Integrating Your Thinking: A Plan for Growth

If you want to teach your students in a biblically integrated fashion, one of the best things you can do is to work on your own thinking. Yes, it is good to think about how you can deliver content. It is right to work on strategies. It is necessary to plan your course and units. However, it is also crucial to work on yourself; the way you think about your subject will affect how you teach your subject. So what are some doable, affordable, excellent things that you can do to better integrate your own thinking? Here are three steps that I would recommend:

1) Purchase and read a book on your subject from the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition” series. These short, Christian titles on everything from economics and education to science and psychology will help you understand your topic better. (Vern Poythress has authored books on a number of topics like sociology, history, language, and logic as well. These are a bit more technical.) How much will one of these books cost? Most of these books fall in the $12-25 range. 

2) Read the chapter on your subject area in Understanding the Times. It would be great to read the whole book, but reading one chapter will make a difference. This book examines 10 areas of inquiry including things like biology, law, history, and politics. And this book compares how different groups — like Muslims and Marxists — approach and understand these topics. This book can be purchased for less than $30, but many schools have these books on hand. So you could likely read it for free.

3) Read the Bible. This might sound overly basic, but it is not. The more you read the Bible, the better you will understand your topic from and toward the biblical worldview. I bet this will cost you nothing because you likely already own a Bible.

I am bringing this up now because (at my school) the final quarter of the school year just began. We are nearing the end of this year. This is when I want to start planning to be more equipped, more aware, and more skilled in my thinking for next year. If you are like me, you want to be on a trajectory of growth. I want my teaching to be better each year. And I bet you do too! If you do any of these three things, I bet you will grow as an academic disciple-maker. If you do all three, you will grow even more. Let me encourage you to make that investment in your own thinking because that is an investment in your students as well.

Parables for Language Learners and Integration from the Biblical Text

Recently, I’ve been exploring the idea of organizing biblical integration by starting with Scripture itself. Rather than bringing Scripture into the course concepts, I am intrigued by the possibility of bringing concepts out of the Bible itself. Why? Because the culture that forms many of our students is changing.

Even evangelical culture and church-adjacent culture is becoming more and more detached from the Bible, the biblical worldview, and biblical literacy in general. This means the task of integration must change. We must respond to the needs that are presenting themselves. In the past, it may have been easier to focus on applying Scripture to a topic/subject because students had some exposure to and understanding of Scripture. However, that exposure and understanding seems to be becoming more limited and cursory (in many cases). If this is true, academic disciple-makers will have to engage the Bible differently (perhaps more directly) in order to help the students think more biblically. 

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we should be trying to teach our subjects from the Bible. I am saying that we might consider trying to teach about our subjects from the Bible. The Bible is not a textbook for poetry, pre-calculus, or public speaking. But it does have something to say about humans, appreciation, and art. It does have something to say about order, structure, nature, and reality. It does speak clearly about speaking clearly. 

Just to be extra clear: I can’t teach a student to play guitar from the Bible, but I can use the Bible to teach that student about beauty, hard work, and the role of music amongst the people of God. The Bible doesn’t teach music, but it does teach about music. The Bible can’t make a guitarist. But the Bible can shape a musician.

Let’s consider this with a case study on language learning. A super-star Spanish teacher at my school recently asked some questions about this and I thought it might be good to share with a wider audience. Here is where I would start if I were integrating a Spanish 3 class by starting with a biblical text.

The Bible is not a Spanish book. However, it does teach about culture and communication.

In Acts, there are discussions of cross-cultural communication between Jewish and Greek people and ideas. In the Gospels, the parables are great examples of effective cultural understanding mixed with story-telling. And the Sermon in the Mount shows Jesus’ mastery of understanding where people are coming from (“You have heard it said…”) and then speaking thoughtfully into that context (“But I say…”). Perhaps Luke 15 for Spanish Language Learners or The Sermon on the Mount for Cultural Engagement would work well. 

