Category: Faith Life in the Classroom

Dry Bones and Dead Hearts

Ron Pirtle, Dean of Faculty – Chattanooga/Dalton

If you have ever wondered what impact you, an adjunct faculty member, might have on a student, let me share a story. A few months ago, I had a student in my office who had stopped by just to share what a blessing the class she had just completed was to her and others in the class. Knowing which faculty member was assigned to that class, it did not surprise me in the least. However, while I had expected to hear how effective the faculty had been in helping them learn the information, she surprised me by sharing how she felt the faculty member had been used by God to open her heart back up to Scripture and the Holy Spirit. What a testament to God and the faculty member’s willingness to listen to the Spirit and be used by Him! While that is just one short story related to the Chattanooga site, it is true for many of our faculty members, across all the instructional sites. I am confident the other deans would have similar stories. So, how can we, as faculty members, allow God to use us to open up a student’s mind or heart? Let’s take a trip to the Valley of Dry Bones!

Those familiar with the book of Ezekiel know that the “glory of the Lord” is fundamental to the book, as well as God’s kindness and restoration regardless of Israel’s continued disobedience. In Ezekiel 37, God gives Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones and commands him to speak to the dry bones, exclaiming that God will put breath back into them, and tendons and flesh, and cause them to live again. Of course, this vision was God’s way of telling the Israelites that he would resurrect them as a nation, which is revealed in verses 11 – 13. It is through this resurrection that God will put His Spirit back into Israel and place them back in their own land. The message of this particular vision is as true today as it was in Ezekiel’s time; God can take dry bones and dead hearts and bring life back into them.

So, I ask again…how can we, as faculty members, allow God to use us to open up a student’s mind or heart? Listen for God’s direction and guidance when dealing with a student, opening ourselves up to allow His Spirit to move through us, and His word, to breathe life back into our students. The faculty member from the story allowed God to work through them and allowed the work of the Spirit to breathe new life into the students in the class. As a result, a new hunger for establishing how Scripture should be used in every area of our life to allow God to work through us was established, viewing life through the lens of Scripture! This is the very essence of the Christian worldview, which is central to our teaching. So, as we stand before our students each night, my prayer is that we will heed the Spirit’s leading and be the vessel God uses to breathe life back into those who He is restoring to Himself. I leave you with a link to a song by Lauren Daigle, “Dry Bones”…powerful rendition of Ezekiel 37! May it bless you as it has me!

Webinar: Best Practices to Inspire Student Engagement

by Dr. Warren Matthews, Mrs. Kim Priesmeyer, Dr. Ray Smith, & Dr. John Song

Four of Belhaven’s full-time faculty came together to share their ideas on how to increase student engagement in the classroom.  Their ideas are bulleted below but the real value will come when you take the time to watch this WEBINAR.  Each one brings new insights to the subject, applying their ideas both to online and on-site courses.  If you are like me you will be taking notes practically from the first word.  This was a great webinar with some take-away for everyone.  It will also be available in the Faculty Resources area of this Blog, under Webinars

John Song, Full-time Bible Faculty, Atlanta

“My personal contributions consisted of some basic but hopefully helpful principles. The three principles were: (1) relationships, (2) relevance, and (3) reflection.”

Kim Priesmeyer, Full-time English Faculty, Houston

  1. Send out a reminder announcement sent out each week through Canvas regarding what’s due next class meeting.
  2. Spend a few minutes each night with each student giving feedback on writing (require that students bring some writing to class to review before a paper is due)
  3. List nightly objectives/agenda on the whiteboard with approx time to spend (ex:  peer review with first draft, 30 mins)
  4. Show APA videos from Resources during class so we’re all on the same page about APA

Warren Matthews, Full-time Business Faculty, Houston

  1.  Effective feedback is very important, not only in grading but also in class discussion
  2. Socratic questioning is important to add value in the classroom.
  3. In an online class, be visible on a regular basis in the classroom
  4. Share our professional experience and insights.  Give examples from real world situations that are relevant to the course.
  5. Refer to current events as appropriate to apply the theory of the classroom to the real world.
  6. Inspire students by recognizing excellence in discussions and assignments.

