There is no shortage of churches or Christian schools here in East Tennessee. Living in the Bible Belt certainly has its advantages if you are church or school shopping, but the abundance of choices can be a bit overwhelming.
What makes Concord Christian School different from the other Christian schools around Knoxville?
Speaking as both an educator employed by CCS and the parent of two elementary students, I believe the primary differentiator is Kingdom Education. Based on a book published by Glen Schultz that has stood the test of time for the last 25 years, Kingdom Education promotes the basic principle that learning about the Bible shouldn’t be relegated to Bible class, and it certainly doesn’t mean just posting a Bible verse on the board and calling it a day. A true Christian education means seeing God’s hand in every single subject area and fully immersing students in the Gospel to help them develop a strong Biblical worldview.
CCS Head of School, Donald Snider, put it best: “CCS endeavors to graduate students that will make a difference on their personal path for Christ, and with this, comes the understanding that regardless of their chosen profession, the scriptural mandate to ‘make disciples of all men’ is a part of the journey for believers.”
Founded in 1996, Concord Christian School is a ministry of First Baptist Concord church. CCS is a Christ-centered institution serving children from birth through high school graduation. Boasting small classroom sizes (with an average teacher-to-student ratio of 17 to 1) and a family feel, Concord maintains rigorous academic standards with graduating students who have gone on to attend 45 different colleges and universities across the country since our first graduating class in 2013.
The top 25% of last year’s senior class had an average GPA of 4.26, with 100% of those graduates getting accepted into their college of choice. Six of our athletes signed with colleges last year, and, as a class of 33, our seniors earned a total of $1.3 million in scholarships. Our school remains “young,” but it is rapidly growing, with a whopping 184 new students added last year alone.
Concord Christian School’s mission is “Inspiring students to follow Jesus by equipping them to serve, lead, and transform their world.” This goal isn’t achieved by accident. CCS remains very intentional about putting systems and processes in place to ensure that our learning environment and school culture reflects our Christ-centered identity. In the spring of 2020, CCS hired a full-time Campus Pastor, Jamie Dewald. As the parent of two students attending Concord, Jamie was already closely acquainted with the tenets of Kingdom Education before he became a Concord employee.
His definition of the term is “The intentional blending of the three most important and influential groups in a student’s life…the family, the school, and the church. [When those three] are unified with a common purpose, there is nothing more impactful in helping students to create and live by a Biblical worldview.” Jamie Dewald organizes middle school and high school chapels each week, a job that involves a combination of preaching, booking guest speakers and musical performances, and organizing campus-wide faith-building events. Chapel is a key influence in the lives of Concord students. Last year alone, we saw 27 students come to faith in Christ and 47 students make decisions for baptism! Jamie’s role is an important part of ensuring that our students are “inspired” and “equipped” before heading out into the world.
Our new Elementary School principal, Jen Studt, is also a huge proponent of Kingdom
Education. She was one of the driving forces behind the decision to start using a new Bible
curriculum this year called “Deep Roots.” According to Jen, “Our students are digging into
scripture, having rich discussions, and learning why they can build their lives on the truth of the Gospel. Here we are halfway through the year, and the elementary school has seen over 20 salvations already!” Weekly chapel time is crucial, but it’s also important to understand that students spend an average of 1,260 hours a year in their classroom learning from their teacher. Nothing beats the influence of a Biblical curriculum being taught by a devoted Christ-follower who develops meaningful relationships with students throughout the year.
Add to that the impact of service projects (e.g., the second grade Christmas Store fundraiser, which has raised thousands of dollars for the Ronald McDonald House), and it’s easy to see how Concord is equipping students at an early age to serve and transform the world. To further capitalize on service projects and ministry opportunities around our school and in our community, Concord has created a Student Life Office to better serve middle and high school students.
So far this year, this office has helped our students to get involved in several service opportunities with major organizations such as Mission of Hope, Operation Christmas Child, and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Upper level grades plan to also participate in class mission trips this spring serving East Tennessee, the nation, and the world at large. The freshman class will serve in local ministries around Knoxville, our sophomore and junior classes will work with a variety of church plants in Ohio, and the senior class will travel to Puerto Rico to serve an area that has been devastated by natural disasters. There is no better way to experience Kingdom Education than on the mission field in service to others.
One of the best parts about working and attending CCS is seeing the unity that exists between church and school. Concord Pastor, John Mark Harrison, understands the importance of the school/church connection: “A recent study predicts that between 35 and 42 million young people in churched families will leave the church/faith by 2050. We must do better. The ultimate goal of Kingdom Education is to develop a mature disciple of Jesus Christ whose life glorifies God – one who is well prepared to use his God-given talents and abilities to accomplish his calling.”