christian education

The (Rudderless) Boat

A friend recently sent me a song that he had written about education – partly his own education 50 odd years ago but more pointedly also about education today. The reality is that today education is even more perilous because it has moved into a post-modern era where the present social views are determined by numbers and political correctness rather than an objective norm e.g. a Judaeo Christian ethic. The song refers to this as a “rudderless boat”.

mousehole

Mousehole Cornwall UK

Currently in our state this has come to a head under the guise of “Safe Schools”. On the surface this is a noble idea. Our children need to be safe from predators and bullying – every one of them. Yet within the program there is also (not too subtle) social engineering about sexuality – an engineering that is shaped by the latest (most vocal) views.

Another phrase in the song that struck me was, “the system can’t tell me what all this is for.” The implication is that so many ideas have been compressed into what has become an overcrowded education/curriculum which, I believe, is striving to compensate for a chaotic social fabric. The result is that we have lost sight of, or have become unsure of, the purposes of education because there are just so many competing ideas in this can of worms.

The school in which I teach states in its Vision Statement “[Our] College strives to be a vibrant Christ-Centred community where parents and teachers serve in partnership to nurture in each child a passion for learning and an uncompromising desire to live according to God’s word.”

Three things stand out in contrast to much of our current education in this statement. One, education is the equipping of a child to love God and their neighbour, two, this is on a foundation not created by our own whims but one that is distilled from the Word of God and three, this is surrounded by a community shaped by a common ethos.

My friend’s song also asks, where will the current societal trends in education lead us? It is a question that disturbs me too and for which the only answer I have is, more chaos.

 

 

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Unlocking and Enabling

Nothing thrills an English teacher more than seeing students become excited about words.

Recently a poet visited the school and held a workshop with a group of students. I sat at the back of the room and observed the class. Cameron, the poet, slowly removed the restraints on the students’ imagination through a variety of sensing and imagining exercises and then they wrote, explored, refined and developed their ideas.

The results were astounding. Some of the students, usually retiring and shy, read their marvelous poems and received praise from their fellow students.

What impressed me was the depth and complexity of thought that some of these poems revealed: reflections on life, living and creation that went beyond the mundane. It reminded me again of the teacher’s task to “unlock” and “enable” – to unlock the talents that that are there and to pass on the skills that enable the those gifts and talents to be developed.

It is humbling to watch a good teacher applying their skills and it is exhilarating to see the results.

 

Categories: christian education, Education, poetry, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

A Desire for Justice

Over the last two weeks while studying Anh Do’s book “The Happiest Refugee” we have also been looking at two TED clips on the refugee crisis in Europe. One talk reflected on the sinking of a refugee boat with 500 people from which only a handful of people survived. The second talk outlined the story of two young men who tried to swim the English channel starting at Dunkirk. Sadly, one body was found on the coast of Norway and the other on the coast of Holland.

refugees-are-human-beings

source: forbes.com

The students have been discussing the book and these two talks as a preparation to write a series of blogs. I have had the privilege of sitting back and listening to the class because a student teacher has been leading the discussions. While listening in I have been impressed  and encouraged by a number of things:

  1. Overwhelmingly the students are incensed at the injustice and inhumanity of this crisis. I am impressed because they have not been inured to the relentless bad news that the world springs on them everyday. They realise that the numbers have names and those names have families and other loved ones who are connected with them.
  2. The students are also eager to look for solutions. They don’t just throw their hands up helplessly. Within the complex issues there is always a desire to seek answers.
  3. I have been impressed with the passion. Young people are often accused of being narcissistic and self obsessed. I have seen nothing of this.  In fact I see more of this in our politicians and political commentators than in the  young people in front of me.
  4. Even though the young people are proud to be Australian they are not blind to its weaknesses.
  5. The aspect of the discussions that have pleased me most has been the underlying question: “What does Jesus want us to do?” For a number of students this is the fundamental guiding principle.

So, despite the confusion found in our era and the perceived watering down of values the young people in front of me give me immense hope.

