How SouthLake Christian Academy Makes COVID-Related Decisions

When setting safety protocols, school leaders evaluate the following:

  • Recommendations by local, regional, state, and federal health officials
  • Guidance from a task force of medical professionals associated with our school
  • The number of COVID-19 cases in the primary zip codes that feed our school
  • The percentage of COVID-19 cases in our area affecting children ages 0-17
  • The best available scientific evidence regarding the transmission and virulency COVID and its most prevalent strains
  • The best available scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of COVID prevention measures and their associated costs and risks
  • Our capacity to identify COVID cases in our school community and follow contact tracing and quarantine protocols to contain viral transmission
  • Transparency and cooperation from teachers, parents, and students sufficient to operate safely

First, we attend carefully to health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), and the Mecklenburg County Health Department (MCHD). Additionally, the Governor of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Non-public Instruction issue guidance, recommendations, and/or mandates to which we must attend. All of these agencies update their guidance regularly, but sometimes in ways that conflict with other agencies.

Second, we try whenever possible to make decisions based on conditions in the primary zip codes that feed our school. Conditions in Mecklenburg County or NC as a whole can, at any given moment, be significantly better or worse than conditions in our primary zip codes.

Third, to help us review this ever-changing volume of data and make the best decisions for SouthLake, a team of medical professionals associated with our school review all proposed COVID protocols. In the end, our Executive Administrative Team makes final decisions, seeking to balance the medically ideal with the educationally feasible. We will continually assess current conditions adjust our safety protocols as needed.

We always aim to find a path between the extremes of panic and denial. We will assess risks in a reasonable way without being paralyzed by fear or pretending the pandemic is over. We will adopt the safety measures necessary to keep our students learning in person, on our campus, as safely as possible. We know not everyone will agree with every decision we make. We appreciate the cooperation of all our families nonetheless, and we recognize that as a part of a diverse community, we must operate with mutual trust and transparency to be successful. Our children deserve nothing less.

COVID Leadership

SouthLake Christian Academy – Update July 2021

I trust the summer is affording you a different pace of life and some time to recover from a stressful year. At the risk of interrupting your leisure, I would like to give you several school updates as we head into the second half of summer break.

Financial Operations

This week the School Board approved our budget for the coming academic year. We project revenue of approximately $7.8 million and expenses of around $7.5 million for a 4% operating margin, an important marker for a healthy organization. This assumes an enrollment of 610, and we are only 11 students away from that mark as of today. Our payroll expenses will increase from just under $4.1 million to almost $4.5 million (61.2% of our total budgeted expenses), with most of the increase supporting school-wide pay raises. We are also budgeting carefully for deferred maintenance. Based on a recent report from engineers and contractors, we have approximately $1.5 million in maintenance needs that must be addressed over the next 10-15 years, particularly HVAC, roofing, flooring, and paving. Simply put, as our facilities age, we must set aside money to keep them in good shape, admittedly not the most glamorous way to spend money. Simultaneously funding pay increases, facilities improvements, and strategic cash reserves feels like a juggling act, but we must keep all the balls in the air. We will always do our best to make decisions to best serve our students and put the Academy on the surest financial footing possible.

New Staff Roles

I have a few new staff roles to announce. Moving away from the “principal” titles more typical of public schools, Mark Apgar, Jennifer Thomas, and Becky Makla will now be Lower School Head, Middle School Head, and Upper School Head respectively. The Lower School has been the fastest growing division of SouthLake for the past two years, now with 12 classes, 24 teachers, and nearly 200 students and their families. Mark Apgar (soon-to-be Dr. Apgar) will thus need to focus his leadership on grades JK-4. Jennifer Thomas will relinquish her role as Assistant Principal and assume full leadership of grades 5-8. Becky Makla will no longer be interim but will assume permanent responsibility for leading grades 9-12. Kim Howlin has agreed to an expanded role as Middle School Dean of Students, a job she has already been doing without the title. Farrell Boone will take on new responsibilities as JK-8 Curriculum Director, helping us complete curriculum mapping needed for an accreditation review later this academic year. I will have several new teachers to introduce to you in my next email correspondence in August.

New Carpet and Paint

Most of the carpet on our campus is – shall I say this euphemistically – vintage, antique, original to the school. The time has come for us to replace it. This week we have been packing up carpeted offices and moving furniture into hallways. Next week almost all the carpet on campus will be replaced. The First Building Commons will also get carpet as the space is being renovated to create a sanctuary for SouthLake Church and a chapel, meeting space, and performance venue for the Academy. Until the carpet project is complete, some folks may be working from home for the next week or so while trying to avoid flashbacks of COVID lockdown.

