More Than Words: Evidence of Mission Accomplished

Kent EzellThe CACE Roundtable2 Comments

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.

Digital documentation

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.

Author

  • Kent Ezell and his wife Reba are the founders of Faith Journey . Faith Journey provides Christian schools with an easy-to-use web and mobile application that captures moments that help shape students’ faith. Students, teachers, and parents are then able to reflect on these experiences. Kent is currently an adjunct professor in the teacher education department at Cornerstone University. He also serves The Potter’s House as the Director of Admissions. He has taught middle school math and Bible and was a school administrator. He and Reba have two children, Carolyn and Joshua.

2 Comments on “More Than Words: Evidence of Mission Accomplished”

  1. My first impression was quite positive, but as I thought about the article, I had a couple of questions about the suggested use of such a journal.

    1. Can accountability be measured by what happens in someone else’s life?
    Accountability to actually do what we proclaim is a worthy goal but justifying our effectiveness by sharing the responses of our students may not best. faithfulness seems to be God’s measure of success rather than specific results in the lives of those we influ1 John 2:28 implies that John wants his disciples to be faithful so that when Christ returns, he won’t be ashamed. However, the prophet’s “success” was measured by his faithfulness, not the responsiveness of his God-given audience (Ezekiel 3:4-11). I’m not sure we need to prove our success to anyone. Although the intent may be good, it can easily become a way of taking a “census” (2 Samuel 24:1) to highlight what we’ve done rather than trusting what God will do.
    2. Can spiritual development be captured and documented?
    The Bible includes a lot of narrative which describes people’s responses to various situations, but it isn’t easy to determine the trajectory of a life from individual incidents. I really enjoy Chronicles because it includes a God’s eye view of the kings. Without the prophets we would have great difficulty sorting out what was happening in a historical record. Because God’s work is never finished, we could quickly jump to conclusions from our limited perspective.
    3. Is a desire to document faith development a reflection of our culture’s obsession with measurement as the only standard for truth?
    We have a responsibility to communicate to the culture in which God has put us, but we need to continually be aware that it is trying to push us into its mold rather than allowing God to transform the culture from the inside of individuals out to the whole community.
    4. Who should be reviewing a “journal” of what is happening in students’ lives?
    Our culture is very concerned about privacy unless an individual “self-reveals.” Sharing what a student has written with the parents of prospective students could be problematic for everyone involved. If they sense that the faith development of their children—which may not be as rapid as they would like—will be revealed to strangers, it isn’t likely to reinforce a sense of security. If students know that their work will be shared with others, what they write will inevitably be shaped for the audience.
    Students could benefit from looking back at how God has been working in their lives. The teacher may be encouraged by progress or motivated to increased prayer and individual involvement by stagnancy or regression. But strangers reading the personal reflections would need, at minimum, specific releases from every student involved.
    5. Would both “success” and “failure” be made available?
    When the school chooses to highlight specific students, they can “prove” almost anything. The Bible’s record of people’s lives includes all sides of their responses to the circumstances God allows in their lives.

    The value of a faith journal for an individual has been confirmed by many people. Remembering the past was repeatedly part of God’s instruction to His people. Looking back at what He has done and tracing His hand in our lives can deepen our confidence in His future faithfulness as well as remind us that we haven’t “arrived” yet. A teacher can helpfully direct the questions that students consider in their journal so that they confront important issues that could easily be ignored. However, it seems to me that using such a journal as a recruiting tool is another thing entirely.

  2. Harold–Thank you for writing your response to my article. I appreciate the dialogue. Hopefully, I can answer a few of your questions and clear up a few misconceptions.

    There are a few different technology options that a Christian school could employ. I can’t speak to all of them, so I will just stick to Faith Journey which is the solution that my wife and I built. The goal of Faith Journey is to provide evidence of how schools are living out their mission. Where I live, there are fantastic moral-based charter schools. Many of my friends who send their children there are pleased that it is safe and that most of the teachers are Christian. One said to me that her children go to a “free” Christian school. Of course, we know that Christian schools are much more than that. Faith Journey captures the elements of what makes the Christian school different.

    Faith Journey’s student albums are not shareable. We put in a lot of effort to making sure that student’s faith footprints are secure. It may look like social media, but they are only fully accessed by the student and the student’s parents. Teachers contribute to a student’s album by capturing how they integrate faith and learning. The teacher only can see what they put in. These faith intersections which we call faith footprints do not assess or grade a student’s faith development, but rather they provide evidence that faith development is happening. This is a distinction that is important to make. Like you, I don’t believe that students’ faith should be accessed, and therefore there are no faith accountability rubrics in Faith Journey.

    Faith Journey’s mission to is to aid parents in their chief responsibility of growing their children to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. The goal is to give students memory aids. The idea of a memory aid is a Biblical one. For example, God asked Joshua after leading the Israelites across the Jordan river to build an alter so that the Israelites will remember God’s faithfulness to them.

    I believe that Satan uses forgetting as one of his tools to bring young people away from having relationship with Jesus. The statistics of young people leaving the faith are alarming. One of the remedies of this problem is Christian schools who are fully living out its mission. Faith Journey is a technology-based memory aid that provides a young people a tool to see God’s goodness throughout their faith formation years.

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