Grace Christian School

Parents the Crucial Factor in a Child’s Education

June 07, 2018
By John Morrison

Last week’s blog reflected on the priority of our children’s education being grounded in our Christian understanding of truth.  In this context, the apostle Paul wrote: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form …” (Col 2:8-9).  This priority focused on biblical truth must apply to the fundamental assumptions underlying our children’s education.

But as important as this emphasis on truth in education may be, there is another vital element that Christian parents must understand.  That is, they must always be the primary mentors for their children. This following piece from the Huffington Post is a must read for all who work with our children, especially parents.

Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s.

In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations [and] were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The connection is “nearly deterministic,” said University of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.

Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.

“No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. “Parents just dominate.”

This is both sobering and encouraging. These findings simply reinforce what the Bible already tells us … that Christian parents must be the primary mentors for their children. When parents are proactive in this context, then the church and Christian school will have their maximum impact in coming alongside and reinforcing what is already being taught in the home!

To read the entire Huffington Post article, click here.

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Education and Truth

May 30, 2018
By John Morrison

As I wind down my blogs here at the beginning of the summer,  I would like to share a couple "installments" that are very much upon my heart as concerns our families.      

If we understand our cultural history, we will recognize we have transitioned from a society grounded in the absolutes of the Judeo-Christian traditions to one that is now "post-truth," where each individual determines reality based on his or her individual constructs, feelings, and opinions.  A whole generation of young people has been colonized by popular culture and its post-truth, relativistic values. According to a number of surveys, even the majority of professing Christians – some surveys put it as high as 75 to 80% -- reject the fundamental notion of truth as absolute and objective.  One of the great ironies among professing believers is our failure to recognize how extensively this post-truth mindset has infiltrated our culture.

Francis Schaeffer saw all of this coming in the late twentieth century and observed: "Do I really believe Christianity is truth, or does my Christianity rest only on an experience, an emotion—and when the experience, the emotion, cools, my Christianity collapses?"  This clearly explains the phenomenon of so many of our younger generations walking away from Christianity. And this is because they have never been consistently and thoroughly taught that our faith is not a matter of opinion or feeling, or even "what works for me."  Rather, as Paul stated in sharing the gospel with Festus, a Roman official: "I utter words of sober truth, rationality, and soundness of mind" (Acts 26:25).  Gospel truth is not a construct of one's personal feeling, but objective content that is the truth about reality regardless of one's opinion.

In this context,  I am saddened when, in the larger Christian culture,  I hear some of the rationales underlying parents' decisions concerning the course of their children's education.  One common theme is to provide them with "greater educational opportunities." Another is "I want my child to be happy."

In this context, I find myself asking: "What about the issue of truth in education?"  Is a genuine Christian education that is grounded in the Christian, Biblical assumptions about truth to play second fiddle to "greater educational opportunities" (please refer to last week's blog) and a child's so-called "happiness?"  Exactly what is our priority when it comes to the issue of truth as represented in the education our children receive?  The great reformer Martin Luther stated: "I am very much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth.  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount." John Calvin and most other early reformers shared Luther's perspective. I find it ironic that we who consider ourselves "reformed" (in the broader sense of the Protestant tradition) sometimes proudly cite our doctrines, yet have largely abandoned the Reformation emphasis on providing our children with a distinctly Christian education.  Is this not a glaring inconsistency?

Christian education was also deeply embedded in Roman Catholic tradition, but is now a minority movement.

I may be venting a bit, and I certainly need to be respectful toward those who see it differently.  But when I consider Schaeffer's words as quoted above, and I see the devastation of faith values within younger generations. I cannot help but conclude that many Christian parents are not appreciating that the Biblical teaching about truth should be one of the greatest priorities - even the cornerstone -- of our children's education.  

May God awaken us more completely to this vital priority!  Indeed, Jesus prayed to the Father on our behalf: "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (John 17:17).

Can there be any higher priority in our children's education?

If you would like to respond to this blog, pleaese email me at

GCS SAT Scores Compared to Local Public Schools

May 23, 2018
By John Morrison

From time to time, I think it is appropriate to inform parents and friends of GCS of how God's blessing and favor on our students and staff is often so clearly apparent.  

Once again, our students have performed quite well on their college boards (the SAT) relative to other, local schools.  Of the seven public high schools in the Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County locale (based on available data from the Virginia Department of Education for the past two years) the highest composite score represented among these seven schools was 1190.  The composite score for GCS was 1230, 40 points higher.

I am also pleased to report that in our participation in the Advanced Placement testing, 95% of our students who took an AP test received a 3 or better compared to 69.9% of participating students in the highest achieving, local public high school.  (AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. A student who scores a 3, 4 or 5, will typically receive college credit based on the standards of that particular college or university.)

Several years ago I cited an interview with James Montoya, a then vice president with the College Board. Montoya stressed that schools, instead of offering a wide diversity of course offerings, should focus on drilling down on core language arts, math, science and social studies classes as the best preparation for higher education.  Montoya's conclusions reflect those of C. S. Lewis, who emphasized that "schools ought to teach far fewer courses far better!" Indeed, this has been our educational philosophy at GCS for many years. This approach pays off!

