange between a referee and a superstar athlete, a trailer for an inappropriate movie, a conflict between two extended family members, the list is endless).
Pray: I’ve saved it for last, but it’s the most important. You can’t change your child’s heart. Only God can do that. Pray that the Holy Spirit would draw them to himself and do a work in their lives. Ask God to help you connect with them.
I think Deuteronomy 6:5-7 sums it up so nicely.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” As a parent, all we can do is simply love God with all our heart and encourage our kids to walk alongside us as we model how they can do the same.
Lower school chapels have started. We just had our first Upper School Chapel last week where I spoke with students about this whole thing about “keeping it real” in their spiritual lives. Chapels are now in the gym on Wednesdays at the Upper School (10:11-10:56am). Come worship with us! Ask your students what they've learned. It's a great time to reset and ruminate on God's truth. I pray it will have an impact on your family and the WCCS community.
Let's be Real, D.A.W.G. (head bob and a wink;-)
At WCCS, we provide students with a well-rounded academic experience. However, it is also our desire that the student experience extend beyond the walls of the classroom to bless the community around us. This week, we have asked student council president, Jessica Hicks, to share some goals that student council has for the student body going into the new school year. Check it out!
This year, I was voted student council president by the WCCS students. It is such an honor to represent my fellow classmates and work hard to help improve student life. This year, the theme verse chosen for student council is 1 John 3:18 which reads, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” With this verse in mind, one area I have encouraged our student body to focus on this year is service. By serving others, it allows us to show our Christ-like attitudes to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Remember, our actions
speak louder than our words, so we must be willing to actually serve others in order to please God. Students will have monthly service opportunities in the Rock Hill community that they can choose to participate in, however not all service projects have to be large and drastic. It’s the little things that can make a huge difference! The student body should strive to make a difference in not only the community, but also in the school hallways, classrooms, and lives of fellow students and teachers. Here are a few more ideas that I pray will make a difference in this school daily!
Flash a smile at someone having a bad day or leave an encouraging note in their locker.
Say a little prayer for a friend. It can make a difference in their life that they will never forget.
A little bit of kindness can go a long way. Everyone’s story is different and you never know what someone may be struggling with.
Lead by example and reach out and form relationships with underclassmen. This will grow their love for Christ.
Show appreciation to your teachers! Volunteering to pass out papers, cleaning up after yourself, or simply saying “thank you”, can give them a glimpse of gratitude that will make their day!
To the WCCS community as a whole, I challenge all of you to do the best you can. Start serving the ones around you, and to make a real difference this school year!
With the fall season quickly approaching, I wanted to take a minute to talk about the benefits of getting your student involved in the wide range of not just athletic opportunities, but fine arts and service opportunities at WCCS. These after school activities can enrich your child’s school experience, help them perform better in class, and even enhance their relationship with Christ.
I recently came across an article from the National Federation of State High School Association (www.nfhs.org) that sparked my interest and wanted to share five great points that I believe speak to the benefits of student engagement outside of the classroom.
BETTER ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
Some students might be hesitant to join a sports team or after school activity because they don’t want it to interfere with their grades. However, studies actually show that students who compete in high school activity programs such as sports, theater, and band have better educational outcomes, including higher grades, higher achievement test scores, and higher educational expectations beyond high school.
A study of this group of students showed that they “earned higher grades, graduated at a higher rate, dropped out of school less frequently, and scored higher on state assessments than did non-athletes.”
Participation in high school activities is a valuable part of the overall high school experience, enhancing students’ school engagement and sense of belonging.
A study looking at social adjustment in making the transition from middle school (8th grade) to high school (9th grade) found involvement in sports helped students with friendships during the transition. Continuous involvement in sports and other after school activities was associated with having more friendships.
More importantly, as they compete, perform, and serve together, students and athletes get to represent not only our school, but Christ to the surrounding community—impacting the world around them.
DEVELOPMENT OF POSITIVE LIFE SKILLS
Sports and fine arts activity programs promote positive youth development and provide opportunities for learning a number of life skills and values not typically taught in classroom education.
In a study looking at learning life skills through high school sports, a very diverse group of students participating in high school soccer reported learning skills related to initiative, respect, and teamwork/leadership.
A study of life skills developed through sports found that the process of participation and striving to win taught life skills such as discipline, work ethic, and emotional control.