COVID Measures for Fall

We continue to monitor guidance and legislation by local and state officials regarding COVID protocols for fall. We hope to begin the school year normally, ending most or all of our unusual safety measures, but I acknowledge this is dependent somewhat on circumstances beyond our control. Anecdotally I can tell you we’ve been operating summer camps mostly without masks and without incident. One safety measure will remain, however. If exposed, unvaccinated people will need to quarantine. Although we are not requiring the vaccine this year, it will eliminate your need to quarantine if exposed to COVID.

Happy Independence Day

As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence, I share with you the concluding phrase of the Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” These words remind me that any worthwhile endeavor needs both divine providence and mutual trust. I am thankful to live in a country and serve a school that actively recognizes the former and continually seeks to build the latter.

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.

Head of School

SouthLake Christian Academy

Education

SouthLake Christian Academy June 2021 Update

Dear SouthLake Christian Family,

I hope your summer is off to a relaxing start. For those new to SouthLake, I send a school wide update on the first of each month called First Thoughts. We welcome you to the school and look forward to knowing you better in the months to come.

Graduation

This past Friday we held the 19th graduation ceremony in our school’s young history. Here are some noteworthy facts about the class of 2021. Of our 58 graduates, one third are so-called “lifers” having attended SouthLake continuously since junior kindergarten or kindergarten. 50% of the class earned scholarships totaling nearly $3 million for academic achievement, leadership, and service to the community. 10% of the class will compete as student athletes at the collegiate level in soccer, baseball, basketball, and gymnastics. Our graduates were accepted to 72 different colleges and universities across the country. They will attend 31 different schools in 11 states and the District of Columbia. 53% will matriculate in state and 43% out of state, attending schools in the Southwest, Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast. During the pandemic, these students finished their senior year in person and thrived during arguably the most challenging year in the history of modern education. We are proud of them and pray for God’s wisdom to guide them as they take the next steps along life’s journey.

Enrollment

As of today, we have 594 students who have finished enrollment for the coming school year, 484 returning and 110 new. With almost three months to go in our enrollment cycle, we have already equaled this past year’s enrollment. Grades K, 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12 are now operating on wait lists. Word of mouth remains the most common way new families learn about SouthLake, so thank you for telling others about our great teachers.

Summer Enrichment Camps

We have a full slate of enrichment camps on campus this summer, with 214 students enrolled in 38 different camps, 9 of which still have space available. Many of our campers will be new to SouthLake this fall, and some are non-SouthLake students. We have both morning and afternoon camps available throughout the summer for students in junior kindergarten through high school. Camp registration closes at midnight on June 7. For more information and to register online, go to https://www.southlakechristian.org/campus-life/summer-camps.

Facilities

This summer we will be doing significant work improving our campus. Many of our teachers will be moving to new rooms as we flex space for new classes. Additionally, we will be painting the exterior of our main academic buildings, reflooring several rooms and offices, and doing significant renovations to our large playground. Your Annual Fund contributions help make these improvements possible. So far this year, nearly 50% of our families have made charitable contributions to the school. If you would like to give before the close of this fiscal year, you may do so online at https://factsmgtadmin.com/give/appeal/zF58bxcdG.

In closing, I want to say thank you for our success this past school year. We knew we would need a strong combination of committed teachers, cooperative parents, and courageous students, and by God’s grace, we got all three in abundance. The doctors and medical professionals whose children attend SouthLake were a tremendous blessing this year. Their calm advice and encouragement helped us make fact-based decisions, avoiding the extremes of panic or denial. As I finish my third year at SouthLake, I am more grateful than ever to be a part of this remarkable community.

Blessings for a restful summer,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Head of School

Education

SouthLake Christian Update – May 2021

Amazingly, only 13.5 days of school remain before summer break. I’m not typically one to count down the days, but this year is an exception. Each day in person this year has felt like a gift, and every week a victory. I will save my congratulations for the official end of the school year, but for now, I cannot thank our teachers enough for their herculean efforts to make this year possible. Did you know that the average tenure of our faculty is greater than 10 years? We have never needed their experience and expertise more than this year. I encourage you to drop your teacher(s) a note of appreciation next week. You have no idea how far those notes go toward sustaining endurance and boosting morale.

