February 1, 2013
Online Journal - Inform, Conform, or Transform?
Betty Bayer, Associate Director of Education/Registrar, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, Oshawa

Inform, conform, or transform?  I had not previously thought about Adventist education in these terms, but when Lanelle Cobbin, one of the curriculum developers for a new Bible program being created by the Australian Union, asked that question, I was forced to take a closer look at my own experience with Adventist education.  At the beginning of a new year, I challenge you to do the same. 
Consider our K-12 Bible curriculum in particular.  Is our primary goal to inform our students?  We’ve done a reasonably good job, I would suggest, at conveying Bible truth . . . acquainting or reacquainting our students with Bible stories, Bible books, Bible doctrines.  What about conforming?  Again, I would suggest that we have worked hard to persuade students to conform to the Adventist message . . . to choose an Adventist lifestyle, accept the 28 fundamental beliefs, be baptized as members of the Seventh-day Adventist church.  Part of our mission as a school and a church is certainly to inform and to conform.  Transformation is a bit more challenging and, admittedly, harder to assess.  But isn’t our ultimate goal not to simply convey information and encourage conformity, but to transform lives from the inside out by introducing our children to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour?  Transformation, of course, is the result of the Spirit moving in individual lives, but are we doing everything we can to provide a growing environment that would lead to transformation?  After all, if what we learn does not change us, if head knowledge is not converted into heart knowledge, than what is the point?  As Lanelle reminded us, “the goal of discipleship is not imitation, but inhabitation.”
The Encounters Bible curriculum endeavours to change the whole approach to Bible classes in an effort to provide the environment for the transformation of lives.  Rather than walking through textbooks, the approach of the curriculum is interactive and engaging for students who are challenged in the process to be in a real relationship with Jesus.  Students are invited in every unit to respond personally to what they are learning by applying their learning to their lives in a real and practical way.  The Transformational Planning Framework, around which the curriculum is based, leads students from engagement through exploration and inquiry to reflection and application.  It strives to go beyond head learning to heart learning, asking students to commit to the difference that the learning will make in their lives.
This approach makes sense to me, and I want to explore it further.  I find myself pondering again just what makes Adventist education unique . . . unique enough to dedicate a life to, to commit a career to, to spend countless hours pursuing, to ask parents to trust their children to, to ask church members to give their hard-earned dollars to support.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not questioning the importance of Adventist education; I’m only continuing the quest that we’re all on . . . to pursue excellence, but even more, to reach children with the life-changing  message of abundant life both now and for eternity.  To graduate students who know the truth is not enough.  Our goal is transformation . . . the transformation of ourselves and our students into disciples for Christ.   We are called to model this kind of transformation to our students.  And as we plan curriculum and prepare classes, particularly Bible classes, we must keep this goal in sight.  “The teaching of the Bible should have our freshest thought, our best methods, and our most earnest effort” (Education, 187). 
This summer, a small committee of interested teachers will explore the Australian Encounters Bible curriculum as they consider recommendations for the updating and revision of our current NAD K-12 Bible curriculum.  If you have a passion for teaching Bible and would like further information, please contact me.