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SPIRITUAL NURTURE IN DEVELOPING THE FAITH OF CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY. Marsha Boyd Mitchell. Liberty University

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SPIRITUAL NURTURE IN DEVELOPING THE FAITH OF CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY by Marsha Boyd Mitchell Liberty University A Dissertation Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfillment
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SPIRITUAL NURTURE IN DEVELOPING THE FAITH OF CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY by Marsha Boyd Mitchell Liberty University A Dissertation Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Education Liberty University 2015 2 SPIRITUAL NURTURE IN DEVELOPING THE FAITH OF CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY by Marsha Boyd Mitchell A Dissertation Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Education Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA 2015 APRPROVED BY: James Swezey, Ed.D Committee Chair Karl Csaszar, D.Min, Committee Member Wesley Scott, Ed.D.,Ph.D, Committee Member Scott B.Watson, Ph.D, Associate Dean of Advanced Programs 3 ABSTRACT Many Christian schools provide solid academic environments for adolescents. The programming promises to deliver an education to nurture the human soul. This qualitative, transcendental, phenomenological study was for the purpose of discovering how spiritual nurture in Christian high schools aided and encouraged faith development. Christian high school is the lived experience of adolescents going to school with spiritual nurture at the heart of their programming. The participants were 15 adolescents who attended a Christian high school that implemented spiritual nurture by use of prayer, worship, biblically-integrated curriculum, Bible study, teacher-student relationships, holistic correction, and peer relationships. The epoche was the isolation of my own thoughts about spiritual nurture in Christian high schools; my own thoughts did not become a formal part of this study. In phenomenological style I organized significant statements and then clustered those statements into themes: competent professionals, student mentors, like family, building blocks of faith, confirmation of faith, steeping in Stage Three, and walking towards Stage Four. I found synthesis between textual and structural variations (Moustakas, 1994). Findings not anticipated were how readily participants were to talk about personal problems, and also the comparison they have automatically with their public school peers. What the participants experienced regarding SN in their CHS was careful heard through interviews and journals and strengthened through observations. Key Terms: ACSI (Association of Christian School International), FDT (Faith Development Theory), SN (spiritual nurture), CHS (Christian high school), CE (Christian Education), CSE (Christian School Education) 4 Dedication Page I would like to thank my husband Colin Mitchell for his consistent support throughout this whole academic process. I am grateful to my mom and dad who were the first champions of Christian School Education in my life. Thanks to some of the Christian educators who nurtured me best: Deana Emmerson, Pam Alward, Dr. Sheryl Vasso, and Dr. Karl Csaszar. My heart is filled with gratitude to the parents who I have witnessed first hand to sacrifice for Christian education. Those parents have expressed dedication to Christian education in many tangible ways. Also, to the many students who have been part of my classroom and/or school for the extent of my career. My students have filled my life with their wonderful testimonies and have allowed me to be part of their faith- building journey. 5 Table of Contents Dedication Page... 4 List of Abbreviations CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION Overview Background The History of the Christian Education Movement Spiritual Nurture Adolescent Development Faith Faith Development Theory & Identity Situation to Self Personal and Professional Experience Philosophical Assumptions Problem Statement Purpose Statement Significance of the Study Research Questions Research Plan Delimitations Limitations CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW Overview... 30 6 Theoretical Framework Fowler s Faith Development Theory Erikson s Developmental Psychology Equilibrium and Disequilibrium Developmental Psychology Identity Related Literature Spiritual Nurture Christian School Education Distinctives Spiritual Nurturers: CHS Teachers Christian High School Students Adolescent Distinctives Spiritual Nurture Praxis Summary CHAPTER THREE: METHODS Overview Design Research Questions Participants Setting Procedures The Researcher s Role Interviews... 