This article is part of a series from the writings of Martin Hanscamp, a friend and partner in Christian education. Martin faithfully served Christian Schools and Christian Education National (CEN) in Australia, but passed away in 2020. Michelle Dempsey, CEN’s CEO, set the stage for this series in her introductory post. In her words “If we are going to honor Martin’s legacy, we will need to put Jesus front and center in our lives, our work, and our play.” Enjoy some of CACE’s favorite writings from Martin.
Christians understand and use the Bible in many different ways. It’s important that, as a Christian school community, we have ‘strong and clear’ view of the importance and place of the Bible and a framework for understanding how to use the Bible. Otherwise, every approach and use might be ‘up for grabs,’ causing teacher and student confusion.
The Bible is God’s inspired and living word, revealing God and His plan of redemption for His creation and His people. It is foundational for our worldview, for our curriculum and for the way in which we teacher. As a Christian school community, we:
- Listen to God’s Word to inform our practice,
- Submit to it as ‘the light’ revealing the truth about ourselves and the creation, and
- Lead students in studying the Bible so that it can be understood and foundational in shaping their responses.
It is most important that we understand these three key ways in which the Bible can be sued in the school context.
Firstly, the Bible used devotionally—where God speaks to and encourages or particular group today. In the staff and classroom context, this is likely to be a short 5-10 minute time of listening and responding to the Bible together.
Secondly, the Bible used as a ‘light to our learning path’, or a guide to our learning. This addresses the question as to what perspective the Bible provides for us in relation to the ‘chunk’ of life that we are studying. This is the strategic opening of the Scriptures within our units of work to develop Biblical Perspectives.
These two approaches (above) can only be really effective if our students have or are developing some understanding of the scope, content and context of the Bible- its different genres of literature and how it acts as the revelation of God, ourselves as His image, our cultural mandate, our fallen nature and the way of redemption provided in Christ.
In this, families and churches also have responsiblility in the lives of our students. Experiences has shown us that we need to supplement the efforts of families and churches in this task. It is for this reason that we have engaged in a weekly Bible Study program.
Thirdly, the Bible used ‘as an object of study’, or understanding the whole Bible story. This builds students’ knowledge and understanding of the contents and structure of the Bible and the revelation of God’s dealing with us and God’s plan of redemption. Within our weekly learning plan, this is the ‘Bible Story’ curriculum that is taught systematically throughout all year levels of the school.
Here, we are not called to teach theology, unravel complex mysteries or lecture in ancient history. We are asked simply to tell the story of the Bible in a living way so that our students can empathize with the characters and begin to see that God has an on-going purpose for His people and that we can be part of that.
The weekly Bible study program held in each class has its own timetable period allocated and is usually taken by the class teacher. Each section of the school works to develop an age-appropriate approach to this challenging task.
We’ve used the image of a train ride to describe this ‘whole Bible’ journey. The trip in its totality is travelled five times, but the different journeys stop at different stations.
The intention is that students become quite familiar with the overall Scriptural story. With such an understanding, students will better understand what is meant by developing a biblically- informed perspective for the area of study they’re engaged in.
From Prep through to Year 12, the intention is that the Bible is worked through 5 times, 3 in the Primary School, and once in the Middle and Senior Schools. This ensures that the unfolding salvation history is covered in a historical and story-based approach.
Martin Hanscamp was a Christian school teacher, principal, and Executive Officer for the Australian Association of Christian Schools. Martin spent many evenings behind the keyboard writing about Christian education and what it means for the life of the Christian school.