by Dr. John Patterson, FPD Head of School
As a Christian community, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to “train up a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:9). This entails a multi-faceted educational experience that includes both academic excellence and a biblical worldview. Neither can be exclusive if we are to provide our students with the best opportunity to influence their community and stand firm in their faith. A Christ-centered, academically-excellent foundation is the best way to prepare our students for whatever their future holds.
PREPARATION FOR COLLEGE
When graduates step into secular or private universities or colleges, a battle for their heart will take place. Thus, they will need the academic aptitude to engage and succeed in their college courses, while also having a firm foundation of faith. This can only be realized when, from a young age, students are surrounded by godly mentors on a daily basis who help them establish not only the strong academic skill sets they need, but also their foundation of faith.
FPD students are not only well-prepared to take on academic challenges, they also have a foundation of faith to help them make good choices, serve others in godly love, and sustain them when they face challenges. They understand that the only thing in this world that brings true contentment, peace, and forgiveness is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Thereby, they are able to find purpose, meaning, and confidently overcome any challenges they face.
While the secular culture that is often found on college campuses will guide young people to serve themselves, FPD is intentional in its focus to ground students in their calling and faith journey. We desire for our graduates to understand the importance of using their academic skill sets and God-given abilities to glorify God.
PREPARATION FOR LIFE
The tension between secular and Christian education rests in the concept of life “training.” Like an athlete in training, we believe that students must be trained in the truth before they are sent out to take on the world. Ultimately, children cannot be a light when they do not fully understand what that looks like practically or what they are up against spiritually.
As stated in an April 3, 2017, article by Christian author Matt Walsh, “Our job as parents is to train them up in the way they should go, equip them with the armor of God, fortify them in the truth, and then release them to the world. Education is supposed to prepare a child to carry the torch of truth. But a flame must first be lit, stoked, and protected before it is the bright raging fire that we all must be if we expect to survive this culture. Our children’s education is supposed to facilitate that process and not interfere with it Our children should be fires for Christ BECAUSE of their education.”
While both types of schools can provide academically strong foundations, the Christ-centered school provides the additional layer that makes the academic foundation much richer and more relevant to the challenges students face throughout life. It provides them with the tools they need to not only have a sound mind but also a strong character.
PREPARATION FOR LEADERSHIP
When coupled with a rigorous academic program, a biblical worldview found in Christ-centered schools such as FPD makes the Christian school unique, challenging, and world-changing. A biblical worldview directs students to recognize there is absolute truth in the world. This truth motivates students to become godly leaders and love others with Christ-like love.
A biblical worldview begins with the understanding that God created all of us perfectly with different talents so we may glorify Him and serve others. Second, while we understand that He created us in His image, we accept that we are “fallen people.” However, we have redemption because Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross at Calvary, and ultimately, we have hope and a purpose through the forgiveness we are offered.
With this understanding, students lead confidently, not because of what they have done, but because of who they are as God’s children and what He has done for them. This truth and focus is what motivates them to lead and change the world. Every academic subject, team, choir, performance, etc. focuses on this biblical worldview to help students understand who they are as children of God, their calling, and how they can glorify God as godly leaders.
PREPARATION IN A WORLD OF DIFFERENCES
The myth of Christian “intolerance” must be addressed regarding schools like FPD who offer an evangelical, Christian education. While some will call the Christian school intolerant of other views and religions, this is simply not the case. True Christians aim to be at peace with others (Hebrews 12:14), build relationships with people regardless of creed, race, nationality, or sex (John 4:1–42; Luke 9:1–10), and are called to be humble, gentle, and Christ-like (Ephesians 4:2).
Intolerance and a difference in religious viewpoints are two very different ideas. As Christians, we are called to love all people. Those who accuse Christians of being intolerant have a distorted view of what tolerance really entails. Rather than accepting all views as equally valid, true tolerance involves recognizing and respecting others when we don’t approve of their values, beliefs, and practices.
While FPD will teach our upper school students about competing worldviews, we unashamedly point our students to one absolute truth – the worldview of Christianity and faith in Jesus Christ. While the non-sectarian school will recognize many faiths and many gods, and make the claim that this exposure is healthy and global, we believe it is confusing and does not produce the character to change the world for God’s glory. The result is an education that prepares students to work effectively with others of diverse viewpoints and backgrounds while maintaining the integrity of our beliefs and world-changing mission.
KINGDOM EDUCATION IS THE ANSWER
Christian education cannot do it alone. The concept of Kingdom education includes the Christian schoolhouse, the Christian family, and the local church partnering together. We can view these entities as a three-legged stool that is able to stand strong and tall if it has all three legs. However, remove any leg, and the stool will fall. The power of the Christian School and the local Christian church partnering with the Christian family is a powerful combination that breeds contentment, peace, and the very best possibility to change the world.
A Christ-centered, academically-excellent education founded on a Biblical worldview gives our young people the very best foundation. That place, in middle Georgia, is First Presbyterian Day School.
Dr. Patterson has been the Head of School at FPD since June 2020. He is a servant leader who believes in leading by example, listening, and rallying a team to accomplish its mission. He seeks to enhance the Christ-centered culture of encouragement and strong academic rigor that are the foundation of FPD. Dr. Patterson has served in education for 18 years and has been married to his wife, Cindy, for 24 years. The Patterson’s have a daughter, Gracie, who attends Samford University.