Biblical Worldview in the Classroom

This year the 8th grade team challenged the 8th grade students to find themselves in the Story – God’s Story from Genesis to Revelation. In Bible class, everyday students begin with the same foundational refrain from our school’s Biblical Worldview Statement: “You are in God’s Story. Here, God created us for relationships with God, each other, and creation; We are fallen in these relationships because of sin.; We are redeemed in these relationships through Jesus Christ.; We will be fully restored to these relationships when Christ returns.” As James K.A. Smith puts it, “Stories that sink into our bones are the stories that reach us at the level of the imagination. Our imaginations are captured poetically, not didactically. We’re hooked by stories, not bullet points.”2

As teachers, we long for our students to be hooked by the Story. Everyday our students come to the classroom to draw water and what we do in these moments define who we are as teachers, a school and whether or not we sowing and reaping crops of believers who one day will be gathered into God’s kingdom. Our work is eternal, heady and demands our pedagogies be consistent with the One who came to save the lost. When the woman of Samaria came to draw water at the well she met the Christ. We want the same for our students: We want our students to graduate and give thanks on that final day to the Lord and “Call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted” as each one enters the world. (Isaiah 12:3-4) We want our work in the classrooms – our fields – to be free from the curse and for each student to enjoy richly the endless supply of salvation.

Stanley Hauerwas said “All education, whether acknowledged or not, is moral formation.”3 At AACS, our mission and culture is our distinctive. We teach to the whole child. Our Biblical Worldview Statement is the result of our strategic school-wide plan: five core principles (foundational values and strategies) developed as part of our vision for holistic Christian education. Ours is not mere moral formation, but moral transformation. Our mission is to engage students in an education of excellence enabling them to impact the world through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. “A holistic Christian learning environment doesn’t just fill the intellect; it fuels the imagination. This requires serious intentionality not just about curriculum and content but about pedagogy and teaching strategy.”4

Being serious not just about curriculum and content but about pedagogy and teaching strategy means that we seek transformation and teach from a biblical worldview to our students, or in other words we get students to think biblically about everything in their lives. Moreso, it means that we impart a knowledge about the Gospel that students “carry in their bones.”5

In “Teaching and Learning from a Christian Worldview— A proposal for the next step,” Kori Hockett, history teacher and curriculum coordinator at Wheaton Academy in West Chicago, Illinois, says that one way to get students to think biblically is to frame instruction at the macro level in the Bible Department. The Bible Department then becomes the “overarching structure” to teach the four chapters of God’s Story and “principles like creation, the fallenness of man, redemption, the primacy of Scripture, the notion of reality, and the ultimate purpose of all people.” From here, she recommends applying this teaching in all disciplines, from science to math to fine arts. 6

We framed the school year for our students in the narrative arc of God’s Story in Bible Class on Day One in part due to the Christian Schools International Curriculum. The CSI Bible Curriculum “Walking With God and His People” begins with the Unit “Why A New Testament” and this essential question: “What is God doing as the plan of salvation unfolds throughout the course of both Testaments?” In notes to the teacher, it says, “This lesson concludes with students asking themselves how they fit into the story of salvation, especially as it pertains to God’s interaction with his people.” Students learn the relationship between the Old and New Testaments “in a new way” and are tasked with making a Bible timeline of the story of salvation that “places you – the student – in the story.”

Now our own hallways are reminders that we are written into God’s unfolding drama filled with artwork that depicts biblical scenes from Creation to Restoration. In the classroom,  students recite passages from the Psalter – our ancient and present reminders of a God who is Sovereign and interacts with his people. We read one Psalm each day tied to the number of days we’ve been in school. A few months ago, one student raised her hand and said, “I didn’t realize you could go to God for things like this” and another “I’m amazed at how these people trusted God.” Michael Horton says the Psalms “define who God is, who we are and why we should trust him.”7 In “Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story,” Horton explains: “The laments, praise, wonder and worship [in the psalms] are all tied to God’s words (the drama) as he interprets them. And they lead to a new way of living in the world.” Daily liturgical readings from the Psalter supplement the Bible curriculum in this way: Students are charged not only with the CSI essential question “What is God doing as the plan of salvation unfolds throughout the course of both Testaments?” but another, more personal one: “What is God doing as the plan of salvation unfolds throughout the course of my own life?”

