The Secret Sauce at GCCS

People regularly ask us about what makes GCCS special. Schools are complex environments, especially when you have a large group of students across many grade levels. The answer to the question may have different emphases dependent on which part of the school you are most familiar. However, there are central components on which we all agree.

The primary reason GCCS is special is that God is here with us. Daily we invite the Holy Spirit to be in and among us as we go about the business of teaching and learning. Schools throughout history may have begun with a desire to honor God but they have since left Him out of the picture, personally and corporately. As a steward of the mission of the school, it is up to all of us to protect our continued emphasis on Christ, His teachings, and example of how to live a life of love. May we never lose our focus on God.

The second aspect of our school that makes it special is our people. We have a talented and dedicated group of Christian teachers who are called to GCCS. We have wonderful families who are committed to raising their children to know, love, and serve God. We have talented, creative, and hard-working students who understand what it means to love God and love others. I have worked in Christian schools for 38 years in various states. There is a deeper sense of community here than in other schools. There is nothing superficial about the love demonstrated here. It is obvious in everyday life, but it whispers (or shouts) all the more in difficult times.

The final aspect of what makes GCCS special is found in how we do school. Most Christian schools hire only believers of Jesus. Most have Bible classes and chapels, too. At GCCS, we do those things and more. We want to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5b) In order to accomplish this outcome, we need to integrate biblical thought into every area of our school. Many schools speak of this outcome but few, like GCCS, are intentional about making this a reality.

I am acquainted with dozens of Christian schools throughout the country who have told me that they integrate Scripture into lessons organically. Translated, this means that if it is done, it is done in a haphazard fashion. We are much more intentional in our approach. We look forward to those God-ordained, teachable moments but we are purposeful in planning the development of skills within our students so that this thought process becomes habit-forming.

One of the reasons that many Christian schools do not succeed in this area is that they have no common understanding of what biblical integration looks like in a school setting. We have chosen the definition cultivated by Dr. Martha MacCullough (2010) which describes, “the process of intentionally planning and teaching that helps the student think through the subject matter and skill development in such a way as to develop the habit of comparing and connecting all knowledge to a biblical worldview.” This definition provides us with a common goal and expectation of what we, as teachers, and our students should be doing in this area. The outcome is clear: we want our students to think about everything through the lens of Scripture.

The push for excellence in this area is not easy. Most of us (parents, faculty members, coaches, administrators) were not taught to think in this manner. Most of us learned about God and His Word from different people and in different locations from our schooling environment. This separation created mental silos in our minds and reenforced the misconception of a sacred/secular split. Many politicians, philosophers, educators, and even theologians today perpetuate this false thinking of a split between what belongs to God and what belongs to us. The Bible speaks clearly about God’s dominion over the universe, including us, how we work, what we have, or are learning. With this in mind, we spend a significant amount of time and money to train our staff to create learning opportunities to build these habits in our students.

It sounds complicated, doesn’t it? The truth is that it is simple, but it is not easy. The training or re-training of our minds to reduce and eliminate the sacred/secular split takes time, practice, and intentionality. As partners, we can work together to help our students in this process. You do not need a teaching or Bible degree to help. A powerful way to support our students is to ask your child(ren) questions. Let me explain.

Most of us ask our children about their day. The typical responses range from “Ok” to “Guess what happened at ….”. Let’s go beyond the event and feeling levels of questions to ask about academic content. We propose the following basic options:

  • What does that (content) teach us about God?
  • What does that (content) teach us about ourselves?
  • How does that (content) compare with what God said in the Bible?
  • Where else does that idea show up in the Bible?
  • Based on this (content), how should we think/behave/live?

For more advanced thinkers, consider asking:

  • How do other people with a different worldview (Humanism, Marxism, post-modernism) view this content?
  • What do other people with a different worldview do about this content?
  • How would you approach a conversation with a person with a different worldview on this content?

As I said, it is simple, but it is not easy. We incorporate this thinking into every unit plan. We may refer to the same concept multiple times throughout the unit. It takes time and intentionality to train our students to think in this manner. We develop our faculty to teach in this fashion. We are now asking our coaches to re-enforce these habits by asking good questions, too. We want to develop a community of learners who support each other in developing good habits of thinking biblically.

We believe that biblically integrated instruction is the secret sauce of GCCS. The formation of students who think about God, His truth, and how He wants us to live is the reason we exist. We know that students who think this way will impact their world as Christian leaders. Thank you for your partnership and pursuit of developing students who think biblically and demonstrate it by loving others.