In the Christian college setting, it is dangerous to presume that all professors in all departments are integrating their faith in the classroom.
It is also dangerous to presume that this topic is routinely addressed with new faculty or revisited in department meetings—it is not. One reason is that it can be tempting to leave faith to the Bible Department professors or think that weekly chapel attendance is enough faith integration.
All of our students at Lubbock Christian University (LCU) are required to earn twelve Bible credits toward graduation requirements, and they have a chapel attendance requirement effective each semester.
One could reason that faith is adequately addressed in these settings.
Faith is not confined to religious studies and formal worship, however. There are opportunities to integrate our faith in college classrooms across the campus. Unfortunately, not all professors have considered tangible ways to do so.
In reflection, I have identified five faith-integrating strategies that have served me and my students well.
Semester Introduction: On the first day of classes, I remind students that we are all products of our family, our education, and our religious experiences. I want them to know about me as a person and as a teacher, in part to better appreciate the perspective I will bring to the class. I share an overview of my family background, public and private school education, work experience, and my faith story.
In an effort to better connect with my students, their first assignment is to submit a bio page about themselves. My students are usually more willing to share about themselves and their own faith walk as a result of my openness on the first day of classes.
Share Struggles and Blessings: I make welcoming comments to my students upon entering class each day. This creates a positive tone for the rest of the class. As I prepare the technology or set out materials, I often share a recent blessing or struggle. This reminds students that their professor is human, and it also reminds them that our faith is a part of daily life.
Prayer: I pray for my students regularly during the semester, and it is not unusual for me to pray aloud at the end of classes. I try to be sensitive to student pressures related to major papers or exams, and I include these in my prayers. Because of the rapport developed during the semester, students sometimes share prayer requests for themselves or others in need. It is a privilege to be asked to lift up these concerns in prayer.
Chapel Attendance: On our campus, chapel attendance is required for students and encouraged for professors and administrators. There are numerous reasons for the professionals to miss chapel—meetings, preparing a class, grading, reviewing instructional materials, and returning emails.
My personal experience is that more times than not, chapel is a blessing. The music or the message often speak to me. Perhaps a more important reason to attend is because the campus professionals are role models. Students notice our attendance and our absence, and this speaks to them.
People of Faith Examples: My pre-service teachers learn about a variety of graphic organizers and how to modify lessons when students know little or nothing about the topic. I often use people of faith as the vehicle for these lessons as students complete K-W-L Charts and Venn Diagrams. I introduce Horatio Spafford, whom they do not recognize, and John Newton, whom they initially confuse with Isaac Newton.
I share enough background on each man to create curiosity. The students then generate questions related to the lives of these men and their personal struggles. Eventually, they learn that Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn It is Well With My Soul, and John Newton wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.
Coincidentally, (I don’t believe in coincidence) a colleague mentioned Spafford and Newton in chapel a few weeks after my class instruction and had students sing their hymns. My students enjoyed a greater appreciation for the chapel that day because they knew the stories behind the hymns.
It is worthwhile for administrators to address integrating faith in the classroom as a specific topic for new faculty orientations. It is also beneficial for deans to periodically discuss such practices during a scheduled department meeting. At the very least, it is essential for individual professors to reflect upon how they consistently and effectively integrate faith in their classrooms.