For many of us on the 'Young Cartsbridge' team, the task of teaching is built into the fabric of our service in the church. It takes place in different contexts, using different formats but it shares a common objective: to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the subsequent call to follow him on the path of discipleship.
As we look ahead to a new session, where do we turn for fresh insight and encouragement in this role? Paul's counsel in Romans 12:7 is a great place to start. In almost understated language, the New Living Translation of this verse underlines the approach we ought to take with the gift that God has given us - "If you are a teacher, teach well." Teach WELL. It is a simple and clear call. If we are to honour God in teaching his word, then we must do it well. We ought to approach this responsibility in a careful, prayerful, complete and meticulous manner.
How can this be achieved?
I believe we will get close if we grasp the following:
REMEMBER THE BASICS
What is teaching?
At its most basic level it is ‘the interaction of the minds between the communicator and those to whom they are communicating in such a way as to impart knowledge, stimulate thought, impact values or lead to action…or any combination of these’ (source unknown).
What do we need to be a teacher?
We need to know our subject, something of the people to whom we are communicating and we need to know ourselves.
Of course, the answers given to those questions could easily apply to teaching in any context. They are worth reflecting on as we think of our own unique calling at Cartsbridge. However, the calling of Christian ministry requires that we take this to a deeper level. Someone said that the godly approach to teaching recognises that it involves 'the Word of God through the Spirit of God by the servant of God to the people of God.'
Building on that foundation, we need, secondly, to:
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
In this fast moving, ever changing world that we are part of, the need for effective teachers is of critical importance. Over the last few years I have reflected a great deal on what it means to teach God's Word in the 21st century. What I now outline would be some basic convictions that I have arrived at about how we can do this more effectively.
It is good to remember that both learner and teacher are whole persons
Teaching is not just the communication of mind to mind. It is, more importantly, person to person. Therefore, as a teacher our whole personality needs to be available to the Holy Spirit. A Christian understanding on the gift of teaching recognises that as well as informing the mind it is also about shaping a godly character.
Cultivate wide interests
For our teaching to be effective we need to be students of life and people. We need to learn to engage with people where they are, speaking in a language they understand.
Read books that make you think
It is helpful to have a book to hand that stretches our mind: literature that argues its point. This will enable us to develop the skill of weighing arguments and judging the truth.
Read books that help your imagination
There is a danger that television and the digital age is robbing people of an imaginative leap. As we read good literature it appeals to our imagination and that can be a great help as we seek creative ways of communicating God’s truth. Of course, the key book that helps us to this end is the Bible itself. The picture language of the Bible is rich and full and has the ability to stir our imagination, inform our minds and refine our character.
Be a constant student of your subject
We will only impact others if we are constantly finding new truth in the Bible. We cannot lead people any higher than our own experience of God and our understanding of his word and his ways.
Be a constant student of the art of teaching
We need to continually ask, 'Can my teaching be improved?' To that end, never be afraid to seek counsel from other, more experienced, teachers. Teachers need teachable hearts!
All of this leads me to the final point:
RELATE TO THE PEOPLE
A good number of years ago I heard a preacher develop the following points that I believe, will help us understand, empathise and communicate more effectively with our group:
· Study the culture
· Learn the language
· Love the people
· Emulate the Lord Jesus Christ
"If you are a teacher, TEACH WELL."
(Written as a reflection for the volunteers of the children’s and youth ministries at Cartsbridge, January 2017)