Guiding Young Footsteps with Belief, Character and Academics
By Heather (Maute '01) Pienkos
Since college, I have learned that life is a continual journey of learning. We are always learning; it doesn’t stop when we graduate. In my life now, I play many roles: wife, mother, home-school teacher and a children’s pastor. Every day, I am learning from and teaching those around me.
As I prepare my home-schooling curriculum or when I prepare my lesson plans for the children at church, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with what I need to teach them as there are so many important items. I want to instill and develop particular character traits in the children entrusted to my care: a fear of the Lord, moral clarity, intellectual curiosity, rugged individualism and the ability to not only learn but to teach themselves throughout life. This is encapsulated in Belief, Character and Academics.
Belief is the foundation. As a young child, I often heard my pastor preach on the importance of believing in Christ through John 3:16, and I firmly believe having a relationship with Christ has made all the difference in my life thus far. Without Christ, I would be lost. My husband and I have goals for our family and the most important is to have our children know who Jesus Christ is and to have an intensely personal relationship with Him that permeates every area of their lives. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 teaches us to talk to our children about our relationship with Him. At home, we read the Bible each day, we sing praises as we run our errands, we share what we are thankful for and we pray as a family. When I am at church with my children, my heart bursts to share with them the joys of having Jesus as my savior! Belief is the foundation of who we become (character) and what we learn (academics).
The source of our belief is Scripture. A foundation based in Scripture is the litmus test against which all else is measured. The authority of Scripture is the cornerstone of our faith, especially as Wesleyan Arminians. John Wesley's Quadrilateral fleshes out the filter through which a Christian can engage the world around them--first through the truth of Scripture, secondly through the vetted traditions of the Church, thirdly through the gift of reason that God has given us, and finally through our own personal experience (thank you, Dr. Cubie). I wonder if many of the problems we have in the Church today can't be traced back to having these fundamental principles reversed. Belief based on a proper understanding of the authority of Scripture gives children the foundation upon which all else can settle and be evaluated throughout their entire lives.
Character is clearly outlined in 2 Peter 1:5(a): "And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue..." I don’t believe that Godly character is formed overnight; we must be diligent in teaching it. Thankfully, we have a model of such Godly character that we can achieve through a sanctified life--that of Jesus Christ! Children must read, understand and apply the stories of Jesus to develop Godly character. Scripture provides powerful examples of character qualities. I pray daily that my children and those at church will see that my character is continuing to grow in Christ. I want my life to point them toward Christ. I am reminded again of what Dr. David Cubie taught me: Sanctification is becoming like Jesus and it is both a moment and a lifelong process. Therefore, we must be patient, especially with the little ones--it takes time.
Now, ten years out of college, I better understand what Dr. Cubie was trying to teach me about sanctification. We encounter God not just on the "mountaintops" but also in the trenches of daily life. Our marriages, families and even our careers are a context for sanctification. Without the grace of God's forgiveness and the power of His Spirit completely perfecting us, we simply can never attain the purpose and success He created us to achieve--that of loving God, our spouses, families, friends and neighbors.
Academics is again clearly outlined in 2 Peter 1:5(a and b): "And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue, knowledge." I want to teach my children not just the pleasure of academics, but that academics can be a means of serving God. I am grateful for the education that I received at MVNU--one that engaged both my mind and deepened my faith. It was a place that taught me that, as sanctified believers, being intellectually engaged is an act of faith. And that our intellects and our faith are not anathema to one another, but rather the faithful engagement of our minds can be an act of service to God.
God calls each of us to different disciplines of science, theology, education, medicine, social work, law, etc. But ours is a calling to engage these disciplines by unapologetically bringing our faith to bear in their context. We are called to be bold and to engage our world for Christ. "To seek to learn, is to seek to serve." To me, this is what distinguished MVNU from other schools. Academics, and the vocations that they eventually lead to, are ultimately venues in which to serve God and those around us.
Heather Pienkos is the children’s director at Lakeholm Church of the Nazarene. Her husband Rob (’00) is a commodity broker at Rolls Royce. They reside in Mount Vernon with their two children and are expecting their third this fall.