Lots of under used and empty churches in America, some of those underused churches can be transformed into Spiritual Family Learning Centers. Wealthy individuals and corporations seeking to give back to the communities could walk into some of these empty churches and sponsor Spiritual Learning Centers for children. America needs more private and charter schools, our public schools need our help, children can and must learn, bring in the professionals who know how to teach all students without race or blame. We do not need excuses, we need churches as schools. Churches were the major institutions making it possible for families and generations to end poverty. The doorway out of poverty was the school and the pathway to the schools usually started in the church. Churches motivated school attendance and ran before church and after school programs to help students and parents get through the complex system of education. The Catholic Church held the lead in educating teachers and helping them to understand the spirituality in teaching. Riverside Church devotes a considerable amount of it spiritual and academic resources to the support and improvement of the the needs of the vast diversity of people in the Washington Heights Harlem and Columbia University communities. We started a Spiritual Formation for Teachers, and now would like to expand it to a Spiritual Formation for families.

 

 Children and families attending the Family ministry could be informed of the morning blessings for children. Young people, living in the neighborhood could also be informed of the blessings for school. Children could be encouraged to come for a Blessing when they are planning to take a test. It is hoped if Riverside starts a morning Blessing for children and teachers, that other churches may also consider opening their doors to Bless the children. Sometimes children do not think God cares about them, this is a way of inviting the children to come to the house of God, and be blessed before going to school.

 

It would also be helpful to the community to know that the church is open in the morning for prayer and meditation before going to work and school. People may sit quietly in the back of the church, or speak to one of the church’s ministers who may be on call and willing to participate in the program.

 

Children will learn how to take their problems to God, and that there is a place where they can have open communication with God.

 

The community could become aware that there is Morning Prayer and meditation available in the church.

 

This would be a quiet time. There would be no political or social agendas. Individuals would come in quietly and leave quietly. Holy Communion would be available for those who wanted it, and pastoral counseling would be available as requested.

 

Students in the Columbia/Harlem community would become aware that there is a spiritual blessing time taking place in the church, and that they are welcomed to take part before going to class, or in preparation for examinations.

 

This would go along way in helping to eliminate the climate and expectations of failure in the surrounding community. The parents and children will be encouraged to pray for success in their academic work and expect the success in their achievements in school. Faith can change attitudes and behaviors, and a change in attitudes and behaviors can result in higher expectations and academic success.

 

Logistics

 

Sessions would be over at 8:am. This would enable most students in the neighborhood schools to get to school before 8 am. This time frame takes into consideration that there are other programs in the church, which have an early starting hour, and would be available to individuals who may want to receive additional spiritual work. This would involve opening the doors on the Riverside area for the one hour. This would make it possible for individuals to go directly into the spiritual area [1]and out without involving other areas of the church.

 

It should be considered that a one day approach be tried to determine how the community responds to the program. The church school should be encouraged to secure permission from the parents[2] to have the students attending the Riverside Private School to take part in the blessings. Young people attending the various youth programs[3] in the church should be encouraged to participate in the morning blessings. Riverside has a large and effective Youth Ministry. This would provide the young people with another day and another time to learn how to let Christ carry their burdens. Children need to know there is a God they can talk too, and they have a powerful friend in Jesus.[4]

 

Parents should be encouraged to teach their children how to use their religion and traditions to help them through some of the events in life. For children and youth, those big concerns centers around school, relationships and family. Sometimes they cannot handle the problems on their own. This will provide them with an opportunity to learn how to use God as a partner in their lives. They will learn where to find God in a practical way.

 

Cost Factor

 

There should be no significant cost factor. Riverside church would be using its own resources.

 

Ecumenical Approach

 

The Education minister and the senior minister would extend an invitation to the other religious faiths of the children of Abraham, Jews, Christian and Muslim, to participate in the blessing sessions. It would also be helpful, if the local Catholic Church would be invited in the spirit of ecumenical participation.