Participation in the fine arts provides similar results. Students develop self-confidence and personal responsibility, experience enhanced communication skills, and learn to better time manage as they are required to use organizational skills and planning to get both schoolwork and after school activities completed.
Data shows that participation in school athletics was correlated with many positive educational achievements, behaviors and aspirations in the end of Grade 12 as well as two years later. The positive outcomes included “school grades, coursework selection, homework, educational and occupational aspirations, self-esteem, university applications, subsequent college enrollment, and eventual educational attainment.
A National Survey found that 18- to 25-year-olds who participate in sports activities while in high school were more likely than nonparticipants to be engaged in volunteering, voting, feeling comfortable speaking in public settings, and watching news.
It’s not just about college prep, either. We believe that God has gifted each student with a set of unique talents and abilities. Involvement in activities such as athletics, theater, praise band, MODEL UN, and others help students discover what these gifts are so they can carry them beyond their time at WCCS in preparation for an eternal service to our King!
POSITIVE CHRISTIAN MENTORS
At WCCS, our teachers and coaches act as Christian mentors to our students, pointing them to Christ in every situation. Players and performers play, pray and serve together alongside positive authority figures. It is our desire that through these opportunities, we teach students to use their gifts to glorify God and bless those around them.
If you have a student that is thinking about trying out for a sports team or other activity this year, encourage them! There are plenty of opportunities for greater involvement outside the classroom. I would love to speak with your student and help him or her figure out what gifts or abilities God has blessed them with. If athletics isn’t their thing, we have plenty of fine arts opportunities, service activities, and clubs to check out!
To end, as you talk to your student about the upcoming school year, in whatever they are involved with, encourage them to simply, “Be the light!” as I always say.
Recently, I was reading John Stonestreet’s (2017) A Practical Guide to Culture, a book I would recommend to all parents. At one point Stonestreet discusses the effects of affluence and consumerism on today’s youth. He points out that the definition of the term “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, as intended by the Founding Fathers, was “a life well lived, characterized by wisdom, virtue, and character” (p. 228). This definition reminded me of the purpose of WCCS, to educate students to bless the world for Jesus Christ. This requires students to live a life of value focused on service to others as they exercise their God given abilities. Paul put it this way, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (Gal. 5:13). Stonestreet continues, “When pleasure is our goal, rather than the by-product of a higher end, it becomes distorted” (pg. 231).
Summer is a wonderful time of year for young people because it is full of lazy days, relaxing around the pool, and spending time with family and friends in a variety of enjoyable activities. The summer also becomes a great opportunity to help students learn more about the world around them, the opportunities that exist to serve those in need, and realize that their life has a greater purpose.
Recently, a team of WCCS students just returned from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. No doubt they enjoyed being with their friends, having fun on the beach and playing in the pool. But, as one member of the team told me, “My favorite part of the trip was being able to experience a new culture and meet the amazing people while also growing closer to my American friends.” The culture this student was serving in is depressed and humble, as were the “amazing” people. This is a different picture of joy, happiness, and success than we get from American media and culture. Another member of the DR team told me how the trip was a spiritual awakening of sorts. This student specifically discussed how wonderful it was to help and share with the people they went to serve, and how they were equally blessed from the experience.
The idea is simple! The team traveled to the DR, met physical needs of those in need through building improvements, met spiritual needs through shared worship and leading Bible study, and met emotional needs by just being there to play with children and spend time in fellowship. The impact of the team was great, yet the impact of the Dominicans on the team may have even been greater. As these students served those in need they were exposed to a culture they may not have fully understood before the trip. They gained insight to how God can use their life to bless others. They also, and equally important, gained an understanding of how someone else can bless them. Finally, and most important, they discovered how the gospel blesses everyone.
Stonestreet concludes his discussion on affluence with the hope of this current generation of young people, exemplified by the DR team. He points out how 84% of millennials personally give to charity, and 70% spend time personally volunteering. The summer is a wonderful time for students to get involved. It doesn’t need to be a mission trip or major program. Significant change often takes place in the small, yet consistent things we can do within our own community. Here are just a few ideas:
Prepare a zip lock bag with water, food items, hygiene products, and a verse of Scripture and keep these in the car. As you travel and come across a homeless person you can share the bag and potentially the Gospel with them.
Volunteer to work at special events designed to raise money or support for a local ministry or charity.
