Say “No” to Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.


Jesse paused before walking into the school building. He breathed in deeply and felt a twinge of pain from his ribs, which still ached from the punches he received the day before. Ninth grade wasn’t supposed to be so tough, he thought.

Every day for the last two months, Jesse’s classmates found new ways to torment him. First, it was name-calling and other verbal taunts. Then, it was a series of pranks. For the last week, there had been a series of physical incidents—the worst of which had been yesterday. Things were getting worse for Jesse. He didn’t know how long he could endure it—or how to make it stop. He seriously entertained the thought of simply not going into the school building at all.

Jesse is a victim of bullying. And he isn’t alone. Studies show that one in five American students ages 12-18 experiences bullying[1]. 95% of those students report being bullied at school. And, we should note that bullying is not a problem only in secular schools. Like many other social problems, bullying exists in Christian schools, as well.

And bullying is a problem that has wide-ranging consequences for its victims. Data shows that victims of bullying are known to experience higher incidences of mental health and behavior problems than non-victims. Such outcomes might include depression, anxiety, sleep problems, low self-esteem, and even thoughts of self-harm and suicide. And those outcomes can last beyond adolescence. Into adulthood.

Victims of bullying are also at risk for lower academic achievement, dropping out of school, and social disengagement. The consequences are real. Students who are bullied pay a high price for the selfish and sinful behavior of others. Some of the emotional wounds suffered as the result of bullying last a lifetime.

In elementary and middle schools, I was bullied. I can still clearly recall some of those experiences. My teachers, parents, and school counselor all gave me the same advice: either ignore the bullying, or fight back. The few times I did fight back only succeeded in inflaming the situation, reaffirming my own powerlessness. And for those who have ever been victims of bullying, it is understood that ignoring the problem—either by victims or adults who are aware of the situation—only gives it permission to continue.

While on the surface it might appear that power is at the heart of bullying behavior, the opposite is actually true: fear and insecurity are at its core. Fear and insecurity on the parts of those who become bullies lead them to find security and identity by controlling others. Through humiliating others, they feel strong. Through doing so publicly (which is how bullying most frequently happens), bullies attract other insecure people to themselves. This both affirms the strength of the bully and allows the bully’s followers to live vicariously through his or her displays of power. In reality, though, it’s all an act. Bullies can only mask their own weakness and insecurity through frightening others.

This is why it’s necessary for teachers, parents, youth leaders, and other caring adults to identify when a student they love is being bullied, and to intervene. Only real power can defuse a bully’s bluster and end a cycle that will wind up only hurting innocent victims. How can you tell if a student is being bullied? Here are some things to look for:

  • Students who suddenly seem withdrawn, depressed, or anxious
  • Students who suddenly avoid school, church, or neighborhood venues that might be locations where bullying occurs
  • Students who suddenly stop using social media or their phones altogether
  • Students who have unexplained bodily injuries (bruises, scratches, etc.), torn clothes, or missing property
  • Students whose eating habits suddenly change
  • Students who engage in self-harming behaviors (cutting, eating disorders)


Sometimes, though, there may not be visible signs of bullying. Parents can be proactive in four ways to detect and stop bullying:

  1. Pray for your student, that the Lord would protect him or her from those who would wish to cause harm.
  2. Talk regularly with your student, asking diagnostic questions that might lead to bullying or other hidden problems being exposed. Ask about interactions with friends, about interactions with other peers, about how your student feels about him/herself. Ask him or her what’s currently making them happy and what’s making them sad or fearful.
  3. Watch your student and note how he or she interacts with peers. Can you see any visible or sudden changes? Does she suddenly seem more passive and shut down when with friends? Does he suddenly make excuses not to spend time with others?
  4. Monitor your student’s phone, social media, and app usage. About 37% of all bullying victims have been cyberbullied. Cyberbullying can take several forms: mean and hurtful comments about the victim, rumors about the victim, or threats of violence. Cyberbullying can be either direct (via text or instant messaging) or public (via social media). Cyberbullying is far from harmless, and must be stopped as soon as it is discovered.


What can you do as a parent or other responsible adult if you discover that your student is the victim of bullying?

