Category Archives: parenting

Shalom and parent teacher conferences

Photo credit: Sean Dreilinger

Photo credit: Sean Dreilinger

During the fall and spring conference time with parents, teachers typically report on the academic progress of students to parents. It should be a time to share celebrations and concerns. Sometimes the student is present or even “leading” the conference. I believe that this time with parents is a critical one as it is one of the few times that there is an intense focus on their mutually shared responsibility – the student. From the school side of the equation, this is a prime time to also communicate the mission of the school to the parents. From the parent side, this is an opportunity to have a significant time to have a conversation with another adult who has worked with their child about their view of the child’s growth.

I have been emphasizing to Christian schools that this precious conference time should be about more than simply academics. Conferences are the best time to discuss the whole child’s progress and, if we are true to our missions, we will take some time to consider the student’s spiritual growth. After all, one of our key distinctives as a school and one of the main reasons parents send their children is so that they will be nurtured in their faith; if we ignore this aspect or give it short shrift, we are missing a great opportunity!

Recently I have been suggesting that we consider the terms wonder, wisdom and work as we consider how to connect our work toward the ultimate outcomes of helping nurture student faith and to move toward shalom. Wolterstorff describes true shalom as harmony with nature, God, man and self. In connecting these words to the K-12 educational experience, I would suggest that wonder is harmony with nature, wisdom is harmony with God, and work is harmony with self and neighbor. I am wondering if this model might work not only for curriculum design, but also for conducting parent teacher conferences. Using this model as a guide for parent teacher conferences our questions/areas of focus with parents might look like this:

  1. Wonder: Is the student understanding and expressing awe about, and delight in, the created order? Do they understand their place in the world as imagebearers? Are they beginning to develop an understanding of beauty, complexity, design, and what excellence looks like?
  2. Wisdom: Is the student understanding and responding to the gospel? Do they understand how the world, including themselves, experiences sin and brokenness? Do they understand the good news through Biblical story, personal story, and teacher modeling. Are they begin to discern good from evil? Are they understanding what it means to embrace and live out their faith? How to live into the grace of Christ and extend it to others?
  3. Work: Is the student understanding who they are and showing a desire to live out the gospel with their neighbor? How have they responded to opportunities and challenges in the classroom to creatively contribute to the learning and life of others? Have they connected personal gratitude for the gospel with external actions? Are they beginning to understand what it means to restore this world to God’s original intentions?

I truly believe that if we used this model for our parent teacher conferences we would have a clearer focus on the distinctives of our school mission, a much more meaningful conversation with parents that goes beyond grades and test scores, and a greater potential impact on the students and parents we are called to serve.




Filed under Biblical worldview, early faith, encouraging the heart, parenting, staff development, student outcomes

Honoring Mom

I just received word this morning (written 9.21.13) that my mom has passed away. You may think it strange that I am writing at this moment, but writing is a way that I am able to express myself, and secondly her death does not come as a surprise. You see my mom lived to the ripe old age of 94 and was very ready to move on to her next life. I hope you won’t think it indulgent, but I would like to tell you a bit of her story and in the process honor her passion for Christian education as well as hopefully encourage your heart.

My mom loved learning – she must have done well in school as she was the valedictorian of her high school class. As a product of her times, college was not an automatic option, at least not for a rural farm girl. However, she managed to save some money and convince her parents to let her attend the closest available college to take business courses for one year. Lacking further financial and parental support, she was unable to continue her education and married my father, a farmer.

Mom continued her education on her own through reading, crossword puzzles, writing the church bulletin and writing family members on a regular basis. Having been denied a college education, she made education a priority for her children. When I dropped out of college my mom was very frustrated with my choice and I know that intensity came from her not wanting history to repeat itself.

My mom came from a family that valued public education highly; her cousin went on to become the local public school superintendent. My parents chose Christian education for their children and my mom took a lot of grief from her family for that decision. However my parents were convinced that this was the best way to fully educate their children about all of life in the ways of the Lord.

