The Liturgical Audit

At the CSI Worldview Summit last summer, Jamie Smith’s keynote address included this statement, “As human beings, we are created with the desire to move toward something.” About this, my colleague Jen Baham writes, “As Christians, and as a Christian school, we want our desires to focus toward God and toward relationship with God…we can choose to spend our time on activities that, over time, orient us toward God and our relationship with him.” To what extent do the institutional habits (liturgies) of your school orient staff and students toward your school’s stated mission, core values, and biblical worldview?

Liturgies are more than just something we do; liturgies do something to us.

They can be seen as purposeful activities meant to point us toward some meaningful end. Perhaps we are guilty of limiting the term liturgy to that which happens in church or within the church “liturgical” year. I suggest that the liturgies “doing something to us” are far more common than church activities. For example, my experience attending a Golden State Warriors basketball game immersed me in the powerful liturgy of sports for an entire evening. And hear some perspectives from Jen Baham’s 8th grade Bible students, given during a liturgical audit activity:

  • “What we do with our time affects us.”
  • “There is a connection between doing and feeling—emotions are involved in what we do.”
  • “How we spend our time can connect us.”

Many of our school’s institutional practices began long ago and proceed unexamined. Thus I see a need for liturgical audits in our schools. For example, what are we orienting our students toward by the following practice?

  • Every morning when the bell rings, students enter the room, sit down, and begin the day with teacher-led prayer.
  • Students then stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • After the pledge, the day begins.

A liturgical audit seeks to identify our institutional liturgies and articulate their purpose. Toward what are they orienting us?

After considering our institutional practices, we at Traverse City Christian School are experimenting with the following practices.

The Liturgical Day: Being Re-Storied Every Day

Richard Rohr writes, “Students live their way into a new way of thinking more than they think their way into a new way of living.” This statement illustrates the power of liturgy in our lives. Jamie Smith concurs: “Practices invite me into God’s story in a repetitive motion over time.”

Liturgies serve to re-story us, reminding us of our place in the big story of God and his Word. Liturgies do something to us. As we look to incorporate a biblical worldview throughout our day and seek to develop Christlike character in our students, we are daily employing the power of liturgy on a whole-school basis. This is how:

  • To begin the day: We begin our day with a whole-school intercom call to work and worship, asking God to bless our teaching and learning. Following this is a prayer of confession and a litany of assurance of forgiveness.
  • ”You Are What You Love“ coverAt lunch: The entire school hears the same passage of scripture read in each classroom by the classroom teacher. In his book You Are What You Love, Smith writes, “We are restored when we are re-storied.” He is referring to the practice of believers continually recalling God’s story and reminding themselves of their place in that story. Using the book The Story as our resource, each day we will all be hearing the same part of the story, working through the entire book until we finish near the end of the year. Middle and high school small groups are discussing these passages weekly in small group meetings. (The entire Traverse City Christian School community has been invited to follow along at home.)
  • At end of day: For the final ten minutes of the day, individual teachers lead personal class devotions, followed by a blessing and “sending to mission.”

The Liturgical Week: Word, Fellowship, and Celebration

In addition to our daily re-storying, we have revised our weekly schedule to help remind us of our place in the big story of God and his Word. This is how:

  • Monday: The Word. Both elementary and middle and high school meet in separate chapels to hear the Word of God expounded by staff or pastors/teachers from the greater community.
  • Wednesday: Fellowship. Middle and high school students meet in small groups led by Traverse City Christian staff. The purpose of these small groups is to build relationships around spiritual discussions. This year students are discussing the portion of The Story that was read in class the previous week.
  • Friday: Celebration. Both elementary and middle and high school meet in separate chapels to celebrate the week, sing songs of praise, and be re-storied in their relationship with God.

In addition to integrating a biblical worldview in our teaching, we are living out our part in the Big Story and our relationship with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit. We are focusing toward God and toward relationship with God. We are choosing to spend time on activities that, over time, orient us toward God and our relationship with him.

– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist

1 Comment

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One Response to The Liturgical Audit

  1. Bob VanWieren

    Good article, Bart. Due to my role in CSI accreditation, I get into many CSI member schools. The schools that do liturgy well are those that are intentional about it–take an audit. We used to call things like the liturgy of the school the informal or unplanned curriculum. We all recognized that something important, even holy, was happening during these unplanned and routine times. I see many schools today that recognize that to plan and formalize these special times well is a tool to actualizing their mission.

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