The teacher could have the students take note of Jesus’ understanding of Jewish cultural things (like receiving an inheritance). This could “translate” to the importance of understanding the cultures of those around us (particularly Spanish speakers). Students could learn the vocabulary of the parable/sermon (and potentially some syntax) as well. Additionally, they could have a project where they read/teach the passage to younger kids in Spanish. 

These activities could be great integration opportunities. They could show how Jesus notices and loves those around Him. And they would naturally (not artificially) get students in the biblical text in Spanish. And it would prepare students for real-world experience (like missions trips to Honduras or other local connections with Spanish speakers).

Basically, a structure like this could help Spanish learners learn to love their neighbors and to speak/read Spanish at the same time. This certainly is not the only way to integrate. But I think it could be effective. And I think it might work in many areas. 

As I have said before, this is just an experiment. But it might be a fruitful one. We shall see.

Mark for Worship Leaders and Luke for Historians: Integration Ideas

I am trying something new: working to try to integrate a class by starting with the Bible rather than with the class material. Instead of trying to show how my class material connects with the Bible, I will try to show how the Bible connects with my class. This is a subtle shift, but it may prove significant. We will see. In this post, I will explain why I chose to interact with Mark’s Gospel for my class. And I will discuss how Luke’s Gospel might work well for history classes. Finally, you can see a draft of the first chapter of Mark for Worship Leaders. It’s still a work in progress, but it might help you to think about how you might apply these principles in your class. 

Finding the Right Book for Me

Mark for Worship Leaders makes sense for many reasons, but my primary reasons for choosing to engage with Mark were: 1) Jesus’ description of leadership and 2) Mark’s descriptions of Jesus’ awesome words and ways. Mark 10:42-45 says,

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark’s Gospel naturally, intentionally, and implicitly teaches much about leading like Christ. I want my team to serve like that. We also see Jesus demonstrating his power, wisdom, knowledge, and love. All of these things should press readers toward worship. In other words, it seemed to be a perfect fit for worship leaders. That is why it will likely work well for me and my class. 

Finding the Right Book for You

The Gospel of Mark could certainly be used fruitfully for students of other subjects as well. But in this method of integrating, finding a section of Scripture that is a natural, unforced fit is step one. For example, if I were writing _______ for Historians, Ι would choose Luke. Why? Because Luke was a historian. He spoke with eye-witnesses. He purposefully conveyed particular events and not others. Some scholars make the case that Luke is the preeminent New Testament historian. Walking through his historical account of Jesus would bring important ideas to the front of mind. For example, Luke believes that God is active and involved in history. He believes in the validity, accuracy, and inspiration of the Old Testament scriptures. He carefully and intentionally lays out his presentation of history for the benefit of his readers. And he supports the event of the resurrection with historical details. We also see Jesus’ use of history in Luke. The Lord interacts with Law and Prophets. So, could students in a Christian school benefit from reading through Luke with an eye toward history and historical method? I don’t see how that could be anything but beneficial.

If you teach another subject, what book/section would work well for your subject area? Think about your area in the way that I have thought through worship-leadership and history. What sections of Scripture lead to natural, smooth, unforced engagement with your topic? 

How Does It Look? Here is the first chapter of Mark for Worship Leaders. How does it look to you? Do you think it will work well? Is something missing? Am I approaching something incorrectly? All feedback is helpful. You are investing in my students when you help me make this as good as it can be.

A (Crazy?) Integration Experiment

I am trying something new. I am planning to try to use systematic, careful Bible-reading to accomplish biblical integration in one of my classes next year. Let me explain.