 

 

This schedule could be as follows:

 

  • 6:30 am –7: am   Spiritual Formation
  • 7:00 am –8:am   Spiritual Formation

 

Quiet reflections or prayer – 5 minutes

Scripture reading               – 5 minutes

Song Selection                   – 5 minutes

Reflections by minister     – 5 minutes

Blessings, this could either be a communion or a lying on of hands

 

This would permit five minutes for first group to leave the area, and permit the entrance of another group. If necessary, one group could be held in the Nave, and another group could be held in Christ Chapel.

 

It would be a meaningful experience, if the community, which is surrounded by many schools, learns that the Riverside Church offered a morning service. There are many ministers in the church who would respond to this program, which would result in using the gifts and talents of those who are called to minister to others. This should be a combined effort of the Education ministry, the Youth Ministry and the Family ministry. It would also meet the needs of families living in the area as a visible indication of a church meeting the spiritual needs of the community throughout the week.

 

This program starts out on one day per week, and grows as the response indicates. The education department of the church could provide written suggestions for teachers to help them in their assignments. Teachers could become aware of the educational resources of the church, which could help them to better understand the student population, and the community, where they work

 

The focused on the American education system, and some suggestion on how to the church can be a partner in the education and spiritual process, without breaking the law. . Money is not the solution to education concerns. The solution is spiritual, and the established institutions already have within their power, the solutions for success.

Who and what we are intended to be as a nation is the solution to the problem. We are one nation under God. Under God, the solution can be realized. We are a nation separate and apart from any organized religion, and that is as it should be. We follow in the wisdom of our Founding Fathers who believed that America is an on going dream striving for perfection within the dream. We dream of our better selves, and in our waking hours, we work towards the reality of those dreams. We are better than our past, and greater than our present. We have the ability to create the unknown future, from the dreams within us.

 

Spiritual Workshops for Teachers

 

The second part of the program is the establishment of a series of workshops where teachers will be able to receive guidance, assistance and practical skills to be effective in the classroom. School principals, college professors, staff developers, guidance counselors, computer engineers and retired teachers will provide a non judgmental, non threatening support service around each teachers. In an environment of prayer and openness, teachers will receive the skills of spiritual classroom management. Spiritual techniques for managing student behavior, and prayerful practical methods for developing effective lesson plans.

 

Teacher training workshops are designed to be opportunities where professionals can join together and help each other. Professionals will come together to help professionals with ideas and skills useful in the area of effective educational delivery to students. This is designed to be a sharing sessions centered on spiritual growth and development. Teachers will be encouraged to express what they feel is the need of an individual coming out of college and entering the real world of classroom teaching. College professors will have an opportunity to discuss issues outside of the curriculum, but necessary for effective teaching. School principals will discuss the reality of working effectively with students, parents, coworkers, supervisors and the community. Principals will share what they want, and what they are getting. Guidance counselors will share how student express their feelings concerning their teachers and the classrooms. In a non-threatening and non-judgmental environment, with the help of the Holy Spirit, individuals will work together to develop a spiritual model for effective teaching.

 

What is Spiritual Teaching?

 

Spiritual teaching involves using the essence of being influenced and directed by individual faiths and belief systems to transform the teaching and learning process into one of a mutual respect. The mutual respect, which is spiritual, permits an opportunity for an exchange of confidence. The teacher stands before the students as one made in the image and likeness of God, and allows that belief to be the conduit through which information is given. The student, made in the image and likeness of God trust, and opens up and permits a flow to occur. The God within the teacher greets the image of God in the students, and they both give permission for the environment to be one of learning. Teachers’ respects the source of the information transferred, and will be provided inspired tools of motivation to encourage the students to open and receive. In spiritual teaching, the teacher expects the students to perform to the Glory of God. The teacher has given the spiritual best, and the student as the receiver has received, and has been transformed into a learner ready willing and able to demonstrate what has been learned.

