A Culture of Grace
by Kim Wilson- 7/16/23
When most people think of a Christian school, there are certain preconceptions and stereotypes that come to mind. One of the most unfortunate is that of an uptight, joyless environment with strict rules that focus primarily on external piety: Either students figure out how to toe the line or they suffer harsh penalties for crossing it. But what an unbelieving world recognizes more quickly than we do at times is that serious danger lurks on both sides of that line…
We are right to be concerned for those students in Christian schools who outwardly rebel against God and His divinely-appointed human authorities, and in so doing, harden their hearts and store up wrath for themselves (Rom 2:5). But have we considered the much more subtly perilous position of many students on the other side who learn to say and do the right things, check all of the boxes, and generally stay out of trouble, but come to regard their apparent moral successes in their own eyes and the eyes of others as indicative of a superior spiritual condition? Have we encouraged them to take pride in their good behavior and relish the affirmations of teachers, parents, and peers without ever having helped them see their deep and profound need for Christ? Have we led them to believe that sin is an issue of behavior rather than a deep and pervasive condition of the heart? Are corrupt affections, desires, and motivations lurking beneath a smile and a sparkling reputation? And is their particular brand of self-righteousness a means to an end–not the glory of God, but their own self-glory?
We must face a difficult truth: A Christian school environment (or a church or a home, for that matter) that relies on mere behaviorism unwittingly manufactures hypocrites and reinforces Pharisaic legalism. Jesus’ scathing rebukes to the religious leaders of His day provide a sober warning to us: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Mt 23:27-28). The individuals whom Jesus was addressing not only devoted their lives to keeping the laws of the Torah, but they added their own rules and regulations on top of it. Yet all that their box-checking did was continually reinforce a sinful self-reliance that caused them to miss the Savior they needed every bit as much as the tax collectors and prostitutes they judged as beneath them.
Surely no Christian school leader intentionally sets out to establish such a culture, but it is subtle and all too common. How can we hope to avoid it? At Academy31, we are praying and strategically preparing for a culture of grace rather than a culture of legalism, and our efforts might be summed up in the following four points:
1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Central to Everything We Do
Every program and every course of study aims to highlight the realities of God’s redemptive plan (2 Cor 5:21). Whether it’s marveling at our Creator’s majesty and glory through studying His creation in Science class, grieving the brokenness of our world as evidenced by the conflict, corruption, and warfare we learn about in Social Studies, or tracing promises of Israel’s long-awaited Messiah all the way through the Scriptures in Bible class, gospel themes will be magnified through everything we do. Our students will not only experience this through our classes, but through the songs we sing in our morning assemblies, the chores we complete in our afternoon campus service, and especially in our discipleship programs that take center stage every Friday.
2. Heart-Level Conversations Happen Every Day
Our small class sizes and single-gender environment not only help us to create an engaging, interactive learning experience uniquely tailored to meet the needs of young women, but our intentional approach to discipleship in biblical womanhood will forge deep, meaningful relationships among and between students and mentors. In a small, close-knit community, it’s difficult to slip through the cracks or hide behind a mask. As all of us strive together toward Christ, we will inevitably stumble and bump into one another along the way, but the love we have for God and each other will compel us to have honest conversations to confess, repent, gently confront, freely forgive, and be graciously restored to sweet fellowship with God and our sisters (Col 3:12-17).
3. Rules Have Their Rightful Place
The presence of grace does not mean the absence of rules; it means that rules are both based on biblical standards and regarded from a biblical perspective. First, rules are meant to reflect God’s holy character (Ps 19:7-11). They show us just how perfect He is and how much higher His thoughts and ways are than our own. Second, by showing us our sin, rules should function as a guardian that leads us to Christ (Gal 3:21-26). Every time we feel we lack the motivation and/or the ability to do that which pleases God, we’re reminded once again of our need for the grace of a Redeemer who not only forgive us, but transforms us through His indwelling Spirit (Phil 2:12-13). Third, rules train believers in becoming increasingly conformed to the image of Christ (2 Tim 3:16-17). Rightly administered discipline yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who submit to it and learn from it (Heb 12:5-11). And fourth, rules are necessary for maintaining structure, order, and protection of people, places, and things (Rom 13:1-7). At Academy31, every standard we set for our students has the above purposes in view–nothing more, nothing less. As Paul Tripp sums it up, the law reveals and restrains, but it cannot redeem!
4. Obedience is Modeled with Joy and Gratitude
Every moment we spend singing about, studying, and serving our magnificent Savior amounts to a pile of rubbish if it isn’t done in love (1 Cor 13:1-3). That’s why, above all else, we are committed to love our students with the love that Christ has shown to us–a love that is overwhelmed by His grace and finds life’s greatest joy and freedom in surrendered obedience to Him as Lord (1 Pet 1:8-9). We wish to invite our students into this joy and freedom through a culture of grace rather than a culture of legalism. We pray they’ll not only see the difference, but embrace it, embody it, and embark upon a lifelong mission to make it known to others!
