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If you have been to this blog before today you probably have noticed that, as you now look at it, things have been moved around a bit. Well there was a method to my madness! Considering that some of you may be a bit unfamiliar with blogs, I thought it important to have a smiling face greeting you when you clicked on last week’s invitation. So, along with my smiling face I thought it important to give some introductory information. That page is now still accessible as a “static” page on the right side column under the heading of Pages. However, I have now switched the content so that, for your reading convenience, the latest posts are always at the top. If you wish to read the line of thinking and responses chronologically, you will have to go to the bottom of the blog or the earliest archives. If you wish to comment on a posting or just read other comments, just click on the word comments at the bottom of each post.
One other helpful feature – as I write each post or post the work of other contributors, I will put a category tag on each post. You can see the tags, such as distinctively Christian, change, kids/culture, etc. listed under each title and then they also appear on the right as categories. If, after we get more posts, you wish to read everything within a certain category, you can simply click on that category on the right side and all posts with that tag will appear. Pretty slick, huh?
Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!
Today’s challenge: go around your school or church and ask people if they can state the mission/tag line of your institution. How many can say it without pause? If not, why can’t they? Is your mission simply not compelling or easily enough understood? Does it say why your institution exists? How does your mission/tag line indicate your priorities? What is it saying about what you value?
Next challenge: How will you know when you have reached your mission? Does your staff understand what they need to do to reach it? What is their understanding of the mission? What are their thoughts about reaching it?
My two suggestions about mission/tag lines:
Make it memorable and easy to remember by keeping it short
Involve all who will be participating in meeting the mission to help determine what the statement/phrase should be – the process is as valuable as the end product and should be repeated periodically.
In a comment to a previous post, Kevin Visscher at Duncan Christian School is asking for some advice (see comment #5 under About this blog) on developing a mission. What have you found to be helpful in mission development?
First things first! I am convinced that one of the very best things we can do in Christian education is to have students memorize Scripture. I cannot tell you how often I have had various words of Scripture come into my mind as I have gone through various life situations. Helping kids learn to “eat right” as suggested by Eugene Peterson in the title of his latest book – “Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading” will help to provide a tool for the Holy Spirit to use throughout their lifetime to encourage and convict. (Heb. 4:12, Psalm 119:105)
There is growing evidence that youth today are growing in their Biblical illiteracy levels. The release of the 2005 national report entitled Bible Literacy Report, commissioned by the Bible Literacy Project, Inc. under a grant from the John Templeton Foundation lists the following findings:
- Teachers estimated that less than a fourth of their current students are Biblically literate.
- Born again and evangelical teens were often only slightly more likely than other teens to display Bible literacy. (and yes- this survey sampled Christian schools also!)
- Fewer than half of Americans teens know what happened at the wedding at Cana. One out of four refused to guess.
- Given a choice of four quotations from the Bible, almost two-thirds of teens could not correctly identify a quotation from the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”).
- One quarter believed that the statement “David was the king of the Jews” was false.
More information on this project which seeks to increase Biblical literacy can be found at http://www.bibleliteracy.org
Los Angeles Times columnist, Stephen Prothero, in his column entitled “Religious nation, religious illiterates” states that while Americans today are far more religious than Europeans, they know far less about religion. He remarks that when Americans debated slavery almost exclusively on the basis of the Bible, everyone could follow the debate. Could we have the same level of discussion presently on the issues of the day? He holds churches responsible – too much time spent on things other than the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. He lays most of the blame at the feet of public schools who have misunderstood the First Amendment.
Similarly, Smith and Denton in Soul Searching (see previous post of October 11) lay much of the blame for youth’s current theology (or lack thereof) on an inadequate grounding in Scripture. Because they didn’t have a grounding in Scripture they were not able to talk concretely about their faith. Not surprising then that the study showed that kids were not sure that there were moral absolutes.
Biblical literacy begins at home, but is nurtured and developed as well by church and school. I think it would be helpful to share the kinds of programs and strategies we have in place. I would like to compile a listing and then place it in the Member Community Center for reference. Would you be willing to share what you are doing?
We are living in very exciting times! We are in the middle of a time of a revolutionary convergence of many factors in the field of education. We have incredible tools such as the Internet, laptops, and all kinds of digital devices available to us at lower prices and more accessible than ever before. We are continually learning more about how we have been created, how our brains work, the significance of our emotions, and the best ways children learn. There is a greater recognition than ever about the significance of the spiritual side of humanity. We are moving quickly toward anywhere, anytime learning and can connect with others around the world. Electronic access eases our use of data to help us be more effective and accountable, helps us to communicate more frequently and easily, and to deliver faster and better customized products. Teaching is being dramatically changed by student access to information – perhaps the biggest change we have seen in education in our lifetimes.
