Upon further reflection of Andrew Phillips’ blog (look back several days to find the links), and my own on-again-off-again ruminations about teaching on this blog, I take up herewith a book by Earl V. Pullias and James D. Young. Published in 1968 by Indiana University Press, A Teacher is Many Things explores what teaching is, identifies some obstacles to growth toward excellence in teaching and then proceeds in twenty-one chapters to sketch out what a teacher is.
I have in some form or other been involved in teaching or preaching on an almost weekly basis for fifteen years. I began teaching a 7th-8th grade Sunday School class the Sunday after I graduated from high school, and have been at it more or less every week since. My academic training in biblical studies, church history and theology has been in tandem with my practice of the teaching ministry. I wouldn’t have had it any other way then, and if I had it to do over again I would. I’m not doing it over again, but I am back at it again. I am teaching again, almost weekly, at Smyrna Church in both the teen and adult education ministries. So this exploration in teaching isn’t now, nor has it ever really been, an exclusively academic interest.
My earliest teaching experience was as a so-called “volunteer.” I’m loathe to use that word now. I prefer a member-of-the-Body-exercising-a-gift-of-the-Spirit-for-the-good-of-the-Body-to-the-glory-of-God. But MOTBEAGOTSFGOTBTTGOG doen’t roll off the tongue like volunteer does. (I actually do say the word, just not fond of the connotations it has). Then came a couple summers of youth ministry internships. Bless them, they confirmed that I had no business in “youth ministry” as I then construed it. Then came more volunteer teaching until my dozen-year ministry with Central Church in downtown Nashville with seven overlapping years at Ezell-Harding (which was really youth ministry, if you catch my drift). DCHS was a ministry in its own right, but my teaching there was more indirect. For the sake of these reflections I have in mind the teaching ministry of a local congregation. At some point I will likely blog about the ministry of history…its simmering for now. I remain committed to a local congregation and have no intentions to the contrary…and not just nominal membership, but active engagement in the mission of a local congregation for mutual ministry, worship, study and service.
At one time I may have been intrigued by methods, strategies and what I would call now, clever salesmanship. But how to be a mature teacher, theologically informed, pastorally responsible and self-aware…such are my concerns now. The teaching ministry in a congregational context is vitally important, something I think is self-evidently plain. But how to move into the deeper waters? I think Pullias and Young can help here. Their book isn’t meant for the Sunday School teacher, per se. It ain’t even religious, dear friends, at least not overtly. But then again it is, in a much more subtle way, and I am eager to look through it and reflect on it on the pages of this blog.