The Results Are In: Christian Education Pays Off!

Our work at Children’s Jubilee Fund has always been very focused. We provide tuition-assistance scholarships which enable low-income Philadelphia-area students to attend the K-12 Christian schools in our network. And we take the Christian school aspect of our mission seriously.

Why? Two reasons. First, we want our students to intentionally encounter Jesus.  We want them to get to know him and his people through being in our Christian schools. And as they get to know and build relationship with Jesus, they also get to experience the world through a Christian worldview—understanding creation, people, society, work, and relationships all through a distinctly Christian lens.

And second, we know that the education that our students receive in our network schools is typically a better quality education than they would receive in the public schools they’d otherwise attend. Because our network Christian school teachers and staff serve out of a sense of mission and love for their students, they offer intangible benefits that many public schools aren’t able to consistently provide.

What are those intangible benefits? Things like conflict resolution that moves toward repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. An understanding and compassionate ear from teachers and staff when a student is discouraged. Extra, one-on-one assistance when a student needs help understanding a particular academic concept or skill. Encouragement to seek and rest in the Lord when hard things in life happen.

And prayer. Prayer throughout the school day, and prayer when hard things happen in or out of school.

We’ve seen the results since Jubilee began 25 years ago: 95% of Jubilee scholars graduate from high school (compared with 69% for Philadelphia public school students), and 90% of twelfth-grade Jubilee scholars enroll in post-secondary education (nearly half of Philadelphia public high schools have college enrollment rates lower than 60%).

But that isn’t the end of the story. This week, a New York Times opinion piece quantified the benefits of Christian faith to helping students succeed in school. A researcher from Tulane University looked at 3,290 American teens and their academic journeys. The results in this article are encouraging—students with a Christian faith typically had better grades in high school, and were more likely to complete high school and move on to college than their unbelieving peers.

These are the kinds of benefits we see in our network Christian schools, only we believe our results are even better than those reported in the Times piece.

Our ability to help Philadelphia-area students depends on the generosity of people who believe in our mission and are willing to support it through their financial gifts and prayer. Would you consider supporting Jubilee today and making a difference in a child’s life forever? Thank you!

Talking with Children about Lent

Talking with Children About Lent

Believe it or not, there’s more than one calendar in the world! The church calendar is an annual schedule of holidays and seasons that mark certain events or seasons both in the earthly life and ministry of Jesus, and in the faith experience of his followers.

The church calendar was devised as a teaching tool during pre-literate times so that every year Christians who could not read Scripture for themselves were walked through and learned important facts about the work of salvation that Jesus had accomplished for them.

One of the seasons on the church calendar is Lent. Lent is the season that precedes Easter. It’s a season that you’ve probably heard about before. But why do Christians mark this time as special during the year?

Lent is a season 40 days long that reminds us of Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness during his temptation by the devil. The Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this time in Jesus’s life. You can read about it here. It came right before he started his public ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing.

During his 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus fasted (went without eating), prayed, and meditated on God’s Word and on the mission his Father had called him to fulfill. That mission included teaching and preaching about the plan of salvation that God had for his people. But the bigger part of the mission was that Jesus, the only Son of God, was going to die himself on a cross in order to pay for the sins of his people—and then after being dead, he would return to life on the third day after his death (that’s the resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter).

Jesus’s mission was a huge mission—the biggest there would ever be—and he wanted to prepare for it in this special way. And so during Lent, many Christians remember what Jesus did for them and for the world in a special way by focusing on Jesus’s teaching, and on his suffering and death on the cross.

Many Christians also use the season of Lent to remember why Jesus came and died to save them—because of their sin. And, they devote themselves to a process of repentance—which is loving God, resting in his forgiveness through Jesus’s work on the cross, and turning away from sin and sinful temptations.

So, during Lent, Christians often give up things as a reminder of Jesus’s fasting in the wilderness. Some of the things we tend to give up are bad habits (like cursing, smoking, overeating, and so on)—but we also give up things that keep us from turning to Jesus and enjoying his presence in the first place. Some of those things could be dependance on technology (like cell phones), social media, TV, or streaming.

There’s no requirement to give up anything for Lent. But some people do because they want to follow Jesus’s example of not allowing anything (even eating!) come between them and their relationship with God. People who choose to give something up for Lent often choose to fill that time with Bible reading, prayer, or just being silent before the Lord, to draw closer to him.

