Several years ago, I set out to understand how a biblical worldview actually develops in a person—how someone comes to desire, think, and act in alignment with biblical truth. I spent hundreds of hours analyzing the experiences and reflections of Christian young adults and I discovered some important truths. This article reveals what I found.
The distinguishing mark of a Christian school should be an educational experience that immerses students in a biblical worldview. Biblical worldview immersion goes beyond the traditional emphasis on biblical integration, which involves connecting course content to biblical truths. While that’s an important part of immersion, it’s just not enough if we hope to make good on our promise of producing graduates who have a well-developed biblical worldview. Effective biblical worldview development requires a more holistic approach.
How a Biblical Worldview Develops
Every young adult in my study could answer the big worldview questions: “Why am I here?” “What is the chief aim of man?” “What is the meaning of human history?” But each of them also described how they were still developing their worldview as they sought to live out the implications of those answers. Additionally, I discovered that my young adult friends had common experiences in the process of developing their worldview—experiences that deeply immersed them in that process.
So what does this mean for Christian schools? On the one hand, it takes some pressure off us. For years after high school, young adults are still wrestling with what living according to a biblical worldview means. We may be able to back off on bold website promises like “We produce students with a strong biblical worldview, able to defend it in the marketplace of ideas.” (I know few elders in the church like that, let alone eighteen-year-old graduates!) On the other hand, understanding how a biblical worldview takes shape in the critical young adult years can help guide how we teach K–12 students in anticipation of a lifetime of worldview development. We can take what we know about how young adults develop their worldview and work backward from there, creating distinctive learning environments that are aligned with that process.
It Starts with You
Before you can begin to nurture worldview development in your students, you must start with your own commitment to a growing biblical worldview. Based on the model that I created in my study with young adults, here are five principles for active worldview development for those who would help others develop their worldview.
- Understand how your past experiences have shaped your worldview.
- Think deeply about and regularly assess your worldview.
- Process life experiences through reflection, prayer, study, and other disciplines (alone and with friends and mentors).
- Pursue experiences with people, places, and ideas that both support and challenge your worldview.
- Cultivate a healthful lifestyle (spiritually, emotionally, and physically), so you have plenty of energy to focus on biblical worldview development.
If you’re committed to developing your own worldview and you share that journey with your students, you’ve taken the first step in providing a biblical worldview immersion experience for your students. The next step relates to what kind of classroom you have.
Creating Immersive Learning Environments
Too often teachers’ lesson planning centers on only planning lessons. However, David Smith, in his book On Christian Teaching, reminds us that our ministry with students goes beyond crafting learning activities to creating unique environments for our students. He likens our classrooms to the medieval concept of a pedagogium—a home where master teachers would live with, tutor, and mentor their students. Immersing students in a biblical worldview in your classroom goes far beyond the section in your lesson plans entitled “Biblical Integration.”
Creating a biblical worldview pedagogium involves four central teaching commitments:
- Guide students toward desiring the kingdom of God, including establishing habits that shape desires, engaging godly role models, and interacting with individuals who do not embrace a biblical worldview.
- Practice the reflective disciplines that enable students to process experiences.
- Focus on engaging learning experiences, as opposed to teaching methods that encourage students to passively consume content.
- Offer subject-based experiences with the truth claims and practical applications of a biblical worldview.
When you effectively apply these commitments to your classroom, your students will experience an environment that immerses them in a biblical worldview.
Leading Your School in Biblical Worldview Immersion
For those of you who are administrators in a Christian school, your role is critical and begins (like teachers) with modeling biblical worldview development in your own life. Beyond serving as a role model, though, your choices create opportunities for you to shape the culture of your school. These choices include course offerings, curriculum and textbook selection, building decor, design of learning environments, communication with parents, extracurricular activities, teacher expectations, and professional development.
This process can be jump-started by changing the focus of your school’s mission and expected student outcomes to focus on biblical worldview immersion. For instance, instead of claiming that you “produce graduates with a strong biblical worldview,” you could consider a more realistic statement like “we nurture students to be committed to developing a biblical worldview.” And then you can make sure your expected student outcomes are consistent with what we know about worldview development. This includes addressing and assessing all three dimensions of a biblical worldview: heart orientation, truth claims, and behavioral alignment with biblical truth.
Living as Citizens of God’s Kingdom Right in the Classroom
Focusing on biblical integration in instructional planning is good, but it’s not enough if robust worldview development is your aim. Actively developing your own worldview and creating a biblical worldview pedagogium for your students can move you beyond integration to immersion.
The best way to learn how to be a citizen of a certain country would be to actually live there. You’d be immersed in the language, customs, and values of that country, and your desires, thoughts, and behavior would be shaped accordingly. Our schools can be like this—immersive experiences that effectively nurture young citizens of the kingdom of God who become well prepared for a lifetime of biblical worldview development.
By Roger C.S. Erdvig