I have a few general updates on how we plan to approach the 2021-2022 school year in terms of COVID safety.

  • We will continue our Online Academy for students who need it for health reasons.
  • We plan to keep classroom capacities where they are now. Although the CDC has said three feet of spacing is adequate, we value small classes and hope greater spacing will allow us to relax other safety measures sooner.
  • We would all like to move away from masks as soon as we can do so safely. This will depend on vaccine acceptance by our students, families, and teachers, along with metadata showing vaccinated people are unlikely to contract or spread the virus. Although we do not plan to require the vaccine at this time, it’s likely our fastest way to eliminate masks.
  • We plan to return to as many in-person gatherings as possible, including weekly chapel services, although meeting sizes will depend on area conditions and health agency recommendations.
  • We will soon discontinue temperature checks as the NC Department of Health now considers them optional.
  • We plan to play football this fall. We have a full slate of games already scheduled, and I look forward to Friday nights under the lights once again.
  • We will keep you posted as we are able to make additional changes toward normal operations.

This past week I had the opportunity to spend three days at a Christian school a few hours away, serving on a site visit committee with ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International), one of our accrediting bodies. As a relatively new head of school, I found the experience incredibly educational as we prepare for our accreditation site visit next year. I came away from the experience with a head full of ideas, but mostly with gratitude for SouthLake and all that we’ve successfully navigated during our three years together.

Finally, we have a busy summer ahead as we offer a full range of enrichment camps on campus and several high school classes through our Online Academy. You have probably been bombarded with information on these topics, but if you need a refresher, let me know. We will also make campus improvements, prepare our classrooms for the fall, and finish academic scheduling to get you that information around July 1. And sometime in July, we’d like to take a few days to rest before we start it all again this fall. Until then, I encourage you to finish well, say thanks to your teachers, and say a prayer of gratitude to God for his blessings during a most unusual but successful academic year.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.

Head of School

SouthLake Christian Academy

COVID Education

One Year Ago …

One year ago, we closed our campus and moved to online instruction for all students. At the time, I will confess I had grave concerns about what the following months would hold for our school. How long would our campus remain closed? Would our people get sick? Would our students thrive online? Would we survive financially? How and when might we reopen our campus? These and a hundred other questions weighed heavy on my mind during long days working from home and occasional sleepless nights.

Fast forward to one year later. We are a better school today in every way. Enrollment is strong and nearing capacity as we have added four new classes in our lower school. Our financial position is sound and participation in charitable giving has grown remarkably. Our teachers have learned to navigate online learning with amazing skill and our technological sophistication as a school has developed at light speed. Our students have learned new coping skills that will pay dividends long after this pandemic ends. We all learned the value of cooperation and trust as we navigated this year together as a community.

One year after our world shut down, I feel gratitude. I am thankful to each of you for your support and cooperation this past year. We faced many issues that threatened to divide us as a community, but we remained unified in our commitment to educate and care for our students. I am thankful to the medical professionals whose wise guidance has helped us navigate the complexities of running a school safely during a pandemic. I am grateful to our teachers for the sacrifices they make every day to continue the noble work of education by whatever means necessary. And finally, I am thankful to God whose providence and protection we owe for whatever good the past year has brought us, and whose love for us in Christ drives us forward in our mission. The past 12 months have brought us precious little to celebrate, but today, we can certainly celebrate that we are still here and still doing the work God has for us, day by day, week by week, until one day all things are made new.

Academics community Education

Thank you SouthLake Christian Academy

We made it. We completed a full semester of in-person classes, five days a week for all students in all grades. In previous years, such an accomplishment would hardly be noteworthy. This year, it feels like a monumental achievement. I will confess to a few sleepless nights this past summer considering our options. We had to weigh the risk of certain harm to many by keeping students online, against the risk of possible harm to a few by returning to in-person classes. That decision was the most difficult of my professional life. In the end, we decided to support both in-person and online classes. I won’t bore you with the details of what it took to prepare, but I will tell you the preparation was worth every cent and every second. A doctor whose children attend SouthLake said to me in July, “If any school can pull this off, SouthLake can.” In retrospect, he was exactly right. We are by no means out of the woods, but as this semester ends, there are a few people I need to thank for our success so far.