My mom backed up this decision with hours of volunteering over the course of her lifetime. One of the major fundraisers for our little local Christian school was the Hunter’s Supper. Hundreds of hunters would descend on our little farming village in November and the ladies would serve them hot mashed potatoes, ham, and home-made desserts. My mom used her excellent leadership skills for years to chair this event which required hours of preparation for an unknown number of hunters. The hunters would line up outside of the church to file into the basement for this wonderful feast of home cooked food.

I saw my parents’ sacrifice for Christian education: sometimes the milk check was small, but the church and Christian education were the first two checks written out, and we lived on whatever was left. That example has shaped my priorities about, and I am grateful to, my Mom for her passion for Christian education and learning!


Filed under devotional, encouraging the heart, parenting

End of the year learning roundup

from Flickr via Creative Commons -

We have reached the finish line for this year! I hope you have enjoyed reading Nurturing Faith. I keep a number of files of ideas to use when writing this blog and I still have a variety of interesting things that I would like to share with you below. Enjoy!

15 provocative things to read

Grand Rapids Christian High did an “old fashioned social network” and found it had unexpected results! Read about their “sharing wall.”

Want better student engagement in your class? See 7 Solutions for Educators Who Want 21st Century Students to Tune In.

The limits of standardized testing are well articulated by this AP student.

With increasing technology use, what is the role of the teacher – are they a dispensable algorithm or indispensable artist?

Helpful summary of how technology impacts the brain.

Can you get kids to talk about what you want them to discuss using backchanneling?

Why persistence and grit matter so much.

What TV and movies are doing to our girls.

Is your kindergarten teacher worth $320,000?

Take this 10 question quiz to see if you are a tech savvy teacher.

McREL says there are 5 things that make the  biggest difference in schools.

What contributes most to an effective middle school?

A great resource site for new teachers divided by levels.

Best sites to check out how to use iPads in education.

Three reports that you should take a look at:

The-Rise-of-K-12-Blended-Learning – produced by Innosight Institute – it has very helpful explanations of blended learning models and gives 40 profiles of schools implementing new models.

The 2011-Horizon-Report-K12 “examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative expression within the environment of pre-college education.surface significant trends and challenges and to identify a wide array of potential technologies for the report. ”

Draft of Technology in Early Childhood Programs 4-29-2011 – final report to be published this fall – bookmark the NAEYC website.


The Story is a unique chronological version of the Bible written by Max Lucado and produced by Zondervan with a focus on God’s story to his people throughout history. CSI will be making this resource and accompanying materials available to schools – contact Bible specialist Kent Ezell ( at CSI for more info. He has been blogging on this resource here and here.

RADCAB: Your Vehicle for Information Evaluation is a book written by Calvin Christian (Minnesota) teacher Karen Christensson that is designed to help upper elementary and middle school kids think critically about information online. The acronym RADCAB stands for six important concepts for evaluating information.

Book: 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn – eds. Bellanca and Brandt, Solution Tree, 2010.

Book: 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers: The Truth on Raising Teenagers from Parents Who Have Been There – the latest from Walt Mueller.

Your continued learning

In my speaking lately I have been encouraging schools to consider the power of PLN’s – Personal Learning Networks. If you are not familiar with the term or want to learn more, I suggest that you start here and here.

If you haven’t checked out Twitter, read why I am excited about it here and then get started!

Have a wonderful summer!

Yours for continued learning,

Dan Beerens


Filed under curriculum, kids/culture, leadership, parenting, resources, staff development

Articulation is not an art, but a passion!

I have sung in many choirs with different directors over the years and without fail, and regardless of the skill level of the choir, each director has encouraged the choir members to articulate more clearly. Bottom line, even though the choir members have spent hours learning the notes, phrasing, intonation, timing, and expression, if they don’t articulate the words carefully, they are failing to communicate. Singers may be aware of the importance of clear enunciation and even have the desire to communicate the message, but articulation requires sustained, focused, and passionate energy to succeed.

According to David Kinnaman and Barna Research, teens are not articulating their faith with clarity. Even though kids like the concept of being Christian, the researchers are finding that kids are having less conversations about what they believe. What is more surprising is that among Protestant teens, the Barna study states “they are more likely to pray, go to worship services, read the Bible and attend youth group meetings than were Protestant-affiliated teens a dozen years ago.” It appears that our kids have bought the idea that we are to inclusive and not offend anyone – even when it comes to our deepest convictions of faith. Where would they get this idea?

