Category Christian School Education
Title Arts on Target: The Long Arrow
Author/s Arie Ringnalda
Preview We strive to foster an environment where students can participate in creating culturally relevant work that has the potential to influence others for Christ.

On a recent fishing foray to diminutive Whale Pass, Alaska (pop. 50), I met Gerald Welch: pastor, bow maker, and archer of remarkable acumen. Gerald is a lover of the English longbow. He fashions them from handpicked yew and adorns them with bone, horn, and even halibut skin. He sells them throughout the world. In 1998, an arrow fired from one of Gerald's longbows pierced the turf at 466.44 yards- smashing the prior longbow record by 130 yards.

Not only does Gerald craft bows of beauty and excellence, he handles the finished product with a skill few can match, even at age 70. Toss an aspirin in the air, and Gerald can shoot it out of the sky. Master archers of old were known to be able to fire off 12 arrows in a minute and hit the target every time. Gerald can fire 22. He used to be able to do it from the back of a horse.

How does Gerald do it? An unwavering focus on the target. The target is primary; everything else is a variable to be considered.

Few in Christian education consider their target when it comes to their arts program. But in a world where arts and media are so influential in our thinking, a targeted focus in arts education is critical. The long arrow-our students-must fly true. Their target: a passionate pursuit of God's truth, conveyed eloquently, beautifully, and powerfully through well-crafted art.

Every student can be a truth-teller, taking performing, visual, or media arts passions and channeling them in a purposeful pursuit of Christ, creating inspiring work for Him. Our world needs great Christian filmmakers, artists, actors, and musicians to cut through the relativistic clutter of our culture. We need truth-tellers who are equipped to share a worldview rich with the redemptive hope only Christ can bring.

At Valor Christian High School, where I've been blessed to help forge an arts and media program, our targeted approach to Christ-centered arts education is anchored by practical opportunities to marry a high level of craft with a Kingdom perspective. We strive to foster an environment where students can participate in creating culturally relevant work that has the potential to influence others for Christ.

What does culturally relevant artistry look like today? It's creativity undergirded by core tenets of entrepreneurism, such as collaboration, idea development, brand strategy, and multifaceted communication. All arts classes at Valor have a focus on problem solving, collaborative work, idea exploration, and compelling communication.

We also believe that artists should take advantage of the tools of the day, and we try to ensure that classes leverage technology to fully enhance and deliver creative products. In our current culture, it's wise for schools to offer as much opportunity in media-oriented disciplines (filmmaking, broadcast, studio recording, and graphic and web design) as they offer in traditional disciplines (drawing, painting, theatre, band, or choir). Media classes offer direct access to our culture through the language that drives it.

But while our desire is to foster artistry that speaks to the world and uses the tools and best practices of the day to do so, we recognize that our end goal as followers of Christ is very different from the goals of broader culture. In a self-obsessed generation where artistry is leveraged for self-glorification, our desire is for students to serve others and speak God's truth through their creative gifting.

In this regard, we do some pretty unique things at Valor. We blend arts with our missions and outreach program, Valor Discovery. For the past three years, we have taken a group of performing arts students to Albania in partnership with Campus Crusade for Christ to minister through arts workshops at the University of Tirana and several high schools, and through a final production at the Albanian Palace of Congress, a national event center. Through God's grace, students delivered a Christ-honoring, powerful, original performance about finding true love-God's love-in a culture that can seem devoid of it.

A number of years ago, we took a student film crew to the island of Mykonos to film an allegory of Christ with locally cast talent. For our own productions at Valor, we write a Christ-honoring original production with help from students every other year-partially because few existing musicals or plays express the Christian heart well, and, more significantly, because we want students to experience firsthand how their creative voice can be used to directly influence others for Christ.

Recently, we started the Valor Conservatory for the Arts, a program featuring a seven-course arts major anchored by a specialized Bible and business course called Game Changers. The core idea is to help students use their gifts in both an entrepreneurial and service capacity through project-based learning.

We also place a high value on student interactions with professional Christian artists. Over the years we've networked to bring in artists such as Stephen Curtis Chapman, Matthew West, and Third Day to work with our music students. Our film students had the opportunity to produce a professional music video for Christian recording artist Lindsay McCaul. Connecting Christian industry leaders with our students has helped students grow their own talents and see that they can use the gifts God has given them to pursue Him on a daily, lifelong basis.

At Valor, we are blessed with a depth of resources that some schools may not have. However, all schools can embrace God's call to be agents of renewal in our culture, and recognize that arts and media are valuable tools in that calling. With this vision, schools can work from any starting point to begin creating opportunities that will launch our students into a world that needs them, empowering them to use their passions and gifts to transform the world for Christ.

As educators, we have an opportunity to guide every child in the development of creative gifts poured out by a loving God. Each day, we can refi ne our aim so that our students hit the target of Christ-centered passion, confidence, and ability. And in turn, our children will grow to become master bowmen themselves- focused leaders who take aim at the world around them, seeking to make it a place where truth alights and the hope of Christ soars free, where the long arrow finds its mark.

Arie Ringnalda is the director of arts and media at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Recognizing that arts and media is a critical portal to our culture, Valor has invested heavily in arts education, and recently completed the Valor Center for Culture and Influence, a performing and visual arts facility.

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