There are many ways to observe Lent. Here is a resource you might find helpful to walk you through some of those different ways. It was developed by Alyssa and Stephen Wood from Liberti River Wards Church in Philadelphia and is a Lent and Easter Guide for Families. You can click here to go to the page on the Liberti River Wards website where you can download the booklet as a pdf for free! (Just click on the link, go to the page, and then click the button that reads “Download Family Guide.”

Lent is a time to remember what Jesus has done for everyone who believes in him. But it’s also a time to be transformed as we practice repentance and drawing near to God!

Our sincere thanks to Liberti River Wards for sharing this resource!

Talking with Children About Jesus

What do children need in order to thrive? There are so many answers to that question: Unconditional love. Safety and security. Opportunities to explore their God-given gifts. The stable and faithful care of parents, grandparents, or other caregivers who will nurture them and show them how to live. Friends. Someone who will help them build good self-esteem. Learning to exercise self-control. Someone who will help them learn to live primarily for others, rather than only for themselves.

All of these good gifts are indeed necessary. But there is one thing more, without which no child can truly and deeply thrive. One thing of paramount importance. That thing is to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Why? It boils down to this: every person on earth was made for relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. Jesus says: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Without that relationship, nothing in life develops as it was designed to be. Nothing matters. It’s as though a talented artist created a beautiful masterpiece, and then locked it away in a closet for no one to enjoy.

Notice that I speak here of a relationship with Jesus. The word relationship is key. To have a relationship with someone is very different from simply knowing facts about that person. I know many facts about my wife. But those facts alone do nothing to help me or to bless her. If I don’t have relationship with my wife, those facts are meaningless.

To have relationship with Jesus is not only to know about him, but it is to know him. To experience his love, to feel the comfort of his presence, to know the faithfulness of his care, to rest in the finality of his work for us on the cross. Jesus is a living person who knows us and wants us to know him.

What are some things you can do to help your child develop a relationship with Jesus? ere Here are a few simple ways to begin.

  1. Teach your child about Jesus. Yes, I did say a moment ago that simply knowing facts about Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus. But how else do you help start a relationship between two people, except to introduce them? Learning about Jesus is the first step in growing in relationship with him. You can do this through reading Scripture with your child. Begin in an age-appropriate way. For older children, you can read with them directly from the Bible. But for younger children, it might be easier to use a children’s Bible or a Bible storybook. Links to some suggested resources may be found below.
  2. Talk with your child about your own relationship with Jesus. Most children learn anecdotally, through example. Regardless of the depth of your own relationship with Jesus, give real-life examples of how you know Jesus loves you. Talk about how Jesus has answered your prayers. Talk about how you know God has forgiven your sin because Jesus died on the cross in your place. Even if you feel you don’t have much first-hand experience, trust that the Lord will not only use you to help your child know about Jesus, but that the Lord will grow your own with him as you do it.
  3. Pray for your child. You have a sacred privilege as a parent, grandparent, guardian, or caregiver to intercede on behalf of your child. Ask the Lord to give your child faith to believe in Jesus. Pray that you would be a good example of a faithful Christian for your child. Pray that the Holy Spirit would protect your child from Satan’s influence and deception. Pray that the Spirit would give your child a tender heart, and that he or she would recognize that they are a sinner in need of God’s grace.
  4. Pray with your child. Praying with your child is not only a way to bond with your child and help them to bond to Jesus, but a way to teach them how to pray themselves. The prayers don’t need to be long, but sometimes having regular times to pray during the day is helpful. Some parents pray with their children in the morning, around mealtimes, and before bed. And praying with your child when difficult things happen—like disappointments, temper tantrums, or fights—is a good way to teach your child to turn to the Lord. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is a prayer all by itself, as well as a good basis for many other prayers. If you’d like some additional ideas about ways to pray with your child, a short list of resources follows at the end of this article.
  5. Bring your child to church and Sunday school. God’s people aren’t just a bunch of individuals; they are a community. Jesus established this community (called the church) as a way to make his character and work known to the world, and for the benefit of all of the members of the church. Many churches have Sunday schools that help children not only learn about Jesus, but where children can develop relationships with peers and where parents can develop relationships with other adults. Going to church isn’t meant to be a legalistic thing. It’s actually a gift from the Lord, which enables us to grow in faith and in love with God and with one another.

