When we think of being God’s stewards, we might think of money (e.g., the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25), time, or physical possessions. But Christian school educators are stewards of more than just these things—they are called to steward the crown jewel of God’s creation: people. The typical student spends over 16,000 hours in the classroom from kindergarten to high school graduation, and a teacher with a 35-year career will spend over 44,000 hours within the school walls. Imagine how much spiritual formation (or “discipleship”) can occur in that amount of time.  

School leaders and teachers may barely have time to eat lunch or use the bathroom, much less to think strategically about spiritual formation. But Christian schools exist because they understand that a student’s relationship with God is far more important than anything else. This is why ACSI has developed the Flourishing Faith Index (FFI), a survey tool designed by ACSI to help schools assess the holistic wellbeing of individuals in their school communities. Dr. Matthew Lee and I used FFI data to examine the state of the teacher and school leader workforces in Christian schools. I believe two of our findings have very practical applications for Christian schools in terms of decision-making and spiritual formation structures.  

Faith-Informed Decision-Making 

We asked both teachers and leaders to indicate how much they believe faith informs decisions made in their schools, with the options “none,” “minor,” “moderate,” and “major.” Unsurprisingly, both groups overwhelmingly reported that faith “majorly informs” their school’s mission statement, statement of faith, and Bible curriculum. However, both groups reported that faith does not influence “less obvious” aspects of school life and policies as much—for example, the school’s math curriculum, philosophy of diversity, special education/inclusion policies, homework policies, dress code, budget, tuition and funding policies, and use of technology. 

Paul reminds us of this in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The desire to glorify God should influence every decision we make. Making decisions in school settings is an opportunity for leaders and teachers to grow in their faith, but it is also an opportunity to model faith-filled living for students. Interestingly, leaders were much more likely than teachers to say that faith influences the school’s tuition and funding policies, school budget, and special education/inclusion policies. Perhaps this discrepancy highlights a lack of communication; making faith-informed decisions will not directly influence teachers and students unless they are brought, in some way, into the decision-making process (for example, by praying together as a school that God would bring the right teachers and leaders and help leaders make God-glorifying decisions about school policies). 

Questions for reflection: Do I and my colleagues ask God what would bring Him most glory as we make decisions for our school, even minor decisions? Are there any ways that we fall into the patterns of the world rather than intentionally seeking to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us? Are we transparent about how we make these decisions with parents and students as appropriate (and teachers, in the case of leaders)? 

Spiritual Formation Structures 

We also asked both teachers and leaders to indicate how much they felt they have influence over various aspects of spiritual formation and wellness in their schools. Leaders reported having moderate or major influence over spiritual leadership in their school, but far fewer reported such influence over the spiritual wellness of teachers and staff, chapel, staff devotions, and student spiritual formation. This raises the question: what do leaders consider “spiritual leadership,” if not the spiritual formation of employees and students as well as spiritual programming in their school? Comparatively, teachers reported having even less influence over every aspect of spiritual flourishing in their schools, with an alarming 42% reporting little to no influence on students’ spiritual formation.  

While spiritual formation may also be informal, it should be clear who is formally responsible for the spiritual formation of whom in Christian schools. The Biblical pattern is to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, and so on (2 Timothy 2:2). Perhaps the clearest way to apply this pattern in a school setting is for leadership to primarily be responsible for the care of teachers, and teachers for the care of students. Scripture makes it clear that in order to do good works, we must abide in Christ (John 15:4)—the idea behind the cliché, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Since neither leaders nor teachers feel they have much influence over the spiritual wellness of faculty and staff, it is not surprising that most teachers do not report having major influence over the spiritual formation of students. The Christian walk is lifelong; leaders must ensure that the adults they employ do not slip through the cracks in terms of spiritual formation. 

Questions for leader reflection: What are I and my leadership team doing to promote the spiritual wellness of the teachers and staff in my school? Do we have discipleship structures in place for teachers and staff to ensure they are abiding in Christ and well-equipped to provide students with spiritual formation? 

Questions for teacher reflection: Are there ways that I feel insufficient to provide spiritual formation to students, and how might I be better equipped? What am I doing to help spiritually encourage other teachers?  


Christian educators, particularly school leaders, have been entrusted with heavy responsibilities—guiding the spiritual climate of their schools to ensure everyone under their leadership is spiritually flourishing. This is a daunting task, which is why ACSI has made the FFI available to schools. Using data is not a shortcut to flourishing, but it can help identify strengths and weaknesses in Christian schools’ cultures. I encourage school leaders to use this tool to help them better understand how to lead their school so that their teachers, staff, and students are abiding in Christ. 


About the Author:  

Alison Johnson is a research fellow at ACSI. Previously, she taught in public and Christian schools. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *