The New Me: Part 5, “Student Leaders”

Welcome to Part 5 of The New Me. Get caught up on the rest of the story! Click to view Part 1, Part 2Part 3 & Part 4.

Two years had passed since I taught my first 6th grade class as SCS. But it was time to say goodbye to elementary. I found out over the summer that I would be moving up to the secondary level. I know not everyone agrees with me, but I love working with older kids. I find their reasoning skills are more defined, and they don’t always take everything at face value. If you’re not 100% genuine with them . . . they see it. I also have a burden for them because their level of independence is catching up with their decision-making abilities. If they do not have a firm foundation in God’s truth, they will flounder and fall once the world is turned loose on them. Side Note: You’re not turning your kids loose on the world. You’re sending them out into the battlefield. I guarantee you the Army didn’t send a bunch of new recruits to storm Osama Bin Laden’s bunker. The commanding officers knew the enemy would destroy them. So why do we send off our unprepared young people into the world as if the world is the one who should watch out?! But I digress.

My new semester lineup included JH Bible, JH Speech, 9th grade English, 11th grade Economics, SH Speech, and Yearbook. I also took on the upcoming 9th grade homeroom. As the year progressed I was reminded every day why I love my job. I had the opportunity to take things like diagramming sentences, Jevon’s principle of diminishing marginal utility, and proper voice projection and apply it directly to my students’ lives. God’s Word came alive in discussions of friendship, moral tone, insatiability, and persuasion. Side Note: If you can’t find God in the mundane, you will struggle to find Him anywhere.

This continued for 3 years, and every summer my school room became a camp ground. But during second semester of my 5th year (3rd year teaching high school), the Lord provided me with a new challenge. Our school, like every other, is full of sinners (we teachers are included). But for the most part, the teachers are the ones pointing the way up the path of righteousness, and there are always a core of students who want nothing to do with it. In fact, they are setting up neon signs pointing down the opposite way. Human nature being what it is, who do the fence-sitting students want to be like? Do they want to emulate their teachers . . . or their friends? So, every day the students become more like each other in the giant cookie-cutter factory. Of course, you’re wondering “What about those kids who genuinely love the Lord and want to serve Him?” I have two questions for you: 1. Where you that kid? 2. How were you treated? I think we adults become senile a lot earlier than we believe when we allow ourselves to think that the scorners in our schools aren’t tearing down our kids left, right, and center. Once again, let’s use the Army metaphor. These new recruits know they want to serve their country, but they have no idea how to fight. If the enemy infiltrates the ranks, there is little hope.

So, how do you help the problem? Train the soldiers with a sense of urgency! I had the idea to start developing student leaders by instituting a Student Body Council program. We had a quasi-student leadership program before but it had deteriorated into a popularity contest between which heathen and which pagan had the most friends. Side Note: If your students leaders aren’t outspoken testimonies for Christ . . . they shouldn’t be student leaders.

Please don’t misunderstand me. No one is perfect. I have seen my fair share of college Prayer Captains, high school Student Body Presidents, and (dare I say) church pastors do one thing or another to disqualify them from their position. But that doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water. I say, “No!” We don’t give up discipling because we know they’ll never be perfect!

My plan behind the SBC was four-fold: 1. Give the students visible and productive roles within the school in order to be a good example. 2. Allow the students to suggest and even enact change that would help our school conform to God’s will for us. 3. To teach the students how to handle themselves like adults. Teach them to run meetings, vote, brain-storm, and produce a quality product without being harassed or cajoled by an authority figure. 4. Disciple them. I desired to use this council as an opportunity to find those God-loving young people and work with them one-on-one to become true leaders for Christ.

The student body was started and I have to say that our first experimental semester went very well, and I am looking forward to next year’s council. I’m also excited about some of the SBC’s summer projects!

But this service opportunity quickly shot off another tendril of service opportunities. Side Note: Do what God calls you to do and watch the opportunities multiply! I can’t actually remember how I got it into my head, but I was inspired in part by a friend. Yohannan Lee works at SCS in the kitchen, but he also is a tremendous help to me when it comes to Yearbook. Yo, is a gifted photographer and graphic designer. He created five of our Yearbook covers, takes tons of photos, Photoshops them all, and loves every minute of it. He is also a videographer. It just so happens that photography, graphic design, and videography are some of my passions as well.

Before long he and I created Student Body Films to function as our production company. We also founded Three Hands Studios to handle the technical side. In that first semester the Lord allowed us to produce the following projects and start our own YouTube channel.