This article only scratches the surface concerning talking with your children about Jesus. But it’s a start. If you’d like some more ideas, talk with a trusted Christian friend, your pastor, or one of the teachers or administrators at one of the Jubilee network Schools. And check back to this blog for more articles on helping your child learn about Jesus.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES

Children’s Bibles and Bible Storybooks

 

Prayer Books for Children

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 lower-income 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.

Ways to Pray for Children’s Jubilee Fund – July 2021

Even though school may be out for the summer, our schools, their staffs, and our students have different prayer needs over the coming weeks. Here are a few ways you might pray for them.

1.  Several of our schools have summer programs meant to benefit both their students and other children from the community. Here are three in particular to pray for:

2.  Many of our schools typically depend on last-minute summer enrollments to meet their student population goals for the fall. Because of the pandemic, this is an unusual year, though, and many schools need to enroll additional students because of higher-than-anticipated attrition. Please pray that the Lord would put our schools in contact with exactly the families whose students he wants enrolled for the fall. In particular, please pray for:

  • Olney Christian School (Olney) to find seven more kindergarten and five more first-grade students for the fall
  • Cedar Grove Christian Academy (Lawndale) to find more students to fill out their new ninth-grade class (previously, Cedar Grove was a K-8 school).

     

3.  Several of our schools are looking for additional staff members before the start of the new school year. Please pray the Lord would provide them with the right candidates at the right time. You can find a list of job announcements on our website.

4.  Many of our students live in communities that have been impacted by gun violence. Pray that the Lord would pour out his grace upon our neighborhoods, and that he would curtail that violence and protect our students and their families.

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 lower-income 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.

Helping Students Cope with Mental Health Issues

As she sat in her virtual tenth-grade geometry class, Amanda heard the teacher explain the proof, but the teacher’s voice failed to register with her. Rather, Amanda found herself preoccupied with her own chorus of thoughts: I’m so far behind in school. No one knows. No one cares. I don’t have any friends. I only disappoint my parents. I’m so alone. I don’t want to go on like this. I want the pain to end. Then, she went on to imagine what her funeral might be like.

The pandemic and all its sundry effects continue to impact the population. But the most significant impacts of the pandemic impact those in the population least able to cope with them: students, those with lower incomes, and African Americans. Among students, many struggle with depression and suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide). According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five students age 13-18 deals with a serious mental illness. (Here is a pdf with facts, figures, and resources you can share with your teachers, parents, and staff.)

It is important to note that having thoughts of suicide (or thoughts of one being “better off dead,” known as passive suicidal ideation) are not unusual for students, particularly students age 13-18. One study cites the prevalence of suicidal ideation among students in this demographic is roughly three times that of the overall population.

While thoughts of one’s death or making plans for suicide may not be unusual for teens, they can be dangerous. Such thoughts are important to bring into the light and deal with, without fear of shaming or stigmatization. To a student such as Amanda, living in the isolation of her mind and rehearsing these thoughts over and over again with no outside voices to weigh in can lead to preoccupation with death, and rationalization that taking her life is the only logical course open to her. Helping struggling students come out of the darkness of their self-imposed isolation and talk with someone else is critical to breaking that cycle.

Most schools don’t do a good job of helping students break that cycle. Christian schools, particularly Christian schools serving less affluent populations may not talk about it at all. But though not many Christian schools may talk about mental health struggles openly, the data show that Christians experience mental health struggles just as much as those in the non-believing community. What can you do to recognize signs of mental health struggle among your students?

Any of the following behaviors or behavioral changes might indicate the presence of struggle in a student:

  • Unexplained or frequent absences from class, particularly a pattern of absences
  • Lack of participation in class, or in social activities, or a lack of attentiveness (distraction)
  • A change in physical appearance, particularly a sudden change
  • A lasting change in mood (sad, angry, antagonistic, detached, disinterested)
  • Unusual crying
  • A drop in grades and/or a pattern of turning in assignments late, incomplete, or carelessly-completed
  • Self-deprecating remarks or humor
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Sudden change in eating habits (weight loss or weight gain)
  • Regularly drawing or doodling images that reflect emptiness, isolation, hopelessness, or death
  • A verbal admission of feeling depressed or hopeless

What can Christian educators do to help students who might be struggling with mental health issues?