 

If at any time the teacher fails to see the student as made in the image and likeness of God, or permits the race mind of the outer society to influence thoughts and beliefs, learning will not take place. Students will return to teachers what is expected of them. Without the spiritual force working between the teacher and the student, hard work will not produce results. The teacher must change into the spiritual mode, and be acknowledge by the student as understanding what the teachers has been sent to do. Student, and children recognize the presence of God within people. Children will avoid opening up to individuals who do not have the Holy Spirit, or is not had by the Holy Spirit. The Holly Spirit is the essence of Wisdom, the knowing of all knowing. The child is born with the Holy Spirit. It is the source that gave them life, and has provided within them the developmental codes of learning at growth. The Holy Spirit within the child open up doors inside of the child at different stages of development. The Holy Spirit is the guide within the child, which helps it grow through different transformational stages of life. As guardian of the doors to wisdom and understanding, the Holy Spirit reveals to the child only the information, which can be understood. The journey from infancy toddler, child, teenager, puberty, and adulthood, is under the guide and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is that same Holy Spirit, which identifies to the student, that a time for learning is taking place. The teacher, identifies the Holy Spirit in each of the students H in the class, and teach to that Holy Spirit.

 

In the interfaith Spiritual Formation for Teachers, individuals will be encouraged to get in touch with the Holy Spirit within them, through their own faith systems.

Some maybe meeting the Holy Spirit for the first time. Some are old friends with the power within. Some teacher may know that something is missing in their teaching. There is a feeling that hard work and dedication does not always make effective teaching. Individuals have sacrificed time and money, preparing for this their chosen profession. After six years of study, and thousands of dollars spent on the best education affordable, some teachers into environments working with children and discover they do not “have it.” Most are not able to identify what the “it” is, however, there is an awareness that some individuals do not connect with some students. The “it”, that some teachers seek, is the unknown Holy Spirit.

There is a sense of satisfaction in the heart of some teachers when they experience that special day when a child learns to read. This is not the decoding process, or the memorization process, this is the point where something clicks inside of a child who has been encouraged with the symbols of language, really “gets it.” The code of reading is broken, and words flow from the pages, and the child knows reading is taking place. Teaching with the help of the Holy Spirit provides “get it” moments. Something has happened, and a magical process takes over in the learning environment. The interpersonal relationship necessary for the transferring and receiving of information is complete. It is as if the teacher communicates to the child, I am here with you to teach you, and the child communicates to the teacher, “I am a ready student, teach me.” For those spiritual moments to take place, the teacher must have an authentic self. The authentic self is the spiritual self. Man is both flesh and spirit, and the flesh may be influenced by belief systems harmful to the teacher and the student. The spirit self is of God, whom ever a person conceive Him to be. It is through the spirit part of the self that effective relationships take place.

 

The Wednesday morning Spiritual Formation sessions will provide a time for quiet reflections, meditations and prayer. It will be a time for teachers to enter into a communion with a higher power, and with others, with the purpose of gaining the spiritual skills necessary to be a solution to a problem, whatever the teacher perceive it to be.

 

Feedback Information

 

In an effort to gather information on the effectiveness of the Interfaith Spiritual Program, teachers will be requested to fill out journals describing benefits received from the pray before teaching program. This study will therefore suggest the following hypothesis:

 

  • Individuals who attend Spiritual Formation Sessions will have lower blood pressure.
  • Individuals who attend Spiritual Formation Sessions will have improved personal relationships.
  • Individuals who attend Spiritual Formation sessions will notice improvement in the academic performance of their students.
  • Individuals who attend the Spiritual Formation Sessions will have a feeling of joy and peace.

 

The second part of this program relates to the calling together of the peoples of God to get involved in an education system, which concerns every citizen. Therefore, religious school principals, religious college professors, religious staff developers, religious computer engineers and religious retired teachers, will come together, in a non threatening, non judgmental environment and share practical skills useful in successful teaching. Ideas and techniques, which may not have been discussed in course work, and could not be discussed in school buildings, will be shared in a spiritual space and an educational spiritual environment.

 

Reality issues on what a principal expects from a teacher, and how to give it. The reality of how to work with co-workers who may have unspoken issues. The reality of the Law and Education, and what a teacher can say, and cannot say, and what a teacher can do and cannot do.