In English class we apply this teaching through “The Julian Chapter,” a sequel to their summer reading of the novel “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio. In “Wonder” Julian transforms hearing a story and chooses to be kind. The Bible teaches kindness can not be willed but is a response to our knowing, following and loving God. In a final essay, students are asked to write on transformation. Students pair the biblical language of repentance in God’s Story with this story and learn that even conceptions and interpretations of morality are influenced by language and the power of the word and Word. In Math, students focus on absolute truth and God’s created order; in Science, the focus is on the implications of Psalm 24:1-2, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (all Hockett’s recommendations). A final research project for the year is titled “GENZ” and asks students to find a problem in the world and a solution. Students are reminded we live in the “already but not yet” and asked to consider our school’s response to our Biblical Worldview Statement in their proposal:  “Therefore, we respond in worship, love and obedience by seeking truth, serving others and stewarding creation.”

One month into the school year at an off-campus retreat, we guided our guest speakers to help our students apply our biblical worldview statement to their lives and we watched as students transformed into disciples. No longer were students like Nicodemus hearing the Word literally and asking questions like “How can a man be born when he is old?” Instead, the wind began to blow where it wished and students heard the sound and knew who it was. Three months into the school year our students planned a worship service and decided to tell the story of their retreat to the Middle School community as part of the Story. This was the first time students asked to liturgically frame student-led worship in this way. They read passages from Genesis and said in the beginning of the retreat “none of us wanted to go.” Next, they read Genesis 3:5 and told of their own fall from grace and how they lost their patience with each other. They read John 1:14 and talked about redemption and how the Holy Spirit called them to follow Christ. They read Revelation 21:1-5 and said one day Christ will return and restore our relationships. Until then, they charged each other to use right language and resolve conflicts biblically. Our students knew the Story and how to find themselves in it.

Why not simply transfer content in purely didactic ways? Why bother with biblical worldview in other disciplines? Why use story and seek to transform? Because our post-Christian, post-modern times demand it. According to Barna Research, the current generation known as “GEN Z” is a generation that is spiritual but doesn’t go to church (yes, even Christian school students.) Truth is no longer viewed as rational, but relational; Morality is not propositional but personal.9 This generation distrusts authority and as parents and teachers we need to wake up: We are the authority.

James Emery White in “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World” helps us to understand the current research and this generation. He says this:

“Paul surveyed the cultural landscape found a touchstone–an altar to an unknown God. The culture was so pluralistic that the only thing people could agree on was that you couldn’t know anything for sure. ‘What if I could tell you that God’s name? Would that be of interest?’ Paul began. He then went all the way back to creation and began to work his way forward–laying a foundation for an understanding and acceptance of the gospel. Different culture, different approach. This is precisely where we find ourselves today. We are not speaking to the God-fearing Jews in Jerusalem. We are standing on Mars Hill and need an Acts 17 mindset with an Acts 17 strategy. Which means our primary cultural currency is going to need to be explanation. It’s not enough to move from a King James Version of the Bible to Eugene Peterson’s uber-contemporary paraphrase The Message in our speaking. We have to begin by saying, ‘This is a Bible. It has sixty-six books. There’s an Old Testament and a New Testament. It tells the story of us and God.’ And then we need to explain that story.”