  • Talk openly about the reality of mental health struggles, and the facts that they’re not unusual, or anything to be ashamed of. Mental health struggles are no different from other physiological illnesses. Would you be ashamed if you had a cold? Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are no different. Conditions can be treated, symptoms can be improved, and people can recover.
  • Acknowledge that Christians struggle with feeling hopeless, depression, and thoughts of self-harm. The Apostle Paul reports being “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” in 2 Corinthians 1:8. Many Christians struggle with similar feelings today.
  • Talk about Christians needing the help of one another (and the Lord!) to navigate the troubles of life. We weren’t created to walk the Christian life in isolation. God tells us in his Word that we need one another in the Body of Christ for support, encouragement, prayer, other practical help, and accountability (see Hebrews 3:12-13). The tendency for everyone who struggles with sin or shame to struggle secretly. Encourage them to come into the openness of community, and find God’s grace sufficient for the ways in which they struggle.
  • Personally pursue students. Spend time checking in one-on-one with students, getting to know them and their struggles. Pray for the insight and discernment to know how to help them. Pray that the Holy Spirit would bring any hidden struggles into the light.
  • Privately engage students in whom you notice red flags. Schedule a time to speak with those students offline—ideally, in person. If that’s not an option, engage them over Zoom or Google Classroom…but make time to talk with them. Let your student know that he/she is noticed, loved, and important to you, and to the Lord.
  • When you talk with your student, don’t try to be a counselor. If you’re like most teachers, you don’t have a counseling background. You don’t need to act as though you have one! Talk with your student. Acknowledge the signs you’ve observed in them. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen attentively and actively to what they share. Empathize with them, letting them know they’re not unusual or hopeless. Walk with them to Christ, as the One who perfectly understands them and is with them in the midst of their struggles.
  • If you suspect your student struggles with suicidal ideation, ask your student if they have had thoughts of harming themselves, or of committing suicide. If they respond that they have, ask if they have a plan for how they might carry it out. Then, ask them if they plan to act on those desires. If your student says that he or she is considering acting on their plan, offer to take them to the emergency room right away, or call 911 for them. Stay with them or stay on the call with your student until help arrives. If your student says that he or she is thinking about hurting themselves but won’t act on those thoughts right now, encourage them to speak to a counselor immediately. Notify your supervisor at the school, and contact the student’s parent or guardian immediately to share what you’ve heard. Don’t hold that conversation in confidence. The most important thing right now is to help that student find access to other caring voices who can speak into his or her darkness and provide a different perspective.

     

Here are some additional resources you can turn to for more information on helping students deal with depression or thoughts of self-harm:

Most of all, as a follower of Christ, you have the power to pray for the student in your care. Whether your student is a learner in your class, your child, or a friend, you can intercede before the Throne of God on that student’s behalf. And you can incarnate the love and wisdom of God by being physically and emotionally present with that student as he or she navigates these sometimes dark roads.

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 lower-income 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 Jubilee Schools in January 2021

January is an occasion for new beginnings and new hopes. As you’ll see below, many of our schools are looking forward…but all of them continue to deal with the lingering impacts of the pandemic and other problems lingering from last year. Please ask the Lord to help our schools in the days to come.

Pray for our Schools

  • Four of our schools are going through leadership transitions (or had a transition in September). As this is not a typical school year, these new or interim school leaders face challenges the likes of which their predecessors never would have dreamed. Pray that the Lord would grant wisdom to these leaders in particular (and all of our heads of school in general), that they would know how to honor the Lord and bless those whom they serve during these unusual times.
  • The news of recent political unrest has been difficult for adults to process. Children lack the objectivity and capacity to wrestle with these issues well. Many of our students deal with fear, depression, and anxiety as a result of hard news that seems to throw their world into chaos. Please pray that the Lord would protect the hearts and minds of our students and their families, and that they would be drawn to him instead of living in dread of their fears. Please pray also that our schools’ teachers and administrators would know how to talk about these issues with their students in a way that shows that the Lord is their Strength and their Shield.
  • All of our schools continue to cope with the effects of the pandemic. Most take a hybrid approach, with the majority of students in person for part of the day and at home the rest of the day, and with some students exclusively virtual. As you might imagine, this approach can be disruptive not only to the process of education, but to the attention spans of students, many of whom benefit from the structure of being in a supervised classroom. Please pray that the Lord would cause the work of our schools’ teachers to be effective during this difficult season, and that their students would learn all they need.
  • Some students in our schools struggle with hyperactivity and impulse control. Please pray that the Lord would grant these students the strength and self-control to master their bodies and thoughts and minds, and that they would not distract themselves or anyone around them.
  • As has been stated previously, this is an unusual year with unusual circumstances for teachers. Many teachers work extra hours helping students and preparing alternate lesson plans for virtual and hybrid students. Please pray the Lord would grant them endurance and patience with joy during this season.
  • Many students who receive Jubilee scholarships live at or below the federal poverty level. These students are most at risk for economic harm from the current crises. Many experience food insecurity and housing insecurity (12 million U.S. renters are currently at least $6,000 behind on their rent as a result of the pandemic). Please pray that the Lord would provide for these students and their families’ needs, and that these students would still be able to learn effectively even with these stressors weighing on them.


