Encouraging Christian teachers to live Christ in the classroom
We can teach our students to live awesome, creative lives full of challenge, adventure, and significance. Many of our best students can pass tests and write papers, but few get it about what it means to live a powerful, service-driven life. You know, the stuff of greatness that Martin Luther King was talking about when he said, "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve."
Jesus wants his children to live lives of service, fully engaged in being a part of His plan for the redemption of the world. Christian teachers need to live fantastic, Jesus-filled stories that just rock the socks off their students. Then those teachers need to show their students that the students are not too young to act and not too young to get involved in creating an awesome, God-honoring story that will knock the socks off of their families and friends.
Last Sunday, the front-page story in the newspaper was about a teacher at our school and his wife who teaches at the middle school. Although Jeff is 49 years old, he and his wife Wendy are adopting two special needs children from Bulgaria. Their daughter has a cleft palate and dwarfism. She is five years old. Their son is three and has Down’s syndrome. Jeff and Wendy are literally saving the lives of these two children since most special needs children in Bulgaria die in institutions from neglect.
The students are joining in this great story by getting involved in fund-raising activities to help with the final $8,000 needed to bring these children home by August.
Donald Miller has a great book for use in the public school classroom called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The book does mention God, but the teacher can edit her reading of the text to make it appropriate for the classroom. Even so, the message is still clear. The world is set up to encourage people to live strong and fabulous stories. The book is full of instructions on how to move from living boring, random lives to living lives of purpose and significance.
Donald Miller credits Bob Goff with altering his life forever as the greatest story teller of all time. Up until recently, Bob only told his stories with his life. However, Bob just released a wonderful, humorous, inspirational Christian book called Love Does. I plan to supplement my use of A Million Miles with Love Does next year. Not only do I read these books to my students, but we use the quotes from them to write some of the best papers I have seen in my 41-year career as an English teacher. The papers are good because the kids are engaged with real people who are living authentic lives of service advancing the kingdom in a fallen, broken world. They may not use those terms, but that is why they like writing these papers. Well, like may be pushing it a little, but the students DO feel engaged while writing these papers, and I can tell they are by the quantity and quality of what they say.
Speaking of real people and great stories, be sure to throw in the story of Katie Davis, the high school homecoming queen from near Nashville, TN She left her $100 shoes and convertible sports car when she graduated from high school and moved to Uganda where she adopted (at last count) 14 girls. She started a ministry called Amazima that feeds and educates 500 children. She also provides food and medical care for a local village of 3,000 inhabitants. She is now 23 years old. My students want to know more about her, so they search the internet and find her video where she says, “People tell me that I am lucky to have found God’s purpose for my life. I tell them I didn’t find it. It’s in the Bible.”
Please read Katie’s book Kisses from Katie. It is an amazing story of faith and transformation. Katie said that giving up all the stuff of America and replacing it with incredibly hard work in a country with few comforts makes her more joyfully dependent on God the Father. After enduring many hardships, she said, “I was coming to understand that being real means loving and being loved until nothing is left." She says that it is when nothing is left that God transforms us through the power of His love.
Christian teachers can give students a wonderful education in what it means to be engaged in God’s work on earth. They can do it with real stories of people who are making a significant impact on the lives of God’s most vulnerable children. They can model it by living lives of significant impact in God’s service. We don't need to preach to our students to get the message across. As a matter of fact, that is not a particularly effective method anyway. "Let your light shine before men that they might glorify your father in heaven.” The students know who you are, who your boss is, and why you do what you do.