In many ways, Spiritual Life is not something that is a separate category at St. Paul. Our motto is, “God in all things…” and indeed, everything we do is infused with and empowered by God’s presence. Everything we have at the school is given by God's hand, and everything we do is intended to honor Him in return. Our central pillar is "Passion for Christ," and our highest goal is that our students would strive academically, athletically, artistically, and in all their pursuits to be conformed more perfectly into the image of Christ.
My role as Director of Spiritual Life is threefold: to guide students in the process of knowing who God is and who they are in his eyes, to encourage faculty and staff to show Christ to our students, and to ensure that our focus on Christ is paramount. We seek God in all things.
One of the most vital aspects of St. Paul’s central pillar—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 junior kindergartener 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 sixth grader organizing a service project for a local homeless shelter.
The centerpiece of our service program is 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 placemats 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, fourth, fifth, and sixth grader is assigned a junior fours, junior kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, or 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 youngest students can walk over to deliver encouraging notes, perform part of their Christmas program, or take part in a celebration honoring those who have served on Veteran's 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 Sixth Grade Leadership Retreat where they learn leadership and teamwork strategies, receive a leadership charge from our Head of School, Dr. Powell, 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, help set up for chapel, collect the recycling from around campus, run the Saint Shop school spirit store, and pick up the chairs 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 or her.
All of these things add up to students who graduate from St. Paul knowing that they have been loved, and therefore, go out and love the world around them, shaping it so that it looks more and more everyday like the Kingdom God is bringing to the earth.
Students in junior fours, junior kindergarten, and kindergarten receive a basic introduction to God, the Bible, and to Scripture itself. The curriculum is very story-based and lessons are built around passages of Scripture which can be easily expressed in a tangible way, and students participate in these stories by acting them out, creating crafts, and memorizing Scripture among many other activities.
Students in 1st and 2nd grade “discover the dots” of the Old Testament by becoming familiar with the major characters and stories of the Old Testament. During these years, lessons and memory verses are tailored to the developmental stages of seven and eight year-olds by focusing primarily on objective information in order to build a strong foundation for lifelong understanding of the Bible.
Students in 3rd grade “discover the dots” of the New Testament. Lessons and weekly memory verses provide students with opportunities to consider the ways that God fully expressed his good news through the person of Jesus. Students also consider some of the major stories from the Book of Acts that reveal how the early Christians followed the example of Christ.
Students in 4th grade “connect the dots” in the Old Testament, which means that they revisit Old Testament stories from Grades 1 and 2 with the intention of learning themes that reveal the character of God. Lessons highlight the way that God continuously loves, leads, and forgives His people even through mistakes and hardships. Students begin to understand more of how God’s steady and patient love for His people sets the stage for the coming of Christ.
Students in 5th grade “connect the dots” in the New Testament by focusing on the person of Christ – his nature, his character, his teachings, and how we should respond to all of this. Lessons draw entirely from the Gospels and are intended to bring students into an encounter with the living Christ. Students are then encouraged to respond creatively to the lessons through activities such as writing, drawing, and acting.
Students in 6th grade continue to “connect the dots” of the entire biblical story by learning what it means to be a follower of Christ in their day-to-day lives. The curriculum is more topical and helps students grow in spiritual disciplines, such as Scripture study, prayer, worship, and service, while also providing them with opportunities to examine basic Christian theology, such as sin, salvation, sanctification, resurrection, and heaven. Students are also taught their responsibilities as members of the body of Christ, such as loving and serving the Church, growing in community with other believers, and sharing the gospel.
Chapel is the centerpiece of our Spiritual Life program at St. Paul. Here our community gathers together to proclaim to each other the good news of Jesus Christ, which gives meaning and purpose to everything else that we do on campus from the classroom to the Dining Hall to the athletic fields.
Because of the centrality of this community experience to who we are at St. Paul, we have intentionally shaped our chapel time differently than many Christian schools. First, with very few exceptions, our whole school attends every chapel. We are well aware of the challenges this poses when our student body ranges from four years old to twelve; however, we find that our younger students rise to the challenge while our oldest students learn to humble themselves for the good of the little ones. The benefit of unity outweighs the cost to individual comfort.
We also produce our chapels a bit differently. Instead of inviting in outside speakers, we give our students responsibility for producing our chapels. Each student plays a role in writing, preparing, memorizing, and performing the chapel assigned to their homeroom. And while we may miss out on some more polished speakers, overall we find that we are more than compensated as the students truly have to take the message of the chapel to heart. Regularly, as our sixth graders recall their memories from St. Paul, a chapel on the "Beatitudes" or King David or the "Fruit of the Spirit" comes quickly to mind, and this is to say nothing about the benefits in the areas of confidence, leadership, public speaking, and collaboration.
We would be honored for you to join us for chapel on any Wednesday during the school year at 8 a.m. in the Green Hills Community Church Sanctuary.
Scripture on Prayer
I have selected some scripture about prayer. I hope they encourage you in your life as they have mine.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:14-16
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3
We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Daniel 9:18b
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1
If you have a prayer request you would like to share, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and our Spiritual Life team will reach out to you.