July 29, 2011
Al Boerema introduces the topic for discussion:
One of the goal of schools is the development of our students, and in Christian schools, faith development is of prime importance. Let’s talk about this. How can Christian schools encourage faith development in their students, and what are the barriers?
August 2, 2011
Rebecca De Smith responds with:
If Christian schools live out their mission—to recognize and teach Christ’s lordship over every sphere of life—then our classrooms will be places where students are shaped, encouraged, and nurtured to grow in faith. But in this crucial area of Christian education, it is not as easy as coming up with appropriate standards and benchmarks, finding effective materials to teach, and evaluating whether or not our students are meeting the objectives.
Faith is a mystery. Its development is not linear or automatic, but rather varies from individual to individual, progressing through different and difficult stages, flourishing at uneven rates, often taking a lifetime to mature. Faith is the continual work of the Holy Spirit. Christian schools do play a role in the faith development of children, sharing the task with parents and family, the church, friends, and the culture we live in. Therefore, as Christian educators, we must take our work seriously as we lead our students into the presence of the God who can change their hearts and lives for eternity.
A friend once said that in order to be effective Christian school teachers, we must “love the Lord and love the kids!” He was right—that’s where we must begin. The way we model our own faith in front of our students speaks louder than any devotion or Bible lesson. As Christian educators who represent Christ in our classrooms, we need to ask ourselves: Does the fruit of the Spirit flourish in our lives and in our classrooms? Do we demonstrate humility, respect, honesty, acceptance, forgiveness, and grace with our students and colleagues? The combination of who we are, how we live, and how we respond to our students shapes their faith life more than any formal curriculum does. With boldness, we must share our faith genuinely with students, encouraging and challenging them to be open and honest about their faith development—beyond just saying the right words or letting emotions guide them—so they can grow and live out their faith with courage and integrity.
In the faith development of our students, there are so many aspects that we cannot control—their family situation, their friends and peers, the influence of culture and media, their church experience, the leading of the Holy Spirit. What we can share with students is our genuine faith, providing space in our classrooms for students to ask tough questions, to struggle with the answers, to experience grace, and to live out their developing faith, trusting in the love and guidance of Jesus Christ.
Blessings in your school year!
August 17, 2011
Christian Altena continues:
I would like to echo Rebecca’s points. Our roles as “co-developers” of faith along with the church and home is a very important part of what we do from day to day—the not-so-hidden curriculum of our Christian schools.
Of course, it is very important to emphasize that faith development is highly individualized. Students develop reasoning and reading skills at different rates, even more so with faith. The Bible speaks very directly to this issue (Can I eat meat sacrificed to idols? Should I read Harry Potter books? Can I vote for the Democratic candidate?) and, accordingly, implores us to live our lives amongst each other with grace and patience. Scripture also speaks forcefully and soberly to we who teach by reminding us of the potential consequences of not being authentic in our modeling of faith. I can think of nothing quite as potentially corrosive as the realization by a student that her teacher is all smoke and no fire.
While our faith is very much ours alone, we also know that we believe together. As Rebecca mentioned, we teachers need to show our faith to our students authentically. But let’s not forget that we can be also be taught by our students.