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What can be learned from Finland?

In case you have missed the discussion, here is why some in the educational community are looking at Finland these days. Put simply – how do they get the kind of educational results that they are getting? What is their secret?

Well, one reason that we should pay attention to Finland is that since PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests have been inaugurated over a decade ago, Finland has consistently been at the top of the charts! Tony Wagner from Harvard wanted to get answers to the above questions; his Finland visit and reflections are captured on a recent hour long movie that has come out: “The Finland Phenomenon.”  As you will see from just the video trailer below they do some things very differently from typical North American schools.

I find that their approach is a much more attractive model for Christian schools to follow than that of our public sector schools who are being forced to a greater and greater degree into test-based accountability, more prescribed curriculum, more focus on only core subjects, and greater control. I believe that the Biblical principles, such as honoring the learner as image-bearer and operating with a high degree of trust, are lived out to a greater degree in the public schools of Finland than in North America. Canadian blogger/teacher Joe Bower put it this way: “Finland’s successful pursuit of policies driven by diversity, trust, respect, professionalism, equity, responsibility and collaboration refute every aspect of reforms that focus on choice, competition, accountability and testing that are being expanded in countries around the world.”

If you would like to learn more, I suggest you start by purchasing the video and watching it with your staff – it should spark a profitable discussion. If you Google “Finland Phenomenon,” you will also find many other blog posts and discussions on the topic – it is gaining a lot of attention.

How can we argue with the results?

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Filed under change, leadership, mission development, mission measurement, resources, staff development, student outcomes, uncategorized

Happy 5th birthday, Nurturing Faith blog!

Source: Digivation via Flickr

It is a pleasure to welcome you back, or to welcome you for the first time to the Nurturing Faith blog for the 2011-2012 school year! This blog is a bit unique in that it is only published during the September through June school year and posts are made once a month.

Five years ago, blogging was a new phenomenon and no one was quite sure of its value or potential, but now we have seen that the Nurturing Faith blog has served an important function in the CSI school community. Between myself and guest contributors, the Nurturing Faith blog contains, as of this date, 218 posts representing 32 categories of thought. Those reading the blog have contributed nearly 800 comments of dialogue to the blog. At one point the blog was even rated #47 in the world (out of a half million blogs) by WordPress in its listing of growing blogs! The blog has anywhere from 50 to 1,000 views per day of the current posts on the blog.

I have come to appreciate the living, growing nature of a blog and although blogging has declined somewhat in light of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, it still serves a great purpose for writing beyond 140 characters, is more interactive than a journal, and more continuously accessible than a book. I personally have found the blog very helpful as I have taught online courses, staff development workshops, and in sharing thinking with educators around the world. I appreciate the opportunity to continue to write it for Christian Schools International. It has been a free medium (thank you WordPress!) and is free to the reader also – and hopefully it is worth more than what you pay for it!

Sincerely,
Dan

Dan Beerens
Author and Editor
Nurturing Faith blog

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Did You Know 4.0 – fall 2009 version

Some of you may have enjoyed the previous Did You Know videos . . . well enjoyed is probably not the correct word – let’s see – jolted by them might be more appropriate. They are a helpful visual compilation of the kinds of rapid change happening in our world that has relevance to educators and others.

Here is the latest in the Did You Know series, highlighting media convergence.

In case you missed the first video and remixed versions of that video, the most recent version of the original video is the 3.0 version below.

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Filed under change, discernment, kids/culture, leadership, staff development, uncategorized

Welcome to a new school year!

Congratulations on getting the train rolling down the track again with gathering speed!  We hope your first days and weeks of the new school year have been blessed and joyful as you greet and get acquainted with students and parents.

This marks the beginning of our third year producing this blog that goes out to all CSI member schools and others who have joined the subscription list. As I stated at the outset, the intent of this blog is to focus on the faith nurture of youth (school age through college), to connect people and resources, and to have conversations and share ideas around how to best nurture faith in youth at school, church, home, and life.