First, I want to thank our teachers. They bore the most substantial risks. Would students in their classes give them COVID? Would our safety measures really work? Would students and their families cooperate? They faced this semester with uncomfortable unknowns and re-entered our classrooms when many teachers across the country refused to do so. They were careful, but they were not hesitant. They did not complain about all the many changes we had to implement to make this work. They taught students in person and online simultaneously, which is incredibly difficult. Some got sick or had to quarantine yet still taught remotely from their homes by Zooming into their classrooms on campus. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it here: our teachers are unsung heroes of this global pandemic.

Second, I want to thank our business team. This year they’ve had to make 10,000 complicated decisions in conditions of remarkable uncertainty. From CARES Act legislation to emergency financial aid disbursement to quarantine payroll tax adjustments, nothing this year was normal and nothing was easy. Both our CFO and our Senior Accounting Clerk are highly trained and experienced CPAs who care deeply about our families and never forget about the people behind the numbers. Without them, we’d never have finished 2020 with our current financial stability.

Finally, I want to thank our SouthLake families. You overwhelmingly supported our desire to return to in-person instruction and our plan to do so safely. You trusted us, cooperated with us, rolled with the changes, stayed flexible, kept us informed, and did your best to keep our students and teachers as safe as possible. You followed our protocols when your students had to be quarantined. You attended school meetings and parent-teacher conferences on Zoom. You were patient with tropical storms, power outages, early dismissals, and the accompanying carline delays that followed. And to top it off, you gave generously to the teachers’ Christmas fund.

I have never been prouder to be associated with SouthLake Christian Academy. By God’s grace and providence, we end 2020 as a stronger school than when the year started. May God give you and your family a blessed Christmas and New Year.

Sincerely,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Head of School

SouthLake Christian Academy

Uncategorized

Why I Am Thankful, Now More Than Ever, For a Liberal Arts Education

I have an undergraduate degree in French Horn Performance. I have master’s degrees in business and theology, and a PH.D. in philosophical theology. Aside from my MBA, all of my education has been in the so-called liberal arts. As opposed to concentrated vocational training in a career-specific course of study, a liberal arts education focuses on the academic disciplines of philosophy, history, language, literature, music, art, and the social sciences. Also called the humanities, these courses of study teach one to think and write and solve problems rather than merely to do a job. The humanities endeavor to make one a better person rather than merely a more credentialed one. I have never held a job that specifically requires me to have any of the degrees I hold, and yet in every job I have had, and at every stage of my adult life, I have been incredibly grateful for a liberal arts education. This is especially true now, for two key reasons.

First, closing and opening a school during a global pandemic has forced me to think carefully, critically, and calmly, skills without which I might have lost my mind or my job long before COVID could get to me. This year I have had to read and study more diligently than ever, sorting through mountains of data, discerning fact from fiction, disregarding hyperbole and speculation in order to attend to relevant information. Leading an organization during a public health crisis requires the kind of information literacy that a liberal arts education helps develop. Sure, a degree in public health would be helpful, but one cannot earn a degree to match every crisis. The abilities to learn concepts quickly and apply them appropriately are valuable precisely because they are transferrable.

Second, the racial turmoil and political polarization we have seen in recent months has exposed our inability as a nation to engage thoughtfully and productively in public dialogue on controversial topics. We are all tempted to exist in an echo chamber, listening to voices that reflect our own, viewing events exclusively through the lens of our own experience, and discounting alternative perspectives. Sustained engagement with the humanities inoculates against the kind of narrow ideology that divides and radicalizes. When we humbly subject our viewpoint to sustained critique, we are much more likely to see our own blind spots and to show empathy toward others with whom we disagree. I see no other way to live peaceably with my fellow citizens.

The free and critical exchange of ideas lies at the heart much of the western intellectual tradition from its inception. As the cost of a true liberal arts education has increased exponentially, I fear the value has been increasingly marginalized. Research shows that the humanities tend to have a moderating influence; serious students tend to view the world with less dichotomy and more nuance, less polarization and more subtlety, less estrangement and more empathy. In the process, perhaps students of the liberal arts also come to see that both politics and pandemics have less ultimate significance than matters of faith. Diseases and democracies rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God remains forever. Worry less about the schools you or your children may attend. Worry less about the fleeting social dramas that tend to occupy our immediate attention. Let us concern ourselves more intently with the kinds of people we are becoming, the kind of society we are helping to create, and the God who sits enthroned above all our fleeting and temporal concerns.