I teach a praise-band class. This is a mix of leadership, music, technology, and theology. I have integrated regularly in a more typical fashion, but I find myself wanting my students to learn how to use the Bible to really think in biblically-integrated ways themselves. I want the Bible to govern all their thinking in every area. So, I am putting together Mark for Worship Leaders to be used in our class. The idea is to walk through the Book of Mark with an eye for specific applications to the work that worship leaders do. I am inclined to think that this could work in any broad area: Exodus for Scientists. Psalms for Writers. Luke for Historians. But I want to try it out for myself in my context. Here are some clarifications as I get started:

  1. I do not believe that the Bible says different things to different people. The Book of Mark is the same Book of Mark for scientists and historians and worship-leaders. But different readers might rightly apply what the Bible says in different ways. 
  2. I do not think that this is how biblical integration must (or even should) always be done. I just want to explore if it can be done well. 
  3. I do think this could be done poorly. Mark for Pet-Store Managers would be too narrow. And Mark for Electric Guitarists would be similarly problematic. It is also possible to force an artificial framework onto the biblical text. Faithful exegesis is still required.
  4. I do not expect this to replace playing music or working on technology, etc. in my class. I want this work in Mark to inform and shape those activities. This will be a tool that I use in class, not as the only part of class.
  5. I do believe that exposing students to the Bible in regular, accessible ways is a good thing in and of itself. And if it illuminates the rest of the class-content in a way that develops biblical understanding, it is a magnificent thing.

So what will this look like here on this site? For the next several weeks, I will be posting sections of my work in Mark for Worship Leaders here. Why? First, I would love to hear feedback from you regarding whether or not you think this is working. And second, I would love to provide you with food for thought so that you might consider, “Hmmm, could I do this in my class?” Could an art teacher put together a systematic reading of Genesis 1-2 about God’s creative work? Could a history teacher look closely at Luke’s historical methods and observations in writing Luke/Acts? Could a math teacher create something for their class from Proverbs’ points about perseverance and doing hard things?

This might broaden the way that teachers and students think about biblical integration. Instead of just trying to integrate courses, lessons, or units (like the American History, solar systems, or Jane Austen), students would be asked to consider subjects in larger/wider ways (like science/discovery as a whole, or storytelling in general).

Or… this might not work at all. That’s why I am calling it an experiment. Look for the first section or Mark for Worship Leaders soon. 

Finding Time for Learning: Integrated IDeas

In the last article, I made the case that teachers must be learners. I encouraged teachers to set goals for making intentional progress. In this article, it is my intention to give some practical advice for how to build habits of learning into a busy life. As a parent, I grasp that school-work isn’t the only kind of busyness that we wrestle with. But many of us have more time to learn than we might think. We just have to know where to look. Below you’ll see a few ideas with some related biblical themes. 

Audio Resources

Audio books, podcasts, and audio Bibles are powerful tools. Why? Because you can learn while you do something else. Do you drive to work? Turn on an intentionally selected audio book. Do you wash dishes or vacuum? Put on some headphones and listen to a podcast on the topic that you’d like to learn more about. Do you walk, run, or do some other form of exercise? You can listen then as well. When our hands and eyes are occupied, we can still learn. I am often able to get between 20 and 40 minutes of Greek study done each workday through listening. I use this time to listen to Bible passages (at a slow speed), to review vocabulary, and to work on other elements of my reading.

Use your time well. Listening might make you a more equipped academic disciple-maker.

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. – Eph 5:15-16

Habit Bunching

If you can attach learning to any regular habit, you can make learning a regular habit. If you eat lunch every day, could you spend the first five minutes of lunch reading a book or watching an educational video? Do you regularly consume media? If so, you could make it a rule that you will not watch a show or log into your social media until you have done ten minutes of intentional learning. Your future self will thank you. (Five minutes per day adds up to over 30 hours in a year. That is three-quarters of a work week.)

Recognize the value of incremental growth over time. 

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. – Prov 6:6-8


Some people find most success when they learn in a group. There is no rule that your learning must be done alone. Could you set up a weekly book-club with a colleague? You could read a chapter per week and discuss it for 15 minutes. Many people could fit in 15 minutes per week. Likewise, you might be able to do something similar with your spouse or roommate. Partnership in God-honoring growth can foster healthy accountability and urgency. 