Visit an assisted living home or nursing home. Nothing brightens the day of those elderly confined to a home like a young smile. Just a few minutes to hear their story, or read to them can bring a great deal of happiness.
Volunteer at a food/clothing bank, thrift store, or shelter. Often, the people you come in contact with will be in need of feeling loved and accepted. You can meet that need with a simple conversation as you serve.
Write a note of encouragement and spiritual blessing to share with someone in need or those who have dedicated their lives to serving those in need.
These are just some simple ideas that do not require much time or forethought. God has blessed us through His son Jesus Christ, and He now calls us to be the living example of Christ to a lost world. The point is that summer can become a valuable opportunity to experience service and ministry, and in the process bless others while being blessed by them.
One of our special traditions at WCCS for each graduating class is the Senior Dinner. As this year's speaker for the Class of 2018, Mark Watts shared some words of encouragement with our soon-to-be-graduates and their families. In doing so, he focused on the “WHY?” questions of life, and the longing for purpose.
As we end another school year, one filled with many highs but also some challenges, I have encouraged our faculty and staff to consider the same question - "WHY?" I challenge you to take a few minutes and watch the video below and then consider the question for your student and family at WCCS.
Mark challenged those in attendance at Senior dinner to consider their purposes in life – and then argued that WCCS has prepared them for purpose by educating our students to bless our world as disciples of Jesus Christ. God has indeed hard-wired us for purpose and more than just for learning, teaching, or even serving. It is my prayer that everything we do be rooted in a desire to glorify Christ because of his unending love for us.
With this in mind, I welcome you to join me this summer in reading a book entitled Unlimited Grace by author Bryan Chappell. This is a tremendous book that talks about how God's unlimited grace poured out on us should lead us unto heartfelt obedience to Him. As a teaser, I'd like to suggest that it too answers the question "WHY?" Why are we motivated to serve and obey Him? As Chapell states, "God's grace motivates our behavior; our behavior does not manufacture his grace. We live in response to his love, not to qualify for it or to make him produce it."
Through social media discussions during the summer and a parent discussion night on Monday, August 13, we will be talking about how we can apply the concepts in this book to school and family life. You can be a part of the discussion by searching "Westminster Catawba Christian School Summer Book Club" on Facebook. Just click "join" and we will add you to our discussion group. You can download the flyer here. Please contact us for your free copy of the book. We will be giving away 40 free books, first come, first serve!
Last Friday, April 20th, I had the privilege of speaking in our Upper School Chapel about God’s call on His children to “Love Your Neighbor” from Galatians 5:14. For those who were not able to attend, we did stream this talk on Facebook Live, and it is currently posted on our Facebook page – click HERE to view.
The goal of that chapel message was that we would all acknowledge our own sin, seek forgiveness that comes from Christ alone, and then ask that God would grant us the gift of repentance so that we could love God and others well. As is often the case when I speak in chapel, I was personally convicted of my need to heed my own challenge to love MY neighbor. That got me thinking of relationships that I have that are not what they should be. It also got me thinking that I needed to be the one to work toward healing a few friendships. But HOW? Well, I am glad you asked…
Step 1 – Acknowledge the speck in my own eye before pointing out the plank in my neighbor’s (Luke 6:41-42)
When I think about relationships that are not healthy, my mind goes first to what the other person did wrong. If I am honest, it was this thinking that probably got me where I am today. So, I need to ask God to show me where my behavior has caused the strain and own it.
Step 2 – Confess to God (I John 1:9)
Once I see my own sin, I must confess it to God, asking Him to grant forgiveness and the gift of repentance. I must love God (by honoring, obeying, confessing) before we can appropriately love our neighbors.
Step 3 – Confess to Neighbor (James 5:16)
Given that God is holy, and I am not, the hardest part of healing a relationship ought to be my confession before God. But, my pride usually makes my confession to a friend very difficult. But, it is just as necessary. I must initiate contact. I start by acknowledging that the relationship isn’t right. I confess my part in the damage, as specifically as possible. And, then I ask them to forgive me.
