Caring for Students Spiritually

In this issue of the Connect:ED newsletter, I return to reviewing the characteristics of the 4C Quality Faculty Model. CARING is the second of the 4 Cs. Core Characteristic #6 under it is Spiritual Life, which describes faculty who are concerned for and help nurture a student’s spiritual growth in their walk with God.

This characteristic deals with the faculty member’s care for the spiritual life and growth of the student. The University’s overarching mission is helping our students cultivate a biblical worldview and a vital relationship with God. The life of the intellect and the life of the heart should be inseparably linked.
Although academic performance is the primary activity that gets graded and assessed – for instance, we do not require students to be a believer either when they enroll or when they graduate – education at a Christian liberal arts university is about far more than earning a degree or gaining professional skills. It is about being formed into a particular kind of person. This is a holistic and integrated view. And for us, the backdrop of that education is that every student is created in his image, intended to share his holy character, and called to be a citizen of his kingdom.

This means that for OKWU, the education in the classroom is a particular form of discipleship. A deep spiritual life is not something we can require like we can taking a quiz or writing a paper. But through the study of these subjects, and, most importantly, through the guidance, modeling, and wisdom of the faculty member, we can help nurture and challenge students in their relationship with the Triune God.

In the new Personal Teaching Profile approach to training and evaluation, you are asked to think about the following of questions with respect to your role as professor: How will you cultivate students’ spiritual growth? What all will you do to discover and learn about where students are spiritually? What will you do to encourage the students in their daily walk with Jesus Christ? How will you challenge them to grow deeper in their faith? How will you push students to think critically and develop a biblical worldview?

Some suggestions that we provide in the Guide to the 12 Core Characteristics include:

  • Ask critical thinking questions that encourage students to explore the “why” behind their thoughts, beliefs and actions.
  • Work with the Dean or a course designer to add Scripture reading requirements to your course.
  • Require students to read and reflect on assigned passages of Scripture and to apply those to their experience or to situations related to course themes.
  • Establish a chapel forum, providing a safe place to share prayer requests and praise reports.
  • Identify collision points between secular worldview and the Christian worldview in relationship to your specific course learning.
  • Seek opportunities to pray with students individually or incorporate Scripture references (i.e. 1-1 phone calls, Zoom meetings, email, discussion forums, etc.)
  • Build bridges between course concepts and the application of God’s word. Ask the questions: what did the Scripture mean when it was written, what is the timeless truth behind what is being said, how does it apply today?
  • Share devotionals in Chapel Forum or Announcements that are relevant to student concerns.
  • Share you own faith story, encourage students to share theirs, and identify students in need of stronger faith connections

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Bryan Easley

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Dean of Online Education, Oklahoma Wesleyan University

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