As the Curriculum Director at my school, one of the things I am asked the most about is biblical integration. Whether teachers are writing curriculum guides or just wanting to improve their instruction, biblical integration questions come up again and again: What do I use to biblically integrate? What resources exist out there to help? Do I just do what the book says? What if the textbook has cheesy examples? Or even just: How can I biblically integrate better for my students?
There are many things a teacher can do to better biblically integrate in the classroom. Without a doubt, a solid curriculum from biblical publishers helps (I cannot overstate this one). A degree from a faithful Bible college or seminary certainly would not hurt (I know this by experience). However, what I want to focus on here is the most important thing a teacher can do to biblically integrate more effectively. It’s actually simple, simple enough to say in three words: personal spiritual growth.
Now that may seem too simple. Or like I’m choosing the easy way out. I can just hear the mocking question, “Really?” In fact, I have had my teachers say just that. They’ll say, “Keven, I already have personal time with the Lord.” My response: “Great.” Then come my follow up questions: “But does it challenge you?” and “Are you actually growing?”
You see, if you’re not constantly growing and being challenged in your own faith, you will not have that fresh perspective and excitement that only the Holy Spirit can give, nor a life that is more and more like Jesus’s. If you have settled (like we all have at various times), and your personal time is just “rereading” the same old familiar excerpts or favorite passages, or even going through the same old routine in prayer, then you will not have much to integrate. If you’re not thriving spiritually, then neither will your lessons. So what do you do if that’s the case?
Maybe you need to do a truly hard Bible study. You know, one that gets you outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you need a Bible class from a seminary (I’ve found classes help make me do the work). Maybe you just need to get together with a few friends from your school or church and ask, “What are you doing to grow spiritually?” And don’t settle for a cheap answer; ask for the honest truth. Maybe together you all need to do something new. Start by getting on your knees and pleading for the Father to awaken you and guide you. As you know, sometimes “[we] do not have because [we] do not ask God” (James 4:2). Or as the subsequent verse suggests, we ask with wrong motives (something other than for God to be glorified in you and the students He has entrusted in your care): “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
Jesus himself said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). And didn’t Jesus say if we ask for anything in His name, the Father would give it (John 14:14)? And as we know, that phrase “in Jesus’ name” is not a magical formula to coax God to do our will. It’s about being in line with His will. And I cannot think of anything more in line with His will than wanting a vibrant and growing relationship with Jesus.
When I look back at my years of teaching (nigh a dozen at this point), I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my best biblically integrated lessons came (and come) out of my own personal growth with the Lord. When I was in seminary, learning new and exciting things from the Scriptures, it just naturally came out in my classes. When I worked hard to memorize Scripture, the Holy Spirit made things move in such a way that those verses often found their way into my lessons. And when I’ve been reading a fascinating book that pushes me in my faith or watching an incredible video series that challenges me to live more like Jesus, low and behold, my students get the same push and challenge in my classroom. And this isn’t forced, nor is it given in a cheesy way. It comes out in an authentic and applicable way because it, or I should say He, is working authentically in my life.
You don’t have to take my word for it. I know many teachers at my school that would say the same if they reflected on this. And I bet if you asked around, or even really reflected in your own life, you’d say the same. When we daily walk closely (and grow increasingly closer) with Jesus, we find that our “God-moments” in the classroom become more authentic and more frequent. That is how we bring out “new treasures as well as old” (Matt. 13:52).
That all sounds too simple, you say. I know. But honestly, is this not true of so many things in the Kingdom? To be sure, don’t confuse simple with easy. Jesus’ ways are generally quite simple, but almost never easy. Think about these simple, but challenging, commands: do everything without grumbling or arguing (Php 2:14); be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (James 1:19); and love your enemies (Matt 5:44). Those are all relatively simple, but we really have to grow to do them well. Growing spiritually and biblically integrating are not much different: simple, but not so easy. So keep doing the hard task of growing spiritually in your personal life. If you do, if you earnestly seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, he will take care of the rest (Matt 6:33), including your biblical integration.