Having grown up in Christian education, I am all too familiar with the pros and cons of Biblical integration (applying Biblical truths to academic subjects). Sometimes, it was diagraming a verse in grammar (a con) or it was asking ourselves, “How does God view…How does that impact the way I view…?” (a pro).
The Biblical integration that really stuck with me, though, was not a list of platitudes or overused Bible verses. It was NEVER slapping a verse on a subject or taking it out of context. And I definitely was not changed by trying to find instances of math in the Bible. That felt too fake & contrived!
Rather, the Biblical Integration that actually stuck with me came because of one on one discipleship with teachers or trusted mentors.
I think back to the woman who discipled me from a young age. She was a living model of true Biblical integration. All of her life WAS for all of Christ. The lens through which she viewed the world was so different and attractive because it seemed to come from someplace other than herself.
If we, as Christian educators, truly want to honor God with Christ-centered Biblical integration, then we need to ask ourselves the following questions:
1. Am I regularly spending time getting to know God and grow in relationship with Him? This is through personal Bible reading, church community, and in one on one discipleship relationships.
2. Am I modeling for students how to think through topics through my relationship with God or am I just sticking verses on lessons so I get a high evaluation score from my principal?
As we are discipled in our walk with the Lord, we listen, watch, and abide with Him. A result of this sort of life is a change in the way we do things. When you truly abide with someone and have a desire for your life to be modeled after theirs, you can’t help but change.
We are also doing the same for students while we teach, interact with them at lunch, or are on recess duty. They are listening, watching, and abiding with us each moment of the day. They’re learning what it means to have a personal relationship with God, one that informs how we live life. Thus, we do students a great disservice by treating Biblical integration as a lesson plan requirement or check-list of Christian duties.
I am challenging and calling you to reframe how you plan for and implement Biblical integration based on the discipleship model Jesus has set for us. Here are just a few ways I’ve done it or have seen it done:
1. Remember that the way we live tells the true story of the world. The true story of the world is that humans once had a perfect relationship with God, but because of sin, that relationship was broken. Yet, by God’s great love, He made a way for us to be in right relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. He promises true life and the hope of eternity with Him through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We reenact this story every moment of the day. It could be through conflict resolution, offering mercy and grace, or pulling out these themes in Christian or secular texts we read.
2. Model thinking critically through subjects by asking questions. This is one of my favorite ways to incorporate Biblical integration. As a class, we’ll ask ourselves one of the following questions:
- How does ____ reveal more about God?
- Where do we see God in ____?
- Why should ____ matter to Christians?
- How can we grow in our love and awe for God through studying ____?
- How does _____ reveal the true story of the world or counter-stories?
- How does our relationship with God inform our understanding of ____?
- Why would God create _____?
3. Practice Biblical integration BUT don’t do it if it feels forced. Coming from a public school teaching background, Biblical integration often felt forced and unnatural for me. I was not used to it, and just like working out grows weaker muscles, practicing Biblical integration helps to grow that muscle. I caution you, though, to practice by using the question frames in your own life and walking it out FIRST before doing it in your classroom. Kids know when teachers are being fake or Biblical integration is forced. When we practice what we preach in our own lives, though, it flows out of what’s already there.
4. Discipleship IS Biblical integration. The best way to practice Biblical integration is to intentionally meet with students outside of the classroom. This can be done at lunch, recess, or going to after school activities. When we live life alongside students, modeling what it looks like to live in relationship with Christ, then our in-class Biblical integration will just be an extension of the relationships we’ve already built. What better way to model Biblical integration than through real life modeling outside the 4 walls of our class!
If you feel like you’ve totally messed up with Biblical integration, don’t despair! Even our mistakes or incorrect modeling can still be used by God to reach the hearts and minds of our students. Be quick to apologize for inauthentic Biblical integration, especially if a verse was taken out of context. Allow the Holy Spirit to reframe your understanding of Biblical integration with the grace of the Gospel (true story of the world) and the wisdom of our eternal God.