There is something really special about Mount Paran Christian School. Current families and students, as well as alumni and their parents know this well. It’s something you feel when you’re on campus. Something you see in your children when they come home from school. Something almost intangible. I felt it the first time I stepped foot on this campus in 2014, long before I ever envisioned myself as Head of School.
I’ve visited hundreds of schools across the U.S., and, truly, there is no place quite like MPCS. As I visit with other school leaders and work here at MPCS to ensure this is the very best education around, I’ve come to realize how unique we are. In talking with many of you, I know for a fact you understand how good we have it!
A CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION
Christian schooling in the United States is as old as the country itself. In fact, the reality is, all schooling in the United States had a Christian element in the earliest years of our nation. Harvard University, after all, was founded “…to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.” Likewise, when John Eliot founded the Roxbury Latin School in 1645, his vision was “to fit [students] for public service both in church and commonwealth….” You see, John Eliot knew that education, whether it be for the wealthy or the poor, the English colonist or the Native American, was to train students to know God first and to serve Him through both education and the life education afforded.
Today, however, we have seen that a Christian perspective on education has become far more the exception rather than the rule. Today, of the approximately 55 million K-12 students in the U.S., only about three million attend Christian schools – less than the approximately three and a half million attending Charter schools. Of those three million students enrolled in Christian schools, fewer than one-third of the schools they attend are covenantal in nature. Mount Paran Christian School is one such school, and perhaps the covenant of our institution is a part of what makes us so uniquely special.
Let me, first, unpack for you what is meant by “covenantal.” In biblical terms, a covenant was a binding agreement that defined a commitment or an obligation between two parties. In the Old Testament story of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:10-17, 20), his mother, Hannah, was barren and desperate to have a child. She begged God for a son and made a covenant to dedicate him to the Lord if she could just bear a child. God blessed her with a child, keeping His side of the covenant. When Samuel was of age, Hannah kept her side of the covenant and left her son at the temple in Shiloh to be trained by Eli the priest. No one knows for certain, but this likely means he was between the ages of two and six years old.
Can you imagine leaving your child to be reared by a priest at that age (or leaving your child to be reared by anyone for that matter)? Hannah, however, was faithful and gave her son to God because she had made a covenant to do so, and, as she knew, a covenant was not to be broken. Stories such as this are replete throughout the entirety of Scripture. Likewise, stories of covenants broken abound as well.
A covenant Christian school may have a slightly different meaning than that described in the Old Testament, but a covenant is still meant to be a covenant – a binding pledge – even in the 21st Century. As such, a covenant Christian school seeks to bind parents, students, and the institution together through a common pledge to educate all students within the school and at home through the lens of a biblical worldview. Most covenant Christian schools therefore require at least one parent to be a professing Christian – one who understands Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
The MPCS website describes our covenantal nature as such:
“As a covenantal Christian school, MPCS trusts each of its participating families share a commitment to the Christian faith and involvement in the ministry of a local church of any denomination. Parental statements of faith are an important part of the partnership between MPCS and our families. More than 120 churches are represented by the MPCS student-body. Our school community is unapologetic about our commitment to a Christ-centered education and seeks to integrate that faith in all aspects of school life.”
Assistant Head of School for Christian Life Steve Kyle has stated the following:
“As a covenant school and a Christian ministry, the applicant and his/her family must confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, express a belief in biblical teachings, and exhibit a willingness to follow them by actively engaging in Kingdom work. Parents and applicants must read and agree to support Mount Paran Christian School’s Statement of Faith and commit to uphold Christian principles in their daily lives. MPCS expects families to actively participate in a local church body.”
As you can see, the ongoing work of MPCS is meant to impact the lives of families who are professing Christians, living actively to glorify God, and seeking to have their children educated in a school where the families around them share a common set of sacred religious beliefs.
BENEFITS OF A COVENANT COMMUNITY
Above all, at MPCS, it is our desire that every family member of the school has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And, we pray for the Lord to continue His work in us, making each of us more like Him and less like this world. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). As such, being a community of grace, of mercy, of love, and of forgiveness is essential as we live together and consistently seek harmony both with God and one another.
Being a covenantal school is meant to provide us with a common direction. That direction and way is the way of the Lord – seeking Him first and foremost. Following His rule. Living for Him and others and not for self. Striving to be more and more like Him each and every day. Our expectation for our students and even their parents, then, is not perfection, but progressive sanctification – becoming more like our Savior until one day we are with Him. That can only happen with great intention and deliberate self-control.
Likewise, being covenantal also provides us with the opportunity for correction. We take seriously the nature of the covenant and expect certain behavior from our school community, both with students and parents. For instance, when the Statement of Lifestyle and Conduct is broken, there is student discipline and tough conversations with parents. This part of being in relationship with others is always hard. No one likes correction, but it is often necessary. A covenant allows us to understand the mutual obligations we have one with another.
Finally, being covenantal provides a Christian school with a certain level of protection. As a Christian institution, not everyone in the world will agree with our position on certain issues or the policies we have in place. In these circumstances, we can reasonably fall back on our biblical framework and the consistency of the covenantal nature of our school. We know that through Christ alone we can stand firm. We know that being counter-cultural on certain issues is not only okay but is exactly what God has called us to do and be. Our covenant and lifestyle expectations outline provide the framework for living together in community.
A PLACE SET APART
A covenantal Christian school is not for every Christian family, and that is okay. I have worked in and led both schools with a covenant and those without and have loved the opportunities I have been afforded in both. When I was a witness to Muslim and atheist students coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in my past non-covenant school, it was incredible! God uses such schools for His glory and His honor.
Likewise, as I have witnessed growth in the faith of so many students in the two covenantal schools I have led (and numerous students who have come to know the Lord in covenantal schools), I can say without equivocation, those were times of sincere rejoicing as well! God uses His people in His schools to shape and impact the hearts and minds of His children.
MPCS has an incredible mission to reach Christian families and their children, preparing our students to be servant-leaders who honor God, love others, and walk in Truth. Our covenantal nature is meant to ensure that as we do that, we will do so knowing that what is being taught at school should be reinforced at home, at church, and in the broad MPCS community. I truly love knowing when my son goes to the homes of his friends they are teaching the same values and a love of the same Savior my wife and I are teaching in our home.
As you consider what it means to have your children in our covenantal school, may God impress upon you the value we have as we seek to raise every child within our school in the nurture and admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:1). We have an extraordinary place to bring up our children together in a covenant community. As we do so, may we give thanks for those who came before us to establish MPCS as a place set apart to do the work of the God of the universe.
Want to learn more about the Christian Life experience at Mount Paran Christian School? Click here!