The principal is the spiritual leadership of the school. While many aspects of spiritual leadership may be delegated to others, the personal influence of the principal as a positive roll model to students, teachers, and parents cannot be underestimated. It is the pervasive influence of the principal's actions and concerns that inspires and encourages others to be drawn to Christ.
Why is School Climate Important?
Joy Uzarraga | Spiritual Enrichment Director for Forest Lake Education Center
Forest Lake Education Center’s school mission is simple. “Our school mission is to provide an Adventist Education that promotes academic excellence and nurtures a love of God and service to others.” Being an educational institution, FLEC is intentional about achieving excellence in academics. However, FLEC has also made it a priority to be intentional about the spiritual aspect of our school as well. The last part of FLEC’s school mission serves as the basis for the work that I do and provides the framework for my department’s yearly strategic plan. That plan is divided into two main goals that help to shape and enrich FLEC’s spiritual life:
(1) Provide opportunities and support for students and staff to nurture a love of God.
(2) Provide opportunities and support for students and staff to serve others.
Nurturing a love of God goes beyond teacher-student interactions in the classroom. FLEC intentionally selects a school-wide spiritual theme and infuses that theme in morning announcements, classroom worships, weekly chapels, weeks of prayer, and even staff worships. The theme becomes part of the school’s culture.
Last school year, FLEC’s theme was Connect. Based on the Bible text, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,'" from Matthew 22:36-39, we divided the theme of Connect into three parts: Connect to Jesus, Connect to Others, and Connect to Yourself. [See images to the right of the posters that were created, displayed as posters, and used in chapels as well as social media throughout the year.]
This school year, the theme is Family of God, and like last school year will be broken down into three parts: I Belong, You Belong, and We Belong. This theme was chosen because FLEC recently formed a multicultural and diversity committee, and each month a region, culture, and/or group will be recognized and celebrated. [See image to the right of this year’s theme poster.]
Another way FLEC nurtures a love of God intentionally is through inclusion. Aside from being chapel and week of prayer speakers, local pastors are part of FLEC’s MidWeek Ministries, a classroom visitation program. This program serves as a stepping stone for students who eventually make the decision to give their lives to Jesus, have Bible studies, and/or get baptized.
Inclusion of parents in the spiritual environment of our school is also important. Parents are always welcome to worship with students during Friday chapels. Plans are currently being made for parents and grandparents to serve as classroom chaplains and lead out in worships.
Leaders from the local community are also included. They are invited to speak for Fresh Start, our weekly staff Monday worship. Speakers inspire and share Jesus' love with our staff with a meaningful devotion and help them begin the week on a positive note.
Josh Stafford, FLEC’s Advancement & Engagement Director, who has previously served as Spiritual Enrichment Director states, “After we embrace our students with God’s love, we should empower them with opportunities to share that love.” At FLEC, students are offered a variety of ways to serve others and share God’s love.
Internally, students serve their peers with FLEC’s Ambassadors, Peer Tutors, and Peer Mediators programs. Externally, students and staff are given opportunities to serve both the local and global communities. Six school-wide drives are planned for each school year whether it is books for a local low-income housing community, holiday cards for the elderly at the nearby retirement neighborhood, cleaning supplies for Adventist Disaster Relief, or monetary donations for a global organization such as World Vision.
At FLEC, the school mission and strategic plan are vital in ensuring that our spiritual goals are met. It is our prayer that students will experience God’s love and be inspired to continue living a life of service even after they have moved on from FLEC.
Forest Lake Education Center (FLEC) is a PreK through grade eight school located in the suburbs just north of Orlando, Florida with over 670 students in attendance during the 2018-2019 school year. Joy Uzarraga serves as the Spiritual Enrichment Director. She oversees the spiritual activities and enrichment of both students and staff.
Mingling and Making Disciples: Key Components to the Spiritual Life of the Greater Collegedale School System
Tabor Nudd | chaplain
for The Greater Collegedale School System
Every student is on a unique spiritual journey. They walk the halls of our schools with experiences and stories that have shaped their view of God. Some students have positive spiritual outlooks, while others struggle to find God relevant in their life. And as Christian educators, we are challenged to strengthen their walk with God. How do we do that? How do educators effectively teach when each child processes life and God differently?