Thank you for praying! Visit our website at jubileefund.org to learn more about the mission and ministry of Children’s Jubilee Fund!

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 lower-income 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 a Jubilee Scholar: Jayden

Jayden’s mother describes him as caring, creative, and enjoyable. As a sixth grader at Cedar Grove Christian Academy, he has the opportunity to be really creative and to grow in all of his God-given talents and gifts.

Jayden’s neighborhood school simply wasn’t a good match for his skills and abilities. Only 14% of students achieved proficiency in math, according to the state. Only 27% achieved proficiency in reading. For a bright, creative, active student like Jayden, there just weren’t many opportunities to excel. But there were plenty of opportunities to get left behind.

So two years ago, Jayden’s mom enrolled him at Cedar Grove—all to help him discover new opportunities to develop the talents the Lord gave him, and to thrive as a person. Here’s what she told us:

“I knew Christian school was what Jayden needed. It was the best choice for his academic and spiritual growth. I’m a single parent with low income, and I knew that it would create a burden financially. But with sources of help like Children’s Jubilee Fund, I am blessed, and was able to get through the school year without the burden of full school tuition. The financial blessing that Children’s Jubilee Fund filled the gap that I could not afford.”

When we asked Jayden’s mom to name some of the benefits of attending Cedar Grove Christian Academy rather than his neighborhood school, she said:

“In the Christian school the teachers and children are more loving. The Christian background makes them more caring. This is the main thing I’ve experienced with Cedar Grove. I see the love and care they show toward the children. Placing Jayden in Cedar Grove has been a turnaround experience for us, and I am very grateful.”

Jayden hasn’t settled on a single area of interest for a career or further study yet. But he enjoys art, Spanish, and music. Only the Lord knows where Jayden’s life will take him. Jayden’s mom is hopeful about his future:

“It is my desire to give Jayden the best, to show and expose him to the best, and encourage him to be the best—so that one day, he will become the best he can be. He could be a part of the change the world needs. I want him to rise above stereotypes, judgments, inequality, and injustice. I want him to prove to himself and to the world that education, knowledge, and a spirit of love can transform the world into a better place.”

Jayden’s mom echoes the sentiments of many Jubilee scholars. Your gifts help Jubilee help students like Jayden live up to their full, God-given potential. Thank you!

Make a gift of support to Children’s Jubilee Fund today—and help other students like Jayden experience their full potential!

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 lower-income 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.

Corona Crisis for Children

Last week, I performed a site visit to one of our Jubilee Network schools in Philadelphia. As I walked from classroom to classroom, I saw what one might expect nine months into a pandemic: socially-distanced students wearing masks. Desks were all six feet apart (have you ever tried that with a class of seven-year-olds? Not easy!). All the “specials” (classes typically held outside the primary classroom—like music, art, science—even lunch) were being brought in to the primary classroom to minimize students’ time in the corridors. Student movement into and out of the building were carefully choreographed, so that everyone remained socially-distanced. Seeing the planning and work these modifications took made me appreciate how simple things were, and how much we took for granted, just nine months ago.

Much has changed in our schools during the long months of the pandemic. For sure, our schools have become more tech-savvy and more able to accommodate the demands of pandemic education. But all the additional work comes at a cost—a cost borne not only by schools, but by teachers, students, and parents.

Virtually everyone with whom I’ve spoken feels the strain. And some are being crippled by it. Three of the five schools I’ve connected with over the last two weeks have reduced their synchronous learning time each week (the time teachers actively engage with students in real time) due to teacher burnout. Turns out that managing two classrooms (on site and virtual) simultaneously takes a lot more energy than managing one!

