Over the course of any given semester, I teach in a variety of environments - a college classroom; an equipping, classroom environment in a local church, periodic Sunday morning preaching, and a smattering of others. In addition to these more "formal" teaching settings, I don't completely divorce "teaching" from how I approach some of the short-term counseling I do, from some of the emails I write in response to peoples' questions, from any writing I do online, or from how I interact in different small group settings. I enjoy teaching, and I find a way to weave this into my weeks and months in a number of ways.
If you're like me and do some teaching yourself, you'll know how common it is to evaluate yourself after a time of teaching. It's easy to be your own worst critic and think of things you could have said differently, things that didn't go smoothly in terms of technology and logistics, and more. For me, it can be easy to reduce the number of "measurables" in terms of teaching to presentation and technique. These things have a place and are important. It's good to grow in these areas. But for Christian teachers, we should never reduce the things we measure to just technique. In some ways this is good, because it shows us there are things we can be excelling at, even if we have an "off day" in terms of presentation. But in some ways this bigger "list of measurables" raises the bar even higher - reminding us we need to honor God, pursue excellence, and increasingly grow in a number of areas.
As we consider what "list of measurables" we should be thinking about and growing in as Christian teachers, the Apostle Paul provides a helpful list in 2 Timothy 3:10-11a:
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings...
Let's briefly look at each of these individually, asking how each can help us grow as Christian teachers
Here we see Paul saying that the content of his teaching was important. This might seem obvious, but is nevertheless important to bring up: As teachers, we need to value good, substantial content. And we need to teach this content in such a way that facilitates learning. The position of "teacher" never gives us an excuse for taking our foot off the gas pedal of growing as teachers.
WAy of Life
Our teaching is never disconnected from the larger life we live. If someone followed you around your personal life for a month before they ever heard you teach, would your "way of life" enhance their eagerness to learn from you or diminish it?
The reason we teach is huge. Do we teach to build up our own self-image, or as a means of serving others? Do we teach so people will recognize us and think we're important, or to make much of Jesus Christ and truth that aligns with the world God created? (For a related post, see my "Five Things I've Aiming for When I Teach.")
Teaching requires faith. Ultimately, I believe this is faith in God who sets our purpose (under His purpose). This faith takes shape in obediently pursuing those things God has commanded us to do, which includes teaching! I believe this is also faith to believe what God's Word says is true - that God is still still at work changing lives and illuminating dark hearts and ignorant minds.
I wonder if patience is one of the virtues most neglect in teacher training. It requires great patience to walk with others through the long process of learning. More will be said on this below, under "endurance."
Teaching can be an expression of love - helping others learn, love, and lean into (i.e. obey) truth so they can more fully live in line with God's design. How does showing love to others and care for them take shape in your teaching?
Teaching takes endurance. The longer I've taught, the more I've grown to appreciate that learning is often more like lighting a fire than turning on a light bulb. It doesn't happen instantaneously, but it takes time to establish a base, light kindling, and add more substantial logs. In the same way, teaching for life-change takes endurance over the course of time - as people often need to un-learn previous patterns of thought and increasingly build a framework for receiving and responding to truth.
Persecution and Sufferings
Many of us (most of us?) will never approach the sort of suffering and persecutions that Paul faced. But that doesn't mean a certain sort of suffering won't still accompany those who teach. This can take lots of different shapes: the loneliness of independent study and research; the harsh words that can be said when someone disagrees with you or misunderstands you; the many hours spent pouring thought and effort into preparing content and coming alongside students; and more. We need to understand that these sorts of suffering will come, and make sure we don' have an inappropriate approach to teaching that is simply about "what can I get out of it, and how fast can I advance?"
If these were the "subjects" on your teaching report card, how would you grade yourself? What are you doing well at, and where can you grow?
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Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.