Ray Smith, Full-time Business Faculty, Chattanooga

  1. Use of Wall Street Journal
  2. Current movie clips representing text topics
  3. CWV – use of entire books or topics that follow the full course
  4. Technology or mobile devices – turn them into assets rather than distractions
  5. Use small groups (2 or 3) to respond to questions instead of instructor merely quoting text or giving opinion

After the webinar was over, I received this addition from Nick Walters, Adjunct Instructor

Dr. Upchurch – Thank you for setting up these monthly webinars.  Even though many of us have the spiritual gift of teaching, it doesn’t mean we have cornered the market on how to do it.  These webinars have been very helpful.

How to Read Old Testament Laws – Part 1

by Dr. John Song, Full-Time Bible Faculty – Belhaven, Atlanta

Many of our students at Belhaven may struggle to understand the relevancy of the Old Testament laws. Are they mere cultural rules for an ancient civilization or do they apply to us today? As faculty, how do we train our students to become better readers of this genre of the Old Testament?

Alec Motyer lists three ways one can interpret these Old Testament laws (Motyer, 2009, pp. 26–27). For the sake of economy, I will only list two since these are the more popular lines of interpretation. First is the cultural interpretation where one reads the Old Testament laws as primarily belonging to the culture of their day. This view tends to mitigate the relevancy of the Old Testament laws for the present believing community. The second is to look for the underlying spiritual principle that governed these laws. While certain practices were cultural the underlying spiritual principle remains. I personally advocate for the second view. Let’s take a look at some examples:

Leviticus 19:28 prevented the Israelite community from cutting their bodies and placing tattoo marks on themselves. Many well-intentioned Christians quarrel over the relevancy of this verse. The argument may mistakenly focus on whether believers are allowed tattoos. Some argue that if Lev. 19:28 still applies to us then so should the preceding verse where there is a prohibition of cutting the hair at the sides of the head and the trimming of the beard. Whether Christians should get tattoos or not we will leave for another day. The immediate context of Lev. 19:28 is the prohibition of participating in certain pagan “customs which involved physical disfigurement” (Wenham, 1979, p. 272). The cutting of the hair on the sides of the head, trimming the beard, cutting the body, and placing tattoos on oneself (usually emblems of pagan deities) were pagan ways of mourning for the dead. The main underlying principle was that God was calling Israel to a different way of life that was distinct from their pagan neighbors. This spiritual principle still applies to us today.

Exodus 23:19 gives us the prohibition of not cooking a young goat in its mother’s milk. This prohibition also appears in Exod. 34:26 and Deut. 14:21. The repetition of this prohibition is not insignificant. While the cultural interpretation seems to fit well for most city dwellers who don’t raise goats, it is actually a law that applies to all believers today. In short, this was a Canaanite fertility potion where its broth was believed to have magical characteristics to make the flocks more fertile. The underlying principle was that Israel was not to trust in pagan superstitions.

As a final example, in the Old Testament welfare system (e.g., Deut. 24:19) when one dropped a sheaf while harvesting the land the Israelite was not to go back for it; rather it was to be left as a provision for the foreigner, fatherless, and widow. While we may not all harvest crops this law does, nonetheless, apply to all of us whether one is a farmer or not. The common denominator of the foreigner, fatherless, and widow was that they were all disadvantaged in that society. The disadvantages of the fatherless and widow are plain to us but what about the foreigner? Foreigners may not have known the culture, practices, and the laws of the land and therefore could have easily been mistreated. God called Israel to love the foreigner as themselves (e.g., Lev. 19:34). The underlying principle was that God’s people were to care for those who were disadvantaged.

Many of these underlying principles find continuity in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:20; Gal. 5:20–21; Jas. 1:27). A fuller conversation on the continuity and discontinuity (e.g., food laws and sacrifices) between the Old and New Testaments require a separate discussion.

