As I catch up on my blog for August [My goal: to present two teaching ideas per month] and as the new semester gets going, I have been reflecting on the bigger picture of faith integration efforts in Christian business schools. Accordingly, this posting will take you beyond what to do in class tomorrow morning.
An important job of the leader, according to Edgar Schein from MIT (Schein, 2004), is the responsibility to manage the internal environment of shared values in their organization. In the management world we call this “organizational culture.”
Schein is known for his model that includes primary embedding mechanisms and secondary reinforcing mechanisms. When you think about these in terms of the leadership toward a shared value of integrating faith and learning, here are some of the possibilities (you will think of others pertinent to your institution):
Primary Embedding Mechanisms: (Tools leaders use to encourage acceptance of particular shared values. Realize that in a business school, even a Christian one, not every faculty member necessarily accepts the idea that the biblical basis of the discipline should be integrated with learning.)
- Things leaders talk about. When have you raised for discussion in faculty meeting or in class session issues of faith as these relate to curriculum decisions, policy decisions, syllabus content or other matters? How often do you talk about it during class periods? What books related to faith integration do you hear people talking about? What books do you talk about with your students and peers? What conferences do you hear people talking about?
- Things leaders pay attention to among subordinates and peers. When a student voluntarily contributes an insight regarding Christian faith, or when a student mentions a Scripture passage that seems relevant to them, do you pay attention to that and in so doing show how important that value is to you? How much energy is spent across the faculty or across the student body to experiment with new ways , new ideas for faith integration?
- How a leader responds to problems that come up. When a challenging issue arises in faculty meeting such as discussing curriculum changes, preparing for accreditation, planning a special event, how do you respond in terms of a faith integration perspective?
- Resource allocations communicate value priorities! Look over the minutes from last year’s faculty meetings. How much time was allocated to discussing matters of faith versus other things such as accreditation requirements, changes in the degree programs, special events (that may have nothing do to with faith and character development)? How do you allocate your own study time? How much do you search the Scriptures for guidance on the big questions and issues in your discipline? Follow the money! How much money exists in the budget for improving the faith integration efforts of the B-school? Do you request funds to support travel to and participation in a faith integration conference (E.g., the annual conference of the Christian Business Faculty Association)? [This year’s CBFA annual conference is in Nashville, TN, October 9-11, 2014.] http://www.cbfa.org/html/conferences.html Does the faculty invite guests to come to faculty meetings to challenge faculty members toward faith integration efforts?
- Rewarding workers. In your courses, do you give points to students for reading and responding to or reflecting on Scripture? When a fellow faculty member raises an issue of faith for discussion in faculty meeting, do you show appreciation for this by writing them a note or visiting them in their office to say thank you?
Secondary Reinforcing Mechanisms: (Tools that leaders can use to maintain and strengthen shared values that have already been accepted.)
- Division of labor. When work is divided among faculty members (E.g., subcommittee assignments), is anyone assigned the task to investigate and report on new approaches to integrating faith and learning in the various business disciplines? When a new program or project is planned, does anyone step forward and say, “How are we going to integrate faith in this program?”
- Coordinating / integration efforts. Who is responsible to see that issues of faith, biblical teachings on management (and other topics) is being integrated into the curricular and co-curricular activities? How often does your faculty conduct formal or informal conversations about the best methods available to interest students in the Scriptural foundations for business topics? When a study tour is planned, does anyone think to ask, “How will we bring issues of faith during these travel experiences?”
- Physical layout of buildings. Unless you are planning the construction or remodelling of your school of business, there is not much to think about here. But wait! There are physical spaces where Scripture and Christian values can be prominently displayed to keep before students concepts which lay claim to their lives in the marketplace: Bulletin boards, office doors, classroom wall spaces, wall space by the drinking fountain, office desk top space, department website, department branding materials, banners, signage, and other spaces. (More on this later!)
- Operational procedures. What classroom procedures (routines), used on a consistent basis will continually communicate to students and visitors how important issues of faith are in your classroom? For example, do you always share scripture passages relevant to new subject matter when you introduce it or review it (more on this later!)? Do you encourage students to verbally reflect on their personal experiences of faith in the marketplace? Do you share your personal testimony with students sometime during the semester? Do you invite Christian business managers into your classroom (or via Skype) to talk about their experiences of faith in the marketplace? Does your school of business conduct a special dedication for graduating seniors? How about a dedication program for in-coming freshmen? Do you assign students the task of memorizing Scriptures relevant to the learning in your courses?
- Stories that leaders tell. What stories are told in faculty meetings to inspire deeper commitment to the shared values? What stories do you tell (case studies, personal experiences of students and faculty, personal experiences of Christians in business, etc.) that communicate the importance of looking for opportunities to bring Christ to the marketplace? What stories can students tell which encourage fellow students to make a commitment to faith integration?
Without the use of primary and secondary mechanisms, how will your B-school fulfil the institutional mission with respect to faith integration? How will you and fellow faculty member strengthen this value in the coming weeks?
The reality is that for most organizations, both primary and secondary mechanisms may be needed simultaneously. Some faculty may not have accepted the values of faith integration. Some may quietly resists faith integration efforts. They may have fears such as the fear that faith integration efforts will result in a decline of quality in the teaching and learning or the fear that someone will infringe upon their academic freedom by mandating some activity that they shrink from doing. Those who have accepted the value may need encouragement and new ideas for how to express them. If it sometimes feels like you are the only one who wants to see faith integrated in the B-school curriculum, take heart. You contribute leadership by:
- Take responsibility for your part of the organization: Do what you know how to do for faith integration and keep learning from others how to integrate faith and the biblical perspective in your part of the curriculum.
- Read something this semester relating to faith integration in your discipline.
- Revise your course syllabi to reflect a deeper commitment to faith integration.
- Ask questions in faculty meetings that focus the discussion on faith integration and how it is related to the organization’s mission.
- Through in-depth interviews or surveys, try to identify hidden concerns and assumptions free floating among students or faculty members that are barriers to acceptance and action when it comes to faith integration. Use the results to dialog with fellow faculty members.
- Vote on faculty meeting agenda items in ways that support faith integration efforts.
- Make suggestions for activities among peers or among students which will foster faith integration.
Schein, E.H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership. (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.