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.

Jubilee gives laptops to students

A family from Valley Christian School receives a computer to enable distance education during the school closure.

A global pandemic wasn’t an event any of the 24 schools in the Children’s Jubilee Fund network anticipated.

On March 13, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf determined that all schools in Pennsylvania should close for two weeks to mitigate the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. The order was extended at the end of the two weeks, and in mid-April, was further extended to close all schools through the end of the academic year.

Virtually overnight, Jubilee schools throughout the region were faced with the necessity of offering distance education to their students. Teachers and heads of school worked day and night to revise lesson plans and to format lessons to be compatible with online learning platforms.

But there was a problem. In order to take part in distance learning, students need computers or tablets and internet access. Many lacked those basic tools, and lacked the resources to obtain them independently. Without them, these students would be left behind because they’d miss out on the same educational opportunities as their peers.

Where they could, schools loaned computers to students, purchased computers for students, or found people willing to donate them. But there were still 71 students in nine of our schools who were without computers they could use for school. And those schools had no resources left to obtain computers.

Monitoring the situation, Jubilee decided in early April that it would fill the gap. Jubilee determined that no student should be left behind in this crisis. We purchased 71 laptops for those students, and delivered them the week of April 13. Doing so, Jubilee ensured that 100% of students in our network had access to distance learning. We thank all of our donors, who made these gifts possible.

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.

Is Jesus really with me in challenging times?

[Jesus speaking] “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

These
words of Jesus from John’s Gospel come at the very end of an extended teaching
segment that began back in Chapter 13. The context is that Jesus is about to be
betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. As a matter of fact, these
are the final words of instruction that Jesus gives to his disciples before he
prays for them, and is arrested. And the final words of hope that Jesus gave to
his disciples apply to us, today.

Let’s
look at the four main ideas in this concluding statement from Jesus, and see
what hope they offer to us today. Imaging Jesus is speaking these same words to
you, right now.

“I have said these things to you…” In the preceding chapters,
Jesus speaks to his disciples about the suffering they’re about to experience:
suffering that touches the physical, emotional, and financial aspects of their
lives. The religious authorities will call them heretics. Their very lives will
be threatened.

Yet
intertwined with many prophecies of suffering, Jesus clearly makes promises of
his presence with his followers as they go through those hard times. Here are
some of them:

  • John 14:3. Jesus says that he goes to
    prepare a place for his people, and that he will come and take them to himself,
    so they will be together forever.
  • John 14:16. Jesus promises to ask the
    Father to send his people the Holy Spirit, to abide with them forever.
  • John 15:4. Jesus invites his people
    to abide in him, and he promises to abide in them. To abide with Jesus means
    not only to live with him, but to experience the benefits of his love and
    presence.
  • John 16:22. Jesus acknowledges that
    the disciples will experience sorrow now, be he promises that he will be with
    them again, and that they will have joy that perseveres no matter what
    circumstances they face.
  • John 16:27. Jesus tells his followers
    that God the Father already loves them, and is ready and able to provide what they
    need in the face of suffering.

“…in me you may have peace.” What does peace in Jesus while enduring suffering
look like? Trusting in God’s purposes and provision, mostly…even if the end
of our suffering doesn’t seem to be in sight.

There
are two examples of what this peace looks like in the Psalms.

  • Psalm 123:1-2. Here, the image of people
    at peace are of two servants: a man and a woman, each looking to the hand of
    their master and mistress for what they need. The “hand” in Scripture is frequently
    an instrument of strength, of provision, of protection. Here, the servants look
    patiently and expectantly to the hands of the people on whom they depend to
    provide everything they need. In doing so, they trust their masters to provide
    for them, because the servants are loved.
  • Psalm 131:1-3. In verse 2, we encounter
    the image of a weaned child with its mother. An unweaned child will fuss
    and cry until it is fed. But a weaned child on its mother’s lap knows, even if
    it is hungry, that its desired food is coming. All it needs do is wait
    patiently.

Each
of these examples gives us a different picture of what it looks like to
experience peace in Jesus. He alone is the strong Master who will protect and
provide for us. With the love and tenderness of a nursing mother, he will give
us precisely what we need. And because he is Jesus, we can trust him to do
both.

“In the world you will have tribulation…” Another word for tribulation is trouble. And you and I experience it daily. Perhaps your particular
trouble today focus around finances, employment, anxiety over coronavirus, your
children, or loneliness and isolation. Perhaps it’s something entirely
different. No matter what, I find it actually encouraging that Jesus says, flat
out, that trouble is something that everyone will experience. Not only does
Jesus know in a general sense that you and I will experience trouble, but he knows
in detail the particular trouble you
and I will face.

But
not only does Jesus know everything about our trouble, but he is perfectly and
sovereignly in control over that trouble. Even in the midst of our hard
circumstances, Jesus keeps them from being as bad as they could be. That isn’t
to say that they might not become severe and bring us almost to our breaking
point—sometimes, that does happen. But we accept by faith what the Apostle Paul
tells us in Romans 8:28-30: that the Lord works
everything together (even the very hard things) so that some good results for
us. And that good is usually that we would see his love, mercy, provision, and
power at work—and that we would trust him more.

“…take heart; I have overcome the world.” The same world that
presents troubles to us is a world that has been overcome by Jesus in his
resurrection. God tells us in Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I am making all things
new.” That renewal of the world isn’t only a future event. It began when Jesus
rose from the dead on Easter. He conquered not only death, but all of the
rotten fruit that death brings: suffering, disease, hopelessness, misery,
heartache.

We
begin to see that victory in small ways as we cling to Jesus. Even in hard
times, we often see the seeds of good and blessing at work. And even if we
can’t see those seeds yet, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Jesus
calls us to share in his victory over death, and to be his instruments of
making all things new in the here and now. Even if you find yourself now in the
midst of challenging times, it is a comfort to realize that you are not alone.
Jesus himself, the One who has conquered sin and death, and viruses and the
suffering they bring, is with you. And he invites you to rest from the
struggles of life in the embrace of his powerful and faithful love.