Grace Christian School

Highlighting Current and Alumni Students

February 16, 2018
By John Morrison

This week I would like to celebrate the accomplishments of several of our GCS family members.


Ethan Avery (8th grade) shown to the left, was recently named the state winner of the very prestigious Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) writing contest.   The theme of this year’s Patriot's Pen competition was “America’s Gifts to My Generation.”  Ethan won the local, district and state competition for his essay and received $1,000.00 for his efforts. Click here to read Ethan’s winning essay.  Congrats, Ethan.  We are proud of you!

Our congratulations also go to Heather Clem (shown to the right).  In the words of the Staunton News Leader,  “On Jan. 9, in a game at Eastern Mennonite, Clem hit a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, giving Grace a 49-46 lead, which ended up being the final score. But that bucket wasn't only the game winner, part of 23 points Clem had that night, but also put the senior over 1,000 points for her varsity career.”  To read the entire article, click here.  Congrats, Heather, on becoming only the ninth player in GCS basketball  history to accomplish this amazing milestone!  And thanks, too,  for giving God the credit for giving you your amazing athletic talent!  Go, Heather!  Go, Warriors!

Last and certainly not least, Mary Helen Clemmer Thorne (‘04) and Jolene Miller (‘09) were both recently inducted into the GCS Sports Hall of Fame in the sport of volleyball. Mary Helen was a key member of two volleyball VISSA state championship teams, and earned all-conference and all-state awards in 2003. She went on to play four years at Bridgewater College. Jolene was a member of an amazing five state championship teams in the middle of Grace’s remarkable run of seven straight volleyball state championships from 2002-2008. In addition to earning multiple all-conference and all-state awards, Jolene also won state player of the year honors twice, and was honored with being named Staunton/Augusta County Athlete of the Year for 2009. Both are very deserving and long overdue members of our Hall of Fame. Congratulations to them and their families.  

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

The New Normal - Part 3

February 07, 2018
By John Morrison
Image from Nitinai Thabthong/Shutterstock

When I wrote my "Higher Education ... Higher Conditioning?" blog two weeks ago, I did not plan for it to be a several part series.  The response, though, has been significant, and now I find myself crafting "Part 3," though under this different title.

In "Part 2," a GCS parent wrote about her college experience some years ago in terms of the widespread "new normal" that had overtaken the student body on her campus and how that mindset slowly began eroding her own values.  This past week, we heard from another parent outside of our GCS community whose child is enrolled in a local, public middle school.  In the course of a conversation with her parents, the child mentioned that she saw nothing wrong with the transgender lifestyle.  This evidently is the prevailing mindset among the students in her grade.

Indeed, the Scripture does not indicate that struggling with sexual identity is a sin in itself; but  it does stake out clear distinctions between male and female and promises that God's grace is sufficient in enabling such individuals in overcoming their gender dysfunction.

But the larger point is that this is just another illustration of how this "new normal" is taken for granted by the larger culture -- in this case, in one of our local middle schools -- and thus places tremendous pressure upon our youth to conform.  Indeed, this is a powerful form of indoctrination -- in this case directed toward those who are still very much in their formative years.

Yet another example of this indoctrination is clearly illustrated in another of Rod Dreher's blogs (click here).  I would urge my readers to take a few moments with this very informative piece.  The "new normal" is a powerful means of remaking our societal values at all ages!  You will empathize with the parent who relates his sad story in Dreher’s blog.

In the context of this "new normal," let me make two vital points.
First, Christians must understand that the issue of authority is paramount to our faith. Simply put, our infinite God is absolute, personal, and has not remained silent, but has spoken in human terms through His Incarnation and His inspired word, the Bible. While some reject this belief as narrow-minded fundamentalism, that God would speak authoritatively is what we would expect of Him as the ultimate, personal Being.  To be personal is to communicate.

Second,  when Christ claims that He is the truth, this means truth in an exclusive sense.  By exclusive, we mean that every truth claim that contradicts Christ and His words is excluded as being false.  What many today do not understand is that Christians throughout the centuries were persecuted, not primarily because they followed Christ, but because they did so to the exclusion of all other religious claims. Christians were persecuted because they would not worship Christ and Caesar, or Christ and the local gods.  They were persecuted because of their faith in Christ only, and, therefore, they were perceived as intolerant, bigoted, and narrow-minded.  

The same is true today.  The LGBTQ "new normal" is only the tip of a larger spear of secular doctrines and politically correct beliefs that contradict our fundamental Christian truth claims.  This "new normal" paints orthodox Christians as extremists who are holding back our society in its so-called “progressive” movement forward.  

In  the face of this social pressure, we must not be moved away from our orthodox faith by our culture's "new normal."  Furthermore, we must be committed with all our resources in standing firm and founding our children in our centuries old beliefs!  God certainly has not changed His mind about such matters!  And our own mindset must be based in His authority rather than man's relative opinions.  May God help us pass these essential foundations of our faith to our children!

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

A Follow-up to Last Week’s Higher Education…or Higher Conditioning?