 

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Preparing Christian Young People for the Future

As a homeroom teacher who has a group of students for three years from year 10 to year 12, one of the topics that constantly exercises my heart and mind is, how do I prepare my students for the rapidly changing future?  After taking the roll and making the daily announcements, what do they need to hear from me that will assist them, not just for a school day – but for eternity?  I would love to hear from other Christian teachers.

I have a few basics:

The Bible needs to be a constant reference, and prayer is essential. My own example is important because if I don’t walk the talk then anything I say is made void. But that is just the beginning.

Picture 566The anchor must be a regular and ongoing reference to Scripture and its overarching story of redemption with coming of the king and his promised return to fulfill his kingdom plans. This vision of a place in the Kingdom, I believe, must underpin everything I say and do.  It is the foundation.  Regular communication with this personal God is the next layer.  However, the next step is crucial. How do these two underpinnings apply on an ongoing daily basis as these young people prepare for their future? This future, as every adult knows, will have twists and turns, pains and joys – incredible highs but also incredible lows.

Recently we have been exploring the lives of Christians in predominantly non -Christian and often persecuted cultures.  Our children need to know that in the history of the church, Christianity has not always been part of the dominant culture. In fact it has been at its best when marginalised and persecuted. The history of God’s people from OT Exile through to the early church and beyond has revealed the amazing story of God and his kingdom, in the darkest of times. Not knowing the future, my students still need to know that a personal God has his children’s future in His hand.

My students also need to know how the story ends. There isn’t any doubt where the victory lies and who has the victory.  But in the meantime there is work to do as we prepare for the return of the King.

Year 10 students are by their very nature idealistic.  This idealism is a wonderful trait as it can enable them to develop Christlike eyes for the world.  How does Jesus look at injustice, asylum seekers, the poor distribution of resources, persecution, pain suffering and … so on. A year 10 student doesn’t have that hardened adult cynicism but rather looks for the possibilities – possibilities we need to encourage and not stifle.

Our students need to have a vision of hope. In a materialistic and often hopeless or directionless world I need to pick out perspectives of hope: hope for their own heart and lives, hope for the possibilites as they serve their God, and hope for change that is empowered by God himself – change in themselves, others and the world in which they live.

I would love to hear what other Christian teachers do to encourage their students vision for the future – a future that is anchored outside themselves in the God who reveals himself in creation and especially, Scripture.

Categories: Children, christian, christian education, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

The Lure of the Occult

St Michael's Victory over the Devil, a sculpture by Sir Jacob Epstein

St Michael’s Victory over the Devil,  by Sir Jacob Epstein

I remember back in my high school days, last century, that every now and then an occultic fad would pass by: Ouija boards, seances and even palm and tea leaf reading. People have this “spiritual” itch that they want to scratch with these practices.

There is an excitement about dabbling covertly in these unknown realms. Many people have done it from Arthur Conan Doyle (who seemed so logical in his Sherlock Holmes stories!) through to the notorious Rasputin plus many, many more.  Every age seems to have its own versions and own followers. The latest incarnation is a game called Charlie Charlie.  The interweb has made the progress of this and other modern fads more immediate. A few days ago the SMH reflected on the speed at which Charlie Charlie had progressed.

Now it is easy to say that most people who engage in these facile games are not impacted for the long term.  But why does Scripture exhort us to steer clear of these activities? In Ephesians 6: 11 & 12 Paul reminds us to equip ourselves with the full armour of God: Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In other words, there is a realm of existence about which we not only need to be very wary but we also need to consciously protect ourselves. And if we don’t dabble in it we don’t have to be fearful either and the child of God will be protected.  Second Thessalonians 2 reminds us of the “lawless one” whose aim it is to encourage us to serve the lie – that is Satan.

When we read the Old Testament we also find many frightening passages which literally damn these practices as they are in direct contravention of the first four commandments.  God doesn’t mince His words when He speaks of divination, sorcery and its practitioners.

