It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know

Thirty-one years ago I began my career in a small Christian school in South Bend, Indiana.  Since then I have been in Christian education all within this region of the country.  Recent decades have seen some major shifts in the world of education, changing much of what we do and how we do it.  It is impossible to navigate these times alone!

One of the first administrative actions I took after becoming the head of my first school was to join the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).  Many years later I see the importance of that move.

ACSI has connected me with hundreds of other administrators throughout the years.  I have attended dozens of their professional development events.  Most of my job changes have come through ACSI connections, including my move to Heritage in 2013.  And for many years I have served as an ACSI state representative, starting in Michigan and now for nine years in Wisconsin.

I started out as the rookie, but now feel like a dinosaur.  One thing has been consistent – my network of colleagues within ACSI schools have always been there for me.

Today we hosted 12 administrators and leaders from ACSI schools who participated in a round table discussion of various pertinent topics.  This Sunday an ACSI Accreditation Team will begin a visit at HCS that will last till Wednesday, hopefully ending with a renewed term of accreditation.

In this day of shallow electronic connections with 2D images of our “friends,” it is nice to have long-term relationships with people who help us grow and pursue excellence.  Taking time to network with our peers is hard work, but in the end knowing the right people always makes a difference.

The Seven A’s of Confession

There are some things that we do well naturally.  I’m pretty good at doing things that afterward require an apology.  I’m not always good at apologizing.

Many times in the past I’ve used something that Ken Sande created called The Seven A’s of Confession.  These seven actions, which all begin with the letter A, sum up many biblical principles (see Matthew 7:3-5; 1 John 1:8-9; Proverbs 28:13) related to what we need to do when we have offended or hurt someone else:

  1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
  3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
  4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
  6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
  7. Ask for forgiveness

Recently I spoke to a group of people and did not do a good job of ordering my thoughts.  Afterward I became aware of the fact that some people there thought I was saying something I was not trying to say at all.  They took offense and I had some apologizing to do.  I sent out an email apologizing to many who were present and asked if they could connect me with anyone who was offended by what I said.  I went to a number of individuals and expressed my sincere sorrow for my miscommunication.

Although it is good to cover all seven of these steps, even more important is the attitude of our heart.  People generally know if we are truly apologizing for the right reasons.  Checking off seven boxes alone won’t cut it.  But when we do genuinely apologize, amazing things happen – walls come down and relationships are healed.

Clothing Jesus

Yesterday I spoke to our MSHS students before they headed out to work on service projects.  I told them about Mr. Tiara, the old man who lived across the street from our family when I was growing up.  I started helping him with shoveling snow and mowing grass at my dad’s urging, but as I continued to serve I came to know and love him.

This reminded me of Matthew 25:34-36:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

I don’t ever remember clothing Jesus, but through this verse I realize that when I gladly donate shoes to Soles for Jesus it is like putting those shoes on Jesus’s feet.  When I helped Mr. Tiara I was not just shoveling snow or cutting grass – I was doing it for Jesus.

Jesus takes service personally.  In fact, when you look at these verses and the ones that follow, Jesus not only says every sincere act of service to others is the same as serving Himself, but He also stated that service was the one characteristic that was common to all who enter His eternal kingdom.  Those who did not assist those in need were not allowed in.

Service to others is one of the key signs that we have a living faith inside of us.  That is why we train and inspire servant leaders!

Praying for the Impact of Christian Schools around the World

About ten years ago our family heard a choir of children from many nations sing at our church.  During the service we learned how we could sponsor a poor child in a foreign country, and that is how we began our relationship with Jimmy.

Now 19 years old, our “adopted” son is a senior at Miracle Destiny School in Kampala, Uganda.  Through years of letters and pictures sent back and forth we have rejoiced to see Jimmy grow in Christ as the teachers at his Christian school have lovingly taught him.  He is excited about the possibility of attending a local university, studying engineering, and living out his faith.

What’s true for Christian schools in Uganda is true for us here in Wisconsin and around the world – schools like ours are built and sustained by prayer.  When we consider the costs, the lower salaries, the number of volunteers needed, and the political and cultural opposition we face, the chances of keeping our doors open and transforming lives seem low without the power of prayer.