  1. Pray and ask God for wisdom and discernment to deal with the situation.
  2. Talk with your student and affirm that you will make and keep them safe.
  3. Ask your student to share details with you about the bullying (Who? When? Where? What have they done? How long has it been going on? Who else knows?)
  4. If there has been violence or threats of violence, call the police.
  5. Elevate the situation immediately to other adults who can help shut down the bullying and hold the perpetrators accountable. This may include teachers, school counselors, and administrators if the situation occurs at school; youth leaders or pastors if the situation occurs at church; coaches if it occurs in a sports league. If appropriate, notify the bully’s parents or guardians and hold them responsible to intervene. Adults who know about bullying are responsible to stop the bullying.
  6. Continue talking with your student to determine how they are dealing with the situation and people involved. Determine where they might need additional assistance and interventions.
  7. Leverage the resources you have at your disposal. School counselors can connect your student with other resources, inside and outside of the school. Church leaders, particularly youth leaders, can provide spiritual care, encouragement, and a path toward healing. Counselors, social workers, and other therapists can provide emotional support and identify ways to create a climate of safety in which the student can begin to thrive.


Here are links to some other free resources you might find helpful:


Bullying in our schools and communities is never acceptable, it’s never normal, and it’s never harmless. Bullying winds up hurting us all. Let’s take steps to rein it in, and help students who have become victims to recover and thrive!


[1] Cited under “Bullying Statistics” heading of the webpage stopbullying.gov/resources/facts, last accessed 10/20/2020. Data was gleaned from studies by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Screen Time, Part Three

Over the course of this three-part series, we’ve been looking at children’s use and over-use of screens and related technologies. In Part One, we looked at the dangers of students misusing screens. In Part Two, we looked at three ways parents and guardians can help students better understand the dangers they face.

Today we come to the third and final installment of the series, where we look at what parents and guardians can do to help students set and maintain helpful boundaries with their screens…and what they can do to help students who struggle with respecting those boundaries.

If you are the parent or guardian of a child or adolescent, you likely have already had to wrestle with the issue of how can I shut down my student’s screen when I think they’ve had enough? Limiting screen use or limiting time spent on particular apps can be a challenge for two reasons. First, as we discussed in the earlier two parts of this series, online content (particularly video content with motion accelerated to faster-than-real-life) can be addictive. Second, looking at screens themselves can be addictive. In other words, establishing and enforcing screen time boundaries and limits can be difficult because our kids are already addicted to their screens and preferred content.

But parents and guardians still need to do their jobs of looking out for their students’ best interests. Those best interests include their health. According to a recent Census Bureau survey cited in Time Magazine, children and teens who consistently spend a lot of time in front of screens (particularly smartphones) may have higher incidence of depressing, anxiety, and suicide than those who spend less time on screens.

What can parents and guardians do to help kids limit their screen time and to use the screen time they do have more wisely?

Here are seven examples of what you can do.

  1. Set an example for your kids. Limit your own use of screen time. Tell your kids why you’re doing this, and then do it consistently.
  2. Use trusted resources to make certain that the apps and other content your kids use is appropriate for them. One good resource is Common Sense Media, which provides information on specific apps, shows, and other content so that you can make informed decisions about what’s best for your child.
  3. Set up and enforce regular screen-free times during your child’s day. Examples of such times might be during meal times, one hour prior to bed, or during school or homework times. On weekends, it might be wise to set a regular two-hour window when your child needs to turn in his or her phone, and stay off of all other screens.
  4. Set up and enforce no-screen areas in your home. Experts encourage children’s bedrooms to be one such area. Another might be bathrooms, or any place with a closed door where your child could spend extended, unmonitored periods of time with a screen.
  5. Use apps to limit the amount of screen time your child has available to them throughout the day. If you use an iOS device, the Screen Time app works well for this. Certain cell service providers, such as Verizon, have apps (like Verizon’s Smart Family) which allow you to shut down any connected device for any period of time. Both of these apps allow parents and guardians to also limit the usage of particular apps.
  6. See if your internet provider allows you to set an internal timer in your Wi-Fi router’s settings so that it will automatically turn off the router during certain periods of the day or night. This is a good back-up plan to make certain that students can’t just go to a Wi-Fi enabled device to get around data restrictions on their phone or tablet. If you can’t configure your router’s settings to turn it off for certain periods of time, use this simple hack: plug your router into a lamp timer, which will turn it on or off during certain times of the day or night.
  7. Use some sort of monitoring software to make certain your child isn’t purposefully or accidentally viewing content that isn’t appropriate for them. Some examples of such software are Mobicip, Net Nanny, Norton Family, and Bark. If you want a no-cost alternative to these paid services, you can configure the parental controls on your devices and router to avoid particular apps, and not allow certain content. Your data or internet provider often provides explanations of how to configure parental controls on your website.

