Monthly Archives: May 2007

What a privilege!

As we get ready to close out the school year we look back in gratitude at the lives that we have had the privilege to intersect with over the course of the year. I was reminded of this again recently when I was eating lunch at a Chinese buffet. I was on my second plate and standing around the fruit section when I got involved in a ‘chance’ conversation with a gentleman from Korea. As it turned out, we shared more than one mutual connection. I ended up joining him at his table for the remainder of our lunch. He shared with me his life story of how at the age of 15 he had been so impacted by his teacher in a public school who read the Bible to a group of students over their lunch period. Although his conversion to Christianity resulted in years of persecution from his family, God has now led him to complete seminary and to study for a year in England before he will return home to Korea to be an evangelist. We marveled over the impact that one person – one teacher – can have on a life! We marveled over how his father and family over the years came to the Lord and how God is now directing his life. We wondered how our paths might cross again – but we agreed that for sure we will be seeing each other in heaven. We ended our time with a hug and blessings on each other’s work – after having just met! Certainly one of the more remarkable lunches I have had in a while. I am eager to see how this ‘chance’ meeting is part of God’s larger design. I don’t believe any of the interactions you have had this year are ‘chance’ as you have worked with students and parents – contemplate now and be ready to see in the future perhaps how you have been part of God’s plan!

This is the final post for the Nurturing Faith blog this school year – we will begin again in August with a new school year. I am hoping that you all have a wonderful wrap-up of the school year and a refreshing summer. If you haven’t registered for the summer CSI convention let me give you one last encouragement. Most importantly we will be talking a lot about nurturing the faith of our youth at school and church. If you are a Christian school administrator reading this, please invite a pastor or youth worker to the convention. I think it is going to be a great experience in every way – location, lodging, natural beauty, pre-conference sectionals, guest speakers, working on the Covenetwork Manifesto together, greeting old and new friends, and cool, great sleeping, Michigan nights! Hope to see you there.

Thanks for reading!

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Filed under encouraging the heart, use of time

Study says “Religion is good for kids”!

A recent study of 16,000 children, mostly first graders, led researchers to conclude that religion has a very positive effect on self-control, behavior, and peer relationships. The Mississippi State team also found that “when parents argued frequently about religion the children are more likely to have problems.”

This research is supportive of what Christians have long known and believed – the home environment is critical for children’s early faith development and that the commonality of beliefs by marriage partners is very important. The findings of this study also support what Smith and Denton found in their study of teens (see post of 10/11/06): we (parents) get what we are – in other words kids spirituality reflects what they see modeled by their parents – it’s tough to fool kids when they are with you on a 24/7 basis.

In explaining why kids are good as a result of religion, lead researcher John Bartkowski remarks that children benefit from the networks of other religious adults who reinforce the parental messages and consequently children “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home.” Sounds like home, church, and Christian school to me!

The disconnect between understanding research and understanding the impact of a living relationship with one’s Creator is demonstrated by this comment in the article:
“But as for why religious organizations might provide more of a boost to family life than secular organizations designed to do the same thing, that’s still somewhat of a mystery, said Annette Mahoney, a psychologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio… Mahoney wondered: ‘Is there anything about religion and spirituality that sets it apart?’

Is there indeed? St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, dear Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” Blaise Paschal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

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Filed under Biblical worldview, encouraging the heart, kids/culture

What questions should your students ask?

(Blog post written by Michael Essenburg, Christian Academy in Japan)

It’s 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night. Your student JuShin is talking on the phone with Melody, her friend since 2nd grade. JuShin has noticed changes in Melody’s behavior, like change in friends and less interest in school. Melody wants to know if JuShin wants to go “hang out with her friends around town” and get back “late.” What questions should JuShin ask Melody?

It’s 5 years from now. Calvin, your former student, is sitting with 4 college classmates in a coffee shop, talking about social issues. Statements are made:

  • “We should help the poor.”
  • “We need to be more tolerant.”
  • “It’s the parents’ responsibility.”

What questions should Calvin ask his classmates?

It’s 10 years from now. Tomoko, your former student, is reading an editorial on taxes in which the author urges readers to support Proposal 23. The proposal “reduces taxes for wealthy and increases taxes for the middle class.” What questions should Tomoko ask as she reads the editorial?

What questions should JuShin, Calvin and Tomoko to ask? How about…?

  • What do you mean by…?
  • How do you know?
  • How does the Bible help?
  • How can I respond?

Why these 4 questions? Because they help. Let me explain how.

1.What do you mean by…? Ever been in a conversation where someone thought you meant something and you didn’t? Or you thought someone meant something and she didn’t? I have. I didn’t like it. I don’t think anyone else does either.

By asking “What do you mean by…?” your students invite the other party to clarify what she means when she uses terms like hang out, late, poor, tolerant, wealthy, and middle class. As a result, your students will have a deeper understanding of the idea, value, situation, or perspective being presented.

2. How do you know? In other words, cite your sources. Explain the basis of your claims. Tell me where you’re coming from. If the issue is hanging out, how important is it to know that the invitation really comes from Melody’s mom or from her new friends? If the issue is poverty, how important is it to know that the information comes from The Economist or the school newspaper? If the proposal addresses changing the tax structure, how important is it to know which political party is pushing for the proposal? If the topic is Jesus, how important is it to know that the information comes from the novel The Da Vinci Code and not the Bible?

3. How does the Bible help? In other words, let’s see what the Bible says. After all, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, the text of the world’s largest religion, and most significantly, the Word of the living God.

