• ETnet: Integrating the Faith into Our Character Education

  • Integrating the Faith
    into Our Character Education

    Character education is discipleship. When we look around the nation right now, so many things overwhelm us. Are we wearing our masks? Are we physically distancing? Are we virtual? Are we in-person? Are we educating our children so they get the right amount of instruction to justify promoting them? Are we still testing? Are we teaching social emotional learning? Are we teaching character education? Do you think about the connection between social emotional learning and character education? There are many more items to consider as we think about the issues and questions confronting us in education.

    Lutheran schools trust that their teachers integrate God’s Word throughout their curriculum—including character education. To rightly consider character education, it is Lutheran to ask, “What does this mean?”

    Google and Wikipedia both say, “Character education is an umbrella term loosely used to describe the teaching of children and adults in a manner that will help them develop variously as moral, civic, good, mannered, behaved, non-bullying, healthy, critical, successful, traditional, compliant or socially acceptable beings.” In other words, character education is discipleship.

    Can you fathom the depth of the responsibility we have as teachers in God’s kingdom to do everything that character education requires us to do? That list is enormous even if you simply take them one at a time. But as teachers in Lutheran schools, you do that every day.

    Remember that you are fully supported by the Lord himself! You have the Holy Spirit to make you successful. You have the Holy Bible that gives you the lesson plan for character education. You wove it in and out of your core subjects. You use it when challenges arise. You use it to show your children how to behave as moral, good, well-mannered, healthy, and socially acceptable children of our heavenly Father.

    You can teach those children the principles, values, and virtues that society expects of them as emotionally adjusted people. We are civic minded because the Lord tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1–4 to pray for, make intercessions for, and give thanks for all those in authority. The reward is we get to live peaceful and quiet lives.

    You teach honesty, stewardship, kindness, and generosity. You use His word in Galatians 6 to encourage your students to carry each other’s burdens. As a teacher in a Lutheran school, you teach honesty, stewardship, kindness, and generosity. You use His word in Galatians 6 to encourage your students to carry each other’s burdens. You share with and encourage them to test their own actions, as well as to be responsible for their actions, attitudes, and behaviors. The Apostle Paul encourages us in verse 9 (NIV) when he says, “Let us not become weary in doing good.” He further states in verse 10, “Let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.”

    I know many of you use the words of Scripture as you teach character education and social emotional learning. The positive mental aspect of our instruction in Lutheran schools enables us to lean on the Lord as we minister not only to the children but also to their families. Counseling, mediating, listening, supporting, guiding, and directing are all things teachers in Lutheran schools do as we show the love of God during this unprecedented and challenging time. It is important for us to minister to our staff members also.

    When caught in that situation where you don’t know what to say, I suspect that you do the same thing I do. Pull out God’s Word, listen, and pray with your children and their families. Time after time I go to Philippians 4 for the words of God which remind us in verse 6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV). When we know the Lord is guiding, supporting, and directing our challenges, we then share verse 7, “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is true character education.

    God has blessed my school, Pilgrim Lutheran School in Green Bay, Wis. to partner with the people at Life Promotions, a Bob Lenz organization, which has produced Dignity Revolution. This program instructs educators how to teach character education, moral development, and socially acceptable behavior in relationships. This is essential to what we do as a Lutheran school. Mental health, non-bullying, positive relationships are all hallmarks of this curriculum. This program allows us at Pilgrim to teach a socially appropriate curriculum, which, when we add our biblical foundation, is amazing.

    • What can happen when character education and social emotional learning are not Scripture centered?
    • How would you adapt if you were prohibited from teaching from Christ-centered character education?
    • What curricular improvements in character education does your school need to make?

    It is incredible when we use God’s Word with the children and their families, how God just takes the character development and social emotional learning through the power of His Holy Spirit and makes it all work for His good. We find that peace of God. We share the Word, pray with His people, and the Holy Spirit ties it all together and makes it work.

    Teachers, thank you for the care and commitment that you have devoted to education, your students, and your families this year. You teach so many things, but the character education, the social emotional component, the positive mental health you are sharing and inculcating in your children’s lives is so crucial! Thanks for being a blessing to your children and their families. Thanks for being blessings to your colleagues and congregations by infusing the Lord, His Word, and prayer into your instruction and ministry. May the Lord bless you as you shine the light of Jesus in this dark world.

    John E. Schultz is principal at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Green Bay, Wis. A graduate of Concordia, St. Paul, Minn., and the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, Wis., he has been in ministry for 40 years. He has served at Lutheran schools in Indiana and Michigan.

    Photo © iStock/Chris Schmidt.

  • Share