Christian Smith, in his impressive Soul Searching study of 13-17 year old students, tells us that we get what we are – in other words, our kids are emulating our behavior. In a recent study by the Christian Reformed Church (the church out of which many CSI schools were born), the devotional habits of adults are in serious decline. For example, the percentage of families having daily devotions has declined from 60% in 1992 to 43% in 2007. If we don’t engage in regular spiritual disciplines, how can we expect our kids to? If they don’t see us sharing our faith with others, how can we expect that they will?

In a video clip I use in workshops, the avowed atheist entertainer, Penn Jillette, speaks about an encounter with a businessman who gave him a New Testament after a performance. Penn respected that gesture and believes that everyone who feels strongly about their faith should be proselytizing. He likens the lack of sharing one’s faith to seeing a truck bearing down on someone and not trying to push them out of the way. In other words if you believe that a person is going to hell and you have a way to save them, but don’t tell them, you are acting as if you hate them.

Are we teaching kids how to have conversations about Jesus? Are we modeling that for them in our own lives?


Filed under devotional, kids/culture, parenting, student outcomes, worship

School/church/home partnering that encourages discipleship – a model that is working!

How to best partner with churches has been a true conundrum for CSI Christian schools in recent years.

Cultural changes and shifts in church membership,  coupled with students coming from a broadening number and variety of churches, have left schools confused about how to keep the home – school – church triangle intact, or even functioning at all. At the 2007 CSI membership convention we attempted to highlight the issue and make some progress on the issue of our common connection – the faith development of the students we share. If you are interested you can go back to earlier blog posts: here is the original post about the work, the report on the work we did at the convention, how it could be used with churches, and a subsequent post about how some schools attempted to follow up. One of the common difficulties in our larger (and even mid-size!) schools is that there are often over 100 churches represented in the student body.  How can a school effectively connect with all of them, let alone do any planning together?

In the light of this persistent challenge, it was my pleasure last week to chat with Len Stob, superintendent, and Ben Dykhouse, Director of Christian Leadership, at Ontario (CA) Christian and to hear about their mentoring/discipleship program.

I will let Ben explain:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, writes that “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” In Growing True Disciples, George Barna gauges the responses of students involved in mentoring relationships. 30% of the students reported the experience as “life changing,” 60% said it was “really helpful,” 10% thought it was of “some value,” while less than 1% decided that it was “not helpful” (pg. 51). At Ontario Christian, we believe discipleship is a primary goal of the church, home and school. Thus, Ontario Christian is offering a Discipleship Program for students that will partner church, home and school to foster these characteristics of a disciple. Ontario Christian’s aim for this program is to give students another opportunity to grow in discipleship. So, what is Christian discipleship? Christian discipleship is acknowledging Christ’s Lordship and following him in all areas of life. Specifically, a true disciple will experience transformation in his/her relationships with friends, coworkers, family, and fellow church members. A true disciple will also embody a distinctively Christ‐ like lifestyle. Another characteristic of a Christian disciple is involvement with Christ’s church. Finally, a disciple has the desire to bring reconciliation, justice, and righteousness to his/her immediate community and to the world at large. One part of this program will be a mentoring relationship. Each student in the program will be paired with a mature Christian who attends the same church and is of the same gender. This mentor must be approved by the student’s parents, and she/he must meet certain requirements (see info via wiki link below.) This relationship will give the student the opportunity to experience spiritual growth in Christian community, dialogue with a mature Christian, and establish roots in her/his church that will last beyond high school. We strongly believe that whole‐life Christian discipleship does not happen without fellowship among other Christians. In other words, it does not happen primarily in personal devotions. This mentoring relationship is outlined in great detail see sections II‐IX on the wiki (see the link below.)