As parents and teachers we need to be sensitive and aware of this discussion.  Some young people may be just playing a foolish game, for others however, there may be a real spiritual longing – one that we could tap into and nurture in healthy directions. An added concern is the alarming prospect that there may be those for whom these games act like a gateway drug and introduce them to more worrying and even more sinister activities.

Whatever the situation, this latest fad is a clear reminder to be vigilant and to protect, educate and nurture those in our care or sphere of influence in ways that enhance and protect their spiritual and eternal welfare.

Here are a few helpful resources on the Web:

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-occult.html

http://studentsoul.intervarsity.org/occult

This has a useful list of texts further down the page.

http://www.gospelway.com/religiousgroups/witchcraft.php

 

Categories: christian, christian education, Christianity | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Jesus Unicorn

Today my wife, Hetty, is presenting a guest blog on the topic of children and worship.

Jesus Unicorn

Courtesy Google  images

Courtesy Google images

A young girl was given a notebook and some colouring pencils and pens while she sat in the pew with her family.  After a few weeks, her parents suggested that she listen to the sermon while she drew. By the end of the sermon she had drawn some pictures of a unicorn with the words ‘Jesus Unicorn’ above them.  Her parents were amused.
 
Some questions:
 
  • What did her parents believe children should be doing in a worship service?
  • Did they give her any guidance about what she could do with the writing and drawing materials?
  • What was the underlying message the child got concerning how she should behave in the worship service and from her parents’ subsequent suggestion?
 
Some ideas:
 
If you were her parents, how might you encourage her to participate in the worship service?
How would you begin a discussion with this child about ‘Jesus Unicorn’ which could lead her to a fuller experience of worship?
 
Paper and pencils are fine to keep a child’s hands busy, to keep a child quiet, and even as a stepping stone to taking notes of the sermon but it should never stop there.
Children can draw the stories they hear (and they should be hearing God’s stories, not just theological concepts) or their feelings. There should be a clear understanding of when they can draw/write and when they should be participating in the singing, praying, etc.  Parents should follow up with the child later. It may help if the parents also occasionally used paper and pencils during the sermon, and the family shared their pictures afterwards.
 
A warning:
 
Be careful not to let this become another kind of ‘school’ activity.
Help the child to use the writing and drawing, as well as the words they’re hearing and the images they’re seeing, as a way to explore their understanding of God, and the worship of Him.
 
 
Hetty Stok
Categories: Child Theology, Children, christian, christian education, Christianity, Church, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Reports, Graduations and Thanksgiving

It is that time of year again.  The general populace is thinking of Christmas but teachers are busily finishing off reports and reflecting on creative ways of telling the truth without engendering the wrath of protective parents.  Do I write, “Johnny is an enthusiastic student whose energy knows no bounds” or “Johnny is uncontrollable and has no sense or discipline or self-control”?  Do I write, “Mary is unmotivated“ or “Mary reflects all the sloth of her parents”?  Um, I wonder?

Before the report writing there was the marking.   Exams, essays and other pieces that would provide evidence for the reports, all had to be assessed.  Writing and meaning had to be deciphered.  By this stage of the year the shoulders are hunched, the eyes bleary and the footstep slow.

The Thanksgiving and Graduation evening is special.  Students who have worked hard and achieved highly are acknowledged.  My favourite awards are for students who have worked hard and progressed but have not necessarily achieved high marks but need to be encouraged for their effort.  Also students graduate from one section of the school and move to the next and the Year 12 students are acknowledged as they leave the College.  This year, after being, homeroom teacher to the same group of students for the last three years I have that nagging parental conflict of hope and fear, and excitement and trepidation as another group of Year 12 students step out into the next stage of their lives.  May God go before them.

And then, next year, I can start all over again …

Categories: christian education, Education | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Values and Discrimination

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Tossed to and fro …

There is an election coming up in my state and one of the issues that has arisen is the possibility that some of the elements of the Discrimination Act which allows Christian Schools to employ only Christian staff will be removed.