94 7 Observations Journaling Data Analysis Coding and Transcribing Horizonalization and Clustering Textural and Structural Descriptions Synthesis Field Notes for Observations Writing Memos Trustworthiness Triangulation Peer Review and External Check Member Checks Thick Descriptions Ethical Considerations CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS Overview Participants Participant Participant Participant Participant Participant 8 Participant Participant Participant Participant Participant Participant Participant Participant Participant Participant Results Data Analysis Research Questions Findings Not Anticipated Summary CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSIONS, CONSLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Overview Summary of Findings Central Question, How does SN impact the development of faith of adolescents who attend a CHS? Research Question 1 What themes arise in relationships with teachers to help adolescents build faith in a CHS that help with Faith Development Theory? 9 Research Question 2 What themes arise in the relationships between peers that help with Faith Development Theory? Research Question 3 What statements about the school environment help us to understand the impact of spiritual nurture on faith and Faith Development Theory? Research Question 4 What are the students thoughts and feelings about building faith while attending a CHS? Research Question 5 How does this impact Faith Development Theory? Discussion Purpose Development of Faith Equilibrium Extra Nurturing Spirituality Identity Teacher Student Relationships Bible Study Teacher s Example Confidence Stories of Faith Emerging Spirituality Evangelism and Discipleship Prayer Holistic Correction 10 Christian Peers Implications Theoretical Implications Practical Implications Study Limitations Recommendations for Future Research Summary REFERENCES APPENDIX A APPENDIX B APPENDIX C APPENDIX D APPENDIX E APPENDIX F APPENDIX G... Error! Bookmark not defined. 11 List of Abbreviations ACSI (Association of Christian School International) CE (Christian Education) CHS (Christian high school) CSE (Christian School Education) FDT (Faith Development Theory) SN (spiritual nurture) 12 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION Overview Christian school board members, administrators, teachers, and parents typically make the assumption that spiritual nurture is part of the Christian school environment. This chapter will provide the framework for my study where I examine spiritual nurture (SN) within a Christian high school through the theoretical lens of Fowler s (1981) faith development theory (FDT). My study s phenomenon is focused on the SN of adolescents who attend a Christian high school and whether the school s internal system provides this component. I look specifically at the phenomenon within the context of a Christian high school in the Maritimes,. This chapter will reveal a study based around the central question: how does SN impact the development of faith of adolescents who attend a CHS? This chapter will then reveal the sub questions of the study. The philosophical direction for the study is stated in this chapter. The findings in this research will have impact and significance for Christian parents, Christian teenagers, CS board members, CS administrators, and CS teachers. Enrolling a child in Christian high school (CHS) is a spiritual nurture (SN) phenomenon through the praxis of prayer, worship, biblical integration, Bible study, memorization, teacherstudent relationships, holistic correction, and peer relationships. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth (III John 1:3, New King James Version). Christian parents desire that their children choose Christian faith (Bushnell, 1861; Hamrick, 2005; Schultz, 1998). The mandate of a CHS is to come alongside of families to make faith part of the curriculum (Van Brummelen, 2002). Dynamics of adolescent faith were laid out in Fowler s (1981) faith development theory. In Fowler s (1981) theory there are several stages; stage three, syntheticconventional faith, is described the adolescent as on a journey to combining his or her past with 13 their recently seen future. At this stage adolescents begin to see outside of themselves. They gather values for the journey of life that they are about to embark upon independently. This phenomenological study was concerned with the phenomenon of SN in a CHS and how this education promotes faith identity. Mark 8:36 asks, What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (NIV). Spiritual nurture happens when encouragement, training, and education in spiritual things occur at home (Bushnell, 1861) and is reinforced in the heart (Willard, 2002) and should be at the center of all education of youth (Schultz, 1998). Spiritual nurturing is an important part of the Christian school (CS) environment (Rhea, 2011). Rumer (1966) suggested from his research that Christian education (CE) could not be separated from SN. Spiritual nurture can be seen as the process of supporting, encouraging, training, developing, and educating towards things of a spiritual nature (Bushnell, 1861; Fowler & Dell, 2006; Willard, 2002). Fowler (1981) asked a list of contemplative questions that help define faith: What are you being spent for? What causes, dreams, and goals are you pouring your life out for? What powers do you fear? To whom or who are you committed to in life? In death? With what group do you share your most sacred, private hopes? What are your most sacred hopes? Goals? Purposes? (p. 2) These are the questions students in a CHS environment were asked to consider (Van Brummelen & Koole, 2012). Spiritual nurture continues at the secondary level in CHS (Bertram- Troost, de Roost & Miedema, 2007; Camp, 2009; Schultz, 1998; Van Brummelen & Koole, 2012) at a time when students, 9 th through 12th grades, were looking to form their identity separate from their parents (Davis, 1986; Erikson, 1963, 1968, 1978; Fortosis & Garland, 1990; Kessler, 2002; Lerner, Roeser & Phelps, 2008; Smith & Denton & 2005). 