    Whatever you do, explain your plan with your student. To the extent you can, ask them to actively participate with you in creating the limits of your plan. Then, stick to it—even when it’s difficult to do so. In the end, your student will thank you for it.

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Screen Time, Part Two

In last week’s post, we looked at three dangers of excessive exposure to screens:

  1. Content offered on screens is meant to be addictive;
  2. Content offered on screens can be dangerous because it can manipulate the way content consumers think and act; and
  3. Excessive screen use can lead to emotional, social, and mental health problems.

Each of these dangers is particularly problematic for children and adolescents, who lack the self-awareness, self-control, and discernment to protect themselves.

What can parents, guardians, teachers, and other caregivers do to help children understand and control the images and messages they see online? This week, we’ll look at how to help kids understand. In our final post in the series, we’ll look at ways parents and caregivers can take control of the situation.

Understand

Here are some talking points to help your kids understand what they’re being exposed to online.

1. Nothing on electronic media is morally neutral. In other words, kids need to understand that the content to which they expose themselves will do one of two things: it will either make them wise and more godly, or it will lead them away from God and the safety he provides.

The Bible tells us in Psalm 101:3 to avoid even looking at anything that is “worthless,” or that would lead us astray (actually, the entire psalm deals with the topic). The reason? We become like the things we expose our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to. That’s why the psalmist says in this verse: “I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” He knows that whatever he sets his eyes on will literally cling to him and either lift him up, or drag him down.

Electronic media is like that, too. Staring at content designed to shock, scare, sexually arouse, anger, or even entertain (yes—too much entertainment is bad for you, too!) will have a subtle effect on the viewer. We wind up thinking the very ways that we’re taught to think in the media we consume. We wind up speaking and acting the ways patterned for us in that media. Help your child understand that he or she is literally being programmed by the things that he or she watches or listens to—and that isn’t always good.

2. Self-control is good. This is a concept that seems to have fallen by the wayside in our modern era. Artificial intelligence (AI) is at work to keep feeding content to us content consumers. When the algorithms determine that we enjoy watching content that has certain tags, it will automatically feed us more, and more, and more. It’s like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet…there’s so much good.

And the reason why it’s so hard to just put the phone down and walk away is that the pleasure centers of our brains have been reconditioned to crave more and more content that we find enjoyable. It literally takes a force of will to close the app or turn off the phone and to focus on something else.

Kids often end up consuming endless hours of AI-curated content because they don’t know how to walk away. They don’t know they are able to exercise self-control. Talk with your kids about the importance of taking control of their own minds and bodies by setting limits on the time they spend on apps and in front of screens. If they sit passively before a screen filling their minds and hearts with content, they’re being shaped by whatever they watch. But they can take responsibility for their own bodies and minds, and get up and walk away. Sometimes, just being told they have the ability to do this can empower a child to make different choices.

3. Your kids have an enemy, who is trying to destroy them. That enemy is Satan, the devil. Satan’s mission is to destroy the fruit and joy of salvation in the lives of all God’s people. He is after your children, and can use media to infiltrate their hearts and minds.

Satan does not tend to tempt us by exposing us to extreme, implausible thoughts or circumstances. Rather, his habit is to put otherwise good and appealing things in front of us and ask us: Why don’t you just go ahead and take it? You know you want it.

He can do that through entertainment, humor, good-sounding music, and even using the words of someone else we might admire or trust to entice us. Friends sharing links to content they might find funny or provocative might provide a vehicle for that temptation. So might AI offering your child a virtually limitless menu of entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong: not everything is a vehicle for temptation. But kids need to be aware of the fact that there is someone at work behind the scenes to expose them to harmful ideas, worldviews, and behaviors. They need to either be wise enough to avoid those traps, or they need a parent, guardian, teacher, or caretaker to steer them away from danger.

In the third and final installment of the series, we’ll look at how parents, teachers, and other caregivers can actually help kids set boundaries or even change behavior regarding screens and media.

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Screen Time, Part One

Is excessive exposure to screens (phones, computers, tablets, television) dangerous for children’s physical, emotional, and social health? Many experts say it is.