As you may have noted, we have had several contributors of content and your contributions are welcomed. Whether you have written some content that others have suggested deserves a broader audience, or simply have an idea for a post, I would love to hear from you. I always welcome your comments on posts to the blog as well.

This year we will be publishing the Nurturing Faith blog on a once every four week schedule, as opposed to a once every two week schedule. This should allow both you and I some time to compose and read the content at a more reasonable rate! However, I may post to the blog on an irregular basis – feel free to check back as you wish. Looking forward to another year of connecting in this way!

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The revolution – moving out of the conventional church

How is the church continuing to change and what impact will this have on the faith development of youth? The latest survey coming out of George Barna’s research organization, The Barna Group, puts additional weight behind his contention that people will not be worshipping via the conventional church in the future and that they are moving to alternative means.

A recent random sample phone survey of 1,005 adults taken by The Barna Group in December 2007 reported the following:

Each of six alternatives was deemed by most adults to be “a complete and biblically valid way for someone who does NOT participate in the services or activities of a conventional church to experience and express their faith in God.” Those alternatives include engaging in faith activities at home, with one’s family (considered acceptable by 89% of adults); being active in a house church (75%); watching a religious television program (69%); listening to a religious radio broadcast (68%); attending a special ministry event, such as a concert or community service activity (68%); and participating in a marketplace ministry (54%).

What does this trend mean for postmodern youth? Should we be concerned about this shift away from conventional church gatherings or be encouraged that perhaps kids (and adults) want to express their faith in more action-oriented ways?

Barna has now taken the revolution a step further. In his latest and controversial new book, Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Christian Practices, coauthored with Frank Viola, he suggests that much of our current institutional practice is not biblical but can be traced back to third- and fourth-century pagan roots. Naturally, this is causing a firestorm within the organized church. Yet some are saying this book is potentially the most important book on spirituality written this century. Since I have not read the book, I can only suggest that you check out reader reviews of the book and consider prayerfully reading it.

If we who value the Reformed faith really believe that we are to be “always reforming,” we certainly need to take a good hard look at this book. Hopefully, it will serve to drive us back to the Word, to the study of history, and to the reexamination of our thinking about church. Perhaps this book, like Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 15:1–20, will help people rethink what is truly biblical in the practices of our church life and what is merely man-made tradition.

We should not be afraid to fully discuss these things with the young people in our care. Hopefully, we will be able to demonstrate a spirit of humility—a “seeing through the glass darkly” attitude—to teens who sometimes are turned off by their perception that we have all the answers. Could it be a helpful exercise for us, together with our students, to investigate a particular church tradition and see how it lines up with Scripture as well as how it has been adapted to reach culture? If we love truth more than tradition and believe the Holy Spirit is guiding believers into all the truth, what have we really got to lose by it?

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Filed under change, church partnering, student outcomes, uncategorized, worship

The real job of mothering – revealed!

Let’s face it – it is not easy being a mother! If you would like a good hearty laugh please take five minutes to watch this video about what a mother really does in the parenting process – hilarious!

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Trinity students visit CSI

Trinity Christian College students and Professor Pete Post visited CSI recently as part of their interim experience. Together we discussed the mission of CSI and considered the question of “Why Christian education?” The students shared learning games ideas that they have been developing as part of the interim class. They hope to have them compiled and available to teachers via the web or in CD format.
Trinity education students are also regular participants in the Nurturing Faith blog. I really appreciate their fresh and honest comments – they are closer to teen years than the rest of us and help to keep us connected and real as we consider nurturing faith in youth.

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A powerful tool for engaging students with the Bible

I recently came across YouVersion.com and realized it was a totally new tool unlike anything I had seen before. I believe it has great potential for engaging our online kids in Bible study and also provides a way for our kids to share their faith with others.

The site claims in an intro message I received after signing up: “Whether you’ve been studying the Bible for years or are simply curious about its claims, YouVersion will allow you to read, share, ask questions, and learn from others in an exciting and interactive new way.”

