When I hear people talk about the school community at Grace, the word I hear so often described is “family.” I really do believe people believe that, and feel that they are a part of something bigger and more important than themselves, something very beautiful that God has put together. Community is a lovely, God-honoring thing, but a fragile thing. It doesn’t happen naturally. Pastor Tim Keller has said that the paradox of the Body of Christ is that God takes people who would otherwise be enemies of each other and calls them to live together as brothers and sisters in community. Community must be fought for, contended for, prayed over, and preserved. It’s not easy, but it is hugely valuable and worthwhile.
Not only does strong, caring community honor God and give testimony to the gospel, but research shows that when the relationships among adults in the school community: administrator to teacher, teacher to teacher, teacher to parent, administrator to parent, and parent to parent, are all strong, it creates a healthy, safe environment which maximizes student learning. There’s no greater way we collectively contribute to our children’s learning environment than by living in a healthy community with each other.
As I said, community doesn’t just happen; it takes work from everyone. It takes being peacemakers, working to resolve conflict when it arises. It takes encouraging each other and looking out for each other. It takes praying for each other, and caring for each other’s needs. And, it requires giving when a need arises.
At Grace, financial aid is such a need. At Grace, roughly 25 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid. That percentage has stayed roughly steady for the past 15 years, through all kinds of economic cycles, upturns and downturns. Every family at Grace pays what they can. Financial need is determined by a third party service reviewing financial information and making a recommendation. For 25 percent of our families, there’s still a gap. Those families include teachers’ kids and pastors’ kids, and classmates, teammates, people of all walks and types. In the past, these kids have included National Merit Scholars, starting quarterbacks, Fine Arts Students of the Year, and families that are the glue holding our school together. They also include all other types of families and students, spectacular and amazing in their own way, as each of our kids, made in the image of God, are.
And, each year, these families pray that God will provide a way for their children to be at Grace one more year, and take it on faith that He will. As one parent told me once (and I never forgot it), “God told me to have my kids at Grace, and so we sacrifice, paying everything we can. And, we trust in God for the rest. Because God has told us to do it, it’s a need, and Scripture says, ‘my God shall provide all your need according to his riches in Christ Jesus.’”(Phil. 4:19).
The way God provides is you. Some schools build 10 percent or more of their budget as financial aid. At Grace, we’ve long operated under the belief that our community, our family, has to care for each other. And, that should be voluntary. So, only a very small part of our budget, usually around five percent, is intended for financial aid. And, every year, we trust and pray that God will show up and provide the rest for our families. We pray He will ask you to do it.
Every year, God shows up and provides. He does it through people just like you. Some of our biggest givers, not in dollars, but in sacrifice, are our families actually on financial aid, who believe in what we’re doing and who want to help other people the way God has helped them. I still remember the $40 I received one time for financial aid from a single mom, together with a note that that been crumpled and thrown away, then fished out of the trash and mailed to me together with the money, indicating that God had won out over her flesh and fear in prompting her to give that gift. I kept a copy of that letter, because it’s emblematic of the battle we all face– do we really trust the God of the universe with our resources, to provide for us and give more than we ever could?
God gives through all of you, and He gives generously. Nowhere do I see the beauty of our school community like I do when we give to care for each other. We have that opportunity again this week with our school auction, benefitting financial aid. Please join us, help us love well and strengthen our community.
Jay Ferguson, PhD, Head of School at Grace Community School, writes regularly on his blog, JaysBlog.org.