Why are we not reaching this generation? Because White says, “Much of the problem rests with what has been called the curse of knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it’s like not to know it. Have you forgotten what it’s like to be apart from Christ? The world needs you to remember.”10

Do you remember what it’s like to draw water from empty wells and be thirsty? I do. The Gospel of John doesn’t tell us what happened to the woman of Samaria. All we know is that she left her water jar at the well, and “went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” When I find myself in the Story, I find myself in this one. I think about a woman who like me met the Son of God when she least expected it. I read the story from time to time and I play the story out for myself not with my intellect but with my imagination. I believe the woman of Samaria went back again and again to that well, but not to get water or reclaim her jar. She didn’t need water anymore. She’d found the wellspring of life. What she wanted was to see Him again. She wanted to remember what it was like to stand in front of the one who gave her Life and gave her her life back. I imagine she stayed there and wept and filled the well with her own tears. The risen Jesus met her there each time and restored her. Once restored, she got up and went back to teach and found Him in her students and the Greatest Joy: Seeing others come to faith.

Jillian N. Lederhouse, professor of education at Wheaton College, in “What Does It Mean to Teach Like a Disciple?” says, “We are called by God to instruct and encourage students in the ways He has called them to live. You can’t find more significant work than this profession. You never know when you might have a Mary Magdalene, a Peter, a Martha, a rich young ruler, or even a Saul sitting in front of you.”11

May we leave our old pedagogies and practices behind – our water jars – and help our students and children find themselves in the Story so that God Himself will water the fields where we labor, our churches, classrooms and homes, as we help him to make disciples for the new temple where God Himself dwells. “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.” Maybe one student or child, yours or mine, is a Mary Magdalene, a Peter, a Martha, a rich young ruler or even a Saul sitting in front of you and with our help and God’s will learn how to carry the Gospel in their bones and “This one will say, “I am the Lord’s.” (Isaiah 44:3-5)



1AACS Biblical Worldview Statement from our school’s beliefs.
2 Smith, James K.A. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2016. Print. 107.
3 Stanley Hauerwas, State of the University (Oxford: Wiley, 2007) 46.
4 Smith, James K.A. Ibid. 155. Smith argues, “What difference does this make for how we teach? There is no compromise on content or curriculum. Instead, the content is reframed by being embedded in this narrative framework that invites students to connect their learning with living out the character that God has called them to be.”
5 Smith, James K.A. Ibid. 142.
6 Frost, Gene. Learning from the Best: Growing Greatness in the Christian School 2010 CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS INTERNATIONAL (CSI) Grand Rapids, MI and ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS INTERNATIONAL (ACSI); Hockett, Kori “Teaching and Learning from a Christian Worldview— A proposal for the next step.” Kindle Locations 1624-1625
7 Horton, Michael. Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2006. Print. 18-19.
8 White, James Emery. Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2017. Print. 111-112.
9 Barna Group. Meet the “Spiritual but Not Religious:” Research Releases in Faith & Christianity • April 6, 2017 10 White, James Emery. Ibid.
11 What Does It Mean to Teach Like a Disciple? Jillian N. Lederhouse, PhD. ACSI Blog | December 20, 2017




Beautiful Student Work

All schools, independent and public, can teach knowledge. Few access Wisdom from the Creator of Life Himself.

At AACS, our mission is to engage students in an education of excellence enabling them to impact the world through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The 8th Grade Academic Showcase affords students an important public opportunity to learn how they can impact the world. Ron Berger, author of “An Ethic of Excellence” and “A Culture of Quality” has said, “Once a student creates work of value for an authentic audience beyond the classroom — work that is sophisticated, accurate, important and beautiful — that student is never the same. When you have done quality work, deeper work, you know you are always capable of doing more.”

At the Middle School, we wanted the wider community to see what we see and marvel at every day in the classroom: A distinctive of Christian education which embodies not only classical education but also the deposit of Wisdom by the Holy Spirit, taught only by the Creator and Author of life. All schools, independent and public, can teach knowledge; at AACS we see both. And so we created an event we call Showcase, a Gallery Walk, Art Showcase, and Live Program that features our own “sophisticated, accurate, important and beautiful” student work.