Students feel the pressure too. Not only are they impacted by the changes in the classroom and at home because of the pandemic, but they are struggling with anxiety, depression, hopelessness, loneliness, and anger at higher incidences than a year ago. Recent data suggests that the majority of students are impacted by these conditions, though not all to the same degree. That said, other recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also shows a 24 percent spike over last year in emergency visits for mental health issues among 5-to-11-year-olds and a 31 percent rise among 12-to-17-year-olds. So, a significant number of students are impacted significantly by these changes.

Parents and guardians, in some ways, bear the biggest burdens. Not only do they experience their children’s suffering, but many of them also need to help students navigate school work because direct time with teachers is cut. Parents of children in need of school-provided support because of learning or emotional differences may see those services either less effective because of the virtual environment in which they are administered, or because their children are struggling more profoundly than nine months ago.  

Plus, many parents and guardians are struggling with the financial fallout of the pandemic. Philadelphia-area unemployment is stubbornly higher than the national average. Heads of households, particularly those of color and those working in service and hospitality industries, are disproportionately affected. Food insecurity now affects one in five Philadelphia-area residents. There are real concerns about a pending wave of evictions after January 1, when federal protections expire and millions of renters currently behind in rent payments will be at risk for losing their homes. Again, people of color will be disproportionately affected. All this weighs on the minds and hearts of parents and guardians in our schools. Their children see what’s going on, and suffer secondhand stress. In turn, this impacts peers, teachers, and schools.

Everyone is in crisis right now. What can we do?

Be honest. Acknowledge this is hard. As a society, we’re collectively experiencing something that hasn’t happened since our great-grandparents’ era. This is a hard time. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is:

“a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
       a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
                                                           (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

My own opinion is that for most of us, 2020 definitely falls into the weeping and mourning category. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge that present reality. It’s where many of us are.

And that isn’t necessarily a bad place to be. We don’t often seek God unless we feel we need to. Today, God is the only One who can truly give us what we need. Perhaps he wants you to reach out and seek him now.

Pray. God promised his people in the past: “…[C]all upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you” (Jeremiah 29:12). He told them to do that while they also were in the midst of a national crisis, uncertain about their future. Praying can be difficult, particularly when you don’t seem to know what to say. All God wants us to do is to tell him what we’re feeling and what we’re afraid of. And he wants us to know that he hears us, and is with us.

Give your students a place to speak. As adults, we’re anxious. But as we pointed out earlier, kids are even more anxious than we are…but lack the resources to talk about and understand how they’re feeling. Help them do that as much as possible. Ask your student how he or she is hearing and experiencing the circumstances around them. Ask what they’re afraid of. Don’t be surprised if they can’t talk about it easily—most kids can’t. But be present with them, acknowledge that what you’re both going through really is hard, reassure them that you’ll always be with them and that God loves them, and pray with them.

Realize the hard “now” is not forever. This is a hard season. But the pandemic will end. Things will probably begin improving in a few months. Perhaps some time in 2021 life will be relatively normal again. Sometimes just acknowledging that a hard thing isn’t a forever thing is helpful.

Get help coping for yourself or your student, if you need it. There is no shame asking for help. These are bigger issues than any of us can work through on our own. If your student could use some help with anxiety, depression, stress, or other issues, the best place to begin finding help is with your pediatrician or school. One additional resource might be Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Pediatric Psychology Department.

There are several good free print and video resources available to you as well. Here is a link to some from the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). And here are some resources put together by EPIC Church in Philadelphia.

For yourself, finding a trusted friend to talk with can sometimes be enough. But if you feel as though you’d benefit from some more professional resources, some options are:

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This is a hard time. And it is a defining time for us as a people. But you aren’t alone. And we aren’t alone. We have a God who loves us and, somehow, will bring us through.

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 lower-income 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.

What to Do with Students During Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Week is here! If you have kids at home, what that probably means is looking for ways to keep them active and engaged. That’s a problem for many households this year, because the activities we’re used to around Thanksgiving Break just aren’t happening this year.

If you’re looking for ways to engage your student this week, here are ten ideas to spark your creativity, and to jump-start some good and fun times with your kid. A couple of these ideas are adapted from the blog post 16 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic on Kiplinger.com.