We are not in this alone. Let’s help each other do good and do well.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Heb 10:23-25


I recently saw one of my legendary fellow-teachers working through a training that she was going to implement and use in her class in the near future. She was learning so that she could teach better. And she had a specific timeline in mind. Her goals weren’t about a fuzzy future; they were about the next week. If you build your lessons so that they require growth and development on your part, you will do what it takes to learn. Building learning into your lesson planning is a great way to ensure progress (just don’t over-do it!). And it is a great way to always be striving to help our students in the best way we can.

When Jesus sent out the Twelve, He told them to go and do what He had taught them to do. They learned from Him and they were not meant to just sit on that knowledge, empowering, or experience. They gave to others what God had given to them. And they gave to advance the kingdom. As we work to advance the kingdom, we want to give our students what God is giving to us.

Use what God gives you to give to others. We grow to help our students grow.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. – Matt 10:5-8

Note: It’s okay if you don’t hit your goal. We are aiming for progress over perfection. I mentioned in the last article that I am trying to spend 400 hours on Greek this year. Is it possible (likely?) that I will only hit 350? Yes. Will that still be good? Yes.

Final note: These are all great ways to learn, but the most important thing to learn is the Word. If you do not currently have a personal, regular time of Bible reading and prayer, consider how you might use the ideas listed about to implement that. If we want our students to grow in Christ, we must model that for them. 

Learning Teachers = Learning Students

We all want our students to grow. We want them to learn. So what do we do? We teach. That is good. Explicit, directed instruction is essential. However, I want to suggest that if we want our students to learn, we must be learners. We must model this for them. And the beginning of a new year is a great time to set some specific goals. 

I have many learning-related goals and I am not going to bore you by listing them all here. But I am going to highlight a few. I hope that my goals will be food-for-thought that helps you create your own goals for your context, situation, available time/energy, and personality.

What one thing will I do this year that will make me better as a teacher in general?

One of my ongoing goals during the past few years has been to become a better teacher of reading. Confident, experienced readers are in a powerful position to continue to learn. Teachers understand the axiom that after learning to read, students read to learn. A bulldozer can dig deeper and faster than a spade. I want my students to have bulldozers for reading. I want them to be able to access, understand, and evaluate content. I want them to be excellent readers.

So, I am investigating “Readers’ Workshop” in more detail this year. And I am trying implement elements of it and experiment with what works best. I have long been a fan of the workshop model, but there are specifics about Readers’ Workshop that I need to learn more about. Specifically, as a Bible teacher, I want my students to increase their abilities to read the Word of God for understanding and application. Students who can’t read well can’t read the Bible well.  

What is one thing that you can do this year to help you improve generally as a teacher? Can I suggest that advancing as a biblical integrator can be a great goal? Think about reading a good book on integration or academic discipleship. Consider working with a partner to talk through your syllabus or course design. 

What one thing will I do this year that will make me better as a teacher in a specific subject area?

I am pressing hard to develop greater proficiency with the biblical languages this year. My biggest goal is to increase my reading proficiency in Greek. As a Bible teacher, it has become increasingly important to me to be able to read the Bible better in the original languages. Since this is a skill, I have designed a system for daily practice. My goal is 400 hours of deliberate practice this year (2022). Thankfully, this goal is not isolated to my teaching. I love reading the Bible. And I love learning about how to do it better. So the 66 minutes of required work each day feels fun to me. Yes, learning/practicing a language is work. But hard work can be fun. This is especially true if it is meaningful personally, tied to vocational goals, and leads to worship.

Now, your goal doesn’t need to take you 400 hours. Four deliberate hours might make a big difference in some areas. But regardless of the time-commitment, you should be growing in a specific subject area. And you should be doing it on purpose. 

