Cultivating a Thriving Christian School Series:
Addressing major components for institutional health in Christian schools
Dr. Roger C. S. Erdvig
If I could spend time with every Christian school teacher, there is one question I would want to ask: How are you immersing your students in a biblical worldview?
Biblical worldview immersion should be the distinguishing mark of every Christian school, especially when you consider the promises we make to our families. Many Christian school websites promise that “We teach from a biblical worldview perspective,” or “Our graduates leave ABC school with a strong biblical worldview.” These promises require a unique approach to education. Just like full immersion is the best way to learn a language, immersion in a biblical worldview is the best way to nurture worldview development in our students.
The power of biblical worldview immersion has been shown to promote transformational learning in its two-fold focus: modeling and an immersive environment. Instead of only thinking about how we can wed biblical content to our lesson plans, we should be considering how we can: 1) develop our own worldview and 2) create environments in our classrooms that are saturated with biblical worldview experiences.
It Starts With Us
You may be surprised at how many Christian school teachers do not have a well-developed biblical worldview. Of course, they are fine Christian individuals who love the Lord, but many are not aware of their worldview and how it shapes their ministry as a teacher. There have been many times when I’ve sent veteran teachers to biblical worldview conferences, and they come back amazed. They discover that God has much to say about their subject area and that Scripture is an overarching narrative that provides meaning to all of life. While I’m always thrilled to hear of these kinds of ah-ha moments, it concerns me that these are the teachers on whom we’re counting to develop a biblical worldview in our students.
If we are going to pass on a biblical worldview to our students, we need to be actively developing our own worldview first. Biblical worldview development doesn’t happen by accident, though. It is the result of an intensive effort to: 1) understand how our upbringing impacts how we interpret and interact with the world; 2) think deeply and regularly about our worldview; 3) process life experiences through reflection, prayer, and other disciplines; 4) seek new experiences that both support and challenge our worldview; and 5) cultivate a healthy and balanced lifestyle. When we as teachers focus on these action steps, we will develop our worldview. But that’s only part of helping our students develop theirs.
Creating Biblical Worldview Immersive Classrooms
In his book On Christian Teaching, Dr. David Smith suggests a new metaphor for the Christian school classroom: the pedagogium.1 A pedagogium is the name for the place in the Middle Ages where students would live with a master teacher in an immersive learning environment. I’m not suggesting that your students rent rooms from you in your home. But, I am suggesting that you consider your classroom to be a place where you get to live and learn with your students—an environment that is saturated with the good and glorious rule of God, where He shapes our thoughts, desires, and actions.
Several years ago, I conducted research with an amazing group of Christian young adults to develop a model for how a biblical worldview develops in individuals. I found that young adults who have a strong biblical worldview were very aware of their worldview, were committed to processing their life experiences through the lens of Scripture, and were very intentional about developing a biblical worldview. Working backward from these characteristics, we can structure our classrooms for optimal worldview development.
Creating a biblical worldview pedagogium requires several teaching commitments, all of which are aligned with how a worldview develops. First, we must offer practical guidance in helping our students to desire the Kingdom of God. We can do this through the habits we cultivate in our students by introducing our students to godly role models and careful interactions with individuals and ideas that are not aligned with a biblical worldview. Second, we must provide many opportunities to practice reflective disciplines that enable students to process their experiences. Unfortunately, presenting content comes easy for us as teachers, and so we often don’t think about helping our students process what they learn and experience.
Next, since living out a biblical worldview is a hands-on endeavor, we should always seek to use engaging learning experiences. Research consistently suggests that when kids are maximally engaged, learning is maximized, whether it is simple activities like “pair and share” or major service-learning projects. Finally, we need to consistently give our students experiences with the truth claims of a biblical worldview along with plenty of encouragement and opportunity to apply a biblical worldview to the challenges that a fallen world presents to us.
Making It Real
To help students apply a biblical worldview to real-life stations, I like to ask them four questions. Adapted from John Stonestreet and Warren Cole Smith, these questions help students see their worldview as something that motivates godly action.2 The first question is: What is good that I can cultivate? Even though we exist in a fallen world, there’s still plenty of good that can be improved. Good families can get better, athletes can become more skilled, and relationships can always be enriched. When a person sees what is positive and builds on that, he or she is living out a biblical worldview by cultivating goodness.
The second question is: What is missing that I can create? As God’s image-bearers, we create things. Whether it’s creating music, an essay, or a student senate activity, we’re finding areas where something is missing and bringing goodness to those areas.
The third applied worldview question is: What is broken that I can cure? We don’t have to look very far to find things that are broken, and an individual with a biblical worldview will help bring wholeness to such situations.
The final question is: What is evil that I can curb? God uses His people to slow the spread of evil by standing up for truth, defending the oppressed, and confronting wrongdoing. Consistently asking these questions helps keep a biblical worldview alive and connected to real life.
Christian schools make some great promises to families. If we intend to deliver on those promises, we need to give careful attention to our own biblical worldview development and to shaping classroom environments that give students experience in living, breathing, and having their being immersed in a biblical worldview.
Read more about integrating biblical worldview in Beyond Biblical Integration: Immersing You and Your Students in a Biblical Worldview available at shop.renewanation.org.
Roger C. S. Erdvig is the author of Beyond Biblical Integration: Immersing You and Your Students in a Biblical Worldview and co-author of Bring it to Life: Christian Education and the Transformative Power of Service-Learning. He leads a PreK-12 Christian school in Delaware and teaches qualitative research methods to doctoral students. Roger is married to Lori, who is a third-grade teacher, and they have five children and two grandchildren.
1. David Smith, On Christian Teaching: Practicing Faith in the Classroom (Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans, 2018).
2. John Stonestreet and Warren Smith, Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World through Everyday People (Michigan: Baker Books, 2015).