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School witnesses God at work in enrollment, finances, conversions

HOPEWELL, Va. (BP)–Among those to consult about building a Christian school, the list could include the Old Testament prophet Elisha and Ken Hendricks, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Hopewell, Va.

Though no ax head floated for Hendricks, as one did for Elisha in his day, God has blessed Woodlawn Christian School in “miraculous ways,” the pastor said.

When he arrived in 1994 as Woodlawn’s pastor, about 50 students were enrolled at the Richmond-area church, which is now associated with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention. In five years enrollment grew to about 150, but the school was struggling financially. Last fall the kindergarten through eighth-grade school moved to another facility and enrollment shot to 239. Projections for next year are for 350 students and a black line at the bottom of the budget.

“We owe all of this to a great miracle of God,” Hendricks said. “Just after we voted to invest $4 million in the purchase and renovation of an old high school, God stepped in” through the generosity of a local businessman — not a Woodlawn member — and dropped a 26,000-square-foot building and three acres of prime real estate in the church’s lap on a gift deed.

“Our people immediately got on board,” raising $82,000 in two Sundays, Hendricks said. Then they pledged another $100,000 for the next year. The church borrowed $650,000 to renovate the facility and add a 9,600-square-foot cafeteria.

“All through the project we could see God’s hand at work,” Hendricks said. Outside donations totaled $21,500, and the church bought $100,000 worth of nearly new kitchen equipment for $7,500.

There’s no convincing Woodlawn members that God isn’t in this school, because other miracles of even greater importance have occurred.

“Conversions to Christ average around 25 per year, and as many as 40 last year, with a ratio of one adult for every five children,” Hendricks said. “This has added some strong families to our church — families that roll up their sleeves and get to work with us — usually four or five families a year.” The school brings continuity to family activities, both church and school, he said.

At some school plays, parents and students publicly express their desire to follow Christ and become Christians, Hendricks recounted. “We see things happening we know in our heart of hearts wouldn’t have happened without a Christian school. The spiritual aspect is overwhelming.”

A Christian school can be a church’s greatest outreach ministry if the church hires qualified teachers, and starts only one or two grades at a time, rather than trying to offer all grades, he said. “Don’t try K through grade 12 in the first year. And if you need to start it in the church, fine, but get moved as soon as possible.”

Another bit of advice is Hendricks’ requirement that teachers’ lives reflect the one they teach the kids. “Our teachers’ continued employment is determined by their attendance and ministry involvement at their home churches,” he said.

Since attending the school is a privilege and not a right, Woodlawn doesn’t accept the children of couples who live together without benefit of marriage. “If we find out about this, we confront the couple with a simple choice: get married or find another school,” Hendricks said. “I’ve had some storm out of my office and others to get married.

“Our objective is not to expose the children to double standards. That’s what we tell parents who are unchurched. Next thing you know, we’re holding hands around the office and parents are praying to commit their lives to Christ. Once they find Jesus, they say, ‘This is what we’ve been looking for.'”

Seeing lives changed is Hendricks’ greatest satisfaction. “I have a stack of handmade cards on my shelf right now from the kids. They are the most touching things I have ever read.”

Some of the kids enroll as troublemakers and graduate as youth with character. “I watch them as they develop and begin to bloom,” Hendricks said. “It’s exciting to watch them grow, accept Christ, become involved in church and then hear them sing a solo in a Sunday service and know that we had a part in it and that God allowed us to make such a difference through this Christian school.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MIRACULOUS MOMENTS.

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  • Norm Miller