Step 4 – Plan for Repentance (II Corinthians 7:10)
I follow up on my confession by immediately jumping into sharing my “plan for repentance.” Basically, I tell him what I hope my actions will look like to him to show that I desire a healthy relationship - and that I am going to work toward that end. If my confession and pursuit of repentance are sincere, then they are unconditional. I will confess my part whether my friend own’s his part or not. I said that I “immediately” jump to my plan for repentance SO THAT I don’t leave time for the other party to confess at that time. IF I hesitate, I am saying, “I am sorry, and it is now your turn.” That is not owning your part. That is presuming a shared role and implies that I am sorry if and only if you are as well. The same is true with my plan of repentance. I will pursue my plan even if my friend chooses a sick relationship over a healthy one.
Step 5 – Stop Talking and Accept the Response (Proverbs 10:19)
Once I have confessed and shared a plan for repentance, I then need to be quiet. My tendency is to fill the silence with more words, which usually turns into excuses as to why I did what I did. This negates the confession. I can only control my actions, not the reactions of my friend. Therefore, I must simply stop talking and allow for any response that I may receive.
Step 6 – Seek God’s Grace (Titus 2:11-1)
I said above that the confession to the friend is difficult, and it is. BUT, so is keeping the promises you have made – especially if they were one-sided. So, the last step in healing the friendship is to ask God to grant me His grace to honor my plan for repentance, and if God wills, to restore a friendship to a health greater than it has ever seen!
Is this easy? NO! Does it always work to heal any and every relationship? No. Will relationships heal on their own if we just ignore the problems? Again, no.
I have done this in the past, and God has blessed with restored relationships in some situations. And, it is time for me to do it again, seeking to heal relationships that are not honoring to God. I commit to doing so. Who’s with me???
Each year, our Senior class has the opportunity to go on a service trip in the spring. Students are involved in numerous service and adventure activities and have the opportunity to attend local church services. We asked Senior, Lauren O'Steen, to share some of her reflections from the Senior trip to Belize in this week's blog. Check out her story below!
God works in more ways than anyone could ever imagine. I know it’s a cliché; Christians use this statement to account for all sorts of possibly random instances that “go right” throughout their lives. When I took part in the Senior Service trip to Belize with my class in late February, however, God definitely surprised me in the ways He was able to work in and through me and my classmates, to hopefully have blessed the world.
To be honest, I have been very skeptical of the “service” aspect of the Senior Trip in the past. How can I, a relatively unskilled teenager, really do lasting good for a people who may not even have running water or electric lights? What a country like Belize needs are lawyers to settle land disputes and engineers to build infrastructure, not me getting in the way of a teacher trying to prepare her students for end-of-the-year exams. After struggling with these thoughts for a while, I decided to go on the trip, only prepared to grow closer to my classmates and have unique adventures in a beautiful place, but not really thinking I would be able to make an impact of some kind.
The day we arrived in Belize was the hardest for me. We traveled for more than twelve hours to reach the country (leaving every member of our team exhausted); my luggage had been taken by a stranger at the Belizean airport; and I was very (unreasonably) worried about what I was going to be able to eat. All of these different stresses manifested themselves into an intense feeling of helplessness that I was not able to shake off throughout the day.
That night, we rode in our three battered vans to worship at Unity Presbyterian Church. I was wearing a borrowed, salamander orange dress and was not in the mood to be attending what we were warned would be a long church service, preached in English Creole.
My mood changed the moment the service started at Unity. The worship leader/preacher Ernest, who decisively did not have the voice of an angel, brought to the ravenous congregation upbeat versions of some of my chapel favorites, such as “How Great is Our God,” accompanied only by his guitar and three backup singers. The crowd reacted to his music in a way I had never seen before, dancing and singing with an immense joy that left me absolutely positive that God was in the room, hopefully smiling as wide as I was.
The sermon Ernest shared with us detailed the faith of Job. The message hit me like a truck. Why should I be making the choice to wallow in my relatively insignificant problems when the Belizeans around me, who came from very different lifestyle situations than me, were being so joyful and responding to the message so earnestly. Ernest hugged each of us as we got back into the vans after the service, giving us each his blessing, “I love you, God loves you, you are special.” I made it my mission from this point forward to show God’s love to everyone I met and remind them that they are special.
"I made it my mission to show God's love to everyone I met and remind them that they are special."