Our challenge is of course to not only help each other deal with this time of incredible change, but to encourage each other to stay focused on the right things. Then we can teach our students how to discern and see God’s truth and His wisdom in an age of “whatever” (the defining word of a post-modern generation). Changing times call for changing tools and unchanging truth.
Not surprisingly an overarching theme that emerged from the gathering of church and school leaders at the recent Googling Youth conference at Calvin College this summer was the recognition that more speed needed to equal more reflection and devotion time. We must build in reflection and quiet time for ourselves and for our kids. I wonder if we could remind ourselves and others (gently!) about how much “busy talk” we engage in on a daily basis. What I mean is summarized best in this quote from Robinson and Godbey in a recent Futurist magazine article on the use of time: “It is now a mark of status to claim one is perpetually busy.” In our driven to success North American culture have we been co-opted to believe that being busier than the next person somehow raises us above them? Is this a matter of wrongful pride and status seeking on our parts? Check yourself this week – how many times are you saying “I’m so busy?” As the kids say, “It’s all good,” but are we also helping them to “be still and know that I am God?” Are we doing this for ourselves?
Rising above our enjoyment of progress, the blinding rapidity of change, and our battles with busyness, our celebration in all of this is that as Christians we are now living in the details – the outcome is certain. We celebrate the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and live in the absolute joy of his freedom and restoration of people and the planet! Let’s encourage each other to stay focused on the right things – the unchanging truth of the Word. What better work than being able to testify to children and youth about how all things truly cohere in Christ, to help them gain discernment and wisdom, and to be a part of the work of the Holy Spirit through helping nurture them in faith!
In the last two years some very significant reports and books have been published on the status of American teens and spirituality. I hope to discuss some of the ones I have found helpful on this blog. Please also share back what you have found meaningful.
Without a doubt one of the most important of these studies has been the largest study ever done of teenage spirituality (ages 14-18) reported in the book Soul Searching by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. I heartily recommend you read the book and have some further discussion with others concerned about faith development.
Here are some summary points made by the authors:
- This generation is the most influenced by postmodern culture and mass consumer advertising, and least in touch with their own historical religious convictions. (p. 5)
- Parents have significant influence – “we’ll get what we are.” (p. 57)
- Among conservative Protestants – half say many religions may be true, more than 1/3 say it is OK to practice multiple religions, ¼ believe people should not try to evangelize others, more than 1/3 say one can pick and choose one’s beliefs, and nearly 2/3 say that a person can be truly religious and spiritual without being involved in a church.
- “Our impression as interviewers was that many teenagers could not articulate matters of faith because they have not been effectively educated in and provided opportunities to practice talking about their faith. Indeed, it was our distinct sense that for many of the teens we interviewed, our interview was the first time that any adult had ever asked them what they believed and how it mattered in their life.” (p. 133)
- “The more American people and institutions are redefined by mass-consumer capitalism’s moral order, the more American religion is also remade in its image. Religion becomes one product among many others existing to satisfy people’s subjectively defined needs, tastes, and wants… as opposed to attaining salvation, learning obedience to God, following the Ten Commandments, achieving enlightenment, dying to oneself and serving others…” (p. 176)
- Digital revolution – “Authority over standards of knowledge thus becomes radically democratized and decentralized, filling the open market with a congestion of ideas, and information that have not been reviewed, judged, and sorted by evaluating authorities…discernment is left up to the individual.” (p. 180)
Smith and Denton describe the dominant faith of youth today as “Moral Therapeutic Deism:”
- A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about one’s self.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
Do you agree with Smith and Denton’s analysis? As those concerned with the faith development of youth, how are we addressing these perspectives in our work?
A key question that we must ask ourselves today in Christian education is, “Are we distinctively Christian in all aspects of our school?” Here’s a simple exercise to try in this regard: a few years ago when I began to think about this topic I started to list everything I could think of that made our school different than others down the street. Then I began to organize these ideas into categories. Try this exercise with your faculty and/or school board and see what comes to their mind – it will be an instant assessment of perceptions as to where your school is coming across as distinctive and where some work needs to be done.
Most recently as I have considered this matter I have come up with some shorthand language – Christian schools must be distinctively Christian in these areas: curriculum, classroom, and community. More on what is meant by this language in future posts. How would you describe the ways your school is distinctively Christian?
Welcome to this blog! My intention in doing this blog is to connect many people who are interested in developing a Christian worldview in youth through faith integrated learning experiences and through nurturing faith development in Christian K-12 educational settings. My hope is that this will become a great place to share ideas, books, resources, links, etc. around the topic of nurturing faith. The beauty of our electronic world is that it allows us to connect and communicate in ways previously not even dreamed of. To that end this blog is a first step at providing a forum for discussion and sharing.