Enjoying Your Calling: Biblical Integration

Christian school teachers are on a mission — a beautiful, powerful mission. We don’t just make lesson plans, grade homework, or engage with challenging students. Yes, we do those things, but they are all part of something bigger: academic discipleship. 

When we are involved in our work, we are also involved in God’s work. We are pointing students toward truth and wisdom. We are teaching them to see and stand in awe of the God who made and ordered this world, designed us with all of our unique gifts and talents, and who has given us the ability to learn and love Him. This is hard work. But we must not forget that it is also wonderful, meaningful work. As Solomon said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings,’ (Prov 25:2). 

I wanted to share this message with you in the middle of summer because good work can still be draining. The job that we do is hard. I was tired after the past school year. But after stepping back from school work during June, my excitement for next year is budding and blooming. Breaks are good. They can let us catch our breath. And they can help us take a moment to remember why we really do what we do.

So let me remind you of something obvious and essential: You are not involved in Christian schooling for the paycheck. You are not invested in Christian schooling because you want to stay busy. You are not engaged with Christian schooling because no other options panned out. Yes, you likely need to get paid, want to stay busy, and want to make the best use of your gifts. But the core reason that you are teaching, administrating, organizing, or supporting educational ministry is because 1) God has made his glory known in the universe that He has made, and 2) Every person is made to be satisfied by God alone. The ministry of academic discipleship — your job — brings these two things together. This means that you are not employed in a boring, 180-day-long work of rote teaching. Instead, you are deployed on an exciting, 180-day-short mission of life-giving exploration and discovery. 

So take a little time to remember the truth about your work. God has called you. Your effort matters. You are a tool in the hand of the Almighty. You have been given the gift of walking with students and pointing out the glory of God at every turn. Remember those things, rejoice and enjoy. God is with you. God will use you. Smile because He has called you to highlight his glory amongst eternal souls made in his image. 

And as you begin to open your syllabus, unit plans, and other materials for the upcoming year, plan to enjoy that you are not just teaching math, English, art, or gym —- you are teaching Him. What a gift!

Example is Key in Biblical Integration

We have a monumental responsibility as Christian teachers leading Christian students. Now, I am sensitive to the reality that many of the students that attend Christian schools are not followers of Christ. But some are. And just as we have the responsibility to point the lost to Christ, we have the responsibility to point the believers to an accurate picture of a life of follow-ship. Luke 6:39-42 speaks to this topic:

[Jesus] also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

There are a few principles that must stand out to the biblical integrator here. 1) Who we are influences who our students will be. 2) It is foolish to call students to a life that we are not living. 3) Disciplining ourselves keeps us from hypocrisy. 4) Hypocritical teachers lead students (and themselves) to fall into a pit.

My school’s Policy and Procedure Manual contains a great statement about the high school’s curricular goals. It says, “Training in worship, in righteousness, and in ministry is not considered ‘extra’ curricular… Rather worship, training in righteousness, and ministry are at the core of our academic curriculum and are the very foundation of our purpose.” This is a strong statement and it makes me smile. But it also calls me to a serious inventory of myself as a teacher: Is worship, righteousness, and ministry the “very foundation” of my life? Am I living the life that I am calling my students toward?

Paul called the Corinthian church to follow him just like he followed Christ (1 Cor 11:1). Part of what made him an effective teacher was that he was a living example for those under his care. Let’s not be teachers who will not be taught. It is much easier to help students by removing their specks when our eyes are free of planks. Beyond that, students are much more likely to allow us near their specks when they can see that our eyes are clear. We must be able to say, “Follow me like I follow Christ,” and lead them so that neither they nor we will fall into a pit.

So, take some time to take an inventory. Identify your planks and specks. Renew your worship. Seek righteousness. Serve the Lord. After all, your students’ lives are on the line—“everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”

Simmer over Summer: Valuable Time for Biblical Integration

Life is different for teachers during the summer. It is a sort of forced procrastination. All of your teaching is put off until school starts again in a couple months. And this forced procrastination can be a great and powerful gift to the Christian educator.

In a TED Talk, Adam Grant, a Wharton Business School professor, shared, “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in non-linear ways, to make unexpected leaps.” This summer you have time before you start to teach your classes again. I hope that you are taking a restful break from the daily grind of teaching. However, I hope you are not turning off your brain. The year might be over, but you are still a teacher. Therefore, it is a good idea to take the time you have to allow your course (especially concerning biblical integration) to float around in your brain.

When you read that novel at the beach or watch that blockbuster movie, see if any of the themes connect or illustrate God’s work or ways. When you go to the doctor with your child, notice things about the situation that teach us about ourselves, our world, our God. When you are pushing your lawn mower each week, use the isolation that the droning motor offers to think about what you can do to help you students better see how your class content is from and toward the glory of God.

Dr. Grant says, “Procrastination can be a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity.” Since school is out, the summer months have forced you to slow down as a teacher. You might be very busy with other responsibilities, so you are not necessarily going to sit down for long hours with your curriculum and lesson plans. But as you go through this busy time, keep your course on the back-burner—simmering over summer. You might be surprised at how sermons, VBS concepts, vacation plans, family time, and any number of other elements can offer ideas for excellent integration.