One of the most vital aspects of St. Paul’s central pillar – a passion for Christ – is service. But what does it mean for our students to serve with a passion for Christ? What strengths will they need to “uniquely shape the world in which they live”?
We believe the source of any work that we might do is the work that God has done in us. In the words of I John, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” It is only through following Jesus’ example and being empowered by God’s Holy Spirit that our students will truly learn to lead as Jesus led – as one who serves those around him.
In light of this servant leadership that Jesus modeled, we hope to instill in them the belief that no work is “too small” or “beneath them” just as much as we hope to instill the belief that no job is too big for them to undertake. A JKer picking up trash on campus or making a chew toy for a homeless puppy is meaningful service in God’s Kingdom just as much as a 6th grader organizing a service project for a local homeless shelter.
The centerpiece of our service program is Saints Service Day during Spiritual Life Week in February. Throughout that week, we collect items as a student body for an organization addressing a need in Nashville or around the world (recent examples include Preston Taylor Ministries, Siloam Family Health Center, Freedom’s Promise, and the Dream Center). On the last day of Spiritual Life Week, every student engages in age-appropriate service during the day. From making demonstration dolls for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to toys for the Nashville Humane Society to dinner place mats for Room in the Inn guests, every Saint learns to become the hands and feet of Jesus.
But service is not a one day phenomenon at St. Paul. Each third through sixth grader is assigned a JK through second grade buddy with whom they read, play, and share special occasions. Many of our grades have lasting partnerships with organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Family Affair Ministries, and the Dream Center. We are also uniquely blessed to have such a close relationship with our on-campus neighbor, The St. Paul Senior Living Community. Even our smallest JKers can walk over to deliver encouraging notes, or our students can perform part of their Christmas program, or our upper schoolers can take part in a celebration honoring those who have served on Veterans Day. Through The St. Paul residents, our students not only learn about the unique needs of their elderly neighbors, but they also learn the benefits of being connected to older generations.
The culmination, though, of service at St. Paul is the transformation we see through our sixth grade leadership program. At the beginning of each year, the sixth graders take time away in the mountains of northern Alabama at the Leadership Retreat where they learn leadership and teamwork strategies, receive a leadership charge from Mr. Cheeseman, choose representatives to meet regularly with Mr. Cheeseman, and select the theme verse that guides much of the emphasis in the spiritual life of the school for the rest of the year. Upon returning, the sixth graders take up responsibilities in a variety of ways around the school. They walk the junior kindergartners from drop off to their classrooms. They help set up for Chapel. They collect the recycling from around campus. They run the Saint Shop school spirit store for the lower school. And they pick up the campus after Chapel every Wednesday morning. These are treasured roles in a St. Paul student’s experience, and the responsibility with which they are instilled launches them into their middle school experience grounded in the understanding that a leader is the one who makes sacrifices for the good of those around him/her.
All of these things add up to students who graduate from St. Paul knowing that they have been loved, and so therefore they ought to go out and love the world around them and to shape it so that it looks more and more everyday like the Kingdom God is bringing to the earth.
A Story of Service at St Paul