14 A CHS environment strives to develop a nurturing spirituality as part of the curriculum (Benton, 2008; Cunningham & Fortosis, 1987; Gaebelein, 1968; Hamrick, 2005; Lockerbie, 1994; Van Brummelen, 2002). Adolescence is a time some families make the decision to look to public schools for their children for more athletic opportunities, more choices for academic electives, and more opportunities to receive local scholarships (Hamrick, 2005). Fowler s FDT (1981) provides a framework to look at this highly specialized time in life called adolescence and how it relates to faith identity formation (Erikson, 1963, 1968, 1978; Fowler, 2004; Fowler & Dell, 2006; Miller, 2011; Parker, 2009). Background The Cardus Education Survey (Pennings, Sikkink, Van Pelt, Van Brummelen, & Von Heyking, 2012) was designed in Canada to identify the outcomes of private education versus public education. Diversity in educational delivery has been a hallmark of Canadian education since Confederation (Pennings et al, 2012, p. 5). The Cardus Report (Pennings et al., 2012) compiled research about non-government schools in Canada. It is pointed out that in the world market, government schools performed well and non-government school graduates had higher scores in: volunteerism, families, generosity, purpose in employment, engaged in politics, and were more focused on neighbors (Pennings et al., 2012). The History of the Christian Education Movement The Association of Christian School International (ACSI) has been organized for over 35 years, and it originated in the United States. ACSI was established later in Canada. In Canada there are two divisions of ACSI: eastern and western. Association of Christian Schools International train youth in God s truth. Due to the hiring practices of born-again believers, these schools have a unique ability spiritually to nurture while they educate adolescents (Association 15 of Christian Schools International, 2012). Spiritual nurture takes place in the classroom relationship between the teacher and the students. There is a SN component that happens both intentionally and spontaneously within many Christian secondary schools (Bertram-Troust & DeRoose, 2007; Leslie, 2005). Parents invest in these private Christian schools primarily as a means to have their children taught from a Judeo-Christian point of view. There was a considerable amount of research available expanding on why parents choose Christian schools (Cunningham & Fortosis, 1987; Gaebelein, 1968; Hamrick, 2005; Schultz, 1998; Van Brummelen, 2002). Parents sometimes perceive the programming to be limited in Christian schools at the secondary level and tuition rates were prohibitive. Sports, choices for electives, clubs, networking, and government-funded tuition can become the catalysts for choosing public school. Perhaps parents were not evaluating the spiritual component that is part of the educational process and also how crucial adolescence was to the formation of faith identity (Benton, 2008). The formation that happens during the school day at a CS could possibly be deeper and more thoughtful than the spiritual training that happens in the life of the church and even the home (Bertram-Troust & DeRoose, 2007; Hamrick, 2005; Leslie, 2005). Spiritual Nurture Spiritual nurture related to the encouragement and training of the whole human being. But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4b, King James Version). This passage conveys that SN is a partnership between God and mankind. Bushnell (1861) wrote extensively about the nurture of the child (Gangel & Benson, 1983). Although Bushnell s work is dated, his work on SN was exceptional and sets him apart as the father of CE. There is then some kind of nurture, which is of the Lord, deriving a quality and a power from Him, and communicating the same. Being instituted by Him, it will of necessity 16 have a method and a character peculiar to itself, or rather to Him. It will be the Lord s way of education, having aims appropriate to Him, and if realized in its full intent, terminating in results impossible to be reached by any kind of human methods. (Bushnell, 1861, p. 10) The evangelical Christian grounds his theology of humanity from the book of Genesis. