I would bet that you, being in some way, shape or form a member of the Calvin community, have an opinion about the infamous Grand Rapids Christian High School, better known as GRCHS.
I suppose I have plenty — I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t. So today I hope you’ll stay with me as I display some concerns about the direction in which GRCHS is headed, a subject that is very near and dear to me as a graduate of the school.
Here’s my disclaimer before I do so: the last thing I want to do is make GRCHS seem like a bad place. I think the Calvin culture throws that around too much, frankly, and at least based on my experience, it’s not true.
In my four years at GRCHS I was challenged spiritually, met great role models both professionally and religiously and was given every opportunity to succeed wherever I chose to go. A GRCHS education is a tremendous blessing.
So there’s no need to carry a “GRCHS students are closed-minded, lukewarm, uninteresting, etc.” mindset at Calvin. Talk to us. I believe in our ability to disprove that myth.
But really, this is why I want to talk about GRCHS’ recent decisions. Because deep down inside, despite its imperfections, I do love the school. And I’m very concerned about where it’s headed.
Among GRCHS’ recent endeavors are a $25 million set of athletic arenas, a “Winterim” that sends many students abroad and, most recently, a new building that compares to the very best facilities in the state.
Every student gets a MacBook Air. GRCHS has never been so well-off financially. Taking a trip inside the building looks like a dream, like an IKEA catalog come to life.
Meanwhile, in the real world, local public high schools Grand Rapids Central and Creston have both closed, and were plagued by in-school violence before they did so. Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills and Union continue to be plagued by violence problems and low academic performance.
If you grow up in Grand Rapids but not in the Forest Hills or East Grand Rapids districts and want to go to a solid academic school, you really have no choice but to go to GRCHS or Grand Rapids Catholic Central, both of which have tuition above $7,500 and aren’t an option for many families (City High School is an option, but usually takes the high-achieving students away from other local public schools instead).
And this may not even be the biggest problem. The bigger GRCHS gets, the more power it accumulates, meaning more state championships, more academic awards.
I really begin to fear that the mission statement is being left further and further behind. As someone who has a sister with autism that doesn’t attend GRCHS because of its lackluster special education program, I beg the question: why in the world is a football team more important than caring for the least of these at a Christian high school?
Furthermore, why the obsession with winning everything, always being the best, the brightest, the most attractive, athletic and adjusted? Where does the Bible tell us that’s our calling as servants of the Lord?
There’s a fine line between giving kids the chances to succeed they deserve and being a place where the rich get richer. In the minds of many, that line has already been crossed, and I’m starting to align more with that thought.
To be fair to the administration, it’s by no means simple or easy for them. They get donations from the local millionaires to build these specific facilities, programs and resources for kids.
It’s not like they can just throw the money back or spend it however they see fit. I very much doubt I’d ever be able to do much better than they do. But at some point, you have to truly evaluate what the Christian high school truly values. Is it service, or success? It it excellence, or dispensing of grace?
Is it the best money can buy, or the reflection of a God who has no need for earthly riches? At the very least, I’d go to bed haunted a little bit by these questions if I took the school in this financial direction.
GRCHS remains a fantastic place to go to school. From the looks of things it will only continue to improve and eventually leave the place I remember so well as nothing but a distant memory.
It will educate thousands of young Christians that will likely grow up to be hugely influential in not only Grand Rapids, but planet Earth. Big things can happen here — God can do amazing work.
It’s my prayer that the school looks and thinks hard at what Christ’s calling is for it in the upcoming years. I hope it’s yours, too.