A second component to this Discipleship Program is partnering with the student’s home. With the goal of discipleship in mind, families of students in this program commit to eat a meal together at least three times per week. The family will also commit to have family devotions at least three times per week. Again, this is to emphasize God’s call to families to disciple their children and to put the arena of discipleship in the context of community. Materials for family devotions will be provided as a resource. However, families will not be bound to using these for their devotional time. Parents will also attend two meetings while their student is involved in the Discipleship Program.

Beyond discipleship growth and the forming of cross-generational bonds, Ontario Christian sees a “return” on the kind of positive campus culture that these sophomore and junior student leaders are able to assist in building. They are processing this work with their own staff at the end of each semester and are also hosting a symposium for youth pastors. They report that, due to the mentoring, students get more rooted in their own churches as well. It seems like a very exciting program that has strong promise to not only develop student leaders, but to strengthen church, school, and family ties.

If you are interested in knowing more details about this program you can contact Ben Dykhouse, Bible Teacher and Director of Christian Leadership at Ontario Christian High School. His phone number is 909.984.1756 ext. 39 and his email address is: To see more details about the program including mentor qualities, tips for effective mentoring, qualities of an effective student disciple, contracts for mentors, students, and families, and discussion starter questions, please visit the DC (Distinctively Christian) Tools for Schools wiki.


Filed under church partnering, community, discernment, distinctively Christian, encouraging the heart, leadership, mission development, parenting, resources, student outcomes

Christian education: investment, sacrifice, or obligation?

This is the time of year for budgets, annual parent meetings, and staff hiring.  A lot of time, energy, and discussion are put into financial matters related to the cost of Christian education. What is the language used in our discussions with parents, board, and each other? Let us consider some thoughts around the words investment, sacrifice, and obligation. If our language conveys our values and really matters, then we should choose our words wisely.

It’s wonderful to hear parents talk about investing into the lives of their kids by giving them a Christian education.

When I think of “investment”, I think of these phrases:
Seen as a good thing to do with money – ex. The parable of the talents
Are a plan for growth and the future
Don’t always turn out like we planned, but we still make them anyway
Potentially impact future generations

When I hear parents describe their choice for Christian education in a negative tone as a “sacrifice,” I think of these phrases:
Something I have to do
Sometimes grudging obedience rather than my heart’s desire
Something I am giving up, not always cheerfully, to maintain something else
Sense of loss rather than choice
Sometimes used in “guilting” – “I sacrificed so you can have this”

I realize that the attitude of the heart is what determines how these words are used. I can also be forced to make investments for good (taxes come to mind) and do so with a resentful attitude.  I can also make a joyful sacrifice – the kind that is pleasing to the Lord, such as the Abel offers, or one at the cost of my life, such as Samson. On the other hand if I view sacrifice as obligation it may be like the cheerless Pharisee who tossed into the collection plate in large measure and made sure it was publicly visible. In Jesus’ observation, the widow “sacrificed” but she did so with a grateful and joyful heart as an “investment” in the work of the kingdom.

How we and our staff approach our work is also key. Do we focus on our “sacrifice” to work at a lower salary or do we see our work as an opportunity to “invest” into the lives of the kids and into our community and world?

The language we use and allow others to use really surfaces our values and our level of commitment. The Bible says that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also,” and provides many very clear stories of biblical characters who ran into trouble confusing obedience and gratitude – investment, sacrifice, or obligation.

What attitude does our language convey about how we approach the opportunity for a Christian education that can equip our children to hear the redemptive call of God on their life in personal and corporate ways?


Filed under distinctively Christian, leadership, parenting

If you work with kids, read this book!

If there is one book about kids that you should consider reading in the next few months, I would recommend that you dive into NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  The authors take a chapter each to explore ten subjects related to kids, analyze the related research, and present conclusions that challenge conventional thinking. Chapter topics include praise, sleep, race, lying, kindergarten, siblings, teen rebellion, self-control, playing with others, and infant language skills.

The conclusions in this book should provoke healthy and productive discussion among K-12 teaching faculty at school or church, parenting groups, or husbands and wives.  The authors have done a great service in synthesizing a wide range of research, field interview material, and resources into an enjoyable and readable book that will appeal to a wide range of adults who work with and nurture children and youth.


Filed under change, kids/culture, parenting, resources, staff development