For now, it is important to train our students to think about what these laws meant in the culture of that day. Exposing our students to the history and context of the ancient Near East will help them become more sophisticated readers of the Old Testament.


Motyer, A. (2009). Roots: Let the Old Testament Speak. (J. Stott, Ed.). Scotland: Christian Focus.

Wenham, G. J. (1979). The Book of Leviticus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.


Setting the Mood

Walking into an Adult Studies classroom at 6:00pm on one of our campus sites I always try to remember that whatever my day has been like, these students have had just as difficult and tiring a day, or perhaps even moreso.  Knowing that some of the students are likely single parents gives me even more appreciation for the challenges in their lives and their commitment to change the course of their family’s future.  With that being said, one of the most important things I can do in the evening is to get the class off on the right foot.

Don’t let your “grumpy” or your “tired” lead the way or your class will go downhill pretty quickly.  Instead, great the students by name, enter into conversations that are uplifting and edifying, share positive stories from your day (avoid the “poor me” stories).  Once the class has gathered, take time to pray, not as completing a check box, but in genuine petition to help separate the class time from the busyness of the day.

Almost everything can be said from different perspectives.  Think about what you are saying and the perspective you bring, are you negative and critical, or positive and instructive?  Even the worst news can be delivered in a way that edifies if you make the effort.

Most of all remember, you have entered a “Christian” zone where it is appropriate and encouraged to bring Jesus and faith into the discussion.  When done in a way that is non-judgmental and expressive of God’s love, the Holy Spirit can bring a peace into the classroom greater than you can manufacture on your own.

Instructor, YOU are the one who sets the mood!

Making the Bible WORK in the Classroom

by Dr. Larry Ruddell,
Dean of Faculty, Houston

Faculty do you understand,  AND can you communicate to students, WHY we include the Bible in each class?

Belhaven sets itself apart by highlighting the Christian Worldview (CWV) in each and every class. It means bringing Biblical Truth to bear on each subject covered. For example, in Matthew 5:38-42 we could argue that an organizational behavior topic is under discuss – how to work out wrong-doing in organizations.

  • You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (English Standard Version)(Bold added)

Notice the “secular” issue is raised (a misuse of Old Testament principle) and then Jesus applies critical thinking (the CWV) to accurately explain it; “But I say to you.”

This is the kind of fluid interaction we want to create in the classroom. We want to remove the barrier between the sacred and the secular … so ideally the Bible (which is CWV) is woven into the class discussion naturally. However, this is not always easy. One challenge we face with students is that they don’t see how studies (including Scripture readings) fit with everything else they are doing. So, the more we can help them see the connections, the more refreshing their education will be.

So, let’s get specific. How can we handle the weekly class Bible verses in a way that hits home?

Make sure students understand three (3) reasons why we include Scripture in each class:

  1. The Bible is good
  2. We want to model how to apply the Bible to the discipline
  3. Students need the info for their assignments

Let’s look at each reason in more detail. The first reason is the that the Bible is good; “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; …” (Psalm 19:7) It is good and refreshing to get into God’s Word and be refreshed. This is how many faculty see the Bible Verses; as more a devotional exercise. This is fine but we want to go further to the second item; we [faculty] want to model how to apply the Bible to the discipline. See 2 Timothy 2:15 which reads; “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” It is not enough to read over a verse but we also need to help students understand (in context) and apply the verses to their respective disciplines! Finally, students need to include the CWV in their papers so let them the third reason for covering the Bible is that Students need the info for their assignments. We don’t expect students to be Bible scholars so we help them through prepare for weekly assignments by giving them explanations and applications of verses covered in class.

As you can see, all of us who teach at Belhaven need to be growing in how to handle the Word so we can pass on that knowledge to students. So, it is important to be involved in worship and Bible study. One recommendation is to read through the Bible and look for verses that apply to your discipline. You will be amazed at how relevant the Bible is … and you can pass on these insights to students!

