GCU helps crack the code of Christian education
Story and photos by Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
How do we make K-12 Christian Education accessible, affordable and adaptable for families looking to maintain a strong element of faith in their child’s education?
That’s what the Grand Canyon University’s K12 Educational Development Department hoped to answer with its second “Cracking the Code” Canyon Christian Schools Consortium Leadership Forum, a three-day event that culminated on Monday.
Leaders from 30 Christian schools from around the country gathered on the GCU campus to learn more about the University’s culture and community while discussing potential steps that could be taken to create a way of making a Christian education more accessible. On Monday, leaders heard from Dean of Students and campus Pastor Dr. Tim Griffin and President Brian Mueller on their individual stories in the world of Christian education, as well as the continued growth and success of the University and its students.
“It was a great event. It was a remarkable group of leaders,” said Ryan Bredow, Assistant Vice President of K12 Educational Development. “We invited them to a conversation. The conversation was built around a concept that we refer to as cracking the code.”
Bredow said the goal was to start the conversation at a K-12 level, using the GCU model as a reference for the discussion.
“Cracking the code is the idea of what is the code that has made GCU successful in both a business way and maybe cultural and community,” Griffin said. “It was very warm, and they were receptive to what we’re doing.”
Griffin shared his story of growing up in Southern California and pastoring three churches in Orange County. He also talked about his time as a pastor in the motorsports and NASCAR communities before accepting his first position as GCU pastor in 2010. From there, he discussed the growth and development of student leaders on campus and their importance to the campus community.
“If we have those kinds of students who will engage outside of the campus and be leaders, we’ll maintain this community culture that we’ve held over the last 10 years,” he said.
Mueller shared his journey of going from teacher to President of the Apollo Group and finally to President of GCU and CEO of Grand Canyon Education. He discussed the benefits that came with the development of online education and the business that comes with being president of one of the largest Christian universities in the country.
“It was an honor for us to have people of this stature representing students with this level of excellence who want to spend time with us and figuring out how we can make Christian education more seamless, more integrated, less expensive and of higher quality,” Mueller said of the event. “They’ve spent three days with us, talking about ideas about how we can work together to flourish, prosper and create more opportunities for students and families.”
It was an honor mutually felt among the K-12 leaders, as well.
“This was a great strategy session for Christian Schools, Catholic and others to come together and collaborate on how we can grow our schools, build enrollment, overcome challenges and serve our common mission pertaining to the Gospel,” said Dr. Tom Burnford, President and CEO of the National Catholic Educational Association. “I think having a chance to learn about what’s happened at Grand Canyon University in terms of good business practices in a Gospel setting provides an opportunity for us, Christian schools, to think about how to be creative in overcoming challenges.”
For leaders such as Dr. Cecil Swetland, the Regional Director of the Association of Christian Schools International, it was his first time on GCU campus, and won’t be an experience he will soon forget.
“The whole experience has been phenomenal,” he said. “The schools that we (ACSI) send — probably 100 or more students here every year — and the feedback that I’ve personally had, from where I was a head of schools and personally knew those kids, they had positive experiences here, a great experience and got an excellent education in a Christ-honoring environment. It was always something that I valued for them.”
Swetland reflected on the struggles that many private Christian schools face when it comes to enrollment and keeping their doors open, from a local to a national level, and how discussions, such as that of the Cracking the Code forum, could help.
“This is about what can we do to help serve our school or our schools in a way that will allow students to continue to hear the Gospel, for them to continue to come to faith with Christ and for young believers to be nurtured so they’re ready to come to GCU or whatever school that God calls them to when it’s their time to do that,” he said.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]