Education Leadership

First Thoughts: SouthLake Christian Academy School Updates, September 2020

Dear SouthLake Christian Family,

For those new to SouthLake, I send a school update on the first of each month entitled First Thoughts, a name I borrowed with permission from a colleague. I take this opportunity to send crucial information that will help you better understand and support our school. Today’s update includes information about our safety measures, enrollment, finances, School Board, and church affiliation.

First, let me begin with a word of appreciation. Thanks to your efforts and cooperation, we have had only 5 cases of COVID in our student population since the start of school. In each case, we were able to identify close contacts, quarantine the appropriate individuals, and provide them with online instruction. We now have first-hand evidence that our safety measures are preventing the spread of the virus at school. This takes remarkable effort on the part of all members of our community. Thank you, and let us all remain vigilant.

Second, our enrollment at this moment stands at 593. On this same day in 2019, our enrollment was 556. Almost all of this growth has taken place in grades JK-4 where we added classes to facilitate demand and keep our class sizes small. We begin this year with more than 150 new students and 23 prospective students still on a wait list. Most of our new families report they heard about SouthLake from other SouthLake families. Our retention rate, defined as the percentage of eligible students who return to SouthLake each fall, remains at 92%. These healthy numbers and upward trends are a testament to our teachers whose reputation has helped sustained SouthLake through multiple economic downturns.

Third, I offer this brief financial summary. Last year we received $6.9 million in net revenue from tuition and fees after awarding $1.2 million in need-based financial aid. 65% of revenue went to salaries, 18% to instructional costs, 12% to facilities (including debt), and 5% to administrative costs. In spite of the economic calamity caused by COVID, we received $115 thousand in cash donations, approximately $203 per student, only a slight decrease from the previous year. These numbers will obviously look different for the 2020-2021 academic year, but they will be different in amount not proportion. Our goal remains to spend most of our revenue on the thing that matters most to your students – the people who teach, minister, and invest in their lives.

Fourth, our school is governed by the SouthLake Christian Academy School Board. Four members of our School Board are also members or ruling elders of SouthLake Presbyterian Church, of which we are a wholly integrated ministry. The remaining three members of the School Board are selected by the school from among parents actively involved in the school. Members serve a three-year term and their primary responsibilities include financial oversight for the school along with supervision and evaluation of the Head of School. You can find more information about our School Board in our Student Handbook and on our website.

I mention this because the relationship between the church and academy is set to undergo some revision. At the conclusion of our annual audit in 2019, the CPA firm Franklin and Franklin recommended that the church and school divide into two separate legal entities to facilitate greater financial autonomy and transparency. Subsequently, the School Board voted to recommend to the church’s governing body that the church and school form separate 501(c)3 organizations. The church has now taken this recommendation under advisement and is considering what forms of church governance should remain to protect the long-term Christian mission of the school as the two entities separate. These discussions involve complicated details about asset allocation, debt management, financial accounting, and non-profit governance. I am happy to discuss these things with you, but I suspect I have already lost much of my audience at this point. Suffice it to say that our mission remains unchanged: to educate and disciple students in all aspects of God’s reality.

I would apologize for the length of this email, but those who would appreciate an apology likely stopped reading a few paragraphs ago. My tendency is to err on the side of transparency, sometimes at the expense of brevity. I want you to know how our school operates, and more importantly, the purposes for which it operates. So without further verbosity, let me close by saying that I am grateful each of you are part of the SouthLake family.

Leadership

Why SouthLake Christian Academy Will Not Play Football This Fall

Last week we made the difficult decision as a school to cancel high school and middle school football this fall. While this decision was not a surprise to many, it was likely a disappointment to everyone. I want to offer a full explanation of why we made this decision.

First, there is no way to play football and comply with the health and safety recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, or the Mecklenburg County Department of Health. As a school, we have chosen to follow the advice of scientists and public health experts whose job is to protect the common good by preventing the spread of diseases. In the opinion of doctors and researchers, the safety protocols we have in place for this school year give us the best chance of staying at school for in-person instruction on our campus. It makes little sense to work diligently to follow safety guidelines during the day and then ignore them to play a sport each afternoon.

Second, the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) categorizes football as the only high-risk sport played during the fall. Football is typically the largest fall sport in terms of participants and is by far the most logistically complex. Managing locker room and bathroom usage, transportation, team meetings, pre-game meals, access to our trainer, and the other logistics of the sport while maintaining physical distancing is not possible. Football also places our students in close contact with students at other schools that are not implementing the same safety protocols we are, adding to the cumulative risk for everyone involved.

