Parents who decide to enroll their children in Santa Fe Christian have many different reasons for making that choice. But at the heart of the decision is often their Christian faith — knowing their children attend school in a Christ-centered environment that revolves around biblical principles and values. Unlike public schools where faith can’t be mentioned, at Santa Fe Christian faith is an integral part of everything. And since God is the author of all things, SFC students have an opportunity to glorify, honor, and praise Him through participation in the school’s chapel program.

Students in Lower, Middle, and High School attend chapel for an hour each week, and sessions focus on the specific needs of each age group. Typically, there are inspirational speakers, a time for worship, and prayer. “It can take different forms,” says SFC Elementary School Assistant Principal Amanda Walker. She goes on to say that what’s important about chapel isn’t following a particular routine, but rather, teaching children how to build a personal relationship with God while being in a setting with others who have the same beliefs. And chapel is something that the students enjoy very much — as do the teachers, as Mrs. Walker explains: “I can honestly say that it’s one of my favorite hours in the week.”

Living Out Their Faith

Along with regular weekly chapel, Elementary School students get together once a month to discuss the lessons they’ve learned in chapel and apply them to real life. They break out into “pod groups” of nine to ten students of different grades. Led by a faculty member, the children talk about the annual theme, this year is compassion. They discuss how they can actually apply living out compassion in their community. “It just makes it a little bit more real for them,” says Mrs. Walker.

Elementary School students have shown their compassion in different ways, such as sending anonymous notes of encouragement to people, cleaning up around campus, and making sure lost and found items are returned to their owners. “All of these things are acts of worship,” says Mrs. Walker, “because you’re living out that you are part of this community and you want to help it glorify God.”

A chapel activity that takes place for one week each year is the Matthew 25 Challenge, which is named after the Bible verse that states: “…‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25: 40 ESV).

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The students live out this scripture by talking about children who are not as fortunate and partaking in a hands-on experience that teaches them empathy. One night, for example, they are asked to sleep on the floor rather than in their beds. This may seem like a fun activity for them at first – but the next day the children see it a bit differently. When they are asked how they would like having to sleep on the floor night after night because they didn’t have a bed, they start to see that this wouldn’t be at all comfortable. Then they are asked, “And what if you not only had to sleep on the floor, you also didn’t have blankets?” The students realize that it would actually be cold and not very pleasant at all. “We understand it’s really nothing like what children in developing countries are actually experiencing each night,” says Mrs. Walker. “But it’s causing our students to think about others and remember that many people do not have their basic needs met. What can we do about it? We can think about them, we can care about them, and we can pray for them.”

Emphasis on Authenticity

When students in SFC Middle School attend chapel, they also learn about ways of living out their faith. But according to Middle School Principal Todd Deveau, it’s a very different experience for the older students. “There’s far more interaction in terms of the worship experience,” he says. Sometimes Middle School students take part in leading the worship service along with faculty and staff, and “they just absolutely love it,” says Dr. Deveau. Afterward, the students listen to an inspirational speaker. This might be one of the local pastors, one or more of SFC faculty members, or a professional from outside the community. Similar to the Elementary School, the Middle School has an annual theme, and this year it is authenticity. “We really want our kids to have authentic faith,” says Dr. Deveau, “not put on a mask.” With the popularity and proliferation of social media, young people often have a different persona online than they do in real life—which is anything but authentic. “With a focus on authenticity, it is my hope that they develop a consistent and genuine faith and relationship with Jesus,” says Dr. Deveau.

Authenticity for middle schoolers is an interesting and challenging concept. They are at an in-between stage in their lives, trying to figure out their identity. According to Dr. Deveau, he sees this season in young people’s lives as a beautiful thing. He explains, “Authenticity is really how they’re feeling on any given day through a solid relationship with Jesus… It’s not letting the things of this world affect that relationship, or change who they are and how they present themselves.” Jesus keeps them grounded in spiritual truth that never, ever changes.

It’s About Faith

For Santa Fe Christian students, chapel is one of the highlights of their week. They gain so much from this intentional time, from fellowshipping with each other, to participating in worship, to engaging in hands-on activities that allow them to apply the lessons they have learned to their lives. And most of all, they have a built-in opportunity to develop and grow in their relationships with Jesus Christ.