In conclusion, we want faculty to understand and help students understand WHY we include the Bible in each class. This will further Belhaven’s CWV mission and bless students!

CWV: Practical Applications for the Classroom

by Paul Criss,
Dean of Faculty, Memphis and Desoto

This is a summary of the Webinar by the same title presented by Dr. Criss on May 17, 2016.  You can view the webinar at this link.  There are handouts that can be downloaded from within the webinar.

This webinar is an overview of worldview principles and how to apply them in the adult learner classroom. The presenter is Dr. Paul Criss who possesses sixteen years of experience teaching higher education worldview courses. The presentation begins with an overview of worldview discovery, the Christian Theistic worldview, and criteria for a well-defined personal worldview. Some questions answered in the first half are:

  • How is a worldview like a belly button, a cerebellum, or breathing?
  • What are the essential aspects of a worldview and why is it important?
  • How does an adult learner decide which worldview is best?
  • What is the faculty member’s role in worldview instruction?

The second half of the webinar includes a process to analyze ideas and concepts, as well as practical tools to use in the classroom, such as: CWV Integrated Lesson Plan, Cultural Analysis, Immunization Technique, Reflective Action, KWAT discussion, and Integrative Questioning. The presentation closes with an overview of resources (including discipline specific resources) and websites that have assisted the presenter in the past.

I encourage you to watch the recorded webinar and download the attached documents.

Building Community in the Adult Learner Classroom

Dr. Paul Criss
Dean of Faculty – Memphis/DeSoto

Ages ago, the Christian college I attended had a chapel service five days a week with a missionary fellowship on Fridays and the expectation that students attend a local church at least three times per week. To some attending a congregational meeting nine times a week may seem excessive, however, the one of the achieved purposes was to help build community within the college and help students make connections outside of the college. Unfortunately, the adult studies schedule does not allow for a regular chapel service, but an excellent opportunity exists in every class to build community among the student body and faculty. What can we do in the first fifteen minutes of each class we teach to build community?

Building community is important. Scripture states: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 New International Version). Adult learners need the support and prayers of their fellow students and their faculty. We all need encouragement and God has designed this to happen organically in Christian community. This is our distinctive and strength; we need not be ashamed of it in Christian higher education.

We all normally take attendance in the first few minutes of class. I would suggest that we add a few more intentional actions to the first fifteen preliminary minutes of our time together creating a miniature chapel experience. Initially, on the first night take a few minutes to allow each student to introduce themselves. This is a purposeful way to allow time to learn something about each student. I sometimes write a few questions on the board to have each student answer, but feel free to mix-it-up a little. Here are some examples of what student could share:

  • Name
  • Major
  • What you do everyday (Vocation)
  • Something about your family. (kids, family memory, last vacation, etc.)
  • Something no one in the room knows about you. At least not yet!
  • Hobby or Pastime.
  • Favorite movie, television show, or novel.

You get the idea. The point is to help students learn about each other and perhaps find points of connection and familiarity. Introductions usually happen only in the first class, but what follows could happen in every subsequent class.

Sharing how God is working in a student’s life is an important part of building community. Sometimes we skip this essential step. The Apostle Paul tells us, “When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight (1 Corinthians 14:26 The Message), the same might be said for the Adult Studies classroom. We want students to come prepared with some insight from the material to be covered that night, but perhaps they could also come to class prepared to encourage one another by sharing how God is working in their life. I often open with simple questions asking each student to briefly share something, such as:

  • How has God ministered to you or through you this past week?
  • Tell us something good that happened to you today?
  • This past week, when did you feel closest to God? When did you feel furthest from God? (We know that God is always with us, but we are not always in right relationship with Him. This question helps students begin to pinpoint things that affect their spiritual health.)

The point of this is not to be too heavy, but to allow the class to share with and encourage each other, at the same time practicing overcoming the world “by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11 New International Version).

