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Academic competition to debut for Christian schools

[SLIDESHOW=48971,48972]MIRAMAR, Fla. (BP) — The Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools has announced it will begin an online-based academic competition, Knowledge Quest, for its member schools next spring.

Students from third grade through 12th grade can complete test modules in individual core subjects, electives and Bible knowledge, competing with other schools without having to travel, Wesley Scott, executive director of SBACS, told Baptist Press.

Schools may register as many students as they wish for each subject in each grade, and all that is required is an internet connection and a proctor to oversee testing sessions at each participating school.

The testing window is open for 30 days so that schools and students may schedule the testing any day or time they wish at their school site. Each test must be completed within a specified time.

Once the testing window closes, results will be released with awards for first, second and third place in each subject in each grade level.

“We are excited to make this opportunity available,” Scott said.

SBACS, with about 100 member schools nationwide, assists churches in starting Christian schools, strengthening existing church-affiliated schools and guiding parents who seek to educate their children with a biblical worldview while holding high academic standards.

Scott noted that children are under the direct influence of a school, whether public or private, for a collective 16,000 hours from kindergarten through 12th grade, yet they receive only 1,600 hours — if any — of structured Christian teaching at church during that same time period.

“The single greatest influence in a child’s life regarding academic content and philosophical framework, in regard to hours invested, is the schoolhouse,” Scott said.

“Who has the primary responsibility to educate children? According to Deuteronomy 6, God gave that responsibility to parents — not the government, state, district, community or even the school,” Scott said. “Parents have choices regarding the education of their children, and without guidance from the church, may likely choose what is convenient and free.”

When parents join hands with schools under a church ministry to teach the truths of God and His Word, Kingdom education is the result, Scott said. “All 16,000 school hours plus the 1,600 church hours under godly pastors and teachers and all other home hours spent with Christian parents give us the best opportunity to lead, build and equip children to serve Christ.”

One of the most crucial battles in the world today is for the minds and hearts of children, said Larry Taylor, head of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. “A child’s heart is nurtured best when a congruent message is modeled and communicated by the three primary training entities: parents, church and school,” he said.

The Bible says a threefold cord is not easily broken, S.L. Sherrill, founder and superintendent of North Raleigh Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C., told BP, and between the family, the church and the school, children can receive a biblically integrated Kingdom education with excellence.

Sherrill mentioned teachable moments that are not possible in public schools.

“You may be teaching AP Biology, and obviously for the AP exam they need to understand the tenets of evolution, but when our teachers teach it they have the opportunity to share truth as far as what true creation is all about — to be able to present it from a biblical perspective.

“An English teacher might be teaching ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ and you can talk there about a group of people that are very worldly, a group of people that are very legalistic and people who are biblical theists — they base their life upon the principles of God’s Word,” Sherrill said. “That’s not something that you could really teach in a public school as an English teacher, but you have the opportunity to make that application in a Christian school.”

Debbie Johnson, senior marketing director at Prestonwood Christian Academy, said when a biblical message is consistent in the home, school and church, it’s more likely to be internalized and then lived out.

“Kingdom education is not the bubble that people think it is,” Johnson told BP. “It is not just learning about Christianity or Christian values. A biblical worldview is not just forming everything to God’s Word, but it is allowing God’s Word to inform decisions and relevant topics. We tackle some of the toughest issues that everybody is batting around. Do we have answers for all of them? No. But do we understand how to process it, how to think about it, how to intelligently converse? Yes, and that’s what matters.”

An important lesson Prestonwood has learned, Johnson said, is that “embracing diversity has enriched our culture. We don’t want people to assimilate to a particular culture, but what we do is extract from all the various ethnicities that we have, and it makes us better for it.”

North Raleigh Christian Academy has more than 1,400 students, and last year’s senior class of 132 graduates averaged in the 1200s on the SAT and received about $4.5 million in college scholarships, Sherrill said.

“This past year one of our young ladies on our state championship volleyball team got a scholarship to West Point. Another one went to Cornell to play volleyball. One went to Duke University to play volleyball,” Sherrill said.

Duke gives 10 scholarships per year that are full tuition, room and board, and North Raleigh’s salutatorian last year received one of those scholarships, he said.

All of North Raleigh’s chapels are student-led, Sherrill said, and the school sponsors three or four mission trips per year — from Florida to India. Participation in a mission trip even is a requirement for graduation.

“We really try to be other-oriented and for our kids not to just soak it all up like a sponge but to be used,” Sherrill said, adding that the school sent student volunteers to clean up after hurricanes devastated Texas and Florida last year.

Parental involvement is high at schools like North Raleigh, he said, because parents who are paying to send their children to school usually are more engaged.

Behind Bible, Sherrill believes language arts is the second most important subject at North Raleigh “because faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” he said. “So we want to learn to do English well, to speak well, to write well, to read well because that is the medium by which God has given us His truths.”

Like North Raleigh, Prestonwood Christian Academy has been training students for more than two decades, “going deeper to take the results higher, intentionally building lives on Kingdom foundations,” Taylor said.

“Striving for academic excellence is essential to the full development of the mind and thinking Christianly and is best fulfilled in a learning environment framed by a Christian liberal arts design, where critical thinking and communication is expected throughout all of the scholastic disciplines,” he said.

At Prestonwood, “faith is not separated from learning but rather integrated intentionally.”

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  • Erin Roach