The school’s task is to train students. John Coblentz says one kind of training is more important than any other: nurturing students to love God. How can teachers and schools accomplish this? How can they take the next step, and train students in loving each other? John shares practices that deepen our own experience of God’s love while communicating it to those around us.
The most important thing you will ever do is to love God. The most important thing you will ever urge your students toward is to love God. Out of that love, then, we are equipped to love others, and when our loves are straightened out and are aligned with God’s intention for us, we are prepared to deal with the big issues of our times.
I would like to think with you about some suggestions for promoting love for God in the classroom. How do you do this? I thought of some things. I jotted a number of them down here, but how do you urge your students toward loving God?
I would suggest that, first of all, we need to be lovers of God ourselves. It’s not an issue of strategy. It’s not an issue of methods. It is a matter of your own life speaking by the habits that you live. You can talk to your students about loving God, but if it isn’t coming out of a life that is devoted to Him, that carves out the time, what is love and how is love expressed? The reality is, folks, that when we love someone, we spend time with them. When we love somebody, we talk, we hear, we listen, we visit, we nurture the relationship, we look forward to the times of being together. You can’t effectively nurture that in others unless you’re living it.
I think it is helpful for our students to hear us describe God’s love, to point out the expressions of God’s love. How have you seen the love of God? To let your students hear your own—from your own life. Talk to them about what God’s love actually is like, what it means, the ways in which the love of God is distinct from much of what is called love. Point out to your students how God shows His love to us.
Lead your students in meaningful times of worship. I urge you: when you choose songs for the morning, when you plan devotional times, I urge you, don’t do it just on the run. Don’t just quickly say, “What can we do here to have a devotional time?” Think in terms of guiding their hearts toward worship, toward the posture of hearts that are set on Him, lives that are devoted to Him. Lead them in meaningful times of worship.
Express your own love for God. Obviously, they have to hear that as corresponding to your life, but express your love for God. Here’s one that I probably would give with a bit of caution because I recognize that we can sometimes describe things in our lives that make us the hero, and I just urge you, describe how God’s love has shaped your life. What has your love for God caused you to say no to? What has it caused you to say yes to? Sometimes, in order to love God, we have to listen to the words of Jesus that sound almost violent to us. Hate your father and mother, and fishing and hunting. Cut off your hand—or your fishing pole.
Now, again, we want to be careful with these kinds of descriptions. We don’t want our students to end up looking to us as heroes, and we talk about this, but the reality is that the love of God is going to shape our lives, and our students need to know how this actually gets into life.
Provide opportunities, then, for your students to express their love for God. These can be meaningful times of worship in our school setting.
But now, the greater challenge is promoting love for others in the classroom. Children, I think, can be led fairly easily toward loving God. It actually makes sense to love our Creator, our Provider, our Protector. It makes sense to love God, but it doesn’t always make so much sense to love our fellow students. We are rather ornery creatures, and loving each other, that second command, is often what bites us. I even find in my own life and among my fellow Christians that we can really enjoy worship times. We can enjoy getting alone with God, sometimes because we don’t want to be around others.
When we get in to the classroom, these students did not choose their classmates. They’re put together with them. As teachers, you didn’t choose who’s going to be in fifth grade this year. I believe there are ways for us as teachers—we can purposely plan projects of kindness, projects of helping those who are needy and so on, but I’m not going to necessarily take the time here to try to suggest what are some methods for teaching your students to love others. What I would like to suggest is that we live it.
Our own lives are going to model what it means that we really love God with all our heart and we love those around us. Our students are going to observe in our interactions what it means to love people.
This is an excerpt from a presentation at Teachers’ Week 2018 on Christians and technology. To purchase the series, visit Christian Learning Resource.
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CONTRIBUTOR: John Coblentz
SERIES: Teachers Week 2018All items in the series:
- How Do We Nurture Love for God and Others?
- The 4 M's of Effective Objectives: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- Dannie's Choice