Today is designated as a global day of prayer for Christian schools by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).  Please join me in widening our focus from our students, our school, and our community to consider the difficulties young people face across the globe.  Technology and scientific innovations can make some things possible even in poor countries, but they cannot meet the deepest needs children have.  What students like Jimmy need most is a relationship with Christ and knowledge that is grounded in truth.

Please pray today for Christian schools, starting with Heritage and spreading to all those that faithfully serve young people in almost every nation on earth.  See https://www.acsi.org/day-of-prayer for details.

Stepping Back

Why do we need a crisis before we step back and assess what is happening in our lives?  At my first school I became the head administrator after teaching for nine years.  The next three years I worked non-stop as we restructured the school, reformed the mission statement, moved the elementary school location one summer and moved the MSHS the next.  In my third year I had a disagreement with the pastor of the church that oversaw the school and he questioned my ability to lead any school.  He didn’t fire me, but he shocked me into a crisis.

Much of that year I wrestled with questions.  Was I doing what God called me to do?  Did I have what it took to be a school administrator?  Should I look at some other vocation?

After much self-reflection I left to take a job at another Christian school and served as their MSHS principal, being mentored by a head-of-school who was wise and seasoned.  Looking back I realize that I would have been better off evaluating my life before the crisis of having my pastor doubt my ability to lead.  I needed a mentor and I could have seen that minus the calamity.

Spring break this year was a good time for me to step back.  There was no crisis.  I didn’t go on vacation.  I didn’t come to work.  I rested, read, thought, and had good conversations with my wife.  Now I’m beginning to see some adjustments I need to make to be a better, more effective leader.

We all need breaks, but sometimes people like me don’t take the time because we are too busy working.  I want to remind you, and me, to step back, rest, and reevaluate.  We won’t regret doing it.

Message to Our Pastors – Lead Strong

Today we had the honor of hosting over 25 pastors as part of our annual Pastors’ Appreciation Breakfast.  It’s a big deal.  We pull out all the stops, serve a great meal, put on a program, ask students to serve, and finish with a message and prayer.  That begs the question: Why do we do this?

Encouraging – From heaven’s perspective (the only meaningful perspective) the pastors of our Bible-believing, Christ-honoring churches may be the most important group of leaders in our area.  The kingdom of God moves forward when the leaders of God’s people successfully guide believers to spread the gospel and to grow deep in their faith.  While the forces of darkness are always attacking these leaders, there are very few times when pastors can be celebrated and encouraged to keep fighting the good fight.  We get to do that!

Sharing – We love our pastors and we want them to know about the good things God is doing at Heritage.  This year we were able to tell them about the great progress we are making in developing our Leadership Trek program which will help all of our students grow significantly in the four key areas of our Portrait of a Graduate: relational, honorable, Godly, and prepared.  We interviewed four students at the breakfast and they told the story of how we are helping them grow in each of these areas.

Challenging – At the end of the program we shared how we are seeking to lead strong at Heritage.  Using our theme verse (Joshua 1:6) we emphasized our need to build strength, courage, people, and vision.  We hope our efforts to vigorously pursue our mission will spur our pastors to do the same as they seek God’s vision for their ministries.

March is Strategic Planning Month

One of the best things our school board and administration did in recent years was to put together an outstanding strategic plan.  Scores of initiatives were lined up in the spring of 2014 and almost all of them have been completed.  Now it’s time to plan for the coming years!

On Friday, March 23, our board, along with many administrators, will meet with Independent School Executive Consultant Walker Buckalew to launch a strategic planning weekend.  The group will meet for three hours on Friday night and three hours on Saturday morning.  Buckalew will assemble a draft on Saturday which will be reviewed by a small group on Sunday, followed by a presentation to the board and administration on Monday night.

This seminal meeting will be the tip of the iceberg in comparison to all of the meetings and discussions that have taken place in preparing for the new plan.  Last year we started a number of ad hoc committees to discuss various subjects and initiatives to be covered in the plan.  Each possible objective needed to be put in a timeline and include likely costs that would be incurred.

The existing plan covers major areas such as mission fulfillment, staff development, financial stewardship, facilities, governance, and programming.  In addition to these, the new plan is expected to address areas such as academics, admissions and marketing, athletics, capital campaign/new addition, diversity, Educational Support Services, extracurricular programs, student/teacher ratios, summer school, and technology.