For our school, which was set up by a group of Christian parents to support each other in the task of nurturing their children in the Lord, this is a serious issue. Not just our teaching staff but also the ancillary staff (administration, cleaners, bus drivers, aides) are seen as part of that process in a Christian community.  As with any community, this side of heaven, it is not perfect but our aim is to use Christian principles and values to guide and lead us through the vagaries of life.

I have to confess that I tend to become annoyed having to fight these battles on a continuing basis. Christians seem to have to justify themselves daily. I say to myself, why can’t other people see how obvious and consistent this thinking is even if they don’t agree?  However, on calmer reflection I realise that the majority of people, including Christians, live lives based on a higgledy piggledy set of values which are often in conflict and not consistent. So why should governments be sympathetic to our values when we treat them with intermittent disdain anyway?

So for me, the challenge is not (just) about standing up against society’s attacks upon my Christian values and principles but it is more about me living out my Christian worldview consistently so that my life and decisions are a reflection of a Biblical undersdtanding. Every time I am hypocritical, judgemental or shallow, I give people around me ammunition to suggest that the Christian faith is not the radical change of heart and life that Jesus and Bible claim it to be.

My consistency and that of the Christian community to a gospel life style should be the first line of defence against assaults on Christian values and principles.

Categories: christian, christian education, community | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Is it that time again?

It is that time of year again when I have to farewell another group of Year 12 students going out into the world.  It never gets easier. In fact it gets harder. This made me think, why is becoming more difficult to say good-bye?

One reason maybe my age.  I have now encountered many of the pains, frustrations and sorrows that life can throw at us and I know that these enthusiastic students will encounter them too – possibly worse – a lot worse.

However, I think it has more to do with my unease with our culture and the changes I have witnessed over the last 60 odd years.  Not all the changes have been bad. The improved status of women and the greater openness about sexual assault are just two areas where we have learned somewhat.  Yet the decline of Christianity in Western countries, the even greater commodification of sex, the loss of childhood and innocence, and the decline(in my view) of idealism are just some of the concerns I have.

sunrise newThey are some of the reasons for my “dis -ease”. But there are positives to this.  It is becoming harder for Christians to sit on the fence and be nominal. To live a life of faith is requiring a greater sense of radical lifestyle.  This in turn will mean that there will be more opportunities to make a difference.

So once again, I wish my students God’s richest blessing and urge them to hold on to Christ with a God inspired passion.

Categories: christian, christian education, Christianity, Faith | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Helping Our Children Grow in Faith – a review

keeleyOver the years I have become reticent about recommending books as I have discovered that books often resonate with a person because of the time and place they are in individually. However, I will overcome my reluctance and challenge Christian parents, teachers and Children’s ministry workers to read “Helping Our Children Grow in Faith” by Robert J. Keeley (Baker Books 2008).

Essentially Keeley unpacks 6 principles that he believes (and I concur) are important in nurturing faith in children.

  • Children need to be nurtured in their faith by the whole community of faith, not just parents.
  • Children need to be part of the whole life of the church.
  • Children need to know that God is mysterious.
  • Bible stories are the key to helping children know a God who is mysterious and who knows them for who they are.
  • Faith and moral development are both important but they are not the same thing.
  • Children should be part of congregational worship and they should have opportunities to experience developmentally appropriate worship.

Not only are these 6 points beautifully unwrapped but a lot of the incidental teaching along the way is very valuable too. For example, when discussing the power of story, he touches on the danger of simply attaching morals to Bible stories. He suggests that if we simply connect a story to a moral (“Dare to be a Daniel or David” – my examples) we prevent children pondering what God may be teaching them.

He also reflects on a passion of mine: children in worship. He says, “For children to have the kind of faith we want them to have, they need to be part of the worship experience.” Here I would like to have seen, at least, a mention of the impact that children have on the faith of adults as they can inspire us with their naïve simplicity.

Overall, an excellent book that is worth reading, re-reading and discussing with family, colleagues and congregation so that we can all assist in the nurturing of that all import faith in the most vulnerable in our families, schools and churches.

Categories: Book Review, Child Theology, Children, christian, christian education, Christianity, Church | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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