What’s your goal for growing in a specific subject area? Maybe it’s reading a biography of a person in that field. Perhaps it’s taking an online training or going to a conference. Maybe it’s getting a new certification. The options are endless.

Let me finish this article with a little-known secret: People often like their work better and are more passionate about doing it well when they are good at it. A learning teacher is often a more satisfied teacher. And a learning teacher is modeling growth to students. And a teacher who sees students growing will be an encouraged teacher. Your learning will help you and your students. So plan it. Organize it. And do it. It will make a difference. 

Biblical Integration Must Be Fully Christian

This might seem obvious, but Christian schooling is about more than just helping students believe in God. James tells us that even the demons believe (Jas 2:19). And, it goes without saying that we are not content with bringing students to the level of demons. Believing in God is not enough. Even being amazed by God is not enough (after all, the demons tremble at God). It comes back to knowing God, trusting God, loving God. It all comes back to the Son.

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:35-36).

Let me encourage you to highlight the Son in your class. Every session of your class does not need a gospel-presentation, but Jesus must be exalted. Teachers may need to work to figure how to highlight Him best, but Colossians 1:15-17 clearly states that everything we teach has been made through Him and is for Him and is sustained by Him:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This is what I mean when I say that biblical integration must be “fully Christian”: our work must turn the eyes and minds of our students toward Christ. He is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). Colossians 1 continues in verse 18:

And [Christ] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In everything He should be seen as supreme. How is Christ’s supremacy demonstrated in your classroom? I understand that it can be daunting to call for teachers to integrate so specifically. But for a school to be Christian, the classes that make up the school must be Christian. And, a class cannot be truly or fully Christian without making much of Christ. 

Would you consider how you might shine the spotlight on Jesus once through your material this week? Just start there: aim for one specific element that highlights the Son. And as you exalt Him in and through your course, I am confident that you will love making much of Him. I am confident that you will want to keep doing it. 

Teaching Students to Think Wisely: Biblical Integration

Time with students is limited. They will graduate. They will move on. And the Christian school strives to make an impact on them before they go. But what mark are we trying to leave? Well, we want them to have necessary knowledge; they need truth. However, they also need the skill of biblical thinking. We don’t want them to leave without the skill of properly weighing all things against the Word of God. We want them to be wise.

Wise choices are godly choices. Therefore, we want our students to learn to think wisely. Proverbs 4:7 makes the priority of wisdom clear, saying, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Therefore, the Christian school’s goal is to help students get wisdom; though it cost all we have, we must give understanding. Dr. Matthew Hall says that the Christian school should “mobilize its curriculum, faculty, and programming to help students develop the skill of thinking critically according to God’s revelation.” In other words, everything the Christian school does should help students become wise. 

We are not primarily invested in what students know, but in how they think. However, the Bible actually makes an amazing connection between knowledge and wisdom: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of both (Prov 1:7, 9:10). Therefore, knowledge and wisdom are bound together. Those who know the truth about God are in position to honor Him with their lives by fearing Him. If wisdom and understanding are worth paying any price, we should give our all to teach our students to fear God. 

If we graduate God-fearers, we are largely successful. I think a large portion of our work may boil down to that. And if I am measuring the efficacy of my teaching, I can ask myself: Are my students trembling at his Word more because of my class? (Isaiah 66:2). Are they growing in fear of the One who can kill the soul rather than those who can only harm the body? (Matt 10:28). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. If I am teaching my students to fear God, I am teaching them to think wisely. In light of this, let me encourage you to consider developing and implementing biblical integration that shows your students God’s glory. Help them to see Him for who He is: worthy of awe and worship. This will equip them to live lives that are worthy of their calling (Eph 4:1). This will help them to think wisely.

Worth the Price: Biblical Integration as Value

People don’t usually mind paying for things. What people dislike is paying too much for things. People who value a fancy phone will choose to fork over $1000 (the equivalent of 750 tacos) in order to have that phone. Often, people will be so eager for the product that they value that they buy that new phone even though their “old” phone is still good. Why? Because they are convinced that it is worth the cost. 

