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 power of any work that we might do lies in the work God has already begun 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 our students the belief that no work is “too small” or “beneath them” just as much as we hope to affirm 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, Dream Center, and Harvest Hands). During Spiritual Life Week, every student engages in age-appropriate service project during the day. From creating handmade cards with love and encouragement for frontline medical workers to collecting items for food drives, every St. Paul 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 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 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 go off-campus for the Sixth Grade Leadership Retreat where they learn leadership and teamwork strategies, receive a leadership charge from our Head of School, 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 help lead the school-wide morning daily devotion. These are treasured roles in a St. Paul student’s experience, and the responsibility they carry launches them into their middle school experience grounded in the understanding that a leader is the one who makes sacrifices for the good of their community.
Because of our focus on servant-leadership, our students graduate from St. Paul knowing that they have been loved, and therefore, go forth to love and shape the world around them so that it looks more and more everyday like the Kingdom of God.