• MIDnet: Faith Comes Through Hearing

  • Faith Comes Through Hearing

    The school day may very well be the only time my students hear the Word of God spoken to them. Faith comes from hearing (Rom. 10:17). Coming from a school where 57 percent of families are either unchurched or without a declared church home, the school day may very well be the only time my students hear the Word of God spoken to them. In any given year, I may have some students in their first year of confirmation, students attending non-LCMS churches, students who attend worship only on Christmas and Easter, and some who are new to the school and have never opened a Bible. Finding ways in which to incorporate faith discussion and application can be challenging, but nonetheless necessary, especially when those same conversations may not be regularly held at home. With that being said, here are some of the ways which I have found to incorporate faith into my instruction from the perspective of a language arts teacher.

    Scripture as a Mentor Text

    Using the Bible as a mentor text for the curriculum not only meets the requirements of the standards but also lends itself to discussing the passage’s message. There are ways in which to teach grammar, whether it is paper and pencil worksheets, sentence diagrams, or reading novels. One simple, yet intentional, integration of faith into my lessons has been through analyzing Scripture through grammar. Whether it is dissecting linking verbs in the “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John or searching for abstract nouns in the Sermon on the Mount, using the Bible as a mentor text for the curriculum not only meets the requirements of the standards but also lends itself to discussing the passage’s message. While the focus of the lesson may be on the words themselves it also provides students an opportunity to crack open their Bibles. It’s a non-threatening way for students who are not as experienced with the Word to interact with Scripture and read the truths without feeling like they’re in “Bible study.”

    Here is a link to an example of one of my lessons in which students search for subjects and predicates in the Book of John. I like to end my assignments with an extra credit question in which they can apply the lessons of the Scripture passage, so that they are not only reading it but applying it to their lives.

    While we may not all teach grammar each day, finding opportunities to use authentic and relatable examples of applied Scripture can never be emphasized enough. Whether we compare and contrast leaders in our world today to those in the Old Testament in a history class or sift through the creation story in science, using Scripture as a resource for the foundation of a lesson not only opens doors for faith conversations, but it also gives students an idea of how they can use their faith and knowledge of the Word in the world around them.

    Biblical Authors as Writing Models

    Writing can be intimidating in itself, so I often use biblical writers as a model for writing styles. Authentic examples of writing in the more modern world are a staple in many excellent lessons, so why not incorporate Scripture as a primary source?

    With my seventh graders, I like to use Psalms to teach poetry, Paul’s letters to Timothy for letter writing, and Genesis and Exodus for narratives. Using models like these, especially from authors without a degree in writing, not only gives them a genuine example but also an opportunity to see how God works through all people to share His Word.

    I have found when students are analyzing these texts, their group discussions often default to Scripture itself. Whether they realize it or not, they’re studying the Word, and I am certain the Holy Spirit is at work. The more students are exposed to these writings, the more familiar they will become, and the more a faith takeaway will stick with them.

    Stories through a Lens of Faith

    A goal of mine is to share how the lessons students learn can apply to the world outside the walls of our school. One way I do this is through faith-centered lessons through storytelling. I’ve learned that many students are skilled at retelling a Bible story, but seeing the purpose and application of it is a bit trickier.

    Stories are everywhere. Whether in a novel you’re reading in class or something you heard as you walked by a group of students in the hallway, it’s obvious that people are natural storytellers. When we read stories, letters, speeches, or articles with students, one thing I’ve enjoyed doing is discussing how it might be different through a lens of faith. Ask questions to get them thinking: Does this character appear to be a Christian and why? How do you see this character serving their neighbor? How would the results of this survey change if they asked a church congregation? This is one way students can clearly see the connection of their faith to the real world, and it can open their minds to seeing this application in their own interactions.

    Faith as a Habit

    Above all, modeling a walk of faith, as imperfect as it may be, is an important standard to set for yourself as a Lutheran educator. I’ve often seen just how much students notice about their teachers. They’re WATCHING! While we can incorporate Scripture into our lessons every day, this must always be coupled with an honest and vulnerable example in their teachers. Middle schoolers are impressionable. When we not only tell about but also exercise a life of faith over fear and worry, students can see it.

    Sharing real life experiences and struggles with our students gives them a window into who you are as a person. One way to integrate faith is through sharing your own faith habits. It all starts with relationships. Sharing real life experiences and struggles with our students gives them a window into who you are as a person and reveals how you approach life. When they ask you how you’re still optimistic after wearing masks all school year, remind them of the blessings you’ve seen that day. Tell them about the new worship song you heard on the radio that morning, why you go to a particular worship service each week, what you pray when you brush your teeth, and how you thank God for waking you up on time that morning. This coupled with showing up at basketball games, asking about the book they just finished, or offering to pray with them as they sort out friend problems shows you care and that you’re rooting for them. Faith integration in the classroom doesn’t always have to be centered on a Bible story. Sometimes it’s about forming habits of faith. If I do nothing else but show my students how much I love them and how their Savior loves them immeasurably more, I will call the year a success.

    So what?

    • What are you already doing, and what more could you do to jumpstart conversations of faith in your classroom?
    • Where are my students in their faith lives, and what can you do to help them grow?
    • What experiences have you had in your faith that you can share with your students?

    You may see a common theme here—providing opportunities for students to regularly discuss faith. I’ve found many of my students, coming from families that aren’t regular church goers, don’t default to discussing their faith unless prompted. My goal in all of this is to make faith part of a routine for them. God willing, students who start out the year with minimal knowledge about God’s Word can end the year with a bit more confidence in who they are as children of God.

    Being at a school with such a high percentage of students without a faith background certainly poses its challenges. Do all of my students grow by leaps and bounds each time I integrate faith into a single lesson? Probably not. Nonetheless, this is where my own faith comes into play, and I rely on the promise of Romans 10:17. In this, I can be confident: Students are hearing the message of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit is at work. Thanks be to God.

    Allison Seeliger is the seventh-grade teacher at St. Paul Lutheran Church and School in Boca Raton, Fla. She was the 2020 LEA Outstanding New Lutheran Middle School Teacher.

    Photos by Kathryn Brewer.

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