 

Reality methods of writing lesson plans acceptable to the principal, and useful in the classroom will be demonstrated. Teachers will help each other develop lesson plans.

 

Spiritual Management of Student Behaviors

 

The art of silent praying over non positive spirits, which may be in the child. Jesus spent a considerable time on earth dealing with spirits, which entered people, and caused them to have poor health, poor vision, and an inability to make positive decisions for themselves.

 

If a teacher is centered in the Holy Spirit, the cursing words from a student will not affect them. The teacher can then look for ways to help the student handle the pain that is being directed towards the teacher or other students. The teacher can influence the environment through using spiritual approaches in challenging situations. The teacher may not, and should not teach religion in any form, the teacher however, can be the indwelling presence of the living God, an see the nature of God in the student. The more challenging a student becomes, the more the quiet reflection of God should be manifested. All activity should slow to a spiritual pace and with calm language help the non positive spirit to leave the child. Student outburst have little to do with the teacher, and usually relates to some need, which the student has, which is not being met. Focus on the God within the student until the student comes back into the positive spiritual self within[5]. Students can be helped to express needs in a more acceptable way. The teacher, through the help of the Holy Spirit, provides the student with language to express emotions and feelings. Cursing is a form of language, it however, is a short hand form of language. Students can be taught to use language effectively to express, feeling, which they are entitled to have. There may be many negative spirits in the academic environment. Usually these through spirits enter some form of substance abuse[6], before during or after a child is conceived.[7]

 

Teachers will role play methods and techniques for covering themselves with the Holy Spirit, and not permitting out burst of students to control the environment. Teachers are closely observed by the other students in the class. The students can tell when a teacher is reacting to personal issues within themselves, or if they are using professional skills to handle and diffuse the situation. When a teacher yells or screams, it is more about what is going on within the teacher, than what is going on in the classroom with individual students. Students know a teacher when they see one, and the know an uncontrolled spirit when they see one. Students are aware when the Holy Spirit is working through the teacher, and they usually will get very quiet and permit the spirit to work. Students may even in quiet low voices, help the teacher by helping the student to get through the difficult period.[8]

 

The Role of Interfaith Spiritual Formation in Teacher Education

 

What the state want a teacher to teach, and what God wants a teacher to teach. God does not want a public school teacher to teach religion. God wants the teacher to teach, tolerance, morality, and the rules of human behavior and the belief in the sacred life of the self and others. What a student learn in a classroom is decided by the State. How and why a student act or behaves in a classroom is God’s business. A teacher therefore, must come into the classroom prepared to do both the states business and God’s business, and unless God’s business in taken care, the state will not see any results in the classroom. A teacher does not pray in the classroom, the teacher is the prayer in the classroom.

[1] This area would be determined by the ministerial staff of the church. There are several chapels in the church. One could be used for children and families, and one could be used for teachers, or they all could attend the same area.

[2] Permission forms are made part of the program

[3] Youth attending programs could benefit from a morning prayer, many go through difficult circumstances before, during and after school. Young people should know that the power of God and the Holy Spirit is with them everywhere and always. Christianity is an armor, and our young people have to be taught how to wear and use that armor.

[4] Public School children were brought to Riverside Church for spiritual confidential talks with the youth minister,. The sessions help the children to handle personal problems at home and school. The sessions resulted in significant improvements in academic performance and behaviors.

[5] 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. 26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. Mark 9-14-29- Jesus heals unclean spirit in a boy.

 

[6] A New York State Certificate in identifying and working with children with substance abuse was obtained by this writer.

[7] Parents have said that they regretted using drugs before a child was born. This conversation usually occurred during a special conference to determine the reasons for low academic performance of a student, and or rational for disruptive behaviors of their child. The ratio of substance abuse of the mother and the behavior and academic problems of the child was always a constant. Parents showed great remorse and often blamed themselves.

[8] The writer holds a Special Education license from the City of New York, and has work as a teacher for the Emotionally Handicapped in Middle School. Most of the ideas for working with children with challenging needs were obtained through working in the environment..

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