I’m old enough to have had the experience of a single screen in the house while I was a child and teen: the family TV. I remember sitting, virtually comatose, as I watched an unending parade of TV series reruns from the 1950s and 60s on summer afternoons. And then there were the Warner Brothers cartoons, some of which I can still quote from memory. My mother would tell me to get away from the “boob tube,” as she called it, because it would kill my brain cells. Ah, the good old days.

Certainly today, children and teens have a far wider array of options for entertainment and escape than I did in the 1970s. A young person today has access to more entertainment and social media content than they could possibly process in his or her lifetime.

An Internet services company, PwC, estimates that the amount of data stored on the world’s collective Internet servers will reach 44 zettabytes (ZB) by the end of 2020. (Full disclosure: I was unaware what a zettabyte was prior to researching for this article. If you’re interested, a zettabyte is a little more than one trillion gigabytes.) That 44 ZB of data is comprised of videos, audio files, images, websites, social media, and so on. It’s a veritable overload for the senses.

In addition to the static data already on the web, immense amounts of new content are added to the Internet each second. For example, among top apps used by children and teens, What’s App, the texting app, is most prolific, with 752,314 new messages sent each second. Snapchat users share 34,722 new Snaps each second. Instagram users post 1,099 new photos each second. And YouTube, the world’s largest repository of video, adds 500 minutes of video to its servers each second. The world’s data is projected to grow to 175 ZB by 2025.

That’s a whole lot of content for today’s young people to grow up on. And it doesn’t come without risk. Here are three big dangers for young content consumers:

First, the fact that so much content is available to watch isn’t what makes screens dangerous. Rather, it is the nature of these videos: short, stimulating, and colorful. Such content is meant to be addictive. Each time someone views one of these colorful, dynamic videos, it subtly and permanently alters brain chemistry to desensitize dopamine receptors and to create a dependent pattern (an addiction) to similar content. In essence, the reward centers of the brain are reprogrammed to crave more content. And artificial intelligence (AI) is employed in certain apps to detect user patterns (which videos they like and dislike), and to automatically feed the user more content that they have shown they prefer.

Perhaps the gorilla in the room for young people right now is TikTok, an app dedicated to “short form” (15 seconds or less) mobile videos set to music. I have a sixteen-year-old at home who has used TikTok for over a year now, but I’ve never watched it myself. For the purposes of this article, I invested a few minutes looking at the sample video feed on tiktok.com’s home page. The videos were fast, colorful, creative, entertaining and engaging. Before I realized it, a few minutes had grown into an hour. I must have looked at a couple hundred videos during that time, completely unaware of the passage of time.

I was also completely unaware of what I was exposing myself to. A second danger of excessive screen time is the lack of awareness of the content you’re feeding your brain. What subtle messages, behaviors, and attitudes are part of the content you’re watching? They all work to desensitize the viewer, change his or her own attitudes and preferences, and sometimes, introduce him or her to overtly harmful content and ideas. As a matter of fact, this week TikTok was in the news because they were finding it difficult to trace and take down all of the shared versions of a video originally aired on Facebook (and later picked up and spread by TikTok) which apparently depicted a man’s suicide. Young viewers can be exposed to a lot of scary, harmful, and negatively impactful content in a very short period of time.

A third danger of excessive screen use is that it often leads to secondary emotional, social, and mental health problems. Studies have found a strong correlation between internet addiction and anxiety, stress, and depression. These conditions present themselves not only when the viewer is deprived of additional content that is craved by the chemically-altered brain; they persist even while the viewer is looking at such content. Desensitization of the brain’s dopamine receptors is progressive. Consequently, the viewer develops a tolerance for the level of input he or she experiences, and needs more—or more exciting—input in order to achieve the same feeling of pleasure, relief, or escape that they previously attained.

In our next article to be published this Friday, we’ll discuss ways that parents and guardians can help children understand and control the images and messages they see online.

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Why Christian School?

The Christian school movement began in earnest in the United States in the late 1960s. Prior to that time Christian schools existed, primarily as educational ministries of particular churches or denominations. But starting around 50 years ago, the number of Christian schools blossomed—partly as a response to the secularization of the culture, and of many public school curricula.

I attended (for a time) a Christian school in the early 1970s: Redeemer Lutheran Day School in Northeast Philadelphia. (A quick note that for a time much later on, Redeemer Lutheran Day School was a member of the Children’s Jubilee Fund network.) My parents made the decision to send me to Christian School (and to pay the then-steep annual tuition of $600!) because they wanted me to learn in an environment that was friendly to the Gospel.

