Thanks to generous support from the Issachar Fund, the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics and the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning at Calvin University are working to strengthen civic formation in Christian schools.   

Faithful discipleship entails responsible citizenship. And like any other feature of discipleship, faithful citizenship requires Christian formation. Yet, Christian educators in the field of civics lack resources, both intellectual and tangible, to meet that formative challenge. The project will address that problem as the researchers:

  • develop the concept of hospitality as a virtue of faithful citizenship
  • craft model pedagogical interventions that embed hospitality and related Christian virtues into civic learning
  • make these interventions widely available to civics teachers

The work has special urgency in this time of eroding public trust, rising polarization, and widespread populist backlash against established institutions. Christians have not been immune from these challenges to public life, and indeed people acting in the name of Christ have often seemed to sow seeds of distrust and social alienation. But Christian traditions also provide rich formative resources for addressing these challenges to public life, including habits of patience and generosity that create public space for deliberation – what we call “civic hospitality.” There is an opportunity at this key moment of political division to help civic educators draw from faith-based practices and to introduce those practices into their teaching of government, history, and other civics-oriented areas.

A sophisticated Christian understanding of hospitality as a civic virtue can contribute a great deal to  faith-based education. While hospitality is commonly associated with private acts, the project extends its reach into the larger public square, seeking to develop and apply the concept of civic hospitality for civics education. The virtue of civic hospitality reflects habits that give space for public interaction and skills of attentiveness and suspended judgement, especially toward the other or disadvantaged, with a goal of actively creating public space for productive engagements across lines of difference (Kaemingk, 2018; Smith, 2009).

While critics often suggest that non-public schools (and especially faith-based schools) result in fragmentation of shared public values, empirical analysis of civic outcomes suggest that some  faith-based schools provide results better than in other school types, controlling for a myriad of factors (Pennings et al 2011; Hill and den Dulk 2013). Additionally, private religious schools serve a significant proportion of students in western democracies (Soper, den Dulk, and Monsma 2017), providing strong reasons to support quality civic pedagogy in such schools, and to explore how their faith identity might actually cultivate hospitable civic participation.

The project is intended to benefit both teachers and scholars. The most prominent tangible product will be a website for teachers that includes several teaching-and-learning sequences connected to multiple units and lessons. With help from teachers themselves, supporting resources for teacher professional development and social-media content will also be produced. Additionally, scholars will consider the contribution of Christian teaching and learning to virtuous participation in the public square at two upcoming international conferences.

Research Partners

Project Leaders

  • Kevin R. den Dulk, Associate Provost, Calvin Global Campus, Calvin University.
  • David I. Smith, Director, Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning; Professor, Department of Education, Calvin University. ;


  • Matthew Kaemingk, Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary.
  • Micah Watson, Director, Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics; Director, Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program;  Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Calvin University

Explore Further

Jonathan Hill and Kevin R. den Dulk examine the impact of secondary schooling type (public, Catholic, Protestant, private nonreligious, and homeschool) on sustaining volunteering into emerging adulthood in “Religion, Volunteering, and Educational Setting: The Effect of Youth Schooling Type on Civic Education,” published in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 52: 179-97 (2013)

Kevin den Dulk talks about Christian schools as seedbeds for good citizenship in “Citizen Education and the Christian School” published in Christian School Educator (2013/14 edition)

David I. Smith and Pennylynn Dykstra-Pruim provide a concise guide to current discussions of otherness and point to ways Christians can responsibly and graciously embrace cultural difference and the call to welcome strangers in Christians and Cultural Differences (Calvin Shorts, 2016)

Matthew Kaemingk makes a case for a Christian pluralism that is committed to the historic Christian faith as well as to the public rights, dignity and freedom of Muslims in Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in a World of Fear (Eerdmans, 2018)

In Learning from the Stranger: Christian Faith and Cultural Diversity, David I. Smith shows how learning from strangers, not just imparting our own ideas to them, is an integral part of Christian discipleship.

The Challenges of Pluralism: Church and State in Six Democracies (by J. Christopher Soper, Kevin R. den Dulk, and Stephen V. Monsma) examines six differernt national approaches to church-state relations, protecting the religious rights of citizens, and resolution of basic church-state questions.