  1. Make a treat for a neighbor. No reason for this, other than they’re your neighbor! Be spontaneous and make some cookies, a loaf of pumpkin bread, or even just a pan of brownies from a box. Make sure your student washes his or her hands before they start (and make sure neither of you are showing any symptoms of illness—if you are, this might not be the thing to do until you’re better). Ask your student to make a colorful card to go along with the goodies. Wrap your treat in plastic wrap, leave it on your neighbor’s doorstep, and then call or text them for a contactless fun time!
  2. Cook a meal together. Sometimes, the best times a family spends together can be in the kitchen. Do you have a favorite meal? Teach your student how to prepare it as you make it together. Talk with your student about your history with that particular food—why you like it, when you first had it, your biggest cooking fail, etc. Just have fun connecting with your student while you teach them how to cook!
  3. Color together. Adult coloring is a new fad, but I’ll tell you what…few things are as relaxing as sitting down with a student and coloring a picture together with good, old-fashioned wax crayons! Leave the hectic and crazy world of 2020 behind, and let your biggest decision for the next hour be whether to make the sky pink or purple. And—no skill required! You can have some great, spontaneous interactions with your student around an activity like this. And it feels special just to do something together. You can print some great free coloring pages from Crayola.com.
  4. Take a virtual museum, zoo, or aquarium visit. Okay, I know that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to go to a museum. But there are all kinds of museums out there—and this way, if you get bored, you can just click “Close”! And it’s all free! The Philadelphia Zoo has a bunch of informational and fun recorded introductions to its animals. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History walks you through many of its exhibits. The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum’s Museum At Home Page provides virtual tours and instructions for at-home activities you and your student can do together.
  5. Have a family Bible study. Turns out, Bible studies don’t have to be limited to just reading! God wants His people to dig into His Word, to understand it, and to be changed by it. The Center for Parent and Youth Understanding is a Christian nonprofit based in Lancaster, PA that has a whole host of resources for families. One of them is their Family TableTalk program, a series of free, downloadable PDFs that give parents and students an easy way to dig down deep into God’s Word.
  6. Make an Advent Calendar. Advent is the season of the Church Year that covers the four weeks before Christmas. During Advent, we remember why Jesus came as a real baby on Christmas—because we need Him to save us from our sins. Part of the fun of Advent is counting down the days until Christmas comes—and one way to do that is through an Advent calendar which (guess what!)—you can make at home! Parents Magazine gives you some instructions for easy to moderately challenging Advent calendars you can make with your student. Extra points if you can find ways to incorporate Scripture verses into your Advent calendar!
  7. Make a Scripture Tree. Great way to claim those extra points from #6! Use a small artificial tree, some paper, and some twine or string to make a Scripture Tree—a great way to read and memorize Scripture with your child during Advent. Use a small (two foot) artificial tree (or make a flat tree to hang on a wall from a piece of cardboard). Print out the Scripture verses from this web page on regular printer paper. Using scissors, cut the paper into strips so that one verse, Scripture reference, and day number are on each strip. Fold the strips in half, so that the printed side is on the inside of the fold. With a marker or pen, write the number of the day on the folded tip of the paper. If you’re using an artificial tree, use a hole punch to make a hole at the open end of each folded strip. Then use a piece of string or twine to tie it onto a branch of the tree, numbered side facing up. If you’re using a cut out, flat tree, forget the hole punch—just tape the folded strips to the tree, numbered side facing out. Now, each day during December, find the strip with the number corresponding to the day of the month, untie it, read it, and try to memorize it! Ask God to help you understand how that verse relates to the coming of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem, what it means for His relationship with you now, and for His coming again!
  8. Have a scavenger hunt. Whether inside or outside your house, make a list of items for your student to find. If your student has siblings, have them play either against each other or as a team.
  9. Play Twenty Questions. It’s a great game requiring nothing other than imagination and a little time. Play with your student or as a family. Here are simple instructions about how to proceed.
  10. Have some online fun together with Google Arts & Culture. Google Arts & Culture is an interactive feature that challenges students to exercise their imagination, to learn about the world around them, and to have fun while doing so. One note for parents and guardians, though: this Google feature is not Christian-friendly and may have some links to activities or information you might find objectionable. As with all activities, do them alongside your student and help them understand what they see and experience from a Christian perspective.

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 lower-income 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.