Going to Christian school, they reasoned, was one way to nurture my young faith. And they were right! It was in my classroom at Redeemer Lutheran Day School in 1974 that I first remember comprehending that I had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

That students would have a standing opportunity to come to faith (or to nurture a faith already present) is certainly a compelling reason to choose Christian school education over public. But it isn’t the only one.

Children’s Jubilee Fund was established in 1997 because Dr. Jim Petty and other visionaries wanted to provide a safe, stable environment for city-based students to receive an education. Around the time of Jubilee’s establishment, Philadelphia public schools suddenly faced new competition: charter schools. These publicly-funded, yet privately-run schools receive a share of taxpayer dollars dedicated to the education of all students in the district. This meant that Philadelphia public schools were effectively forced to cut spending, while still bearing the responsibility of educating Philadelphia students.

Additionally, state funding as a percentage of total public education spending in Pennsylvania declined by over one-third from 1975 through 2001. Consequently, the relative quality of education in some Philadelphia public schools began to decline. And history tells us that the schools that faced the most significant declines in performance tended to be in less-affluent, majority Black neighborhoods. Some of Philadelphia’s most at-risk students were being disadvantaged even further because their neighborhood schools were being starved of badly-needed resources.

Christian schools aren’t necessarily wealthier than their secular counterparts, but they tend to be better resourced in terms of additional staff care for students and their families. Christian school teachers and staffs often take additional time to help students work through learning challenges and personal barriers. Christian school staff is also generally able to provide spiritual comfort and support to students when learning proves a challenge. Instead of checking out and giving up, students are instead encouraged to persevere, and to turn to the Lord for hope and strength.

But there is more to the effective education paradigm than budgets, standardized test scores, and graduation rates. Social disruptions like crime, intimidation, bullying, and drug use frequently surface in schools and lead to some scholars feeling threatened or distracted. According to US Department of Justice statistics, violent and nonviolent incidents in US schools peaked in the mid-1990s. Though rates of nonviolent victimization have fallen dramatically since then, the incidence of violent victimization (threats of violence, assault, sexual assault) have fallen more moderately and still remain unacceptably high.

The incidence of violent acts (or threats of such acts) in schools has a direct correlation to decreased student attendance, lower student performance, and social anxiety among students. Christian schools attempt to avoid these consequences by providing a safe environment for all students to learn. Most Christian schools have lower student-staff ratios than their public counterparts and a commitment to a biblical code of conduct among students. As a result, the situations and underlying relational problems among students that often manifest in violent acts or threats are minimized. When they do occur, they’re addressed promptly, with the aim of addressing not only the behavior, but the underlying circumstantial and heart issues that led to the behavior in the first place. Christian schools generally exercise Christian discipleship all the time—which minimizes the need for formal discipline later on.

The schools in the Jubilee network represent an alternative to public and secular private institutions. Each of our network schools helps individual students achieve to their own particular academic and social potential. But our schools’ highest and most sacred priority is shaping the hearts and minds of their students to help them know Jesus Christ, and to reflect his character to the world around them.

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Go Therefore and Make Disciples…of Children

One of the more well-known passages of Scripture is what is frequently referred to as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20a, Jesus tells his disciples:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

What a marvelous invitation from our Lord! In saying that we should make disciples, he not only gives his people a mission to fulfill, but he also implicitly says that there is a large population of people “out there,” among and around us, who will listen to the good news about Jesus and begin to believe in him as Savior and Lord.

Yet, Christians frequently fall short in fulfilling this mission. We tend to focus on the “baptizing” aspect (that is, seeing people profess faith in Christ)—but not so much on the “teaching” aspect (what difference being a Christian makes in everyday life). Both aspects are necessary for new disciples to grow in faith.

The process of discipleship is what Christian schools are all about. Much more than focusing solely on transferring the information and life skills of academics, Christian schools help students answer the question: What difference does being a Christian make for me as I interact with the world?

Teachers, staff, and administrators actively love and get to know their students. In many cases, they also get to know and love their students’ families. School staff and leaders help students work through conflict, deal with disappointment, respond to peer pressure, and exercise self-control. They help students develop biblical worldviews about things like sex, money, entertainment, their own bodies, and their relationship to the world. All this is what Jesus commanded when he said discipleship was “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Students in Christian schools learn that being a Christian is so much more than following a code of conduct. Being a Christian is having a relationship with the living God of the universe, who loves them and gave his only Son on the cross, so that they might become his true sons and daughters.