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7, New International Version). In the book Positive Youth Development and Spirituality (Lerner et al., 2008), connections were made between the spiritual development and adolescent development. Religious beliefs, values, and morals enable youth to make sense of the world and understand their place in it (Lerner et al., 2008, p. 57). Adolescent Development Adolescence is described as a unique time in life (Erikson, 1968; Smith & Snell, 2009). According to Kessler (2000), adolescence is a time where youth are eager to learn about spiritual life; these are impressionable years. The classroom needs to be set up with room for the soul. In Willard (2002) discussed the points of the human being that need transformation: the mind, the will, the body, social dimension, and the soul. These points of transformation align with the core values set out by ACSI and what they commend in the member schools; they prepare the student in a holistic way in the life of the classroom (Association of Christian Schools International, 2012). Nurture took place as the whole person is invited into the curriculum. Also when interacting with the carefully selected curriculum, encouragement is given to follow spiritual things and biblical teaching. Students need opportunities to express where they were in regards to faith (Hamrick, 2005; Schultz, 1998; Willard, 2002). 17 Faith Confidence is part of the faith development of the adolescent (Abel, 2011). Confidence is gained in many areas during adolescence (Erikson, 1963, 1968, 1978). Faith is no exception; it could be thought of being gained while a teen discovers his or her identity and equilibrium (Erikson, 1963, 1968, 1978; Fortosis & Garland, 1990). The strongest link to confidence in faith comes from the family environment (Abel, 2011; Bushnell, 1861). Abel (2011) went on to explore the impact that steady-abiding faith of adults has on a young person. Many are drawn to faith through hard circumstances, but youth are attracted to people who live out faith consistently in their lives (Abel, 2011; Lanker, 2010; Moore, 2011; Smith & Denton, 2005; Willard, 2002; Winn, 2010). The CS provids these individuals in the life of the adolescent through relationships with teachers; there are also others who are already working with them in different capacities in the life of the church (Graham, 2009). Fowler (1981) delved deeply into the theological work of Tillich (2011) to define faith. Tillich (2011) wrote that faith is the thing about which we are most ultimately concerned. Tillich (2011), like Fowler (1981), saw faith as a framework, and the given religion or denomination inserts the doctrine or teaching. Lives are built on the teachings of which humanity is ultimately concerned, and faith encompasses the whole personality and bridges the gap between the rational and non-rational parts of us (Tillich, 2011). Faith is the tension between the cognitive function of man s personal life, on the one hand, and emotion and will, on the other hand (Tillich, 2011, p. 6). Hebrews 11:1 reminded us faith is the hope of things unseen. A biblically based belief system becomes essential to the Christian parent and the mandate of the CHS. Schultz (1998) 18 wrote that from the earliest point of development a Christian parent should be guiding their children to the truths of God s Word. Faith Development Theory & Identity Fowler s (1981) faith stages are based on chronological age as well as faith readiness to move on to the next level. At the end of each stage of faith, the individual must let go of what was and get ready to embrace the new developments. Fowler s (1981) stages begin in childhood with infancy and finish with undifferentiated faith. Stage one is intuitive-projective faith, stage two is mythical-literal faith, stage three is synthetic-conventional faith, stage four is individuative-reflective faith, stage five is conjunctive faith, and stage six is universalizing faith (Fowler, 1981). The first two stages deal with the child as they move through childhood. Adolescence is a time in life when stories are an important part of building faith; this concept has driven the development of CE curriculum in the life of the CS and CE in a broader sense in the church. Fowler (1981) stated, In stage two the child is beginning to see life from another s perspective and this helps them to understand that God has a perspective (p. 139). The CHS works primarily with faith stage three. This is a unique stage that students move through and then possibly on to deeper levels of faith in stages four, five, and six. Fowler s (1981) stage three exposes the adolescent s need for a God who accepts them and helps them form personal identity. Fowler s (1981) research uncovered that many adults were still working from this framework of faith. An individual at Fowler s (1981) stage three level of faith begins to develop ideas and values of their own; however, they are based primarily on the authorities in their lives. 19 Situation to Self Personal and Professional Experience Christian schooling, and specifically ACSI schools, is a part of my personal and professional experience. I attended a Christian day school from kindergarten through grade twelve. My undergraduat
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