Our aim at Academy31 is to create an environment in which young women’s hearts are continually being transformed by the grace of God through His indwelling Spirit as their minds are renewed by His Word and they receive consistent encouragement from sanctifying relationships with others who are striving in the same direction. If your family or a family you know might be interested in this type of environment for the education and discipleship of their daughter, please reach out to us today to schedule a free tour and consultation. It would be our great joy to partner with you…by, in, and for God’s grace!
Biblical Womanhood: An Intentional Pursuit
by Kim Wilson- 6/29/23
Our friends at Iron Academy have a saying: “Biblical manhood is never an accident.” The same can be said of biblical womanhood, as God's Word (and certainly our own experiences!) teach us that our own sinful flesh, the corrupting influences of the world around us, and the enemy of our souls are all conspiring together 24/7 to shape us into women whose hearts and lives fall well short of--or even diametrically oppose--God's creative and redemptive purposes for us. Biblical womanhood is an intentional pursuit, only made possible by a truly divine work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of one who has been born again as a daughter of God. And it is cultivated through the consistent, diligent efforts and investments of all to whom He has entrusted the work of discipleship, starting with parents and extending to churches, educators, and peers.
The Lord has designed all of us to learn and grow best in the context of a community that pursues His kingdom and glory through seeking the spiritual good of one another. Given that women tend to be uniquely relational in nature, the benefits of being educated and discipled on a daily basis in such a community are immense--particularly during the crucial and formative period of adolescence. During middle and high school, young women’s identities are shaped, their values and priorities are determined, and they begin making weighty choices that will dictate the direction of their lives for the decades that follow.
A young woman’s environment and peer relationships heavily influence her personal development, for better or for worse, and Christian parents often find themselves torn between protecting their daughters from negative influences and allowing them freedom to grow and mature into adulthood. On the one hand, prolonged or excessive sheltering can stunt a daughter’s maturity by maintaining and exalting parental dependency over dependence on God and His Word, preventing the proper formation of her own identity and convictions, and limiting opportunities for applying wisdom and exercising discernment. It can exasperate her and even provoke rebellion. On the other hand, however, allowing too much freedom too soon can undermine and erode the values she’s been taught by exposing her to the evils of society before she knows the evil tendencies of her own heart and is equipped in the Spirit and with the Word of God to guard against temptation. Until she’s learned to delight in the Lord and His ways, she is more susceptible to being deceived by the world into seeking delight in its ways. Consequences can be dangerous at best and deadly at worst. Balancing between these two extremes can at times seem like an impossible task for parents, but the good news is that our Lord offers sufficient grace and wisdom to navigate this season faithfully!
With these realities in view, Academy31 seeks to be ministers of God’s grace and wisdom in helping meet the academic, social, and spiritual needs of intentional believing families who desire that their daughters grow and mature into the women that God has created and redeemed them to be. We believe that such a high calling absolutely warrants an uncompromisingly high standard of discipleship, education, and vocational training for young women:
- Our uniquely strategic curriculum, schedule, and small class sizes allow us to deliver a high-quality, individualized education, establish deeply impactful discipleship relationships among mentors and peers, and foster a consistently interactive learning environment free of the distractions and limitations that often accompany a co-educational classroom setting for adolescents. Every student will be challenged to reach her own distinct potential in Christ while encouraging the same pursuit in her classmates.
- Our two-fold focus on character and competence will optimally prepare our graduates to serve the Lord in faithfulness and excellence in any and every season and station of life to which He may direct them. They will enter adulthood with foundational wisdom and practical skill that translate to the pursuit of higher education, career and entrepreneurship, friendship and dating relationships, marriage, motherhood, and service to their local churches and communities. Confident and secure in Christ, they will embark upon their futures without fear or bondage to cultural standards or expectations. They will be equipped to flourish and thrive even amidst life’s challenges and uncertainties because their value and purpose is defined by their Savior alone.
If your family shares our commitment to the intentional pursuit of biblical womanhood in your daughter, I encourage you not to settle for a school that offers anything less. Come visit us for a free educational consultation and determine whether Academy31 is the best place to partner with you in helping your daughter reach her God-given potential to thrive in Christ in every way!
Why an All-Girls School?
by Kim Wilson- 6/14/23
Prior to hearing about Academy31, few Christian parents of our generation may have ever considered seeking out a single-gender educational environment for their daughters, perhaps because of the limited options that have existed in our area and perhaps because of the stereotypes that immediately come to mind from generations past and schools tied to other faith traditions.
