Jay Blogs – Worth the Investment

GCS Kindergarteners and three Class of 2023 Graduates

This past weekend, I was down in Waco for Sing, a musical performance event. Other than graduation, it will be my last Baylor dad duty after 9 years of being a Baylor parent, having two Grace Community School/Baylor University graduates, and one more soon to share that combination of degrees.  As our youngest was waxing philosophically about all she had learned at Baylor and discussing her plans beyond college, my wife and I looked at each other and gave one of those silent “parent laughs” with our eyes. 

Because, really, is there ever a time in your life when you think you know more than when you’re 21 or 22 years old? Maximum education, coupled with minimum wisdom and humility. You have life by the tail, completely figured out, and you have a little bit of patronizing dismay for the well-meaning, but, frankly, naive people who raised you. It’s at this time in your life that you are perhaps most committed to not make the mistakes your parents made, including their educational decisions. 

It’s at this point in their lives that I hear the largest number of our alumni say that they would never send their own, at this point, mythical children to this school, couldn’t fathom such a thing. That was their parents’ decision. Not theirs. They are their own person, and will live their own lives, thank you very much. 

And yet, something pretty remarkable happens over the course of about five years or so, from this apex of their knowledge and understanding to the point that they actually get married, and (as marriage has the great capacity to do) see themselves for who they really are. And, then these mythical creatures, these someday children, become actual ones, and the enormity of caring for someone you could never imagine you could love so much becomes a terrifying, beautiful reality. And, you realize that nobody gave you the playbook, that you don’t actually know what you’re doing as you hold these amazing, beautiful beings secreting liquid matter out of every orifice of their bodies.

Suddenly, you realize that these parents, these people who raised you, must have felt this way, too, and somehow their God, who has by now also become yours, equipped them to not only keep you alive but to get you to this point–educated and married and loving Jesus and trying to now keep this being in your arms alive. And, your parents, formerly well-meaning, but naive fools, suddenly become the wisest people you have ever met or known. And, it now becomes crystal clear to you why they knew they needed partners, people who were also speaking Jesus into you, teaching you and loving you, because they knew they couldn’t be with you 24 hours a day and that, when they weren’t, they wanted the adults in your life to be saying the same things you were, telling the same truths, hearing the same story, the greatest story ever told, the only story you now realize would give meaning, and truth, and purpose to the life you live. 

You now realize that this place, this school, these people that you swore you would never be a part of again were the lifeline that fed you, that nurtured you, and that God used to equip you into the man or woman you had become. And, now that you’re holding this precious new being that you love more than your own life in your arms, you have one clear thought- whatever it takes, whatever I have to do, this one will be at Grace, and have what I have, what my parents gave me. 

Now that I am in my 21st year as head of this amazing school, a school celebrating its 50th year of “Teaching Jesus” to our families, the community, and the world, I have had the blessing that many other heads don’t have. I get to have my kids’ kids here. My students’ students. And, this is the story I hear time and time again- 

I have a friend, an oncologist here in town, a Grace alum and Grace mom. She says it’s definitely the relationships she had with teachers and staff that she enjoyed most as a kid at Grace. She felt known and loved in a way that, when she went away to school and compared her experiences to her peers’ experiences, she saw they hadn’t had. She realized Grace was her “mother ship,” and she wanted that connection for her kids. She wanted to have relationships with her kids’ teachers, and she wanted to be where her kids would be known and loved. And, after not seeing that at other schools when she lived out of town, she knew where she’d find it- at the “mother ship.” So, that’s why her kids are here.  

I have another friend I eat breakfast with every Friday, also a Grace alum. He says that it’s obvious that Jesus is taught at Grace, and that’s very important to he and his wife, also a Grace alum. But he also knows how very hard it is to find people who will take the time to truly know your kids and to love them. He knows what it is like to have that, and he attributes a lot of who he is now to it. The fact that he is able to give that experience of being known and loved by teachers who are speaking Jesus into the lives of his kids is priceless. 

I know having kids here is a sacrifice. I know outstanding Christian education isn’t cheap. We’re a part of CESA, a consortium of the top Christian schools in the country. We were one of the first schools to be a part of that consortium, and we’re part of that consortium because we have met a set of standards that are the highest standards set for Christian schools.  The other CESA schools in cities in Texas, providing the same quality of Christian education, schools who send their kids to the same colleges and universities that we do, where our kids succeed as well or better, and do the same types of things after they graduate (I know because I’ve watched it over 20 years), these schools costs $10,000 more every year. It’s not because we live in Tyler. Most of our fixed costs are the same: insurance, utilities, curriculum, equipment, in most cases, teachers’ salaries. Our families pay on average $10,000 less per year. Most of those schools award financial aid that averages 6 to 8 percent of their operating budget. We award the equivalent of 15 percent (much of which we raise every year). We work to keep it affordable. But, even so, this is an expensive investment, and a sacrifice. No matter who you are.

If you’re like most Americans, you’ll own multiple houses, multiple cars, probably multiple dogs, as much as you love them, in your lifetime. But, these kids. They’re the only ones in your house that are eternal, that are image bearers of God, that are His children. 

There’s nothing more important as parents than raising disciples in our home– the Great Commission begins with our own house, because those are the ones God entrusted most closely to us. It doesn’t end there, but it does begin there. We need partners to help them in the journey. And, that’s why Grace exists, and why we all need it. They’re worthy of our greatest investment, and I’m so grateful to all of you who have made that investment.