January 31, 2018
By John Morrison
Image from Nitinai Thabthong/Shutterstock

I thought my readers would appreciate the following response I received from last week’s blog (click here) concerning much of higher education’s radical shift away from a traditional liberal arts emphasis toward becoming more of a conditioning agent for political correctness. I have edited this reader’s response for the sake of anonymity.  

Your recent blog posting describes my experience ... at ABC college.  The summer after my freshman year I reconnected with several friends, including some from GCS.  My high school friendships with committed Christians helped me reflect, and I returned to ABC college with reservations.  About a month into the semester, I was looking out my dorm room window watching two women embrace and kiss when I realized that I was no longer shocked by this behavior.  It had become my new normal.  In that moment, God stirred my heart and I knew that to preserve myself I had to transfer schools.  I can only imagine what [my old college] must be like now . . . the latest alumni magazine I received had an article explaining that the school, a women's college, has changed its admissions policy.  The college is now accepting applications for admission from all persons who identify as women.  I'm not sure I even understand what that means.  

As a … teacher, I appreciate the academics at Grace, especially the emphasis on accountability and natural consequences.  What truly differentiates Grace, however, is the biblical worldview. As parents, we must pray that these seeds flourish so that our children choose to preserve their Christian faith when faced with an onslaught of unholy ideas.  I am so thankful that God chose to stir my heart that fall day [at my old college].  It has influenced so many decisions, including the choice to send our [children] to Grace.  

Most of us would probably agree that we cannot (and should not) isolate ourselves or our children from the bigger world.  On the other hand, there is a prudent balance, especially when our youth are in their formative years, by placing them in a spiritually healthy educational environment. When they spend most of their waking hours in a school culture as described above, the implicit message from the everyday, prevailing "normal" of that environment begins to sink into their subconscious, and they transition in their own beliefs (without consciously realizing it) to this "new normal."  This is one subtle way that our children’s faith values can be slowly undermined if they have not been carefully trained to recognize and critically examine the underlying assumptions of opposing truth claims.  They also need to be carefully instructed in why our Christian suppositions are eminently reasonable and defensible.  

I qualified last week that I am not suggesting that Christian parents should avoid sending their children to secular colleges and universities.  But if they do, they should proceed with great caution and with their eyes fully open to just how hostile many such institutions have become to our faith values.  Most parents spend thousands of dollars at such institutions with the intent to provide their children with a good education, not to have them conditioned in politically correct propaganda!  This is one reason for parents to keep solid Christian colleges and universities on their radar.

And as someone recently pointed out to me, parents may need to be reminded that the secular university is not what it was when they went to school, and that their child will likely have a radically different experience in terms of what they are exposed to -- both explicitly in the classroom as well as implicitly in the university culture.

If students are not thoroughly instructed in the vital critical  thinking skills needed to carefully evaluate opposing worldviews, especially when those worldviews are accepted by the majority of their generation as “normal,” then they will likely become yet another convert to the “new normal.”

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


Higher Education...or Higher Conditioning?

January 25, 2018
By John Morrison
Image from Nitinai Thabthong/Shutterstock and Rod Dreher blog cited below

I have spoken recently with several very concerned parents whose children are now enrolled in a public university or prestigious private college.  Initially, they were so proud that their son or daughter had been accepted by a highly touted school.  In many cases, they were doubly proud at the amount of scholarship and financial aid that was awarded as a result of their child's hard work in high school.  But now they are deeply concerned as they are discovering just how far these schools have gravitated toward the radical left and politically correct mindset that views orthodox Christianity as intolerant and bigoted.  

Even for those students who are seemingly secure in their Christian faith and worldview, after four plus years of an intense orientation in a very secularist environment, many find their faith stunted, or even destroyed, as a result.  And the irony for many Christian parents is that they have spent literally thousands of their hard earned dollars to pay for such an education, and/or their children have incurred thousands of dollars of debt.

This particular blog is not intended to suggest that Christian parents should not send their children to secular colleges and universities.  But if they do, they should proceed with great caution and with their eyes fully open to the reality of just how hostile many such institutions have become to our faith values.  Christian parents and students should at least keep good, Christian colleges and universities on their radar when considering higher education.  And they should most certainly talk with some of the parents who now look back with regrets over sending their children away to secular universities, prestigious though those institutions may be in the world's eyes.

Click here to view a blog by Rod Dreher that addresses this important topic.  I would make it quite clear that I do not agree with or endorse everything Dreher has to say. But I think this piece makes valuable observations about the extremes of what is taking place and the pressures our young people are facing on many post-secondary campuses.  Parents should, at the very least, ensure that they are not naive when it comes to the all important decisions related to their children's continuing and higher education!

Let me quote just two lines from Dreher's blog: "I’m committed to getting my kids a decent education, but not at the price of sacrificing their character .... I see too many examples of people that didn’t think about this stuff, trusted the education system and culture, and their kids are doubting their faith."

May God give each of our families much wisdom as they contemplate “life after high school” for their children!  

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


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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!

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

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!

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


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