Christian Faith, the Bible, and Public Schools

My mother began her teaching career in the public schools in the early 1970s. Over the years, she has recounted the times when she was expected to read the Bible to students. She remembers lovingly sharing Bible stories and even praying with her elementary-aged students. However, as the years passed, those expectations changed, and by the time she retired a few years ago, she no longer read—and wonders if she would have been allowed to read—Bible stories to students.

There is no question that the role of the Bible and Christian faith in the public schools has changed dramatically over the last half century. Some of these changes have been for the better; others have been less positive. Still, it has left some wondering, “Is there a place for the Bible and Christian faith in American public schools today? And, if so, what is it?”

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All Aboard the Intergenerational Train!

In their seminal work Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069, William Strauss and Neil Howe describe generations metaphorically as distinct trains carrying groups of like-minded people to stations that represent the different stages of life. For instance, today, the “Millennial” train is passing through the rising adulthood station and the “Generation X” train is passing through the midlife station. Strauss and Howe posit that each train looks different to observers as they come through each station because each generation has a distinct character.

Generation theory (and its precursors) has been around for a quarter-century now. Perhaps an older notion than that is the presumption of a “gap” between each generation that makes living together more difficult. This perception has been aided by a trend in American society toward age segregation over the last 100 years, with the youngest Americans receiving an education separate from adults, who are in the workplace, and separate from the oldest Americans, who are retired. That is a major shift from what was previously a largely agrarian society. Continue reading

Are You a Positive Listener?

Israel Galindo share more of his wisdom with us today. This time the topic is what it means to listen well to others–a reblog from Columbia Connections.

Columbia Connections

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning

Research tells us that between 75% to 80% of the communication flow in most classrooms is from the teacher to the students. While sharing information and directing instruction is a necessary part of the classroom learning experience, so is a teacher’s ability to listen to students. Listening to your learners means more than just hearing the words they use, or hearing to catch right answers and identify misunderstandings. Being a positive listeners takes skill, and, like every helpful teaching skill, requires practice. Test yourself to determine if you are a positive listener:

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Dimensions of Personal Care for Christian Educators

This week we will be featuring the wisdom of Dr. Israel Galindo for several posts. This first one talks about the personal care that educators so often ignore in their ministries. This is a reblog from Columbia Connections.

Columbia Connections

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning

The ministry and work of the professional church educator is challenging and demanding. The fact is that the more you stay in the field and in the ministry (especially if you stay in the same ministry context) the job only gets more complex, not less. Educational leadership is the kind of job that involves evolutionary development. Just when you think you’ve got the job down it expands, grows, evolves, morphs, changes, and shifts into different venues, levels, areas, and forms. At the very least we can say it will always be interesting. But it is also a job that never ends.

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Water @This Point

Almost ten years ago, Columbia Theological Seminary inaugurated a new online journal, @ this point: theological investigations in church and culture. The goal of the journal was straightforward: to model (and encourage) theological conversation among Christian laity on important topics of the day and, therein, help shape a more theologically literate church. The format, too, was straightforward: invite a scholar to write a lead essay on an assigned topic, ask three other scholars to write responses to the lead essay, and then have the lead essayist write a reply to the responses. The back-and-forth is intended not to foreclose conversation or thought but to open them up; as such we ask the scholars to end with questions, not criticisms and to highlight new ideas rather than simply assessing old ones. And we strongly encourage our writers to be brief but thoughtful and to avoid academic jargon where possible. “Think of your audience as the people sitting in the pews with you,” we tell them. “They may have college degrees, but those degrees aren’t likely to be in religion or philosophy. So think about the engineer or the schoolteacher in your midst.” Continue reading

Vacation Bible School-Yesterday and Today

It’s that time of year again when churches around the country hold Vacation Bible Schools in various formats. For a week or more the church is turned into a biblical marketplace or an underwater reef or a host of other locales to combine Scripture, music, crafts, and games to communicate the Gospel to children and others.

But where did this tradition begin? It seems that the first recorded summer Bible school in the United States was instituted by Mrs. Walker Aylette Hawes in 1898 in conjunction with Epiphany Baptist Church on New York City’s east side. Mrs. Hawes noticed how many immigrant children were roaming the streets in the summer, so she searched for a rented facility where she could begin a six-week summer school. The only available facility was a saloon and thus VBS was born in a bar. Continue reading