I want to carefully qualify that I am not touting GCS as the “best” academic school in our locality. Rather, I am sharing this information to attest that GCS and our students are not playing second fiddle to any of the other secondary schools in our locality!  And, of course, we are intentionally more focused on providing our students with a Christian worldview in their education. That must always be the foremost distinction of our school!

As we wind down this school year, I thought many of you would be encouraged to see our scores in relation to those of local public high schools.  I am proud of our teachers, as well as our students, for their hard work and accomplishments. I believe this is part of the way God honors our students and families, as well as the efforts of our dedicated staff, when we place Christ as our first priority in our approach to education!  

Thank you Heavenly Father, for granting us your favor!

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A Wonderful Event!

May 17, 2018
By John Morrison
GCS Elementary, Middle and High School Choirs

As is often the case when any of our three choruses perform,  I came away impressed not only with their tasteful musicianship, but also with a sense of Christ being lifted up and honored.  The concerts are often as much a worship experience as they are a performance. Tuesday night’s event was no exception!

I’d like to boast a bit on behalf of these special students and their directors.  The high school chorus received a superior rating at the recent ACSI choral festival, as did the elementary chorus.  And the middle school chorus received an excellent rating.

A week or so later, the middle school and elementary choruses each won first place in their division at the King’s Dominion choral festival.  Not only that … the elementary chorus was named overall grand champion for the entire event. Wow! We are so proud of these groups and our talented directors and accompanists who so diligently are investing their time and considerable talents in mentoring our students.  Congratulations and thanks to all!!!  Please enjoy the additional pictures below from Tuesday evening's concert.

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Sixth graders, Quinn Franklin
and Jubilee Soper perform a duet.


Elementary School Choir
Middle School Choir
High School Choir


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Headmaster's Blog

GCS Core Values

November 21, 2017
By John Morrison
Happy Thanksgiving!
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting!
Psalm 106:1

I trust all my readers will enjoy this very special Thanksgiving holiday!  Indeed,  we have much for which we can be thankful, no matter our circumstances,  because of the redeeming grace of God poured upon us through Christ!  May this be a special season for thankfully remembering His gracious blessings lavished upon us!


As part of our accreditation self-study, we carefully review our school documents, especially those dealing with our fundamental mission and vision.  No document spells out our sense of “core values” better than, well,  our “GCS Core Values” statement.  As recently updated by our Board of Trustees, these four basic values define what we trust are those ideals that make GCS distinct as a Christian school.  In this and the next three blogs, I would like to share with you each of these core values.  With God’s help, we seek to be the best school we can possibly be, and our being reminded of these fundamental values helps us avoid “mission drift” by staying  focused upon these essential goals.  

None of these four values is any more important than the very first, stated as  follows:


All elements of the ministry [of GCS] must continually be evaluated in the context of the simple question, “Does this aspect of the program and/or curriculum directly or indirectly encourage and instruct our students in their need for a personal relationship with Christ and to walk in obedience to His will?”  Administrative leadership must continually use this simple question in evaluating all aspects of the program.  As the Board, we emphasize this priority as the essential value for which Grace Christian School stands.

Furthermore, this value must be deliberately applied not only to Bible classes and chapels, but to all aspects of the School’s programs.  It is vital that administration continually train teachers and staff in how to integrate the Christian worldview into all educational curricula, as well as into all extra-curricular activities.  This must be done purposefully and thoughtfully as one of leadership’s continual, highest priorities.

My last two blogs featuring a kindergarten and a high school finance class are examples of how seriously we take this challenge of purposefully integrating the Christian worldview in all aspects and levels of our instructional program.  Can any educational priority be of greater importance than this first core value?  We think not, and we expend a great deal of time and energy to this end as demonstrated by our engagement with the outstanding Worldview Matters Biblical integration program.  Our students must understand not only the content of our faith as truth, but also the why and how that makes it relevant to all walks of life

In my next several blogs, I will focus on three additional core values that we believe make GCS a very special and unique Christian school.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you would like to respond to my blog, please email me at


An Outstanding Class!

November 15, 2017
By John Morrison
GCS Personal Finance Class (from left to right): Josh Lockwood, Cheyenne Hareford, Tyler Johnson, Karson Wright, Byron Forsyth, Clayton Duke and instructor, Chad Brown.

God has enabled us to provide our high school students with a well-rounded education via a healthy offering of high school courses.  One of my favorites (and best kept secrets!) is Mr. Chad Brown’s personal finance course.  In a day when many  students know little about practical finance,  Mr. Brown’s class teaches essential management and stewardship skills vital for maintaining a stable financial ship.  Enjoy this following excerpt from one of Mr. Brown’s emails to his students’ parents outlining a sample of the kinds of excellent lessons he is passing along to his students.

