Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 1-5

3 min read

Spiritual Addition or Christian Transformation?

Sep 3, 2020 8:00 PM

Our children desperately need models of what it looks like to live and speak within the Christian story. Modeling has always been shown to be the most effective form of moral and religious education. For that reason, parents should want to speak about God continually and place their children around teachers who speak often about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and what they are doing in the world and their lives.

Start Them Young

My own mother spent quite a bit of her life teaching two- and three- year-olds.  One thing I remember her always saying is that we have too low of expectations for these young children. At a young age, we should not just be baby-sitting children. At this age, children are sponges if we use the right pedagogy. Therefore, we should start teaching children the substance of the faith, such as Bible stories and certain verses, as early as possible.

Spiritual Addition in Teaching and Parenting

My second piece of advice to parents is that you do not want to be or place your child under what I call in my book a "spiritual addition teacher.” A spiritual addition teacher, as the name implies, understands their Christian identity primarily as inspiring the addition of certain objectives, content, and methods to their classroom. Spiritual addition teachers, as one would expect, simply add Christian material to “secular” classroom content or curriculum to make their classes more “Christian” in nature.

In addition, the spiritual addition teacher simply mentions that they add a particular spiritual practice such as devotional Bible reading or prayer, or share the personal story of their own Christian conversion to their classes. Although these are all good things, they are not the best approach. The best approach is...

Christian Transformation in Teaching and Parenting

In contrast, you want to be and to place your children under Christian transformation educators. These educators set forth ends that reconceptualize the entire educational process as something sacred or related to God. They also perceive their Christian identity, and thus the Christian theological and ethical components, as influencing their curricular sense-making, construction, and content. Since Christian transformation teachers understand all of life to relate to sacred and spiritual matters, they do not separate out some parts of a curriculum as being more spiritual or religious than others.

Consequently, Christian transformation educators do not talk about adding extra Christian content; instead, they discuss how they add theological perspectives to every discipline, course, or particular subject under discussion (even chemistry and math—see for example the recent book, Mathematics for Human Flourishing).

Lower School Boy

Christian transformation educators also look at the area of pedagogy differently. As one teacher noted, “Teaching methods are influenced by belief in teaching as a gift from God, to support students in their role of gaining knowledge to develop their gifts from God.” Similar to the whole idea of viewing students or subject matter as a gift, this teacher understood pedagogy as a gift to be stewarded for others. She derived this perspective from seeking to think and live in light of the overall Christian story. 

Second, while Christian transformation educators use Bible reading or prayer while teaching, they do not simply add these practices to the start of class. For example, instead of placing prayer at the beginning of class, some educators incorporate prayer into the class when it relates to the particular topic (e.g., “For example, in current events-based classes, we might stop in the middle of a news story or current issue, identify some of the affected parties, and have three or four students pray for what we are learning about.”). They take a similar approach with the use of the Bible.

Third, Christian transformation educators articulate their perspectives on why a particular teaching practice should be incorporated into their teaching in light of their Christian outlook or narrative.

The overall result: our children are provided with examples of how to weave God-oriented thinking, affections, and behavior into all of life.

Dr. Perry Glanzer
Written by Dr. Perry Glanzer

Perry L. Glanzer, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Foundations and a Resident Scholar with Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. Dr. Glanzer has co-authored several books and authored or co-authored over 75 journal articles and book chapters on topics related to moral education, faith-based higher education, and the relationship between religion and education. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Christian Scholar's Review.