2020 has been a hard year in many respects, but trusting in the fact that Jesus is firmly in control of all of the circumstances that we’ve experienced, Jubilee network school staff and leaders continue working diligently to help their students understand that God really is in control of the world and their own lives…and that he’s truly working all things together for their good (Romans 8:28). That’s discipleship.

Please pray for our network of schools, and for each of the teachers and administrators who will begin afresh with their ministry of education and discipleship in just a few weeks. Pray that the Lord would make many disciples in the year to come…and that he would strengthen and deepen the faith of them all.

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Meet Jim Sovocool, Head of School for LOGAN Hope

Every school has a story. One particularly rich and remarkable story is part of LOGAN Hope, a K-8 Christian school in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The “LOGAN” in “LOGAN Hope” simultaneously represents the community the school serves, as well as its mission: “LOving God And Neighbor.” The school is preparing to start its 19th year of serving the community when the Fall Term kicks off later this month.

According to Jim Sovocool, Head of School since 2017, LOGAN Hope is the result of a mission God placed on the hearts of Ken and Anita McBain. 20 years ago, the McBains were teaching English to Cambodians who had settled in Logan, when they felt called to expand their ministry to the children and grandchildren of these immigrants. They not only wanted to teach children English, but they wanted to give this rising generation a knowledge of who God is. The McBains wanted to see these children develop not only strong minds, but strong hearts, as well. LOGAN Hope was started in 2002.

Jim, who grew up in the Main Line suburb of Wayne, PA, first came to LOGAN Hope when he was a high school freshman. A member of Wayne’s Church of the Savior, Jim went to work at LOGAN Hope’s summer camp for neighborhood kids—a program that continues to this day (even in the age of COVID!). It was there that the Lord developed a heart for these kids, and a heart for urban education. After graduating from school himself, Jim interviewed as a teacher at LOGAN Hope, and taught Grades 3 and 4 for six years prior to becoming Head of School.

When I asked Jim what LOGAN Hope offers its students to help them succeed, he said two things. First is the discipleship that happens with each of the students. “School, at its core, is a discipleship process,” Jim told me. Teachers get to know their students personally as well as academically. This enables teachers to become familiar with the spiritual needs of their students and their students’ families. These kinds of supportive, encouraging relationships make a huge difference in the lives of children and their families, who might otherwise be considered “at risk” and overlooked by the larger culture.

Just from working with Jim this winter and spring, I can affirm that Jim’s approach is helpful. LOGAN Hope’s proactive interactions with students and their families throughout the spring COVID-19 stay-at-home order provided grounding, encouragement, and no small amount of practical help to the school’s students and families. Through regular interactions with students and parents, teachers attended to families’ spiritual needs as well as educational, social, and nutritional needs.

The second thing Jim said helps students succeed at LOGAN Hope is the school’s commitment to small class size. Classes typically consist of 10-12 students, fostering the close, personal relationships mentioned above. That kind of structure enables teachers to guide students based on the students’ own needs and strengths. It also fosters a sense of community within the class and the school—a sense of family.

And family is a strong concept at LOGAN Hope. Jim says that LOGAN Hope is rooted in serving the neighborhood, and to seeing the families in the neighborhood flourish. Students, most of whom come from Logan and two-thirds of whom are of Cambodian heritage, participate in service projects to improve the neighborhood where they live. The school also has a close connection with a neighborhood Cambodian church, and hosts the church’s youth group in the school building.

Looking to the future, Jim and the LOGAN Hope Board want to see the school draw parents more and more into the life of the school, making the school an even greater resource for the community.

Children’s Jubilee Fund is pleased to be connected with LOGAN Hope, and to support it financially through scholarship grants to help keep the school’s tuition affordable. Please pray for Jim Sovocool and for all of the staff and families of LOGAN Hope!

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

How to Pray for Our Students and Schools in August

As we begin August and anticipate the start of the fall school term, many of our students, their families, and our school leaders and teachers are anxious.