The next action to build community is to share prayer requests and to pray. Prayer requests allow students to engage in each other’s lives. It is valuable not only to pray but to revisit the prayer requests in subsequent classes to receive updates or additions.  It is also important that our students know that we are praying for them and that we lead the other students in class in prayer for their personal needs. When I first started in ministry, I was hesitant to call out specific names or situations in prayer partly because I did not want to offend anyone by leaving them out of the prayer. One day an Elder told me how important it was that members of the congregation hear others calling out to God on their behalf. And this is a fulfillment of our calling to walk in Christ’s steps as Prophet, Priest, and King. We shadow Christ’s ministry by speaking the truth in love (prophet), leading others as servant-leaders (king), and interceding for others in prayer (priest). I believe the same thing is true for adult learners as well. Assist students in thinking outside of their own lives and into the lives of their community by praying for community, county, state, national, and international leaders and communities, community events and concerns (I always ask what is happening in local, national, and international news that we need to life up), and for the university and its faculty, staff, and administration.

The instructor could round out this miniature chapel time in their class with a short devotional, if time permits. Each class has three to five scriptures that undergird the topics of the evening and breathe God’s revelation into what the textbook will have stated. Perhaps you could use one of these scriptures to base a devotional thought or reflection. It is important here to ask “What is God saying” before we ask “What is God saying to us (or me).” This will help us to do exegesis (what the text is actually saying) rather than isogesis (reading what we want to into the text). At the end of class, try asking students how the required scripture reading spoke to the topics of the night – this is a great way to triangulate the material while simultaneously allowing students the opportunity to think critically from a Christian perspective.  Keep in mind, however, that this introduction/chapel/devotional time should not exceed 15-20 minutes AT THE MOST, before turning to the subject content for that class session.

One final component of community building is to connect your class with the community in which they live. As a faculty member, you can engage students in community events and community concerns, and connect them with members of the community. Invite community leaders and business professionals into your classroom as guest speakers for a short presentation in the discipline or on the topic for the evening, for example our Instructor of Business has developed relationships with speakers from Fed Ex, UPS, and Nike to share with business classes on our campus.

Invite students to join you in community service. If you are involved in a community service organization, such as Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, or even a Chamber of Commerce, then look for ways to involve your students. We recently partnered with a local Rotary club to initiate the first adult student Rotaract Club. The University’s mission “not to be served, but to serve” fits quite well with “service above self.”  Consider connecting with recent alumni for possible internships for your students. One alumnus of our campus contacted us regarding interns needed in the Americorp Vista program offered through our local county school board’s community and family engagement office. This has turned out to be a very nice internship and a valuable experience for our students.

In all of the above, remember that your Dean of Faculty would be happy to assist you in both community development and community engagement. All of these opportunities are valuable enhancements to the adult learner’s educational experience. Do not let the ideas end here. Share your ideas with your Dean and with other faculty on your campus through the campus Canvas page and at your next faculty development workshop. Remember, when it comes to community development and engagement, your input and participation is essential. Together, the sky truly is the limit!


Here are some more comments from the graduates of 2013.  They reiterate what I know: that you are an amazing faculty and that your work touches and changes lives.

I am so blessed to be a Graduate of Belhaven. I had a great experience there both academically and socially. The knowledge I gained at Belhaven has allowed me to have a thriving career with the Mississippi Department of Revenue as a Special Agent. Dr. Howard Bartee is a professor that had a great impact on my life. He challenged me to be a better student and person. I have great memories and I am extremely glad to be a Blazer!!! Keep me lifted in prayer as I enter a new season of my life. I pray that God enlarges the territory of Belhaven University and his hand remains with us all.