While on the Senior Service trip, I learned that I can sense God’s presence most in situations that leave me with a feeling of overwhelming joy. One morning, we met with preschoolers in Cayo, singing songs and putting on a skit before joining them on the playground. At the seesaw, I met a energetic little boy with a gold chain named Carlito. He had an arm full of the toys we had brought and wanted to play. He loved to talk, and I grew to realize that Carlito had so much information stored in his brain that he wanted to let out, telling me why some toys can float and others cannot and the name of every single flower growing on the preschool grounds. Calling me only “friend,” he loved that I paid attention to what he had to say, just wanting show me everything he could including the chairs, steps, and water jug. The light in his eyes and the joy it brought me was amazing. Looking back, it’s ironic that in this situation where I did not mention God once, I was able to feel His presence the most out of any other time in Belize.
The Senior Service trip was a blessing to me personally, one that I hope everyone reading this has an opportunity to take at some point in their lifetimes. Reminders of God’s light were everywhere to me, for example, in the eyes of a Standard Four student in Orange Walk when the concept of ratios just “clicked” to him for the first time and the pride that Carlito showed when (with a little assistance) he was able to count all the way to 100. In Belize, I grew to realize that for a trip to “count” as a missions trip, one does not have to build a house or school, but simply want to spend time and show love to others around the world. While I do not feel as though I changed the world while on the trip (or even the country of Belize for that matter), God was still able to work through me to listen to people whose opinions are normally brushed aside and show them that there is a bigger world that they have a place in and, as Ernest would say, that “I love them, God loves them, and they are special.”
SEEK (Students Exploring and Enriching for the Kingdom) is a special program at WCCS for students in grades 2-7 who exhibit extraordinary performance capability in intellectual and creative endeavors. In this week’s blog, we interview Cindy Nigro, SEEK Instructor & Inclusion Teacher, to answer some of the common questions we hear regarding this program and to learn some tips for encouraging this type of learning in ALL students.
Mrs. Nigro has been facilitating learning in our SEEK classes for the past four years and has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the area of academic giftedness. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Winthrop University and is working toward adding the endorsement of Gifted and Talented to her teaching certificate. Before serving at WCCS, Cindy taught at the Carolina Christian Academy in Clover, SC, where she taught a class of 1st and 2nd grade students. She has also taught at Carolina Christian Academy, Cotton Belt Elementary, and Gold Hill Elementary. Cindy has also served as the Director of Children’s Ministry at Tirzah Associated Reform Presbyterian Church in York.
What is an academically gifted child?
Our SEEK program is designed to allow academically gifted students in the second through seventh grades a chance to explore learning at advanced levels in a setting of their peers. The academically gifted student demonstrates an ability to learn, and mastery of language and mathematical skills at a level beyond their peers of the same age level.
Why do we need a special program for advanced students?
These students can develop frustration, boredom, laziness, and underachievement when not allowed to function at a level and pace in line with their abilities. Academically gifted students often have trouble relating to peers of the same age level and may gravitate toward older children. WCCS strives to meet the needs of this group of children as part of our mission to educate children, so they may bless our world and be effective disciples.
What kind of tips can you share with parents looking to encourage this type of learning with their student?
One great tip I have for all parents is to encourage opportunities for learning without thinking of limits. Gifted children love to learn, analyze, and evaluate. These children will often determine the direction. This may make it harder for you in one sense, because they really do want to discuss everything. Allow the chance to talk through an analysis of anything they choose. Biblical discussions provide a natural opportunity for discussions of right and wrong. We start our sessions with a Bible verse and focus on its application for nine weeks. It is amazing to me the depth to which students want to discuss God’s word. Encourage action on what they are thinking about. For example, I had one concerned student host a garage sale of toys to raise money for a local homeless shelter. The parent supported this child’s interest beyond a simple discussion.
How do you keep students excited and confident in their learning?
SEEK strives to keep students excited about learning, feel good about their abilities, and develop relationships with academic peers. We do this in four ways.
A Ninety Minute Instructional Class: The lessons are designed to be approximately two grade levels ahead of instruction in the general education classroom. This allows students a chance at more challenging material. It helps students to experience some of the frustration and challenge of pushing limits. I have had more than one student tell me that they have never worked as hard on any problem like they do in SEEK.
Socialization During Class: The students are working with their academic peers. Working together builds friendships and helps students learn to collaborate with others that can add different perspectives, strategies, and solutions to the challenge at hand.