This year’s 3rd Annual 8th grade Showcase live program debuted “STEM on Stage” with an air vortex demonstration of the Bernoulli effect. This is the second year students delivered our own AACS version of a “Ted Talk” we now call “GEN Z” for Generation Z, the generation after millennials known for being “more global, “entrepreneurial” and hooked on the digital world. With access to a global community that breaks through the barrier of cement classroom walls, these GEN Zers need only their curiosity and teacher shepherds who teach classical education as well as 21st century skills, skills such as communication, creativity, and collaboration. In other words, it’s not simply about access to information, but what we do with the information we access.

This year GEN Z topics included everything from gum to games to God. Topics included: Technology and Jobs for the 21st Century; GEN Z and Technology Addiction; Cancer in Our Homes; Gum in Schools; Human Creativity; Why We Shouldn’t Wipe Out the Deadliest Animal on Earth; and Trusting God.

The Gallery Walk included snippets of sentences from essays, tiny morsels of perspicacious prose etched on boards, easels and music stands for all to see plucked from all core academic courses including American History, English Language Arts, Bible, Math and Science and Electives such as Creative Writing, Media Literacy, Math Enrichment, Inquiring Minds (STEM), Yearbook, Music Exploration and Spanish Language and Culture. These examples of deeper learning we intentionally aligned with our AACS Educational Goals: Growing Believers, Responsible Stewards, Active Learners, Compassionate Neighbors and Effective Communicators.

Congratulations to our 8th graders for confidently showcasing this year’s important, accurate and beautiful work and for demonstrating for all how to impact the world for Jesus Christ.

Peanut Butter Ham Sandwiches: What To Eat When Things Go Wrong

There aren’t many adults in the world who would think that the Creator of the universe would show up in a bare, basement classroom full of third graders busy with word searches, crosswords and crafts.  In fact, most of us would dismiss the notion as silly, and if we wanted to find God we wouldn’t look here.

But what if God did show up? How would we know? Jesus after all told His disciples in His Farewell Discourse not long before His execution, “The Helper, The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things.”

I posed this same question to my class today, though in a different context. I asked them about the story they’d heard earlier in the morning. I asked, “What does it mean the veil was torn when Jesus died?” One by one the hands raised and with each answer I silently marveled at their knowledge of scripture and sound doctrine.  I pressed to see if this age grasped the larger metaphor. I asked, “Is there a veil between us and God  – still? Can you see Him?” Heads began to shake no. I pressed further. “If we can’t see Him, how do we know He’s real?”

In the next moment, one “camper” named Luke, the one who did not speak Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday; the one who sat alone, content and off to the side; and the one who gladly swept the floors every day before we left the classroom raised his hand and asked, “Can I tell a story?”

Hiding behind one red bandana he tied over his forehead, and a second tied over his mouth and with only his eyes visible Luke said this: “I once prayed to God to ask Him if He was real or not.  I wanted to know because I didn’t think He was, because I couldn’t see Him. Then, my little brother drowned in a pool. He was two years old. My mom tried to bring him back to life. He wasn’t breathing. He was blue. I watched the whole thing. After awhile, he finally started to breath again and my mom asked, “Are you ok?” and he said, “The purple King saved me.” Now,” Luke said, “Now I know God is real.”  No one said anything. Seventeen third graders sat in silence and stared at Luke as I held my hand over my mouth and held back tears. The Helper was in the room.

I asked the students if they knew about the disciple Thomas. A few started to frantically search their Bibles. One little girl shouted, “I found it!” and she began to read: Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  “Luke, you are Thomas,” I said. “The Lord answers our prayers.”

Earlier in the week we were trying to figure out how to remember to turn to prayer, read the bible and ask for the Holy Spirit when things go wrong in life. I taught the students about anagrams. We needed to remember the words prayer, bible, and holy spirit. The students came up with the phrase “peanut butter ham sandwich.”