The first was delivered by our Student Body President as a way to introduce the new SBC and to tell the student body a little bit about how she viewed her school

The second was just for fun. Our basketball teams were both competing in the Illinois state IACS competition and we wanted to liven things up a bit.

Our third and longest project was designed to help our junior highers as they prepared for the state fine arts tournament.

The final finished project promoted our school play, Anne of Green Gables.

The overall goal is to help the student leaders have an impact far beyond the four wall of their school. We want to show the other students that they can make a difference for Christ if they just try. So far these few videos have been watched over 2,500 in over 20 countries. Next fall we will focus on more educational and spiritual projects as well as the occasional entertaining film.

Side Note: Never be ambitious for power and glory. But don’t pass on opportunities to widen your circle of influence. When He was bodily on earth, Jesus had hundreds of disciples, 12 apostles, 3 in His inner circle, and 1 who was considered the closest to Him (note that I did not say favorite). You don’t have to be intimate with everyone, but if you can write a book, keep up a blog, post videos on YouTube, or preach to people who most individuals will never have the chance to meet . . . then do it!

Pray for our student leaders. If God can capture their hearts and train them to serve Him with all of their minds, bodies, and strength they will be a powerful enemy against Satan and his destructive purposes. Train up the children!

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The New Me: Part 4, “A Christian Ninja”

The first year I was at Bethel Baptist Church my responsibilities seemed to change with the seasons. Actually, “change” isn’t the right word. Perhaps the best word is “grew.” Fall ’07: 6th grade teacher. Summer ’08: 6th grade teacher and Camp Director. Fall ’08: 6th grade teacher and Camp Director and Martial Arts Instructor.

I started training in Tang Soo Do in 1992. I earned my first black belt in ’98. This year (2012) marked my 20th year in the martial arts. I’ve been teaching for 17 years, I’ve studied 10 different styles, and I’ve earned black belts in 3 of those styles. I am currently working toward my 5th degree in Tiger Ryu Ninjutsu. SCS knew all about my training, and we talked briefly when I was hired about the possibility of starting a program. I didn’t think it would happen for a loooooong while. Seriously, what Christian school has their own karate program? As Day Camp wound down and my second year of teaching grew near, one of the pastoral staff members got it in his head that I needed to start a martial arts program that fall! By God’s grace, in one month I went from nothing to a full-on curriculum. During the day I taught my new brood of 6th graders, and after school I ran over to the gym to meet my “little ninjas.” Of course, our curriculum has changed many times over the past years, but I thank the Lord that when my first students walked in the door they were greeted by a no-holds-barred, full-scale martial arts program. Side note: There are some things that don’t need to be prayed about. If there is a need, and God has gifted you in that area . . . fill the need!

I spoke with my pastor and told him I expected about 40 students. God gave me 80. With twice as many students, my wife was able to quit her job and stay home full-time with our son. God also gave me a student who would be intregal in running a successful school. She was brand new to the martial arts, but she wanted to earn her black belt in two years (she was a junior and would be graduating and going off to college). I told her that it was possible, but that I would have to ninja-kick her all the way. She said she was up for it. Two years later she earned her black belt and made a successful assistant instructor along the way (otherwise it was just me and 80 students!). I am very proud of Madelyn and her martial arts career.

The best thing about the program is that I can unashamedly preach God’s Word during the classes. We meet in a beautiful room off the school’s running track and everyone knows that we are as Christian as the church. In fact, it’s not simply a karate class, it is a Leadership Program. My students know that they are there to learn how to protect themselves and the ones they love from physical and spiritual harm. I have seen many young people develop and mature as they learn to discipline their minds, bodies, and souls. Side Note: If you’re not teaching God in all you teach, you’re teaching a world that works without God. When you do that . . . you lie.

Every year I have had more students than I can handle, and every year God allows the program to mature. One of the reasons I consider myself to be so blessed is that God has given me a place to serve that allows me to utilize the various passions I have. God allowed me to have many unique experiences growing up in order to make me the man He wanted me to be. Now He’s given me an outlet and said, “It’s time to start using those skills I gave you.”

Just one calendar year later and I found myself loving my job and basking in the glory that was serving God.

Amazingly enough, He had even more changes and opportunities for service already prepared for me. Stay tuned to Part 5.

If you missed Part 1, Part 2,or Part 3 of The New Me. Just click away!