Brain Stretch Exercises: The third way SEEK addresses needs is through brain stretch exercises designed to challenge them daily. Each week, students complete an extra assignment in one of the general education classes. There is always more to learn than the level taught. These exercises keep SEEK students digging deeper into the content area of daily lessons.
Research: Finally, we take one quarter to let students research an approved topic. In the past, I have assigned these topics, but this year I am going to let them study whatever they choose. When I shared this with a seventh grade student, he jumped for joy and shouted out potential topics. Now, that is a true academically gifted student!
What else can you tell us about the SEEK program?
The heart of the program is truly the students. We work on some difficult projects for an hour and a half after school, but the learning doesn’t end there. This year the lower school students were given a problem and ninety minutes to build a solution to the problem. They built boats to hold weights, catapults to fling objects, bridges to hold weight and much more. This was fun, but success for me came from hearing parents share how students are continuing work at home. One student built a swing at her grandmother’s home one day when she was bored. Another student built a chute to transfer candy for crushing over the Christmas holidays. The next language arts semester started with plot diagrams of popular stories. One third grader told me that creative writing was so much easier now that he understood plot. These stories are the best sign of success, because I see that learning continues outside the classroom. This is the ultimate goal for students to appreciate the fact that their abilities have value and can be used for God’s glory.
3rd Grade SEEK Student, Mac Wilson, with his Candy Crushing Chute.
My child is not in SEEK. Is he or she missing out?
The answer is no. Your general education teacher is providing the support your child needs to get to the next level. All of our teachers think through how to challenge the child who completes a specific lesson early. A child who does not qualify in one year for SEEK may qualify in the next. Children progress through learning at different rates. SEEK is designed to prevent problems that advanced learners may have if they do not stay engaged in learning.
This holiday season, WCCS middle school students are encouraging one another with simple acts of kindness.
To celebrate the Advent season, students have been challenged to care well for one another through a series of kindness prompts each day. Each time they reach out to another student with an act of kindness, they earn a "link" to be added to an Advent chain that is decorating the middle school hallway. The activity has been meaningful to many of our middle schoolers as they have been able to share Christ's love with their fellow peers in some really practical ways. Here is what some of them have had to say about the activity!
"During the time of Advent Season of Kindness, I learned that being kind is not that easy, and there are many different ways to be kind. One way was to show patience to someone or show mercy to someone. In class, I showed patience by waiting for my friend to finish stapling their papers. I also showed mercy by giving a friend another chance to do the right thing." - Nick Whitfield
"On December 7, we had to take 10 minutes to really listen to someone. I took 10 minutes to listen to a quiet girl in my class. I knew her name and we were acquainted, but I knew nothing about her. I sat next to her and listened. She is now one of my good friends. I learned that she loves music and plays the piano. She loves art and is actually a 6th grader on the varsity cheerleading team. She is really pretty and super kind. Thanks to the motivation of the advent season of kindness, she is now my good friend." - McKenzie Brockelbank
"My kindness link was 'forgive somebody that has wronged you.' I did mine on my little sister. [I forgave her] when we got in a fight. After every fight, I always forgive my sister or my brother, because that's what God wants us to do." - Walker Norman
"The Advent Season of Kindness has taught me a lot about showing patience and kindness with others. I showed patience to someone in STEM class. A boy was really getting on my nerves. He was putting stuff in my hair, yelling at me, not working, and taking all the parts to our project. I was so mad and I was about to yell, but I remembered God wants us to show patience with others. This project has taught me a lot about being kind to others." - Chloe Nosal
As you and your families prepare your hearts for the celebration of the birth of our savior, we invite you to join with us in practicing acts of kindness to those around you! Imagine what a blessing you and your family might be to someone, and how you might teach your children what it really means to celebrate and show the love of Christ to the world around us this Christmas season. It doesn't have to be something big (as our middle schoolers have shown us!) Sometimes, the most simple acts of kindness and mercy can touch a heart in need. Here are a few fun ideas, and as always, feel free to share your own in the comments below!
- Take a neighbor a fully cooked meal one evening
- Play a game you don't normally enjoy because you know it will make a sibling happy
- Do chores for each other without being asked
- Buy ice cream for all the kids at Chick-fil-A
- Take cookies to a local police or fire station
- Visit a nursing home and sing carols
- Smile at as many people as you can in Walmart
- Pay for a stranger's meal at a drive thru
- Tape change to a vending machine
- Give treats to your mail carrier
- Call or FaceTime a faraway relative to say hello
- Clean up a mess you didn't make
We caught up with alumna, Elise Denney, ’13, recently and asked her to share with us some thoughts about “life after WCCS” and how she continues to grow in her relationship with Christ and her desire to bless the world around her for His Kingdom’s sake! She had some wise words to share with our current WCCS students about truly seeking after the Lord and being a part of His Church!