The last couple of weeks we've been looking at purchasing reliable and affordable transportation, and some important things to consider in that process. I had the students work in the computer lab where each picked three cars to present to their classmates.  Their job was to "sell" their choice to the class. The general restrictions included the following characteristics: economical, reliable, within 200 mile radius (to allow a test drive), no more than 12 years old, 156,000 max mileage (based on average of 13,000 miles per year), affordability payment wise, within their income.

There were some interesting picks, to say the least, including a 2003 Cadillac CTS roadster, a 2004 Infinity G35, a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 truck, a 2005 VW Jetta, etc.

After their presentations, I had them work in two groups, where each would pick his or her top three vehicles, scrutinizing whether or not they fit the general guidelines.  Then, we narrowed it further to the top three picks for the class, relating each potential vehicle back to the general restrictions above. Their final choice was a 2003 Honda Accord (14 years old) with 133,000 miles (9,500 miles per year, which is less than average annual mileage) for $2,950, which was a great deal.  Although it was slightly outside the general age guidelines, it was, in my view, a very wise choice.

Also during  the process, I had Chris Jones, a great Christian friend who has been in the automotive industry for thirty years, and who is the current Commercial Sales Manager for Charlie Obaugh, come and give his perspective on how to purchase a used vehicle.  He has been helping me with this aspect of the course for six years.  Chris brings an excellent checklist for a prospective buyer to use when test driving a car.  I always pick up new  insights from his presentation, and in fact used this checklist when considering the last car I bought.  Graciously, he gives them his business card and cell phone number and invites them at any point to call him if they ever have a question.

After their final choice, we went back to the lab to check the NADA and Kelley Blue Book values for a couple of the cars, including their 2003 Honda.  Although they got a good deal on the Honda, we looked at a couple of other vehicles that were priced well above retail value for their car.  This let the students know how not to just arbitrarily pay someone their asking price without doing their homework.

All-in-all, I think this has been a very good process for them.  In the near future, we will be looking at maintenance on this car, purchasing insurance, and making monthly payments (with the goal of paying it off early).

Yes, Mr. Brown, most certainly this has been a very excellent experience for our students!  Thank you for all of your time and effort in equipping our young people with these most practical and important life skills!

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The Joy of Learning: Going Beyond Mere Rote

November 08, 2017
By John Morrison
Kindergarten teacher, Kristi Pananas and student, Max Banta

We are certainly all about teaching the fundamental content of our Christian faith and academic subjects to our students.  But a Christian education is simply deficient if it does not go beyond focusing on mere content in influencing the formation of the child’s basic assumptions about truth.  Thus, we talk a great deal at GCS about teaching biblical worldview integration and critical thinking skills that help each child examine his or her basic assumptions about reality.

Following, in the words of Kristi Pananas, one of our kindergarten teachers, is an example of how this can work in the classroom.  

Recently, during a kindergarten math lesson, I introduced patterns: red, yellow, red, yellow; smiley face, star, smiley face, star; ABAB, etc.  We practiced a few different examples. And then, the neat stuff happened.

A little girl raised her hand and asked “What does God think of patterns and does he like them?”. Wow!

I put my worksheet aside, sat down and knew that this discussion was more important               than the “math” lesson.  I asked the question back to the class…..

           And the following were some of the answers:

The first little boy said , “We know God likes order so he must like patterns because patterns are in order.”  We had previously talked about how God is a God of order, not chaos.   I thought, “They are getting it, they remember, this is important to them!!!”

Hands were flying and everyone wanted to be part of the discussion.

Another student added, “God ordered the days, he made all things….”  We had talked about creation, and how our calendar was in order and what God thought of that.

And another remembered, “God made animals with patterns.” Patterns were related to camouflage and a way of protecting animals and God did that.

We discussed how God made people with patterns: 2 eyes, 2 arms, boys/girls. How God doesn’t make mistakes when he creates anything. How we are all created perfectly and in a special way and are made in His image (patterned after God).

       Mrs. Pananas and student, Ella Parker

To answer the question about “does God like patterns?“ everyone agreed that he does!  He made rainbows, and they are patterns.  He likes pretty things.  He wants to enjoy patterns; they thought that God wanted us to like patterns, too. We talked about how God is creative and thinks of everything.

A 20-minute math lesson turned into a 45 minute worldview lesson initiated by a child with a heart wondering about God. We were late for lunch...and no one cared, and kindergarteners always care about snack and lunch (and recess)!

I was amazed and proud.  We had been in school less than a month and the kiddos were using the questioning that they hear at school…”what does God think/feel about...?” These kiddos are 5 and 6 years old!  I can only imagine what the rest of the year will be like. God is at work in the hearts and minds of these kindergarten students.

The above is an example of taking  learning from the level of rote (which is important) to the level of critical thinking with an emphasis on biblical worldview integration and experiencing learning as one of life’s greatest joys.  Indeed, this is our goal for our students at GCS: to stimulate their curiosity in investigating and discovering the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and how it all ties together in one unified whole.  And the stimulation of critical thinking is something, as demonstrated by these little ones, that can be cultivated from the earliest years all the way through high school!  This is (or should be) one of the core dynamics of a truly Christian education!

Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Pananas!  

And what she has shared is but one example of what is taking place daily throughout GCS!

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