At its core, the Brookside Institute is all about building and reinforcing foundations of the Christian faith. We do this because we believe that something called "catechesis" - even though we don't always call it that - is still important and worthwhile. We love offering classes that help people Dig Deep, Learn Good, and Launch Well.
Everything in this post so far paints an initial picture of WHAT the Institute is all about, and WHY I believe so strongly in this equipping ministry for the local church. But at least one more important question still needs to be answered: HOW do we go about doing this?
I suppose there's a few angles by which this question could be approached. But perhaps THE SINGLE GREATEST ANSWER to the "how?" question is this: Institute teachers. If an excellent ministry (the "what") that clearly adds value (the "why") is offered, but the wrong people are at the helm, the "what" and the "why" don't matter (or they won't be realized). In other words, if you have the WHAT and the WHY but not the WHO, things are going to either collapse or never take shape.
All of this means teachers - in the Institute, or any other Christian education environment, for that matter - play a really big role. And that means we need to know what we're looking for in teachers. This helps with the selection filter, it adds credibility and value to everything else, and these qualities are things that shape ongoing training and development.
So, with that said, here are the 4 "C"s that make a strong Institute teacher:
This is number one for a reason. Character - who someone is on the inside - matters. A LOT. As I consider teachers and train teachers, I want to keep going back to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, and Peter's list of godly qualities in 2 Peter 1:5-9. Teachers - perhaps especially teachers! - need to be continually reminded that knowledge isn't the only ingredient of effective teaching. Indeed, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 8:1, "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (cf 1 Corinthians 13:1-7). Character matters.
Care matters. Because we're teaching people. We're teaching people who need content applied to their specific situations. We're teaching people who have been coming from weeks that may have been great or terrible, joyful or grief-filled. Without this ingredient of care, content can be used as a club - in a negative way. Care calls teachers to be others-centered (Philippians 2:3-4). Teachers don't focus on ego and platform building. Teacher's don't even focus only on content. Teachers are others-centered and seeing the learning environment as an opportunity to offer content in a way that serves others. Care matters.
Content matters. Institute classes aren't extended social times or prayer services. (Though social times and prayer services are good!). Institute classes offer content designed to lead people towards specific objectives in the areas of biblical literacy, theological formation, and living on mission. This means that teachers aren't just "nice people." They've done the work of study and preparation, and are a few steps down the road from those in their classes (or at lease most of them). They have a firm grasp on content, and have a handle on biblical orthodoxy such that they can "encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9).
Communication matters. Institute teachers need to have an ability to convey care and communicate content in a helpful way. An engaging way. We want teachers to whet the appetite of those in their classes - and boring presentations, monotone teachers, and/or unclear points usually don't do that. We want teachers who are able-enough communicators that their presentations are clear, dynamic, and engaging.
Clearly, no one ever "fully arrives" in any of these area. We continue growing in character for a lifetime. We should never stop showing care. We can keep learning new content and enhancing our communication. But even as we develop these things, having these qualities as a "first filter" shows how we value them in the first place. Because WHO really is that big of a deal.
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