It’s no exaggeration to say Christian education is changing lives – and entire families.
Just ask Loren Hopf, a Christian school graduate who returned as a Bible teacher to her alma mater, Second Baptist School (SBS), where her own children also now attend.
“I decided to teach in a Christian school because God used that same school to make such an impact on my faith,” she told The Lion. “Because I attended SBS, I know firsthand the influence that a biblical foundation and a plethora of God-fearing mentors can make.”
Now, a dozen years into teaching at the Houston school, Hopf was recognized on Saturday as the national Bible Teacher of the Year at The Herzog Foundation Excellence in Christian Education Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. The event was, appropriately enough, at the Museum of the Bible.
Teaching the Bible to middle school girls is challenging, but Hopf relishes the opportunity.
“I think the most difficult thing about helping students engage with the Bible is that it can be hard work!” she admits, as she considers the plethora of media and entertainment her students encounter. “It is much easier to scroll Tik Tok than it is to deeply study God’s word.”
But she can’t escape the sense that she is made for this.
“God designed me to love working with teenagers with a deep desire to point them to Him through His word,” Hopf said in a statement from the school announcing her award. “I am so grateful to be doing what I love, with people I love, in a place that I love.”
Hopf’s impact is generational for more reasons than simply the fact that she has returned to the school that impacted her as a student. Her own children are now benefiting from a Christian education.
“There is no greater blessing than seeing my coworkers love my children and teach them God’s Word,” she says. “Whatever I have invested, I am receiving back a million-fold when I listen to my own children sing songs about God as they play, color and go about their day.”
It’s exactly what she expects, too, having experienced a dramatic change herself when she was first put into a Christian school as a student.
“We are banking on that generational impact,” she emphatically says. “My parents moved me to Second Baptist School in 6th grade. That one shift created a hunger for God’s word in me. Then, I went to Bible college and fell in love with a man who had that same passion for God. Now we are raising four babies that we pray will pursue Jesus with all that they are.
“The hope is that it dominoes from there. This is just our story. There are so many more like us.”
In Hopf’s classroom, the dominoes are reaching her students, with whom she emphasizes the importance of multi-generational mentorship – an idea reinforced in her reading.
“One thing that struck me in the book ‘Sticky Faith’ was the idea that a student having five Christian mentors outside of their parents was a huge predictor of a strong faith journey,” she says. “In Christian education, you have teachers, coaches, administrators and other parents that can fill this very important role in your child’s life.”
In her 8th grade spiritual formation class, she stresses the positive influence that older role models can make on young women.
“One of the things I hope they walk away with is the value of knowing and spending time with other godly women,” she says.
This conviction inspired Hopf to come up with a new event this year, Grandma Day, which she says was one of the best school days of her professional life.
“I invited a panel of my students’ grandmothers to talk about faith, temptation, relationships and more,” she says. “One grandma flew in from Dallas. Another had written a Christian book on dating (for teens). She couldn’t make it, but donated a book and study guide for each girl. We had breakfast and then the grandmas stole the show.
“The girls were able to see their moms serve by bringing breakfast and helping reset and clean the room, and their grandmothers (or friends’ grandmothers) speak boldly about what it’s like to follow Jesus.
“It was so much fun to plan and even more fun to watch as the girls were silently taking in the wisdom of the grandmas. The day was marked by beauty, grace, wisdom and fun. Grandma Day was easily my favorite day in my entire 12-year teaching career!”
Hopf also offers her students positive, corrective messages to counter those that they often hear in the broader culture.
“It’s a tough world out there for teenagers. This keeps me up at night,” she confesses. “I actually think the most destructive messages are the subtle ones.
“One that we talk about in my class is ‘follow your heart.’ I tell them that the Bible has a different message. Your heart is deceptive above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). We can follow our hearts straight to destruction. It’s not hard to find examples of this.
“Another thing we talk about is that ‘feelings aren’t facts.’ …They live in a world where experience is king. You can’t argue with someone’s experience of something. While this is true, there are objective facts that align with reality. The Bible calls us to address everything with truth and love (Ephesians 4:15), and we should not shy away from doing so because of someone’s experience.
“The last one I would say is, ‘it’s all about you.’ Between selfies, social media, and a celebrity culture that is obsessed with self, and their age, it can be hard for them to see a world outside of themselves.
“But worshiping ourselves only leads to despair. If I can get them to see that centering their lives around Jesus and living for Him actually leads to freedom (Galatians 5:1), that is a win!”
With “wins” such as these, it’s unsurprising school administrators praise Hopf’s commitment and impact.
“She brings many gifts to our school, but her hunger for students to know and enjoy the word of God is unrivaled,” middle school head Ellen Barrett says. “Loren is a lover of Jesus, a connector of people and a gifted teacher. Her impact on SBS is tangible and ongoing.”
But the teacher in Hopf points back to the impact of her own teachers. “Because I went to Second Baptist School, I had the world’s best Bible teachers to learn from,” she says.
With Saturday’s recognition as national Bible Teacher of the Year, it’s safe to say Loren Hopf has joined their ranks.