Jackson Graduate


Before I began school at Belhaven University in 2009, I prayed that God would lead me to the school that HE wanted me to go to! I wanted GOD to move me out the way. I came to Belhaven with an extremely low GPA so I was very nervous about my college education this time. I wanted to do my very best and learn all I could. The staff at Belhaven always encouraged me. If I had questions about Financial Aid, both Jackson and Memphis worked hard to get me the answers I needed. One of the instructors that had a tremendous impact on me was Dr. Ken Jones, my Psychology/Social Services teacher. He is very knowledgeable in this area. I believed I learned the most from doing his papers and through presentations because of the research we had to put in. He also made learning fun. I believe coming to Belhaven was all a part of God’s plan. I made life-long friends, grew spiritually, and went from a 1.0 GPA to graduating with a 3.92. I am grateful for my journey at Belhaven and thankful for Dr. Ken Jones, Don Jones, Erica Johnson, and Altonious Peterson. I got just what I needed… A valuable education with a Christian Worldview.

Memphis Graduate

My Belhaven experience was very challenging, positive, and rewarding. My instructors pushed me to achieve excellence in my studies and helped me to expand and enrich the Christian worldview I have had since my childhood. I remember Dr. Martin inspiring, encouraging, coercing, and cajoling us to get us through the program. I remember Dr. Jinkiri explaining complex principles of economics without ever cracking the textbook. I remember Dr. Redfern making us consider and discuss difficult ethical dilemmas and try to figure out the best solutions. I remember all of the instructors stressing the importance of being a good public servant, doing the right thing, and behaving in a Christ-like manner at all times. Thanks to all the faculty who made my time at Belhaven so memorable.

Jackson Graduate

When I was at Belhaven in 2013 I was in the first Masters Program at the Chattanooga Campus. Staffing was tight and Dr. Trussell taught most of the classes. The work load was very heavy and I was going through a very busy time at work as well. I can get frustrated at times with bureaucracy. Things like schedules and financial aid drove me nuts. The faculty in Chattanooga all made this part of the process painless for me and eased my worries several times. Susan Haughton in Chattanooga and Susan Smith in Jackson (Financial Aid) were outstanding and the patience they showed me made me realize not only how valuable of an asset they are but how much their work is their ministry.

Their actions gave me pause and caused me to reflect on how I interact with people. I hope I am able to live up to their standards and share the grace they shared with me.

Chattanooga Graduate

You Are Making a Difference! 2013 Graduate Comments 1

I recently asked the 2013 graduates to share their memory of their time at Belhaven University.  I think you will find the comments below to be encouraging.  I will post others as more come in.

The MPA program was so critical in not only my professional development but my spiritual development as well. I was attracted to the program because the classes were once a week and your cohort was relatively small. It was easy to get assignments done because everyone was so encouraging each other. We were all there to accomplish the same goal. The professors that impacted my life during the program was Dr. Ervin Martin, Dr. Nycole Campbell, Ms. Samantha Martin, & Ms. Regina Irvin. They were all so important throughout my tenure at Belhaven. I learned a lot of lessons from all of them & I implement those lessons in not only my professional life but my personal life as well.     MPA Alum ’13, Jackson

Belhaven actually changed my life, my way of thinking and my way of maneuvering through business and life.  ’13, Houston

I think the person that made the biggest impact on me was Dr. Thompson.  He made me challenge my own belief system.  He created real life situations in the business world.  He would also bring articles to class that involved critical thinking.  Dr. Thompson brought a religious critical thinking component to a business world view.  Many of the classes were composed of a business world view with a Christian component. I really appreciated Dr. Thompson making me challenge my own beliefs and get out of my comfort zone.  Not only did I have my own internal monologue to deal with, but I had to defend or reason my belief system vocally.  This forced me to do more research on a biblical level to back up my points when discussion arose. Knowing I can defend my religious views with research, it has allowed me to be more confidence when in the business world to find the resources necessary to back up my stances on situations.   ’13 Memphis

My under graduate experience at Belhaven was wonderful! It was very challenging but absolutely rewarding at the same time.  My instructors were always very willing to work with my busy schedule and yet tough enough to educate me to a higher standard.  The staff at the campus were amazing to say the least and always willing to help in any way they could.  I am now an Operations Manager for GE and my career is looking very bright.  I have used my education to get promoted in my civilian career and in my military career.  Thank-you and the support staff for the opportunity to be a part of the university during my under graduate studies. ’13 Chattanooga