If you had told “high school Elise” that she would be spending her summer working for the student ministry of a local church, she probably would not have believed you. Don’t get me wrong, I knew church was important, but I thought it could be substituted for other things…chapel, small group, retreats, youth group, maybe even bible class....anything to get me out of waking up early on Sunday mornings. Often times as a student at WCCS, opportunities to encounter Christ are conveniently woven into our daily school schedule. Without a doubt, this is an incredible blessing, but we have to be careful that it does not become a normalcy or an excuse to not seek the Lord on our own.
"Often times as a student at WCCS, opportunities to encounter Christ are conveniently woven into our daily school schedule."
Fast forward to college and now I can see how the Lord was pursuing me in ways that puts my half-hearted pursuit of Him to shame. When choosing a college, strong Christian community was not among the top of my priority list. In fact, I’m sorry to say that it was not really something I considered even a little bit. Fortunately, the Lord is endlessly faithful and knows what we need before we even know how to ask for it. At Clemson, I found friends that truly reflected Christ in the incredible way that they loved others. These same friends invited me to attend Grace Church and I became a member after about a year of attending regularly.
Grace Church has a summer internship program called Kairos that I was blessed to be a part of this past summer. Kairos is a 10 week internship where you work in a particular ministry area (I worked in student ministry) while also taking discipleship courses. You live with a host family that attends the church while interning. Some of my service jobs included planning events and mission trips for their youth group and building relationships with the middle and high schoolers that attended.
As I reflect on the summer I spent with Grace Church, I am filled with gratitude and wonder. Kairos is a unique experience that gives you a rare, close-up look to how Christ passionately pursues the Church as His bride again and again. Kairos has filled me with new life and urgency for personally loving and serving the church. This was something I thought I understood before, but now I have been humbled enough to see how I approached the church solely as a consumer. The question in my mind has changed from “What can the church do for me?” to “What can I do for the church?”. I now understand more deeply how thankfully and reverently we should approach an institution that God has promised to sustain forever. It’s amazing that He allows us be a part of that even in our brokenness—a brokenness He chooses again and again to use for His ultimate glory. It is this beautiful mindset of redemption that fills the halls of Grace Church and captivated me all summer long.
"The question in my mind has changed from 'What can the church do for me?' to 'What can I do for the church?'"
Wherever you may be today in your walk with Christ, I would encourage you to not overlook the holy and eternal institution we call “Church.” It is to our immense spiritual benefit that we seek opportunities to be involved with a local church. Here are some ways that Church was designed by the Lord to bless us:
- Community: The Church is a collection of disconnected individuals brought together into a new people and into a new family. You are always invited in. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” We are literally called to come together and seek ways to glorify Him as a unit. When you choose to not commit to a church, you squander the chance to use your spiritual gifts and be a part of the Lord’s work, which has impact on both heaven and earth far beyond our understanding.
- Authority: I hear ya, the rebel child in me shudders as well. In our culture, we are taught that coming under authority is not fun, but hang with me. Coming under authority in the local church is actually a protective blessing. Receiving spiritual authority keeps us from becoming self-centered and critical. It humbles us and helps us extract insidious sin buried deep in our lives. Ephesians 4:20-24 says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” We need to attend church regularly in order to spur each other on spiritually toward this goal and encounter those that know how to be encouraging and disruptive with grace.
- Spiritual Growth: Your identity in Christ makes you who you are, but your growth in Christ is contingent on being engaged with the Church and being obedient in how the Scripture tells us to treat our church family. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Being transformed into the image of Christ is a lifelong process. We can’t be flighty consumers of the Church and expect to reap the benefits of this transformation. We have to be whole-hearted investors and look for ways for the Church to seep into every area of our lives, not just what we have to give on Sunday mornings.
If you get nothing else from reading this, please let it be this: Church demonstrates the intangible presence of Jesus. Don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to experience that by being noncommittal with the Church. It is what you were created for and your soul longs for it!