It has four features (info in italics taken from the YouVersion site):

Discover
Easily find a passage in one of many translations. Search by reference or use the Table of Contents to locate a specific scripture.

Contribute
Share what God’s Spirit is showing you, and read how He is moving in the lives of others. Contribute images, video, text or links to passages, or email something meaningful to a friend.

Reflect
You can journal about what you’re reading, as you’re reading it. And even better, what you write is linked directly to what you are reading so you can easily reference back to those special passages.

Remember
Mark references with tags that make sense to you, and find what you want, when you want. It’s like your own personal concordance. Or you can star anything you’d like to remember.

Here is an informational video and an explanation of how to use the site. (You may need to wait a minute while video loads.)

What is compelling is linking both personal thoughts and visual/text web resources that each have found helpful around certain passages of Scripture. See the video above for a good example of what I mean. I think this could be a great tool for personal use or to encourage students to use. Think of the possibilities for student engagement with the Bible!

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Why or why not to send kids to a Christian school

Obviously you know where I stand on this one!

Here is a good dialogue between Sean McDowell, a Christian school teacher, and Tony Jones, an emerging church pastor on the topic – thanks Jim for sharing this.

If you are looking for other tools to use with parents around making the decision for Christian education, here is another helpful resource.

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Please share this blog!

Time for a progress report and a thank you! We are celebrating the first year anniversary of this blog and are excited by the response to it. We have had over 21,000 views and over 220 comments posted in this past year. Out of the over 500,000 blogs published on Word Press we were listed in the Top 100 Growing Blogs from January through May (then we took summer vacation!) and now again in October – we currently sit in the #52 spot.

As I have stated before, the intended audience for this blog is Christian school educators and church youth workers. If you find this blog helpful, please pass it along to others in school and church. School administrators – please feel free to forward it on to your teachers as well. Thanks for your interest and readership!

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Welcome back!

Today we begin the Nurturing Faith blog again for this new school year. This blog goes out to all CSI administrators and others on a subscription list, such as church youth workers and organizations connected with student faith nurture. Feel free to forward the information about this blog to teachers, church workers and others whom you think may find it valuable. Please feel free to contact us at CSI if you would like to be put on our regular mailing list. Blessings to you on a new school and church year!

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Please share this blog!

Thanks for taking time to view and read this blog over the past couple of months! It was exciting to discover last week that according to Word Press, the hosting site, this Nurturing Faith blog has reached the #25 spot on their top 100 list of “Growing Blogs!” This is out of more than 500,000 blogs that are hosted by Word Press. Thanks for your participation!

Please pass on the information about this blog to those in your school or church community who may enjoy reading it. It is written specifically for those working in Christian schools and churches, so feel free to pass it on to teachers, youth workers, pastors, board members, interested parents, etc. We are all in this together, nurturing the faith of our youth. It is my hope that this blog can be a tool in better understanding each other, sharing ideas, dialoging together, and finding common ground in our work.

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Member Community Center (MCC) now open for members!

As indicated by the CSI logo on this blog, this blog is being written and edited by me for Christian Schools International. The mission of Christian Schools International is to advance and support Christian education throughout the world. One way is through this blog which is open to all interested in nurturing faith, whatever their role – administrator, pastor, parent, interested person, etc.

Another way that CSI will be providing support, discussion, materials, etc. for Christian education is through our newly opened Member Community Center. This Center is open to all member schools and accessible by password. If you are a member of CSI, but didn’t get an email invitation and password, please contact Lydia at lshaw@csionline.org. If you are not a member of CSI but would like to access the Member discussion board and resources, this is possible for a modest annual fee. Please contact Lydia as listed above.

From time to time in blog posts there will be links that connect the reader directly with a particular document in the Member Community Center. These documents will help to provide the context and depth that is not possible in a shorter blog post. Ongoing discussion around the document/concept can then happen on the MCC discussion board on the main administrator page.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

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A word of explanation

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!

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Welcome!

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.

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