Category Archives: stewardship

Help wanted: Teacher feedback for social justice project


How can I find specific global projects that relate social justice issues to my elementary science curriculum? Are there resources to help me incorporate advocacy writing in my persuasion unit in high school English? Where can I find hunger or AIDS statistics to use in middle school algebra problems, and better yet even some first-hand stories to personalize the issues? In other words, how does my current school curriculum relate to global social justice issues?

A collaborative grant between the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning and the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice is exploring social justice connections embedded in K-12 school curriculum and is organizing the CRC resources to assist teachers in opening these connections with students. Informational readings, statistics, activities, first-hand accounts, videos, and global projects are being evaluated for their classroom potential, covering topics such as fair trade, environmental stewardship, hunger, disease control, disaster relief, immigration, disability concerns and many others.

Currently the grant team is seeking feedback from K-12 teachers who are interested in reviewing the resource summaries applicable to their teaching levels and subjects. A small stipend will be awarded for teacher feedback; however, the number of feedback positions is limited. To receive more information and to reserve your teacher feedback position, please email Jane Hilbrands at Feedback forms may be completed until July 13. Principals, if this grant project sounds interesting, please promote the feedback opportunity among your teaching staff. Thank you!



Filed under change, church partnering, curriculum, resources, stewardship

Edging toward amortality

Aging Not So Gracefully

Aging Not So Gracefully by Cayusa on Flickr

Maybe it is the constant barrage of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) letters in the mail, or the fact that my upcoming birthday pushes me closer to the name of a local bank (there really is a bank called 5/3 Bank!), but I can’t help but wonder if the concept of amortality is happening to me. Note that I said amortality, not amorality!  If you are not familiar with the concept of amortality, you should know that it is #5 on Time magazine’s list of 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now, and is described by its inventor, writer Catherine Mayer as:  “. . . the intersection of that trend (resisting the onset of age) with a massive increase in life expectancy and a deep decline in the influence of organized religion.” Yes, the Boomer generation seems to be both re-inventing age and walking away (or running or “spinning” away) from the concept of organized religion (see Barna’s book Revolutionaries and my 12.18.06 post.)

As I write this, my body is recovering from a spring break filled with painting, yard work, sod moving, and closet cleaning. I want to function at the same pace as I did in earlier years, and am disappointed if I can’t. As Mayer states: “The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death.” We somehow expect to live forever on this earth and expect/hope that medical science will have the answer by the time we need it, to allow us to live indefinitely. These attitudes fly in the face of “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12. We are in essence saying we are not interested in learning another pace, to develop character and understanding toward wisdom, but instead are saying “just give us our Botox and Viagra and let us go on our paths of consumption.”

My sister’s recent struggles with long-term cancer have again inspired me to number my days and do things that really matter, as I have seen her do. Her grace and ministry to all around bear witness to a heart that holds no illusions about the power of amortality. I only hope that I can live however many days that are numbered for me with half the grace and focus that she has demonstrated. Perhaps our personal mantra should be something like, “Modeling what matters so that the wisdom of Christ is seen through me.”

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Filed under Biblical worldview, change, discernment, encouraging the heart, stewardship, worship

Needs versus wants

needs-and-wantsI sincerely hope that one of the good things that we can learn from our recent economic distress is a recommitment to stewardship and charity. There are an increasing number of articles that deal with doing more with less (and gasp!), even self-denial. Self-denial sounds heretical in the Wall Street Journal of all places, doesn’t it?  I remain convinced that one of the very best “essential questions” we can plant in our students’ minds for their lifetime is: What is the difference between needs and wants?

One of the joys of Thanksgiving and Christmas is the opportunity for reflection and thoughtful gift giving. I recently was struck by the contrasts presented in two different articles on giving. In a preview blurb about Christian Smith’s new book, Passing the Plate, I read these words: “Far from the 10 percent of one’s income that tithing requires, American Christians’ financial giving typically amounts, by some measures, to less than one percent of annual earnings. And a startling one out of five self-identified Christians gives nothing at all.”

On the other hand I heard myself saying “Oh, cool” when I opened the newspaper (Grand Rapids Press, 12.3.08) to an article about Manny Pacquaio, a boxer and leading light heavyweight contender from the Phillipines, who gives away his prize winnings by distributing food and cash all hours of the day and night outside of his home. After growing up in poverty, Pacquaio, a devout Catholic, states: “The best thing in life is what you can do for other people in this world” and goes on to say: “What I want to teach them is how to pray, to believe in God, to be with God.”

What a privilege to be in jobs where we can teach children the true difference between needs and wants, and train their hearts and minds to respond to a world in need!

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Filed under Biblical worldview, book, community, encouraging the heart, stewardship, student outcomes

Redeeming time

One of the blessings of doing a couple of workshops recently at the Christian Schools Canada conference in British Columbia was hearing keynote speaker Mark Buchanan and reading his book, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath.

Mark reminds us that Sabbath is a matter of renewing our minds – choosing to live a certain way, making and keeping commitments. Work is broken, along with all other aspects of our lives and it needs renewal – we need to “be made new in the attitude of our minds” (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23.) Even our leisure is not complete or refreshing if it is missing the sacred element – focus toward God.  In purposeful and God focused living we discover joy: “to experience the sacred amidst the commonplace – to taste heaven in our daily bread, a new heaven and new earth in a mouthful of wine, joy in the ache of our muscles or the sweat of our brows” (p.37.) He points out that a Sabbath heart is fully present, paying attention, looking for God in each moment. He encourages us to be the poets God created us to be, paying full attention to the people and creation in which God has placed us.