4. How can I respond? Once your students understand the idea or situation, the basis of the idea or situation, and what the Bible says, they can then determine how to respond. And there may be more than one biblical response.

If your students ask these 4 questions, how will it help them understand and use a biblical perspective?

1. When your students ask these 4 questions, they’re working to develop biblical responses. (Keep in mind that your students are more likely to use the biblical responses they have developed than ones you have shared.)

2. When your students ask these 4 questions, they increase the likelihood that they’ll make a thoughtful response. Why? Because asking questions demonstrates an interest in others—and people are more open about what they’re thinking when someone is interested in them. Because asking questions decreases the likelihood of misunderstanding, misdiagnosis, and, consequently, misapplication of the Bible. Because asking questions increases the likelihood of identifying sources instead of symptoms, and of skillfully using pertinent biblical teaching.

3. When your students start by asking questions, rather than by giving answers, people will be more likely to talk with them. This means your students will be more likely to have opportunities to use a biblical perspective. More opportunities means more practice. And practice is a necessary step in effectively using a biblical perspective.

4. Asking questions gives your students natural opportunities to model a biblical perspective of behavior, including being concerned for others, being quick to listen, and showing humility when they don’t know the answer. Modeling is practice. Practice helps your students increase their proficiency in applying a biblical perspective.

Find out for yourself how the 4 questions work. Find out by using the 4 questions to respond to 1 or more of the following statements. Better yet, find out by having your students use the 4 questions to respond to one or more of the following statements:

  • We should love everyone.
  • You should obey the government and fight in the war.
  • This won’t hurt you.
  • Abortion isn’t murder.
  • Language is evolving.
  • Budgets are moral documents.

So, what’s the real question? It’s not “What questions should my students ask?” or “Should I teach my students to ask the 4 questions?” Rather, it’s “How will I help my students right now to routinely ask wise questions?” You might want to teach your students to use the 4 questions, or you might want to teach your students to use questions you develop.

Remember, success is your students asking wise questions to better understand and use a biblical perspective. Success is not you teaching your students to ask wise questions (or even you asking your students wise questions). But remember, if you teach your students to ask wise questions, you increase the likelihood that they’ll ask wise questions.

Bonus: Lead by asking. Ask questions to help your colleagues focus, think through problems, and reach their goals. For example:

  1. If your colleague wants to increase student understanding and application of a biblical perspective, ask: How can questions help? What questions do you want your students to ask? What questions do you want your students to respond to?
  2. If your curriculum committee is brainstorming ways to improve the curriculum, ask: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How can we get there?
  3. If your administration wants to achieve its mission, ask: What’s our mission? What’s our definition of mission achievement? What’s our current level of mission achievement? How can we close the gap between current and targeted levels of mission achievement?
  4. If your school is reviewing its philosophy of education, ask: What happens at a Christ-centered school? What is the role of biblical perspective in Christian education? How can we help students internalize a biblical perspective?

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Filed under Biblical worldview, distinctively Christian, student outcomes

Faith Enhancing Practice*#6 – Dilemmas and life difficulties (Classroom)

Powerful opportunities – teachable moments – as teachers and administrators we crave these times when it seems every student’s eye, ear, and heart is hyper tuned to the subject at hand. However sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances we would never hope for, yet provide teachable moments that will never be forgotten: such as the stories of classroom prayer times on the day of 9/11. I will never forget the response of prayer by my teachers in my childhood days following the assassination of national leaders and the sudden tragic death of a fellow student’s father in an accident. These are times when our words and actions are extraordinarily important in terms of how we reveal our own faith and shape the faith of those for whom we are responsible. It is our responsibility to make sure that we are equipped and ready for these situations of life difficulty whenever they may emerge with students.

Sometimes it is almost easier to know how to respond to a life difficulty, such as pain or loss. Dilemmas are more problematic because we are making choices between potentially unpleasant outcomes. Dilemmas also reveal our character and belief systems, leaving us open to criticism by those who judge our decisions and actions. We need to teach students how to make tough decisions when faced with dilemmas – what will be the guiding principles for them on which to base their decision? As Christians we believe the Bible is that source of truth for discernment.

But what about when Christians disagree? Are we teaching students how to be graceful in this disagreement of interpretation? As we know from history Christianity has been more harmed by human certitude than honoring of differences – but where and how do we teach students to draw some lines in the sand? I think that humility demands that we be less dogmatic where we run into issues with shades of gray, but I certainly hope that we will not shy away from discussion of dilemmas with our students. We may not be able to arrive at the “right” answer, but in the process we will be teaching them how to wrestle with authentic issues in a way that honors God and neighbor – and serves to enhance their own faith development. At the end of the day our wrestling must reflect the certain hope we embrace – Christ has come and his kingdom is coming in all its fullness.

*(For an explanation and definition of Faith Enhancing Practices see my post of February 3, 2007 entitled “What’s the difference between teachers?”) If you are interested in seeing all 12 Faith Enhancing Practices modules at once, you can go to the Member Community Center and access them there.

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Filed under classroom, distinctively Christian, student outcomes

Recent Member Community Center forum questions

• Curriculum mapping software – what program are you using to do this?
• Student non-academic guidelines for awards – does anyone have a sample set of guidelines they would be willing to share?
• Worship – how do other schools handle chapel planning? Is this a paid staff position or student led? Teachers given released time?
• Career and calling – who has done recent work in this area? What resources are available and helpful?

Please take a moment to share with your colleagues in regards to one or more of these questions. CSI members can access the Member Community Center by clicking here. Thanks – we are all lifted up and get stronger when we share our ideas and resources!

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Filed under Member Community Center