Third, were a player to test positive for COVID-19, in all likelihood much of the team would be considered a close contact by health department standards and need to be quarantined and tested. An outbreak on the team, such as we have seen among NFL and college teams in recent weeks, could force us to close the high school and/or the middle school for a period of time. Because we have so many siblings at SouthLake, a high school closure would likely impact the middle school and vice versa. Many students at SouthLake have parents who teach here so closures would also impact our faculty. As we learned the first week of this fall, a positive case of COVID-19 can have far-reaching ripple effects across our school.

Fourth, the risk calculations we have to make about football does not support us playing the sport at this time. There are risks associated with everything we do now. Live instruction carries risks, but so does online instruction. When we make decisions of any kind, we balance the risks and ask ourselves which risks are worth taking and which ones are not. In our estimation, the risks of live instruction on campus were lower than the risks of keeping students at home. That risk calculation was based on data about the number of COVID-19 cases in our area, coupled with what we know about the educational and psychological effects of long-term social isolation. We did a similar cost calculation as we considered football this fall. The risks of playing are great, significantly greater than other sports, and those risks are not necessary for us to take. I acknowledge that other sports pose some risks too, but the risks are lower on average, the safety logistics easier to manage, and the implications of a positive COVID-19 test less severe.

Finally, let me say that I was hoping the NCISAA would reach this conclusion about football itself. Making this decision in unison with other schools would have been preferable to us having to make the decision alone. It has become clear to me, however, that even though a significant number of school leaders in our association have similar concerns about football, none have been willing to step forward, choosing instead to string students and their families along with the hope of a normal season. Increasingly I felt uncomfortable with this course of action. As we fought to keep our own school open in week one, I realized it is time for me to lead and to level with our young men and their families about the facts. The facts show that apart from a significant medical breakthrough, we cannot safely play football this fall.

On a personal note, let me say that of all the things the pandemic has taken from us as a school, losing the opportunity to see our students compete in sports is among the most painful. For years now, my fall Friday nights have been spent watching our students compete and cheer. Honestly, I miss that more than I do NCAA or NFL football, and I know many of you parents feel the same. But I also know that even had we played it would not have been the same. The NCISAA has wisely banned spectators from attending any athletic competitions this fall, so I will not see our students compete in person in any sport for the remainder of 2020. I do not like any of this, but I believe our efforts and sacrifices give us the best chance to keep school open for as long as possible for as many as possible. This too shall pass, and we will be under the lights on Friday nights once again.

Sports

Message to SouthLake Christian Faculty and Staff

As we began faculty in-service last week at SouthLake Christian Academy, I addressed our teachers with an annual State of the School update and some words of encouragement and motivation. I commended their unity as a faculty and their commitment to teaching our students in ever changing circumstances, and also acknowledged the challenges they face as our operations are turned upside down in every conceivable way. I offered the following devotional thought and challenge.

Matthew 14 and John 6 tell the story of Jesus walking on water, but they tell it a bit differently. In Matthew’s account, Jesus walks on water through a storm, gets into the boat with his disciples, and “the winds ceased.” In John’s account, Jesus gets into the boat and “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. If you are a contemporary historiographer, this may appear as a contradiction. Some argue that the two writers are telling two different stories. For Matthew and John, however, I believe the gospel genre in which they were writing was use for theological rather than purely historical purposes. Matthew tells us when Jesus arrived, the waters calmed. John says that when Jesus arrived, they were carried across the waters; the voyage ended. Sometimes God intervenes to calm our waters and we keep on rowing. At other times he carries us through the waters, the voyage ends, and the difficulty is over. How God chooses to intervene is his choice by providence, and I believe, for our greater good.

In that light, I challenged our faculty and staff to shift their thinking in the following ways:

  1. Shift from likes to needs. Rather than think about operational changes as things we like or don’t like, conceive of them as things we need to continue live instruction as safely as possible for as long as possible.
  2. Shift from opinions to facts. We may all have opinions about school opening, about CDC recommendations, about the politics of wearing masks, etc. but those matter far less right now than science and data. Opinions matter, but facts are actionable.
  3. Shift from feelings to strategies. As conditions change, and inevitably they will, how we may feel about changes is less relevant than the strategies we implement to cope as well as possible with whatever comes our way.

While I would prefer that God simply carry us through this storm, it appears that we still have some rowing to do. So I will hope for calm waters, trust God’s providence, and pray for endurance to give every stroke of the paddle my best.

Biblical Interpretation Leadership Theology