For all of us who are caught up in the speed up, Buchanan points out that we not only feel more frightened, hurt, isolated, and obligated, but that our capacity for both steadfastness and adventure shrivels. We begin to believe the lie that “it all depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying? . . .Unless we trust God’s sovereignty, we won’t dare risk Sabbath. . . either God is good and in control, or it all depends on you “(pp. 61-63). Buchanan points us to Psalm 23 as cure:  “. . . he makes me lie down (and rest in Him), Psalm 62 – “my soul finds rest in God alone” and encourages us to make thankfulness a habit because it is through thankfulness that we acknowledge God’s sovereignty and goodness to us.

I was personally convicted several times as I read this book and was motivated to make changes in my life.  I encourage you to pick up a copy and have your understanding of the delight of Sabbath be broadened, and your life enriched, as you rest in God.

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Filed under book, resources, stewardship, use of time

Picturing the excesses of Western culture

Here is a tool to get us all thinking and motivated about the impact of our culture of consumption. Chris Jordan is a photographer who has been able to make large numbers real through his artwork. I see good potential for use of this 11 minute video with older students.  In this video he demonstrates his work and gives his motivation for what he does.

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Filed under discernment, stewardship

A word of thanks to those of you who . . .

kept in focus the big picture of nurturing faith in students, despite all the distractions and obstacles during this school year;

kept your cool when working with a student for the umpteenth time on a repeated issue—thanks for remembering that God continues to forgive each of us for repeated sins;

listened well and were fully present even though you knew what a student or colleague was about to say and you had 90 million other things calling to you;

found a way to mediate and bring peace between student and student, student and teacher, teacher and parent, administration and board;

challenged students to connect their beliefs and their actions;

shared your faith even though it felt risky and you weren’t sure how students or parents would receive your testimony;

cared deeply about the hurts and pain of students and staff and demonstrated your concern through seen or unseen acts of kindness;

did the right thing from a Christian perspective even though it was unpopular and you took some heat for your decision;

pointed students and teachers toward prophetic living and expanded their worldview;

attempted to live and model Christ in faithful service;

saw the image of God in each person and tried to see them through the eyes of Christ; or

helped move your school forward in reaching its mission.

Well done, good and faithful servant—enter into a time of renewal and refreshment during the summer months!

Thanks for reading the Nurturing Faith blog this past school year – see you again in September,

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Filed under classroom, community, curriculum, encouraging the heart, stewardship, use of time

The joy of spring flowers and nurturing faith

(Post contributed by Glenn Vos of Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan—thanks Glenn for sharing!)

I love to work outside with flowers, and it is something I enjoy doing a great deal. I am sure I was influenced by my mother, who always had beautiful flowers planted around our home. She had a garden full of flowers that frequently were made into arrangements which adorned the front of the pulpit in our church where my parents were the custodians. I find gardening to be therapeutic—it does not require a committee to decide how something should be done nor do the flowers ask much of me other than some watering, fertilizing, and weeding.

TulipsDepending where you live, you have surely noted by now that the spring flowers—daffodils, crocuses, tulips, and many others—are in beautiful bloom right now. They leapt out of the ground here in Michigan after some of our recent warm weather and in a matter of days changed the landscape remarkably. Suddenly, the grays and browns of winter had splashes of color that caught our eyes. You can hardly drive around our community at this time of year and not marvel at the beauty of these new additions to the yards of nearly every home.

What impresses me about spring flowers is that they are very delicate in their structure and design, yet they are some of the hardiest flowers around when it comes to weather conditions. They can handle cold better than heat, and the wind can do more damage than the sun. The warm, almost hot, breezes that we appreciate during the spring are their worst enemy. Many spring flowers are planted as bulbs, biding their time for warmer soil and the passing of winter, and then, independent of any further action by us, they appear, grow, and eventually bloom.

So what does all this have to do with Christian education? Beyond the obvious connections to planting, growing, and nurturing, the very nature of spring flowers provides some great lessons for us in living and learning.

First, the very contrast of the brilliant colors of the flower to the dark soil and gray skies they come out of provides a great picture lesson for each of us. The need to be embedded in the very darkness of the soil and still finish with a bloom filled with great color and splendor is what is at the very core of a Christian education, especially from a Reformed point of view. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).

Second, it is important to note the impact that winds of “hot air” can have upon the strength of the plant: Have we really prepared our children for the impact of media and culture upon their now sturdy looking stems?

Third, to be delicate yet strong and hardy is really at the center of the true character of a follower of Christ.

Fourth, the variety of colors, even within the blossom itself, should be a reflection of what we want our schools and our churches to look like.

Fifth, there are early varieties and late varieties of spring flowers—students, or adults for that matter, do not all learn at the same rate nor do we all grow and develop at the same time. Differences are not just OK; they are important to keep the whole garden blooming throughout the entire growing season.

Sixth, if you just look at the bulb, you are not able to tell what the blossom will look like. You might know it is a tulip bulb but not the exact color or the variety. You need to see the plant in bloom to fully appreciate the bulb. So it is with children. We can not know by looking at a preschooler or even a high school student how God might want to use the gifts he has given this child, so we need cultivate and nurture each one to his or her full potential.

When you see spring flowers growing in your yard or as you travel about, I hope you will begin to see a whole lot more than just flowers. Seeing them in all their beauty will give you all the more reason to praise God and to bring him honor and glory.

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Filed under early faith, stewardship, student outcomes