What is Christian education? Or rather, what makes it different?
Is it about smaller class sizes, better behaved kids, more supportive parents? Does the difference simply lie in the fact that there’s a Bible class and that we open the day with prayer? Or is there more to it than that?
While there are many facets to a Christian education and many traits that make it unique, I believe the ultimate goal of a Christian school can be summed up in one word: discipleship.
Discipleship mean to make disciples….. to help students become genuine followers of Christ. For some, that journey is yet to begin & they need salvation. Others who already have a relationship with Christ need guidance, direction, discipline, and to be taught a Biblical worldview.
Discipleship doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process that needs to happens day by day if it’s going to be effective. It’s made up of a thousand little moments that come together to produce powerful change in students’ hearts and lives.
As we think about discipleship in the Christian school and how exactly we can accomplish this vital goal, we realize it’s not something we can just add on to everything else we already do. Not only is there no extra time, but it’s simply not going to work if we try to tack it on. Instead, discipleship needs to be integrated into every aspect of the day – to become so integral that we cannot even separate it if we wanted to.
So to help us think in this direction, let’s examine 9 key aspects to see how we should approach them if we want to produce powerful discipleship in our Christian school.
To Produce Powerful Discipleship, We Must Examine Our…..
Central truth: Discipline issues are great opportunities for discipleship.
Instead of viewing big discipline problems as just that – problems, we need to start viewing them as opportunities to help & guide students. When we yell at students or overreact, we ruin our opportunity as they will likely tune out everything else we have to say. Instead, we should seek first to understand what the student is thinking by asking questions and listening. Then, using what we have learned we must speak the truth in love, counseling from Scripture as applicable.
A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
Central truth: The rapport we build opens doors for discipleship.
You’ve all heard the saying: Students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And it’s so true. So we need to be intentional about building rapport and establishing relationships with students, as that will open the door for effective discipleship down the road. So love your students and show them you care. Be both kind AND firm. Be their mentor but not their friend. Be humble and real, and admit when you’re wrong. And, most importantly, give extra effort with the students who are the most challenging – they’re the ones with whom you need rapport them most.
- Spiritual Walk
Central truth: The only way to make a real impact is to be led by the Spirit.
If we teach in our own strength, we will help some kids, but we will have nowhere near the impact we could if we let Him work through us. Instead, we must build our own relationship with God by spending time with Him in prayer & reading His Word. We must learn to listen to His Spirit, asking God for direction and waiting for an answer. And this won’t happen by chance. We have to schedule this time into our day or it won’t happen.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! – Luke 11:13
- Classroom management
Central truth: Without order, little learning or discipleship can take place.
Our classroom management should create an environment that fosters learning and growth. If you’re struggling in this area, ask for help or grab my free classroom management minicourse here.
One aspect of classroom management that I think can be challenging for Christian teachers is finding a Biblical balance between mercy and consistency. We need to care more about our students than our policies, but we can’t use mercy as an excuse to do nothing. It helps me to remember that God established the law before He established grace, and that pattern certainly seems to make sense. So establish high expectations, then listen to the Spirit to know when to give mercy.
Go Deeper: “Should Teachers Give Grace in the Classroom?“
Central truth: Students learn more by what we DO than what we SAY.
If we want to disciple our students, we must first be examples of true Christianity. We must be people of integrity, which means being honest, morally upright, sincere, truthful, and trustworthy. Our faith MUST be real and genuine, all about our relationship with God and our adherence to God’s Word, not arbitrary standards. And above all, we must be humble.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6
- Partnership with parents
Central truth: God has given parents the primary responsibility for their children’s discipleship; we are partners with them in this process.
As Christian teachers, we must remember that God has given parents (not us) the primary responsibility for their children. Because of this, we should keep the responsibility with the parents as much as possible. In our conversations with them, we should be seeking to partner with them, realizing we all want the same thing – for their student to learn and grow. In all our interactions, we must remember the Golden Rule, treating parents how we would want to be treated and providing excellent customer service.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deut. 6:6-9
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. – Luke 6:31
Central truth: Leaders who think Biblically can change the world (and we can teach them how to do just that).
Strong academics are critical not just for their own sake but also because we need Christians who are equipped to be leaders in different spheres of influence. God’s truths should impact everything we teach, and we must teach our students to discern truth from error by teaching them how to think Biblically. Critical thinking skills combined with a strong knowledge of Scripture will help students know how to discern and reject deception.
Central truth: If you want to be effective, you must take time to sharpen the saw.
Steven Corey gives the example of woodsmen working to saw down a tree. One works tirelessly, determined to finish as soon as possible. But the other pauses to sharpen his saw before resuming the work. Which one do you think actually finished first?
As teachers, it’s easy to run ourselves ragged, thinking we are giving our best. But the truth is that we need to pause and take care of ourselves so that we have the energy and strength to give more fully to our students. We must plan and schedule time to rest, exercise, eat well, spend time with God, pray, connect with others, and grow professionally.
Go Deeper: Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek
Central truth: When we work together, we make a bigger impact in our students’ lives.
Synergy means that the combined effect of everyone working together is greater than the sum of each person’s individual efforts. This is especially true amongst the faculty and staff of a Christian school. Teachers and administration must work together, not in competition with each other. Think win-win, and if you have a disagreement with someone, go to them first instead of talking about it with everyone else. Work to make your teacher’s lounge a refreshing haven, a place to share & exchange ideas and to encourage each other, not to complain or criticize. Encourage each other, ask each other for advice. And veterans, be intentional about mentoring the newer teachers in your school.
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ – Matt. 18:15-16
Go Deeper: “How to Resolve Conflict by Thinking Win-Win“
I'd love to help you discover how to implement each of these truths in your classroom & school. Join me in Teach for Eternity & we'll walk through each of them together.
See you there!