So what can you do to help this process?  First, it is not too late to give ideas or feedback.  Please feel free to email me at jdavis@hcsmail.org.  But more importantly, we ask that you pray for us to make the wisest decisions that will benefit students for decades to come!

What’s the Real Quest at Heritage?

When I think of a quest, I picture someone on a heroic, selfless, passionate journey going against all odds to accomplish something great.  I think of Don Quixote and the song The Impossible Dream.  So why did we name our annual spring service day/fundraiser “The Quest”?  I’m glad you asked!

We are on a grand quest here at Heritage, but it is not to slay dragons or revive chivalry.  Our quest is to train and inspire servant leaders through exceptional, Christ-centered education and programs.  If we hope to do this we must transform our students’ view of this world from the materialistic, shallow, sensual outlook that permeates our society.  A biblical worldview accompanied by salvation through faith in Christ has the power to change everything in a person’s life.

So how does the proverbial rubber meet the HCS road?  It happens when Godly teachers invest in the lives of their students by consistently teaching them Christian values while living them out every day.  Students begin to change as they see the poor, afflicted, forsaken people of the world as God’s image-bearers and souls for whom Jesus died.  When we can reach outside of the school walls and touch the lives of others in truly meaningful ways, the scales of darkness start dropping from students’ eyes and they begin to see the world as it really is.

The Quest, which launches next week, is a fundraiser, but it is so much more.  It is an event that speaks to the heart of who we are and what we want our students to become.  Serving others is our calling.  Thanks in advance for supporting this event while also lending your support financially.  This quest makes a big difference in so many ways!

What Won the Super Bowl? Maybe Relational Wisdom

Everyone is trying to figure out how an NFL team that had struggled in the past, was breaking in a new coach, and lost their starting quarterback late in the season, could go on to win the Super Bowl.  Many articles like this one attribute this success to emotional intelligence, but the Christian influence on the team suggests a deeper answer: relational wisdom.

Emotional intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”  There have been many books written on the subject along with extensive studies that prove the effectiveness of people with a high Emotional Quotient (EQ).  But Christian author Ken Sande, best known as the founder of Peacemaker Ministries, points out the fact that this phenomenon is nothing new – is has been well documented for thousands of years in Scripture.

Throughout the year our teachers have been working through a course produced by Sande called Relational Wisdom.  It acknowledges the key factors that play into emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-engagement, others-awareness, and others-engagement.  But Sande adds the pieces that researchers seem to miss: God-awareness and God-engagement.

Anyone with an open mind cannot ignore the importance that God played in this Philadelphia team.  The coach and many key players, including both quarterbacks, were openly acknowledging God before they gave appropriate credit to their team dynamic and the play of individuals.  Coach Doug Pederson would be the first to say that God provided the inspiration that made them be exceptional at inclusion, empathy, relationship building, and overcoming adversity.

Heritage may never get the attention that comes from winning a Super Bowl, but we can tap into the same relational wisdom the Eagles had that make us true winners.

Teaching Excellence at Heritage – by the Numbers

Through the years God has brought many exceptional teachers to Heritage.  I could give many illustrations of the outstanding academic training my own children received at HCS along with a multitude of other stories coming from alumni and current students, but maybe these numbers will help tell the tale of educational excellence found among our current faculty:

  • 100 – percentage of teachers who are graduates of four-year, fully-accredited colleges and universities
  • 100 – percentage of administrators who have Master’s degrees
  • 21 – percentage of full-time teachers who have Master’s degrees with many more working toward them
  • 33 – percentage of new hires this year who have Master’s degrees
  • 1,022 – total years of experience for our combined faculty
  • 24 – average number of years teaching for our full-time faculty
  • $26,458 – budgeted amount for teacher professional development for 2017-18
  • $700 – average amount spent per full-time teacher for professional development in 2017-18
  • $9,500 – amount of money added to the professional development budget each of the last two years and planned to be added per year for the next three years
  • 100 – percentage of full-time teachers who attended one or more off-site educational conferences in 2016-17
  • 100 – percentage of full-time teachers who are participating in Professional Learning Communities
  • 100 – percentage of returning teachers who have a individualized professional learning plan in place
  • 100 – percentage of teachers who receive coaching from administrators that culminates in an annual evaluation

I’m sure I can come up with more statistics that could prove this point, but I think you get the idea.  At Heritage, we are serious about hiring and retaining excellent teachers who are passionate about becoming better at their craft!