Falling Away from the Faith

Hi Parents,

It’s been another exciting week on campus. There are so many cool things happening at SVCS. We have rolled out Chromebooks and are beginning to use them in our classrooms at every level. We have introduced this year’s mission trip to Cuba. The High School Seminar program is off and running, and kids are taking innovative classes in marketing and psychology. The 5thgrade science camp is right around the corner. I could go on and on. There is so much good happening here every single day! I hope your kids are coming home excited about learning and excited about life!

For the last month or so, we have been exploring some of the reasons that we invest in Christian education. If you haven’t read those posts or watched those videos, please go back and check them out (we’ve included a link to them at the end of this post). I hope that they are an encouragement to you about what is happening in the lives of SVCS students.

Today, I want to share another story with you. This one blows me away.

Let’s start with a few premises upon which I think we can all agree: We are all in process. We are all moving, growing, evolving, and changing. We are all navigating the peaks and valleys of our existence. None of us is where we will ultimately be. And, probably most important, we are all sinners and God gives us grace anyway.

So, if these things are true and we actually believe them to be true, Christian communities should be our most open, our most forgiving, and our most loving places. We should feel safe. We should feel empowered. We should be open to vulnerability.

But there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we frequently act. We all say these things. We all believe these things. But, so often in Christian communities, we feel a need to project an image of perfection. We put on a show. We make everyone think that we have it all together. This is the image that we are supposed to present, so even if it is not true, we know how to play the game. Ultimately (and I am speaking for myself here), this is an act of pride. I want to be perceived a certain way. So, despite the reality of where I am on my journey, I am unwilling to project anything that may damage others’ perceptions of me.

This manifests itself in so many ways. Have you ever had any of these thoughts? “Man, I really need to go down front and get prayed for, but then people would see that I am struggling and they might reject me.” Or, “I want to tell my pastor that I am having doubts about God but I am on the worship team. So I am just going to pretend that the doubts don’t exist; otherwise, they might not let me sing next week.”

I think this is the quintessential American problem. We are so image conscious. We are so concerned about the opinions of others. And, we all know that we should be fighting this narrative, especially in Christian communities. But, in my experience, there are a lot of Christian organizations — churches, schools, non-profits — that feed this lie. We say we believe in grace, but the only people we actually accept are those who have it all together. As a result, everyone thinks you have to have it all together before we can actually be an effective witness for God and His Kingdom. And, because we all want to be effective witnesses, we get really good at faking it. We become Spiritual Stepford Wives.

Ok, that was a really long introduction to today’s story. Check this out! This is amazing!

A couple weeks back, I was talking with a mother who might be reading this email right now and probably had no idea that our exchange would become the topic of a blog post. So … we will call her student “Bob.” Anyway, we exchanged pleasantries and introductions and I just asked her to tell me a little about Bob’s experience at SVCS. Her response shocked me. She said, “Bob is falling away from the faith … and I am so blessed that it is happening here.”

Whoa! I don’t even know where to start with that. That is an amazing testament in so many ways.

First, let’s address the obvious question. How can this happen? Aren’t we supposed to reinforce faith and values? Of course we are, and of course we do. Our teachers do an amazing job. But what this mother so astutely pointed out is that Bob is on the journey. His journey is different than everyone else’s journey and (remember our premise) we are all in process — none of us is where we will ultimately be. She gets it. Doubt is a natural part of the faith journey. And the teachers at SVCS are going to walk with Bob as long as he is here. He will be loved. He will be accepted. He will be allowed to be himself. She believes that her son will see Christ every single day.

Second, think about what this says about our school and our culture. This parent hit the nail right on the head. If someone is going to doubt, is there a better place to doubt? If someone is going to question, is there a better place to question? On an even deeper level, this statement says so much about the trust that students can develop with their teachers at SVCS. The simple fact that the culture of the school allows for the admission of doubt is already beyond the culture of so many Christian organizations.

I love this story because it gets right to the heart of who we are and who we are trying to be. Your child has doubts about God? It’s awesome that he is in Mrs. Waggoner’s class this year — she will demonstrate the love of Christ every single day. Your child doesn’t know if Christianity is for real? It’s so cool that he is on the swim team, because Mr. Bergen is the model of a servant. Your child is lost? I’m so happy she has Mrs. Parry, because she prays for her students every single morning.

I could go on and on. This is the story of our school. This is the story of our teachers. They are completely sold out and committed to the spiritual formation of our students. They care about these kids, no matter where they are on the journey. They foster an environment of trust. They love these kids with the love of Christ. Students at SVC are allowed to doubt. But more than that, they are actually allowed to admit their doubt and have people walk with them through their doubt. I cannot tell you how rare that is. The pretense is gone. The facades are torn down. The masks are off. Students can be real and be known.

It is truly a blessing to work at a place like this.

Have a great weekend!

Erick Streelman
Head of School


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