Hurdles Standing in the Way of Biblical Worldview Integration

Recently a colleague asked me, “What are the places or holes you see in the way people (members) are having difficulty with the integration process?” Put another way, “What is standing in the way of Christian schools planning to integrate Christian perspective throughout the curriculum?” Thanks to my colleague for encouraging me to identify the hurdles. Here are my reflections.

hurdles-300x344The first set of hurdles is we don’t know what we are talking about. What do we mean, exactly, when we refer to “faith integration,” “Christian perspective,” or “biblical worldview integration?” For some, it means “my own personal faith story” woven through the fabric of my daily interaction with students and teaching. For others, it is leading a student to a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. From my days at Calvin College, I recall the story of a student answering every question on a math exam with, “I do not know how to do this problem, but I know that Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior.” (I never found out how the professor graded that exam!)

In my opinion, biblical worldview integration may include, but is significantly different from, either of the above. It means first agreeing on what the big story of the Bible is, and then establishing a framework around which to proactively plan for weaving THAT story throughout the entire curriculum. At least two hurdles present themselves here. If I am already doing faith integration by referencing my own personal faith story or being a classroom evangelist, why do I need to consider other ways? Another challenge comes from not having a clearly articulated understanding of the Bible’s big story. Such an understanding is crucial for any school staff to successfully integrate a biblical worldview throughout the curriculum.

A second set of hurdles involves developing a useful framework to aid in authentically integrating that big story and obtaining the resources to actually bring it about. In short, the big story is simply too big to handle without dividing it into manageable chunks. Think of it as a library with thousands of books all piled chaotically throughout the building. A biblical integration framework provides the “stacks and shelves” that organizes content into meaningful categories. Such a framework provides a staff with a common language, which is vital when discussing biblical integration and encouraging each other in the effort.

Let’s say you and your staff have a common understanding of the big story and a meaningful framework for curriculum integration. The staff just beginning this journey still needs examples of effective integration across all grade levels and curriculum areas. I have found tremendous creativity and profound integration of biblical worldview when staff members support each other in this effort. I have also found a great willingness among successful biblical worldview integration practitioners to share their successes with others! I know of at least one CSI school that employs a biblical integration mentor who encourages and teaches fellow teachers in the area of biblical worldview integration.

In my view, this next set of hurdles is the most serious impediment to distinctiveness related to biblical worldview integration: lack of leadership. At a recent conference, a number of the attendees said to me, “This is all great, but how do I get my principal on board?” This is failed leadership. What are Christian schools about if not Christian worldview integration? Of less concern to me is the Christian school leader who is on board but lacks the expertise or resources to bring about substantial change. Either way, in my view, our days of significant impact in our world are dwindling if our Christian school leaders fail to make worldview distinctiveness a priority. Of course, staff resistance can also be a factor. Their resistance may stem from a lack of understanding of the big story, a belief that their general efforts are sufficient, or the view that having Christian teachers teaching in a Christian environment is a sufficient mission for their school.

I realize that biblical worldview integration is a journey, not a destination. A “one and done” approach will not be effective. Some members of our constituencies may be more interested in standing apart from society than engaging with it. There is a diversity of experience, practice, and confidence among our schools when it comes to biblical worldview integration.

My colleagues and I at CSI can help you overcome all of these hurdles. We can help you with understanding the big story, developing a framework, and providing examples of effective integration. Although we cannot overcome the hurdle of leadership that has not made this a priority, we can help you make biblical worldview integration come alive at your school!

Contact me at bdenboer@tcchristian.org. I would love to partner with you.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Hurdles Standing in the Way of Biblical Worldview Integration

  1. Jeremy Van Nieuwenhuyzen

    Thanks, Bart! This is an excellent summary of the hurdles we face. As 6-12 principal, I am so excited about the Teaching for Transformation framework that our school has used the past few years. I would say that another huge hurdle is time. Of course, one could say that this is embedded in your concern about priority and lack of leadership. Our teachers have thrived with four things: a framework, examples to get them started, an integration mentor with at least 50% of his contract set aside to mentor, and paid time dedicated to thinking/creating integrated units (on their own, in departments, across grade levels and subject areas, and with other schools). I don’t think we could have removed any of the four pieces (framework, examples, a mentor, and time) and been successful.

    It’s definitely an investment (of time and money), but I would argue that if a Christian school doesn’t get this right, then I wonder if there is enough distinctiveness to warrant any tuition price.

    Great article!

  2. Phillip Nash

    Thanks for this reminder of the hurdles that teachers face. You are right on when you talk about the lack of leadership and the lack of a common understanding of what Biblical Worldview integration means – maybe we need to change the language.

    I think all of us in Christian schools need to re-commit to working with our teachers and staff to help them to understand how we are to do this so as to ensure our students graduate with a Biblical understanding of all aspects of life and excited to live that out.

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