How do you know when God shows up? God uses the least among us to teach about the greatest story ever told because maybe then and only then we’ll notice, and listen. Quiet Luke taught us the Purple King is real and because of his story every single one of us in that room will remember when things go wrong in life to eat nothing else but a peanut butter ham sandwich.

After all, man does not live on bread alone.





Enter My Story

“This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

One night I woke & the Lord spoke to me
His back it was turned, though His face I did see.
I was terrified, weak, I stood hardly a chance.
Grace it did save me, Love I did glance.

The Lord God was angry,
I’ll tell you, it’s true
His child deceived Him, worked to defeat Him.
There was no reason for me to live.

But, I did. Because –
God spoke to me, Jesus saved me, and the Holy Spirit taught me.
This is what God said:

“I gave you a heart with its own eyes to see
My Love, my Compassion, my Joy and Mercy.
But your heart it turned cold,
it turned hard,
it turned blind.
You see with your own eyes, you see with your mind.

It’s true my sweet child I drew eyes on your face
So you could see Glory all over the place
The trees and the ocean and fish in the sea
The clouds and the rainbows, a promise from me.

And I made you a heart, a place just for me
To rest in your body, to dwell peacefully
My breath sits here steadfast, unwavering, true
Waiting for you…to make a choice.

In this world I created now there’s good and there’s bad
Faith and doubt are married;
So are happy and sad

You have Free Will
You can choose right or wrong
You can look with your mind
Or see with a song

The tune that I sing
Is a song filled with Love
When this world hurts you
Look to my World above.

You’ll see Purpose, a Plan, my Will and my Hand
You’ll see people who need me, and maybe you can…give them hope.

Or you can choose when you’re hurt to turn inward, see
Many do this (you did) and never find me
They look to themselves to fix all their woes
These people, they’re sad.

Trust me, I know.
Don’t fret my dear child it’s the world you are in
It is Good, it is Good, yes!
But – it’s a world ruled by sin

Like many, you fell-
You blamed me
You cursed me,
You doubted, it’s true

But I let you because of my deep Love for you.
My Son He will save you
Restore you, grant life
My Spirit will teach you
To do what is Right.

My Son guards the door, the Sheep, and is Light
His vine, it is True,  
His Way is to Life.

I need your help,” the Lord said to me,“I’ll guard you, protect you, I’ll help you be free.
But first you will help me to help others to see.

Up, get your Bible and read unto me
My Word it will heal you
My Word sets hearts free

Enter my Story,
And you’ll see the lost saved
Lazarus raised
from four days in the grave.

Enter my Story
where the blind come to see,
where water’s made wine
And a boy is set free.

There’s multiplied bread,
Water traversed
People forgiven
Who were under the curse
Like them, now you’re pulled in.

I’ll cleanse you with Water
I’ll fill you with Wine
My Wind is my Spirit
You’ll heal in my Time

I’ll mold you and shape you
My Will will be yours
I’ll open a place to my house –
The front door.

Seek me and find me
I’ll give you the keys
When people are hurting and broken and need

You’ll show them my Way, my Will and my Plan
You’ll teach in my absence I am holding their hand

You’ll open the door to their hearts as I did
On this night when you almost died but now live
Your faith it did save you
My Grace saved your soul
You have scars now, you’re wounded, but I’ll make you whole.