I am fortunate to work as one of the chaplains for The Greater Collegedale School System in Collegedale, Tennessee. The staff of our three schools (Collegedale Academy, Collegedale Adventist Middle School, and A.W. Spalding Elementary School) works hard to provide Christ-centered lessons and curriculum through its classes and programs. The faculty does a wonderful job teaching biblical truths to help their students grow with Christ. These indeed are avenues by which students may spiritually grow. We are constantly challenged by the life and teachings of Jesus to think about enhancing our methods to match His. Jesus did more with his disciples than give them secrets to the kingdom of heaven. He did more than teach in the synagogues. First, He mingled with others, desiring the best for each of them. Second, He challenged them to be disciples by going and making more disciples.
Christ's method of mingling with people is an excellent example of what faculty should do with the students they teach. All staff should put forth efforts to enter their student's world through conversations in and out of their classrooms. They should work to understand their student's life, family, interests, hopes, and challenges. If a teacher deeply cares about the growth of their students and can relate in a fun and caring manner, that can have the greatest impact on a student's spiritual journey. Being an educator is much more than a career; it is a calling, a ministry as great as any other.
Discipleship is another key component of the spiritual growth of students. Christ demonstrated this by sending his disciples out in pairs, not only to reach others but to experience ministry. Likewise, educators should try to find ways to let students lead and experience ministry, as this is an essential step in their spiritual development. Students will not reach their full spiritual potential only by having Bible classes and weekly chapels. These spiritual activities may contribute to a student's journey, but there is much more God wants His students to experience. There is much more the Holy Spirit may bring to their minds by experiencing ministry. An emphasis needs to be placed on spiritual leadership, starting with early elementary students. From a young age, let them begin leading in worship, praise teams, student-led weeks of prayer, and outreach to the community. They may need to receive some coaching from their teachers, pastors, or parents, but they are the ones who need to lead. And it is through these experiences that they may discover their passions and gifts for God.
There is not a perfect remedy to guarantee spiritual growth. Students will still choose what they believe and who they become. However, educators can play a vital role. Faculty who intentionally mingle with students and build relationships with them can change their lives. And educators who are willing to give their students opportunities of leadership, coaching them in ministry, can help them discover a purpose beyond themselves. Christ's life and ministry is the perfect example of how we can improve the spiritual life of our schools.
Spiritual Life at Your School in 2019-2020
Murray Cooper | Associate Superintendent for Administration in the Florida Conference
"True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come."
(Ellen White, Education, p. 30)
What a great opportunity we have each moment of every school day to be involved in the relationship building between the students, teachers, families, and communities we serve and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When we prayerfully and intentionally seek the Lord's will to guide the plans we make in this endeavor; He will bless them.
The NAD Principals Handbook shares some brief points regarding spiritual curriculum and life at your school. The points are brief and are only the tip of the iceberg if you are to have a spiritually healthy school this year. You are encouraged to take a moment and review that information as you focus on this important topic.
You've probably heard the saying, "failing to plan is planning to fail." A phrase which is very true when it comes to creating your school's plan of action for spiritual growth and development. Perhaps all that was needed in the past for our student's spiritual direction was a morning devotion, prayer time, Bible class, and a couple week of prayer meetings per year. However, for such a time as this, we as Adventist administrators and educators can no longer just plan on those essential pieces to cut through the noise, chaos, distractions, and roadblocks that are thrown before those we serve every day.
As you are either preparing to start or have started the 2019-2020 school year, now is the time to seek God personally so that you can indeed be the spiritual leader at your school this year. Only when you are in alignment with God's plan that you will be successful. As you continually seek His will for you in your life, you will need to do the same with your faculty and staff to develop the mission and vision for where your school will go. That planning needs to include the spiritual feeding of the educators and the children, their families, and the greater community.
If you are seeking guidance in helping to create a plan, I'd like to refer you to the Abide Spiritual Master Plan that can be found by clicking on the link below.
As Ellen White said above, our job goes far beyond teaching academic skills; we serve a higher purpose in helping to prepare those we work with and serve to be ready to meet Jesus. May the Lord bless the effort of all at your school this year in this most important task.
MISSION: STRENGTHENING ADVENTIST EDUCATION ONE LEADER AT A TIME
Associate Superintendent for Administration
Office of Education
Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Berit von Pohle, Editor
Pacific Union Conference, Director of Education
Ed Boyatt, Editorial Advisor