Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Life Change Through Community

Today I sat in a meeting that was attended by a friend of mine, Chip Kimball. For those of you that live in the Redmond area, Dr. Kimball is the superintendent of the Lake Washington School District, a district that serves 24,000 students and consistently performs near the top of several national scores.

Someone asked Chip to share some of his personal story. He has a doctorate from the University of Southern California, a master’s degree from Eastern Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from Whitworth College in Spokane. That’s not surprising since he is a professional educator.

What was surprising is that Chip was kicked out of high school in central California for lack of performance and lack of attendance. Later he was able to re-enter high school and he finished with a 1.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale! What happened?

Chip’s story is one of a dysfunctional family. With a lack of support and motivation at home Chip said that he basically disconnected from his peers and school teachers and administrators. His parents eventually kicked him out of their home and he was befriended by people from a local church. Eventually he worked for a while in a church camp and by providence, met a faculty member from Whitworth, a small liberal arts Christian college.

After formally meeting with this prof and the president of the school and asking for a shot to succeed in college they admitted Chip on a probationary basis. Chip excelled and now he is the superintendent of one of the finer school districts in the US.

But the piece of Chip’s story that has stuck with me through the day is that the difference in his performance was rooted in a sense of connection. There was a significant disconnect in high school with family, friends and faculty. In college it was just the opposite as Christian professors and fellow students cared about him, befriended, supported and in a word, “loved” him. While there he met and married his wife and now has a daughter attending Whitworth.

Many of you know that my youngest son attended and graduated from Whitworth and likewise had a powerful experience of Christian community.

I have the privilege of working everyday as an “architect of Christian community”. I get to design systems and create experiences and train leaders who facilitate community. Working “on” community every day and every week sometimes has me so immersed in it that I don’t always get to see the outcomes of Christian community. Today I got to see a living testimony of community.

How real is the experience of community in your life? What’s your story?


Anonymous said...

As a teenager I was defintely on the wrong track and had no support at home. My community started with an invitation from a classmate to join her family for dinner. That eventually lead to regular church attendance and then to a meaningful Youth group experience. I honestly believe had all of those things happened in that order I would be in a very different - and probably negative -place right now. I'm glad my friend took that brave step toward me.

Scott Brewer said...

Dear Friend:

I have a very similar story. At age 15 a guy who became my best friend began inviting me into his life, his family and his church. It totally changed the trajectory of my life and I am eternally grateful.