National Lutheran Schools Week 2020 at RCLS was as much about service as it was about celebration.
In the midst of dress-up days, dancing, and decorated classroom doors were kindness cards, a gratitude wall, and a massive food drive that resulted in 3440 items of food for Channel One Food Bank. It was a joyful, memorable week––not just because it was fun, but also because our students and teachers were encouraging one another, building each other up, and extending tangible graces, to each other and into the local community. RCLS students celebrated by looking outward––thanking God while giving to others.
Why bother with service in elementary and middle school?
An article in the December 2019 issue of The Atlantic warns that American parents are so consumed with academic or athletic achievement that they have failed to mind the moral development of their kids. Citing social science research and their own parenting experience, the article’s authors make the case that parents “pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness” than they do to kindness and caring (Grant & Grant, 2019). In consequence, kids learn that achievement, not character, matters. “Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say,” the authors contend, “but by noticing what gets our attention.”
At RCLS, we want to give attention––a lot of it––to the moral development of our students. We partner with parents to raise children who care about others and who “see their education as preparation for contributing to society” (Grant & Grant, 2019). We want to raise empathetic children who become compassionate adults, so we celebrate service––and put service at the center of our celebrations.
But there’s more, for moral character is not an end to itself. Instead, character is, most perfectly, an outcome of a life of faith. “This service that you perform,” the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” Service, generosity, and kindness are the “overflow” of God’s goodness in our own lives. The physical proximity of our “Gratitude Lane,” where students posted notes of thanks, and the Channel One collection bins last week signified this. RCLS students could hardly miss the connection; they could express gratitude and exhibit generosity with nearly the same breath.
How do students serve?
“Service” is a core value at RCLS so that it is not an afterthought or an extracurricular activity, but an integral part of the education students receive. While generosity is an outcome of faith, it is, at the same time, a practice, so we facilitate that practice through particular aspects of the program.
Based on Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians that the Lord would “make [their] love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thess 3:12), RCLS encourages students to overflow God’s love to others by serving in various organizations in the Rochester area. Students in grades 5-8 are encouraged to serve in both ministry and community settings, and they are required to document a minimum number of service hours––five for 5th grade, six for 6th grade, seven for 7th grade, and eight for 8th grade. We hope that rhythm of serving and pattern of giving will find a permanent home in our students’ hearts and minds.
Following the precedent of tithing that the Old Testament lends and the principal of generosity that the New Testament provides, RCLS takes a collection during each Wednesday morning chapel service. That collection is always earmarked for particular needs around Rochester and the world. In past years, RCLS has donated its chapel collection to Feed My Starving Children, Family Promise Rochester, and to a children’s school in Haiti, to name just a few of the causes our students’ giving has benefitted.
This year, students’ donations will go to four different causes, which were decided upon by our own 8th-grade class. The 8th graders researched a number of possible charities and needs before they together deliberated over a larger list that then became these four:
-Carter Swallow Family, which has been awaiting a kidney transplant for their young son
-Heifer International, a global organization that provides animals to impoverished families for food and income production
-Brighter Tomorrows, an outreach to families touched by cancer
-Paws & Claws, everyone’s favorite pet shelter
These charities, at first a beloved cause of a small group of 8th graders, now are the collective cause of all of us at RCLS. In this and through all of students’ service efforts, eighth-grade homeroom teacher Ms. Schauer says she hopes RCLS is leaving “Jesus footprints” on the world. Along the way, we know our students experience the thrill of generosity, an experience we believe will change both their hearts and the world their generosity benefits.
Throughout the school year, RCLS facilitates school-wide projects that generate great excitement across campus.
-Thanks & Give Back: Just before Thanksgiving, RCLS partners with a local charity that meets a specific need in our area. For example...
…in November 2018, students packed dozens of backpacks with toiletries, toys, and stuffed animals or blankets for the Olmsted County Foster Care Closet, which supplies foster children with care and comfort at what is otherwise a traumatic moment in their lives.
…in November 2019, students packed 640 kits with toiletry products for the Dorothy Day House, which provides a warm night to those without a roof over their heads.
-National Lutheran Schools Week: Each January, we celebrate the gift of Christian education in Lutheran schools by raising money for a particular need.
…in 2018 and 2019, our students raised money for RCLS’s Variable Tuition (scholarship) fund and the renovation of locker rooms, respectively.
…in 2020, we collected 3440 boxes and cans of food for Rochester’s Channel One Food Bank.
-Other Initiatives (Giving Tree, Coat Drive, classroom projects): Giving and service opportunities abound as needs in Rochester arise. RCLS has a winter coat drive for United Way every fall, a Christmas “Giving Tree” which collects toys for Salvation Army or Toys for Tots, and various classroom projects that pop up as teachers or students identify needs.
Students and families that have experienced RCLS will never forget their “Chapel Families.” This program puts a group of younger students in the care of an 8th-grade student and a 7th or 6th-grade helper. These small groups meet regularly for chapel, lunch, service opportunities, or special events. As they serve younger students by tying shoes, holding a hand, or supplying encouragement, these older students develop a nurturing bond with their younger counterparts. This sort of leadership opportunity for a middle-school student is unique in Rochester and serves to develop a sense of responsibility and service that parents might otherwise only hope for their 12-14-year-old. Ask any RCLS parent about the school, and you’ll likely hear about this marvelous service opportunity which enables service organically––in community as we are all meant to be.
RCLS is deeply committed to raising successful students. We believe, like the school’s parents, that the moral character of this generation of learners is part of this success. Grace? Faith? Learning for Life? They’re here at this mission-minded school where service is celebrated. You only need to meet one of our service-minded students to see that for yourself.
Hoping to raise a child who pursues academic and moral excellence? We can help!
Schedule a tour, walk in any Thursday morning in February between 9-11a, or plan to visit on Shadow Day (grades 3-8) on March 6. Find more information at rcls.net.
Grant, A. & Grant, A.S. (2019, Nov). Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/stop-trying-to-raise-successful-kids/600751/