Faith integration involves developing content, weaving in how faith shapes our views, motives, or approaches, as well as how this is applied.If teaching at a Christian college were like any other teaching job, we professors could just go into a class and deliver a great lecture to a room full of future professionals, hold office hours, grade exams, and write papers like all the other professors in the country.
But teaching at a Christian college comes with an expectation that most of us have no training for and find little help from our administrators. Oh, there may be a beginning of the year workshop or a designated faculty member we are directed to go see when we take the job, but our disciplines are so varied that the information is often hard to translate into usable information for our specific disciplines.
Becoming an expert in the discipline we are passionate about got us the job, but now we are also expected to deliver a great lecture with a slice of faith integration that goes beyond prayer and a daily devotional.
As highly educated people, this should not be as hard as it sometimes seems. And it’s not! We have been asked to help the younger ones walk in the way of the Master, the ultimate teacher. I entered into that classroom a decade or so ago and had to search like an agent in the CIA to find any clue as to how to teach my discipline and integrate my faith into the lecture.
Now, as a step or two ahead of you, let me shed a little light on the technique I have come to use in my own teaching. I return you to your college years when acronyms often helped you learn formulas for physics or anatomy class by offering this acronym for developing a great lecture with a faith integration component: C.I.A.
The purpose of education is to help students understand specific material related to their major, so the majority of our lecture time will be centered around the content. This is our expertise area; the topic we would talk about for the whole hour, if we were at a secular university. In fact, the Christian college classroom will look like the secular classroom regarding discipline-specific content because we must educate the students to be highly qualified individuals for the careers God has planned for them.
Having lecture notes, PowerPoint slides, or discussion questions at the ready is where we start. It’s the next step that makes us distinctly Christian educators.
Once you have presented the content, it’s time to weave in how our faith shapes our views, changes our motives, or approaches the content in a different light—the light of scripture.
This is when we read a Bible passage or a verse and show how God has something to say about the content or a concept related to the lecture topic. The passage does not have to use the vocabulary of the lecture topic specifically or address the topic directly. It just has to relate conceptually. For example, the Bible verse or passage could relate to the implications of forgiveness for mental wellbeing in a psychology class or to the orderliness of God’s character in a math class.
The verse could address honesty in a business class or show how Jesus used storytelling to educate people about how to treat others in an education class.
The secular institution leaves God out of the teaching, learning, and living process. They address the content, the material, the how-to. They present data and show statistics; they roll out the scrolls of ancient philosophers and dissect blood and guts without including any mention of the Creator of all knowledge.
We as agents of reconciliation can join the two back into the same space—the classroom. Students don’t have to hear about God on Sunday and content on Monday. Those who teach at Christian colleges and universities can present all of God’s creation and character and content in one beautiful package.
It takes time and intention to become an expert at faith integration in your classroom. If you are new to this integration approach, take one class a semester and spend time specifically looking for Biblical concepts that relate to your discipline. Ask God to lead you to passages that you can use in class .
Combined with prayer, the best way to find Biblical sources for this type of integration is to read your Bible regularly. Being committed to Christian education requires us to always be on the lookout for Biblical principles that relate to our field of study and that requires consistent Bible reading.
Searching Scriptures for verses that relate to your lectures on hemodynamics or tax law can drive any professor back to the basics—prayer and a devotional. There’s nothing wrong with that. And not every lecture will have a natural faith-related concept, so don’t try to force a Bible verse into every lecture. But being able to light the path of careers in criminal justice and architecture and engineering with truth from God’s word that aligns with content from these disciplines is what being at a Christian institution is all about.
Once your students have learned something about the topic and seen what the Bible has to say on the matter, it’s time to make application to the real world. This is where your experiences in the workforce demonstrate Christian life in action.
- How did you handle an irate client with patience and kindness?
- Why did you take time to listen to a co-worker tell you about a family situation?
- What did you do when your boss asked you to compromise on safety standards?
- How did your faith change how you approached reforestation after a government contract?
Making the application is what students will remember. Put the lecture content into the big picture and show them how their faith can make a difference in not only their personal lives but their work lives as well. Show them how to honor God when they are preparing a will or assessing a patient’s ability to swallow or illustrating the bones in the ear for a publication. This can easily be done through stories or asking questions of upper classmen who have more experience.
Apply the content of the lecture not only to job related situations but apply the Biblical principle to the situation as well. In the discipline of kinesiology, we talk about treating the whole person but often leave the “spirit” for some other professional to deal with. Now, working at a faith-based institution, I can integrate a spiritual component into mind and body client care. This is faith integration.
Just like learning to ride a bike, learning to balance the content, integration, and application in classroom lectures will take practice. In time, muscle memory develops and you can jump on your bike and pedal off to grand adventures without even thinking about all the mechanics that go into keeping you upright.
Stepping up to the podium to deliver a fabulous lecture using C.I.A. techniques will also take time; but once it develops, the adventures that await are endless.