As you open one door to another you’ll see
Christ’s Love, Compassion, Joy and Mercy
Your eyes will return to your heart bit by bit
Then one day with my people in a New Heaven you’ll sit

It will not be easy
And you won’t want to go
Down this path that I’ll show you
A path that’s narrow

You’ll hurt more and you’ll grieve
For a life left behind
This path is not easy
This path that is mine

But you have tools that I gave you
Now don’t you forget:

My Word is a Lamp unto your feet
My church is a place that my people will meet
Hold their hands and their hearts like I did to you
Befriend them and help them, their faith will heal you
My people are special, they hold all my Gifts
I’ll even show some that it’s you who uplifts
Pray and remember that even in flight
I am holding you tightly with all of my Might
I sent you away from my nest, yes, “Good Bye”
But I trust you and know you will live by my Guide
Music will be a place to restore
Your soul will have flight and will sing ever more
When you worship the Lord with your heart, soul and mind
Peace you will know, my Love you will find

Be still, and know that you’re mine.
(Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”)

Lewis, C. S. 1898-1963. Mere Christianity: A Revised and Amplified Edition, With a New Introduction, of the Three Books, Broadcast Talks, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality. 1st HarperCollins ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001. Lewis writes,

“If you are looking for something super-personal, something more than a person, then it is not a question of choosing between the Christian idea and the other ideas. The Christian idea is the only one on the market.” He goes on, “I warned you that Theology is practical. The whole purpose for which we exist is to be thus taken into the life of God.”

Circles of Learning

Originally published on the CLC Network Website CLC Network Official

After Jackie arrived at our school, it became clear to us at Annapolis Area Christian Middle School  (Annapolis, MD) that differentiation is first-century pedagogy. Jesus, the Master Teacher, believed his “students” were more than passive recipients. He taught them to reveal and image God’s character to a people made in the image of God. Jesus taught us to include others around us not for inclusion’s sake alone but to reveal the character traits of God: The first is last and the last is first. Leaders aren’t served by others, but others are served by leaders. Knowledge is not to be lorded over others, but used to bring glory to God. God is a God of relationships.

As Christians, we are intended to live as God’s “created analogies.” Our calling is to teach like Jesus, but sometimes we feel more like Sisyphus than the Master teacher, condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again. We discuss and plan ways to best accommodate low and high-flyers, mitigate exclusion and build relationships. But if we are honest, it’s hard to build relationships in a classroom where there are wide gaps in each student’s ability and aptitude.  C.S. Lewis once said,

“What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.”

Students working on computers
Jackie working on Quizlet Live with her eighth grade team.

Jackie meets with her “Circle of Friends” each week, but how do we accommodate a student with Down syndrome in the classroom and build relationships? How do students who don’t share equal abilities and aptitudes share truth?

In the first semester, the eighth graders studied the history of God’s salvation story from Creation to Restoration. We divided the Bible into fifteen topics ranging from Creation to the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel and continued to the “Already but Not Yet” of the Gospels and the “Final Restoration.” Students memorized the books of the Bible and as a final semester project were tasked with this question: How can you tell the story of God’s history of salvation in a creative way and include the fifteen major topics?

Jackie leading the class in sign language
The eighth grade Bible class followed Jackie’s lead as she signed the major themes in God’s history of salvation.

Students responded with colorful floor puzzles, radio scripts, music raps, and poetry. Jackie told the story of Creation to Restoration in hand and body motion. She acted out each topic, raising her hands in a circle over her head for the world to represent “Creation,” and then dropped to touch her toes for “Fall.” She performed fifteen hand and body signs using both fine and gross motor skills, echoing a choral response from the class for each topic. Students made props to aid Jackie’s memory, such as stars for the “Call of Abraham” and a crown for “Kings.” Students handed her a prop and shouted the topic in order, and she repeated it back in circle-like fashion.

One day the class screamed with delight when Jackie remembered half of the topics on her own, both verbally and in signs. To our amazement, however, this wasn’t the only “aha” moment. What we’d stumbled upon was a “Circle of Learning.” Jackie taught the class the fifteen topics and God’s salvation story, even as she learned them.  By signing the story together with the students, Jackie showed us a more vivid picture of the character of God:

Learners teach, and teachers learn. Inclusion isn’t including someone for inclusion’s sake, but for God’s. This is first-century pedagogy, and now our twenty-first century practice.