A Prayerful Observer Discovers Entry Points to Paradigm Shifts in a Child’s Home Education
When we become a prayerful observer of our children’s thought processes, learning styles, values and worldview, the Lord can highlight entry points to help bring new academic and spiritual understanding.
In Acts 11, Paul addresses the Athenians by standing in the Areopagus and saying, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you . . . ” Paul then goes on to preach the gospel message.
Note three aspects of Paul’s approach to teaching in Acts 17:22-31:
- First, he observes where the learner is in his own thought process.
- Second, he selects an entry point or connector from what the learner thinks he knows to the spiritual concept that he, Paul, wants to teach.
- Third, he links the two concepts together, creating cognitive dissonance and inviting a paradigm shift in the learner’s thinking.
Prayerful Observation and Cultural Context
Another example of observing an entry point that led to a paradigm shift is Don Richardson’s book, The Peace Child. Don and Carol Richardson risked their lives as missionaries to bring the Gospel message to the Sawi people in New Guinea. In the Sawi culture, they valued treachery and would “fatten their victims with friendship” before slaughtering them.
Don and Carol, after observing the ongoing warfare continued to pray for a way to bring the message of Jesus, salvation, and peace to the Sawi. They later observe that after brutal warfare, when two tribes wanted to make peace, they would give a “peace child” (one of the infants) from one tribe to the other. This was finally the cultural entry point that would help the warring tribes understand that Jesus is God’s peace child. The peace child was the redemptive analogy that unlocked the cultural context and provided an entry point into understanding the salvation message.
Actions, Values, Words, and Worldviews
Similarly, when we teach our children spiritual and academic knowledge, we must become a prayerful observer of what they know, their actions, values, words, and worldviews. Starting from this place of knowledgeable observer, we create dissonance through our teaching, asking questions, and leading children to new understanding spiritually and academically.
Jesus taught the same way. For example, Jesus shared his observations in the Sermon on the Mount that the people lived by the idea that “you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43). However, in Matthew 5:44, He said . . . “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you . . . ” Jesus created cognitive dissonance in the listeners in an effort to create a paradigm shift in their thinking which, for those who believed, brought spiritual life and learning.
Prayerfully, reflect on the following:
- Lord, am I an observer of my children?
- Lord, am I a prayerful observer of my children?
- Jesus, am I a prayerful observer of my children when it comes to spiritual understanding of Your Way of living out biblical principles?
- Lord, am I a prayerful observer of my children when it comes to academic understanding?
- Abba, am I listening to your Spirit for insightful ways to teach spiritual principles through our academic studies?
Lord Jesus, all subjects lead to You. Unified and coherent, You hold all things together (Colossians). In You “we live, and move, and exist” (Acts 17:28). Lord, in my exuberant efforts to teach, may I never miss that you are the Center of it all. Help me Lord, in daily prayer, words, and actions, to always lead my children to You, the Author of all Creation. May the teaching and learning in our home be an act of worship.
Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, I bow before You today and declare my allegiance to Your Holy Name. I promise You Lord, that come what way, I will never waiver from teaching my children the truth. Enliven through Your Spirit my understanding of my children and my understanding of You. Show me, Lord, the entry points to provide the tutelage my children need to move closer to You each day. Empower me, Lord, for this calling to teach. Amen.
June Hetzel, Ph.D., Dean of Education, Biola University