However, as I talk to more and more parents about our school, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the all-female aspect of Academy31 not only sets us apart from other schools, but more importantly, provides solutions to the most pressing issues and concerns that are driving parents to seek out alternative educational options for their daughters. Though the following three categories overlap with one another and are by no means comprehensive or exhaustive descriptors, I'm finding them to be helpful in explaining the needs that many Christian families are expressing and how Academy31 is strategically positioned and prepared to meet them:
THE PROBLEM- Girls mature differently and often at a different pace than boys, and in a co-educational environment, are often held back by this reality from reaching their full academic potential. Furthermore, during the middle and high school years, girls’ insecurities can cause them to become hesitant and passive in the classroom setting, afraid of failure and the resulting embarrassment, and content to defer to boys with more dominant personalities. They also tend to restrict themselves to only those interests and activities which they feel will appease their peers and make them more popular.
OUR SOLUTION- The all-girls learning environment at Academy31 provides the freedom for girls to strive toward their academic potential without the above limitations and deterrents. They are encouraged to explore and discover their strengths, interests, and passions. They get to speak up, step out, and lead in appropriate ways. They can try new things…and even fail along the way among people who will love and support them regardless. Classes are designed to appeal to girls’ interests and learning styles—especially providing strategic opportunities for engaging, interactive discussions, creative problem solving, and collaborative learning with their peers.
THE PROBLEM- During the middle and high school years, girls’ and boys’ increasing interest in the opposite sex typically becomes the primary fixation for them in a co-educational school setting, often creating a distraction to the point of being detrimental to their growth and development. Students’ focus and motivation toward their classes and extracurricular activities can become clouded as they worry how others perceive them, and girls’ insecurities in particular tend to feed a destructive dynamic of envy, comparison, and competition between them, contributing to rivalries and bullying as well as anxiety, depression, and isolation. As all students wrestle with the inevitable internal temptations and external pressures to prematurely involve themselves in romantic and sexual relationships, girls are especially vulnerable in this type of environment, causing parents to worry about their daughters’ emotional and physical safety.
OUR SOLUTION- Academy31’s all-girls learning environment enables each young woman to securely establish and anchor her identity in Christ and thereby avoid the dangerously subtle trap of looking to other people and relationships for validation. She can focus on cultivating deep, healthy, mutually-encouraging friendships with her sisters in Christ that will last a lifetime while gaining the maturity and wisdom necessary to navigate all relationships—including those with the opposite sex—in an age-appropriate and God-glorifying manner. Our goal is not to isolate our students from boys in any and all contexts. Rather, Academy31’s unique partnership with Iron Academy will provide our students with valuable opportunities to get to know young men as friends and brothers who are also in pursuit of Christ through measured, purposeful activities in an environment that focuses on fellowship and spiritual encouragement rather than romance. And our students will also learn how to do the same within their local churches and other extracurricular programs in the community under the guidance of their parents.
THE PROBLEM- This generation of young girls has grown up in a society that has no regard for God as Creator, nor any objective standard of truth, nor any concept of personal sin. As a result, they have learned to live opposite God’s purposes for them as dependent, submissive beings created in His image, and instead have come to equate freedom with declaring their own identities, defining their own realities, and living by their own ever-changing emotions. Girls are confused, overwhelmed, and despairing, and our culture’s solutions for their problems are only compounding them. Even in Christian households, it is difficult for parents alone to provide sufficient teaching and discipleship on a daily basis to counter these influences and help their daughters build strong biblical convictions of their own—even with the efforts of their local church. And amidst all of our culture’s chaos and controversy over gender and sexuality, Christian girls are at a serious risk of misunderstanding the true nature of biblical womanhood and either rejecting it outright or distorting it into something it isn’t.
OUR SOLUTION- At Academy31, every course of study and every program is intentionally geared toward discipleship in biblical womanhood. It defines our school's culture! We believe that education by its very nature is discipleship, and that the worldview through which students are educated will quite literally form not only their beliefs and their thinking, but the people they will become and the lives they will lead. In addition to our academic classes being thoroughly biblically-informed, everything from our annual kick-off retreat to our morning assemblies to our physical education program to our campus and community service initiatives will instill and nurture in them the same values and priorities. Best of all, our Biblical Womanhood Fridays will offer our students a one-of-a-kind discipleship experience each week through fun, discussion-based classes that apply truth to life in practical ways, guest speakers who share glimpses of what God is doing through diverse examples of godly women in our community, and 1:1 mentoring from our staff who provide counsel, encouragement, and prayer based on each student’s custom-designed Personal Discipleship Plan.
There is so much more that could be said, but I hope this provides a helpful overview of WHY parents who may not have previously considered a single-gender learning environment are choosing Academy31 for their daughters. The above points are supported by vast amounts of research, decades of faculty/staff experience, and Iron Academy's proven success in educating and discipling young men in the Raleigh-Durham area since 2013.
If you are interested in our school either now or in the future, I would be honored to meet with you at your convenience for a free educational consultation and tour of our newly renovated campus! And we would certainly love to hear from any family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, or church family of yours who are interested in Academy31 for their daughters as well!