Editor’s Note: Today’s post provides an excerpt from a new resource from ACSI Research called “Leading Insights: Biblical Worldview and Spiritual Formation.” To order your copy of the full resource, please click here.
In their global research on today’s teenagers, Barna (2022) found this generation to display a remarkable openness to Jesus and the Bible, along with a generally positive view of both. At the same time, the research identified a considerable gap between the percentage of teens who identify as Christians and those who say they have made a personal commitment to follow Jesus. And even among teens who regularly engage with the Bible, many do not endorse the tenets of orthodox Christian faith or see the Bible as meaningfully informing their lives.
When it comes to closing the gap between teens’ openness and their commitment to a vibrant faith, there is good news: teens cite adults—whether parents, mentors, teachers, or youth pastors—as the primary source of mentorship and guidance in their faith development. The research concludes that to “bring this open generation to a place of deeper understanding and reliance upon the word of God will take a village” (Barna Group 2022, 14). Christian schools play an important role in this village square, not just for teens, but for children of all ages—importantly, the research “hints at the urgency and intentionality needed to plant young people in God’s word as early as possible” (29-31).
To this end, rather than a sprinkling of scriptures, doctrine, or spiritual practices, Christian schools seek to offer an education woven from the very fabric of their faith commitments (Hughes and Adrian 1997, 1). Biblical worldview development and spiritual formation, for both students and faculty, often lies at the heart of this effort. This monograph explores the ways Christian educators frame these concepts and consequently share their pedagogy, curricula, and professional development in light of them.
Creating a Framework
Crucial to school’s biblical worldview development and spiritual formation efforts is the creation of “a philosophical framework that accounts for the unrestricted interplay between faith and learning as implied by our vision statements.” (Hull 2002, 212). There is consensus that such a framework should be Bible-based and Christo-centric, with both individual goals for student and faculty growth as well as corporate goals for cultivating Christian community (Graham 2003, 205). However, there are diverse approaches to biblical worldview and spiritual formation in Christian schools which, though sometimes a question of semantics, can also result from influences like varying denominational theologies, emphases on particular spiritual practices, and interpretations of enlightenment thought (to name a few).
Put simply, there are no quick shortcuts to creating a framework for biblical worldview and spiritual formation. Schools and educators need to do the hard work of developing such a framework—with biblical faithfulness as the sine qua non—that is appropriate to their own contexts. This monograph is intended to help educators in doing so, with particular attention given in the first section, Philosophy and Research, to developing frameworks for biblical worldview and spiritual formation in Christian schools.
Moving Toward Practice
Importantly, this monograph was written by practitioners, for practitioners, thus, the second and third sections—Christian School Perspectives and Programs and Practices—are written with an eye toward developing coherent practice in classrooms and schools. In the second section, authors share from the perspectives of school leadership, classroom instruction, curricular development, and faculty training. In the third, authors share specific programs and approaches that have proved effective in the Christian school setting.
Across these chapters, readers will discern the need for a collective approach to biblical worldview development and spiritual formation in Christian schools. In other words, aligning philosophy to practice is not the work of a single individual or sole department. Instead, schools are in need of three things:
- Shared language—An essential component of any framework for practice must include a common language that is known and used by school leaders, teachers, students, and families. This should include definitions of key terms (like biblical worldview and spiritual formation), clear signposting of these terms in the school’s core documents, and regular use in communication to all constituents. Shared language is the starting point for developing coherent practice together and is essential for determining and assessing the effectiveness of that practice.
- Shared practices—These are the approaches and strategies that are collectively developed and implemented throughout the school, with consistency and fidelity to the school’s philosophical framework. While this includes direct instruction on biblical worldview and spiritual formation, it also includes integrative framing and scaffolding of learning and development activities with a view to the same. Moreover, ACSI’s Flourishing Schools Research (Swaner, Marshall, and Tesar 2019) also identified the importance of applying knowledge through action; when present at a given school, constructions like community engagement, serving students with disabilities, and teachers’ best practice orientation are liked with higher rates of alumni reporting they are walking with God. While correlational and not causal, these findings suggest the need for students and faculty alike to have facilitated opportunities at school to “live out” the Gospel, by loving their neighbors, caring well for those with special needs, and striving for excellence in all they do (Colossians 3:23).
- Shared time—Nothing worth doing in schools is accomplished without shared time-on-task, in teams of both number of hours and regular engagement across the schools year (or, more accurately, years). Developing a shared language and practices for biblical worldview and spiritual formation is not a one-and-done affair—just like growing in love, knowledge, and understanding as part of discipleship is a “more and more” proposition (Philippians 1:9-11). In truth, “Whatever we write down in our mission statements … how we invest our time and money is often an accurate reflection of what we actually believe as individuals and organizations” (Swaner and Wolfe 2021, 171). The investments of school resources, including precious instructional and professional development time, should match the degree to which biblical worldview development and spiritual formation are central to the school’s mission.
Although school approaches will differ in structure and format, these three factors—shared language, practices, and time—are essential to bringing a school’s framework for biblical worldview development and spiritual formation to life, for both students and faculty.
Reflection and Action
Research shows that professional practice is most effectively transformed when adults engage in a cycle of reflection and action (Swaner 2016). In other words, educators need to reflect on what they have learned and strategize for intentionally putting that learning into practice. To this end, this monograph includes a final section that features a set of reflection questions on the relationship between the school’s philosophy, policy, curricular development, pedagogy, and constituent relationships with its approach to biblical worldview development and spiritual formation. Consider reading this monograph and engaging in these questions together with colleagues, either informally or through a book study.
In his letter to the Colossian church, the apostle Paul urges believers to let “the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). When Christian schools intentionally craft their philosophy and practice for biblical worldview development and spiritual information, they can better invite students and faculty alike into the richness of God’s Word, a deeper walk with Christ, and the beauty of Christian community. Regardless of the specific terms used, there is hardly a Christian school mission that would not resonate with these Kingdom aims. May you be abundantly blessed in your pursuit of them.
To continue reading, order your copy of “Leading Insights: Biblical Worldview and Spiritual Formation,” by clicking here.
About the Author
Dr. Lynn Swaner is the chief strategy and innovation officer at Association of Christian Schools International, where she leads initiatives and develops strategies to address compelling questions and challenges facing Christian education. Dr. Swaner serves as a Cardus senior fellow and is the co-author or editor of numerous books on Christian education, including Flourishing Together: A Christian Vision for Students, Educators, and Schools and MindShift: Catalyzing Change in Christian Education. She can be reached via email at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @LynnSwaner1.