Administrators know the situation. The phone rings, and it is a family feeling disenfranchised at their current school. With social justice issues and COVID concerns, many parents are looking at options. Having their child change schools is a big deal. They would be leaving friends and their known community. The parents want to know what is different at your school. They are attracted to the idea that Christian schools are safe and that their children will have Bible lessons and prayer at school.
We all know that Christian education is so much more than these elements. Your job as a school leader is to educate families about what Christian schools are really about. You tell them that a Christian school is more than just having Bible class. You tell them that while a Christian school does include chapels, classroom devotions, and being with other Christian kids, it is so much more. It is about Christian teachers integrating their faith into lessons from a Christian perspective. You explain that all lessons are taught with a Christ-centered worldview.
The dad is taken back a little. This is not exactly what he was expecting. He asks, “What does that look like?” He asks you to provide evidence of how the school will impact his son’s faith. He wants to know what makes you different from the local public school.
The scenario above is not unusual. More and more families are considering Christian schools. However, they may not have a clear understanding of what a Christian school is. As an administrator, it is easy to show test scores indicating academic progress, but how do we know and show that faith is truly being developed in each child? Do we have evidence to show that all students are learning and growing in their faith?
Evidence of faith integration
Over the years, schools have tried to capture evidence of faith integrations. Many schools have students write a faith statement at the end of each year and create a portfolio to collect these from year to year. But what about the faith integration happening on a regular basis, day to day?
Administrators and boards spend a lot of time crafting mission statements that reflect their desire to produce children who are living with a Christ-centered worldview. These schools are trying to nurture children who are impacting the world for Jesus now and in their futures. How is this mission being lived out in the classrooms? What is the evidence that students are making faith connections in their lessons?
One way to measure or provide evidence is by collecting examples of Christ-centered lesson outcomes for all children. These outcomes become a barometer for the leader to assess the effectiveness of the school.
There are many good examples of Christ-centered outcomes. For example, a middle school literature teacher could do a think-pair-share activity on what it means to “thank God in all circumstances.” The class has been reading the book The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. This autobiographical book recalls how two sisters hid Jews in their home in the Netherlands and were eventually caught by the Nazis and brought to a concentration camp. In one chapter, Betsy tells Corrie to thank God for the fleas in their barracks. Corrie protests. The reader finds out later that it was the fleas that kept the Nazi guards out of the barracks . . . the same barracks where Betsy and Corrie led many people to know Jesus.
Considering this real-life example, the students would think for themselves on what it means to give thanks in all circumstances, then share their thoughts with a partner, followed by sharing with the entire class. The teacher would then have students write a reflection on this biblical teaching. These student reflections become evidence of a Christ-centered outcome.
A third-grade class writing lesson could be about what makes each student special. Students could brainstorm why they are unique or what special gifts or talents God gave them. This kind of assignment is important because the world is constantly telling our students to conform or to change who they are. A Christ-centered worldview would focus on who God made them to be. The teacher could have them work on their paragraph writing skills by writing a paragraph on three God-given attributes that make them unique.
Because of technology, it is easier to document evidence of faith formation for each child. My wife and I started a company called Faith Journey to help digitally capture Christ-centered lesson outcomes. The program allows students to regularly document and reflect on their faith journey. Google Docs and Evernote are other technology solutions that could be used for this purpose. As you meet with parents considering Christian education for the first time, wouldn’t it be great to be able to pull up a digital album demonstrating how their son or daughter could grow in faith at your school? The parents would be able to see firsthand the value of Christian education. They would see examples of how faith was integrated in science, literature, social studies, and other areas throughout the school year. This kind of evidence translates the school’s mission from words on a page to a visual representation of mission accomplished.