Starting the Year Off Right
The new students are arriving, loaded down with boxes -- anxious for their parents to leave -- and excited about this new adventure called college. They are at a point in their lives where they will make some crucial decisions. Not only will they decide what they will do, but they will often decide what it is they really believe. What impressions will they get from us?
As the school year begins, one of the most powerful things we can do is to let students know who we are and what is really important in our lives. One of the simplest times to do that is during the first week or two of class each semester.
If you were like me, you may have gone through your entire undergraduate career and not know of one Christian professor. This is sad, because it propagates the idea that you can't be an educated person and still be a Christian.
It certainly isn't appropriate to take a large amount of class time to talk about one's faith. However, you can let students know where you stand (thus being honest and revealing your potential biases) in many ways.
One of the simplest ways is at the beginning of the semester as you are introducing yourself to the class. For instance, you might say, "I am Professor Smith and will be teaching Econ. 101 this fall semester. I have my Masters and PhD from Penn State and I have been teaching here for 15 years. My wife, Mary, and I have 3 children. I enjoy tennis and boating. My wife and I are actively involved in our church, because our faith in Christ is an important part of our lives. My office hours this semester are listed in the syllabus..."
This is the approach taken by Dr. John Cimbala. Several years ago he took the scary step of letting students know about his faith and has some wonderful stories to tell about the results. You can read them in his article at: http://leaderu.com/real/ri9601/cimbala.html.
And, of course, it is often appropriate (i.e. when dealing with issues of ethics) to share one's own viewpoint in a discussion inside or outside the classroom, especially when the student(s) initiate the conversation.
Be prepared to be scared to death the first time you let people know where you stand. But don't let fear keep you from letting students know what makes life exciting and meaningful for you. God is glorified by -- and uses -- our faithfulness in being identified with Him.
Scripture: Romans 1:16 - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
Action Point: Look for appropriate places to share the importance of your faith with students and colleagues inside and outside of the classroom. Make specific plans for when you will tell students in each class about yourself.
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