But when people buy a phone, they are not actually buying a phone. No, they are buying fast access to streaming entertainment sources, a variety of communication avenues, social media options, a photo studio, a game system, a status symbol, business solutions, a home remote, and more. People don’t pay for a box made of plastic and glass; they pay for the experience facilitated by that box.

This is true for all high-dollar investments. People don’t pay for flowers for their wedding; they invest in a beautiful environment for their experience. They don’t pay for gasoline on their roadtrip; they invest in gas to get miles and miles of experience.  I don’t buy books for the paper; I buy them for the knowledge, adventure, and wisdom they contain. I buy books for the experience.

Likewise, families who pay for Christian schooling are not paying for seat time and instruction. Instead, those things are a means to an end. It’s not about getting the child into a seat, but getting a biblical, thoughtful, informed worldview into the child. Yes, tuition dollars pay for salaries, insurance, facilities, technology, and a million other things. But these things are just glass and plastic. Just like smartphone-users are paying for what they can experience through their phones, Christian school families are paying for what their kids experience. 

Your work is the crux of that experience. You and your courses are what make Christian schooling unique. Students can sit in desks anywhere. But they can’t get you and your class anywhere. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that you are providing the academic discipleship that these students need. Your biblically-integrated class is the experience. Your teaching and curriculum make Christian schooling worthy of its price tag. What can you do to continue to add value? Smartphones are getting updates and improvements all the time. Our classes should be too. Let me encourage you to add critical updates to your biblical integration. Many families sacrifice to pay for the cost of Christian schooling. Our job isn’t to lower the price, but to raise the value. Remember: people don’t mind paying for things if they know that it is money well spent. 

Explicitly Communicating Your Key Content: Biblical Integration

Biblical integration, like everything else, is more effective when it is communicated effectively. Great integration becomes poor integration when it is communicated poorly. Sometimes it is appropriate for students to discover an integration concept themselves. There are times when they need to mine the material and develop their own critical thinking skills. However, there are other times when the teacher needs to explicitly state a particular concept. Here are a few steps that you can implement to help you to explicitly communicate key integration concepts in your class. I will use an integration-idea from English/Speech class to illustrate.

1. Say it.

The first step in communicating an integration concept is simply to say it. This is obvious, but it needs to be said because (sadly) integration ideas often never make off of the lesson plan. 

English/Speech Example: Words have power (Jas 3).

2. Say it clearly and robustly.

Take your concept and develop it so that it clarifies a concept substantially. This helps to eliminate confusion.

E/S Ex: Words have power to direct our thoughts, attitudes, and actions (Jas 3).

3. Say it memorably. 

Often great teaching is separated from average teaching by active attention to memory. Great teaching sticks, so make your concept sticky.

E/S Ex: Words have power to mold me and my words mold others (Jas 3).

4. Say it with connective tissue.

It is important the student fully grasp how the integration concept is connected to the course. If it is just a biblical fact or idea, it is not integration. 

E/S Ex: Words have power to mold me and my words mold others, so writing and speaking are superpowers that can be used for good or evil (Jas 3).

5. Say it repeatedly. And have the students say it too.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And be sure to put the phrase on your quiz or test. 

E/S Examples: 

True or False: Words have power to mold me and my words mold others, so writing and speaking are superpowers that can be used for good or evil (Jas 3).

Fill in the blank: Words have _______ to mold me and __ words mold others, so writing and speaking are ___________ that can be used for good or evil (Jas 3).

In three sentences, explain the following in your own words: Words have power to mold me and my words mold others, so writing and speaking are superpowers that can be used for good or evil (Jas 3).

If you want to make sure your students know key integration ideas, develop them well. If you follow the steps above, you’ll be on a great track.