Leading Students Spiritually

Hopefully I don’t lose credibility with what I’m about to admit, but here it is: I cannot properly pack away my tent after camping. Whenever I try to put it back into the storage bag, it never fits right. I’m not sure if the case has shrunk or the tent has grown, but I do know that I can never do it well.

This image of an overflowing tent kept coming to mind as I considered how we lead our students spiritually. There is no way to cover it all, so in the spirit of trying to fit my tent into the storage bag, let me share a few things that I think will make the biggest impact when trying to spiritually lead your students.

The Big Three
There are three spiritual disciplines that are foundational to our spiritual life: Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship. Whatever your context you should include these disciplines throughout your day.

  1. It cannot be stressed enough that using Biblical principles as you go through your day can make a huge impact on the spiritual life of your students. Second Timothy 3:16 reads, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…”[1] If you are privileged to be able to openly use the Bible, make sure to take advantage of it throughout your curriculum as well as in non-curricular matters. Even if you are in a situation where overt use of the Bible is not allowed, you can teach scriptural principles as you lead and engage your students, and through the way you respond to them inside and outside of class.
  2. Prayer is powerful. We could talk a long time about how prayer needs to be a regular part of our school lives. In some contexts, you can pray for needs shared by the class at the beginning of the day, stop for impromptu prayers in the hallway, or take a few minutes at the start of class to get everyone calm and focused. These can serve as examples of how much we value prayer. In other contexts, your prayers may not be as visible, but there are still plenty of opportunities to lift your students up. God’s Word teaches us to “pray without ceasing.”[2] Let’s be an example of this for our students.
  3. When I was a student, I loved when a teacher would finish early. A rousing game of Heads Up, 7 Up was almost always going to be a part of the next 10 or 15 minutes of class. I would never suggest eliminating the favorite free-time activities of students, but what if on occasion you used this extra time to lead students into spiritual fellowship? If appropriate, let students pray together or share their favorite Bible stories, or maybe even create an atmosphere of worship. In more restricted environments, perhaps you could lead students in conversations about character and moral formation.

Though it may look different, all three of these disciplines can still be done in the current world of online learning. The key is to be intentional about allowing spiritual formation into your lesson plans.

Lesson Plans
Speaking of lessons plans, one of the best habits that I included in my planning was to connect our expected student outcomes to the lessons.  You might do something similar with your school’s expected student outcomes, or maybe you could create a section connecting your lesson to the “Big Three” mentioned above.  What If Learning uses faith, hope, and love as their template.[3] Perhaps you want to focus on loving God and loving others. You can come up with your own focus based on your students and your experience. As mentioned above, the key is to be intentional.

Your Personal Walk
Your personal walk with the Lord is an often-overlooked part of leading your students spiritually. God teaches us through the Apostle Paul, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” [4]  I know this was written to a young pastor, but the principle is valid – when your life is where it needs to be in the Lord, it can make a huge difference in the spiritual walk of your students as you have opportunity to lead them.

One last tip to encourage you with is to watch and listen. As you observe what is happening in the lives of your students, you can begin to tailor your spiritual investment to their specific needs. Recognizing the very real needs of your students takes time and effort, but it is an essential piece in figuring out how to help them grow spiritually.

Your students need you to help them grow. I pray that you will challenge yourself to consider using at least one of these ideas in your classroom. May the Lord help you do it well.

Dan Bishop, D.Min.
Assistant Regional Director
TeachBeyond, Europe

[1] 2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis added; taken from The Holy Bible. New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:17, taken from The Holy Bible. King James Version, Public Domain.
[3] What If Learning is a website aimed to support teachers in making the connection between Christian faith and teaching. It offers articles, templates, and examples that address this connection at various grade levels.
[4] 1 Timothy 4:16, taken from The Holy Bible. New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photo Credits: Happy Kids by Rawpixel/Shutterstock.com. Man Praying and Reading by Chat Karen Studio/Shutterstock.com. Teacher working with students by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com.