This fall term will be unlike any seen in our lifetimes. COVID-19 hijacked the school calendar, and most schools will at least start instruction either exclusively or partially as they ended school in June—online. Extracurricular activities will be non-existent. Many of our schools are uncertain how they will fare financially. Many of our parents are either unemployed or have had their hours or pay reduced. And, each of our students is faced with uncertainty, challenges, and temptation to fear the future.

God tells us in Scripture that he is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He encourages us to come to him with the things that trouble us, and he promises to listen, and to respond.

Please join us here at Jubilee in praying for out students and schools this month, by praying as follows—and however the Lord leads.  

 Pray for our students’…

  • Physical safety, that they would not be injured in violence in their neighborhoods, and that they would not contract or transmit COVID-19
  • Emotional health, as many see their neighborhoods scarred by violence, looting, closed businesses, and graffiti
  • Self-image, as many black and brown students live in the self-awareness of racial inequality
  • Provision, as many families are still unemployed or underemployed, and may be facing eviction or food insecurity
  • Recreation, as city pools and playgrounds remain closed
  • Spiritual health, that they will remember they are loved by Jesus, even when their circumstances are difficult
  • Learning, that the summer slide that so frequently impacts students would not be made worse this year by the shortened school year
  • Relationships to our schools, that all of our students would re-enroll for the fall even if parents are unable to pay any tuition
  • Protection during the summer from abusive behaviors around them. Incidents of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of minors all increase during times of stress and anxiety.

Pray for our schools…

  • That the Lord would provide for their financial needs this year, and that they wouldn’t have to furlough any teachers or staff
  • That the Lord would make it clear to our schools’ leaders exactly how and when to resume classes
  • That the Lord would grant teachers with wisdom, patience, creativity, and joy as they begin the fall term using online platforms to interact their students
  • That school leaders would receive godly wisdom and intuition to know how to budget and otherwise plan for the rest of this year
  • That our schools’ leaders and teachers would remain firmly rooted and grounded in the Lord, and resist the temptation to fear or become discouraged

Thank you!

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Jubilee provides emergency aid to some schools

Throughout the month of April, Jubilee publicized a campaign raising funds to pass along to Jubilee schools hit hard by the sudden COVID-19 financial crisis.

Why are these schools in need? Most of our schools work with very thin financial margins. In other words, they tend to live month-to-month, and don’t have much of a financial cushion to fall back on when an economic downturn hits.

The COVID-19 health crisis and subsequent shutdown of the nation’s economy have had unprecedented impacts on working families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor through April 11, 2020, Pennsylvania has lost over 1.3 million jobs during the first month of the crisis, making it the state with the fifth highest effective unemployment rate in the nation, at 21.9%. New Jersey lost nearly 700,000 jobs during the same period, making it number eleven in the nation, with an effective unemployment rate of 16.7%.

As I delivered the laptops donated by Jubilee to students who needed them to participate in distance education, I was struck by the fact that some parents who were there to pick up the laptops also took home boxes of food provided by the schools. Many of our students belong to families whose hourly and service-sector jobs were the first to be eliminated in the financial crisis. And, they’ll likely be the last to be re-employed when a recovery begins. As a matter of fact, one of our heads of school informed me just last Friday that an astounding 91% of her school’s families were either completely unemployed or had work hours cut.

What this means for many of our schools is that families who paid even partial tuition are generally unable to make tuition payments any longer. Schools who depended upon April, May, and June tuition payments aren’t receiving them. Plus, many schools hold their annual fundraisers in the spring. Those have now been cancelled, and the critical cash they would have brought in to the schools to pay current expenses is lost.

Faced with the prospect of many schools cutting staff and programs, Jubilee began its emergency campaign on March 30. As of April 30, a total of $80,681 came in. Jubilee will add $60,000 of its own reserves to this amount, so that we will be able to distribute $140,681 to our hardest-hit schools. We hope that this emergency infusion of cash will allow many of our schools to retain current staff and programs, as well as to retain students whose parents are temporarily unable to make tuition payments.

To many of you who responded to our campaign, our schools and our students thank you for your generosity!

 

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Thanks from Spring Garden Academy for laptops!

Candace Wegner, head of school for Spring Garden Academy in Philadelphia, thanks Jubilee’s donors for the 16 laptops her school received in April.

Spring Garden Academy’s laptops were part of the 71 laptops provided by Jubilee for our schools’ students during the COVID-19 school shutdown. Without them, many of these students would be unable to participate in distance education provided by Spring Garden and other schools.

 

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.