Shalom Mennonite School Blog

Recent News & Updates from the School

Leaving Community for the Sake of Community

Recently, I engaged in a small discussion with some SMS students who were talking about how nice it is to live in the country away from so many people—especially weird people. I’ve lived in cities almost half of my life and enjoy cities, but it was now obvious that my enjoyment of living in cities was definitely in the minority. I didn’t say much more, but that short discussion got me thinking about our comfortable Christian communities.

Living within our Mennonite communities is quite comfortable and secure. Community is supposed to be that way. Our churches, schools, and businesses all network together enabling us to be more effective in the kingdom of God. There truly are many benefits and comforts of living in a community, but sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice these blessings.

Many reasons exist why individuals leave a community. Sometimes individuals leave for negative reasons. However, I would like to propose a positive reason for leaving a community—namely, leaving community for the sake of community. If we truly value community, we will want others to experience the joys and benefits of living in a community, too. If we truly value community, particularly Christian community, we will want to see Christian communities established in places where Christian communities don’t yet exist.

Why do we sometimes need to leave the comforts of our Christian community? It’s necessary, because Jesus commanded us to expand His kingdom until Christian communities exist in all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Every lost soul around us needs to hear the gospel but so does every nation (ethnic group). Going to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) doesn’t necessarily mean that we must always travel to distant geographical locations. The “all nations” and “ends of the earth” have already come to us as refugees. In Lancaster City alone, at least 500 refugees a year are being resettled from many different nations.

Leaving community for the sake of establishing communities will cost us. Jesus left His comfortable “community” in heaven to die and make a way of salvation for us. We, in turn as His disciples, receive the privilege and responsibility of carrying on Jesus’ mission so that all nations, kindred, peoples, and tongues will one day be around the throne and the Lamb worshipping God (Rev. 7:9-12). Leaving community for the sake of community costs us, but those who “sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Ps. 126:5).

I personally love my job at SMS and enjoy seeing how the kingdom of God is being built in small ways every single day. SMS plays a crucial role in maintaining our strong communities. I’m so thankful that I am privileged to help contribute to the building of God’s kingdom at SMS this year.

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Are SMS Students “Blooming”?

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom developed a classification of different levels of behavior in learning.  The six levels of learning that he identified are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  These levels are designed to show how a person can take information and use it or process it to a different level.  The goal in education is to not only teach a child what to think, but also how to think.  Critical thinking is a skill that needs to be taught and learned and exercised by students.

Starting with the foundation of knowledge, we can build thinking skills as demonstrated by the following description of each level of learning.

Knowledge is the ability to identify, list, label, and name things.  The student who has memorized vocabulary words, dates, places on a map etc. has acquired knowledge, which is the basic foundation for the other levels.

Comprehension is the ability to associate, explain, estimate, and extend the knowledge that has been acquired.  The child who associates bad behavior with punishment has comprehended.

Application is the ability of a person to apply, use, construct, and act on the knowledge in a beneficial and useful way.  The person who determines the unit price of an item to get the best buy has taken his math knowledge to the level of application.

Analysis is the ability to order, prioritize, separate, and classify knowledge.  The business owner who sees patterns or cycles that develop in his business and effectively prioritizes these in his business plan has reached the level of analysis.

Synthesis is the ability to devise, design, invent, and adapt the knowledge that has been obtained.  The inventor who takes the concept of many machines and integrates them into an entirely new invention has demonstrated the skill of synthesis.

The last level, evaluation, is the ability to assess, judge, justify, and explain the knowledge acquired.  The student who can state his convictions and give a reasoned defense for his beliefs is a person who has evaluated.

Education develops thought processes that will stick with a person for life.  It is important that we encourage critical thinking—thinking that goes beyond memorization of facts to actual usefulness through application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

 As parents and teachers we should periodically consider whether or not our students are “blooming” (as in, using the higher level thinking skills described by Benjamin Bloom). Scripture clearly teaches that the ability to evaluate “fruits” is essential in identifying truth and falsehood, so that  a person can live in the light and escape the darkness.

Another angle to take on this is the biblical terminology “knowledge,” “understanding,” and “wisdom.” The concept of wisdom as described in scripture emphasizes that a person is not proven wise just by what they know, and understand, but by how they act, what they do, and how they live. Are we truly pushing our students beyond knowledge and understanding to wisdom which truly impacts, forms, and changes their lives? With the efforts of the home, the school, and the church, I am confident that SMS students can “bloom!”


– Lyle Musser, administrator

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