Post by Brett Eddy
Like many of you out there, I didn’t go to school for this…
I went to school originally to be a doctor, but when I discovered that my friends were playing ultimate frisbee on the quad when I was stuck in 3-hour lab sessions, I realized that pre-med wasn’t for me. I then switched to English (because I’m one of those sickos that like grammar) and secondary education (because I’m one of those weirdos that like spending time with teenagers).
The next couple of years were a winding path that led me to the last 15 years of serving in the student ministry at my church, which has been (for the most part) a blast!
As I was listening to Episode 340 of the DYM Podcast (what inadvertently became the “Speaking Episode”) this morning on the way to work, something the crew was talking about toward the end gave me flashbacks to my education classes. In the late 90s (when I was in college) there was a movement in the education field toward individualization of teaching methods to create the best learning environment for students. Everyone learns differently, and teachers should be willing to adjust their teaching styles to the various learning styles of their students, something that every student pastor or small group leader worth his or her salt should be mindful of when preparing to communicate information, whether he or she is the main communicator or a small group leader.
One of the things I learned in those years is that you have the option as a teacher to teach the subject to the student OR to teach the student the subject. One method assumes that you will take the subject (in my case, English) and teach it to the students. Become a master on the topic and teach it to the students who have been assigned to your class. The other method, teaching the student the subject, means that I have to approach my lessons with the students, their needs, wants, desires, and backgrounds, in mind. In other words, I have to figure out what is going to motivate my students to grasp the concept of, say, subject-verb agreement.
And while subject-verb agreement is VITALLY important to becoming a good writer and communicating clearly, the truth of the gospel and its implications on the lives of middle and highs school students is a whole different ball of wax. While it is SO important to be able to clearly teach the Bible and help students understand God’s word, it’s equally, if not (maybe heresy) more important, to understand my students and to teach them God’s word (and not necessarily to teach God’s word to my students).
In other words, if I don’t understand my audience and develop in them a desire and need to hear what God wants for their lives (a.k.a. why does this matter to me), it doesn’t matter how well I can explain the truth of what I’m trying to communicate.
Let’s take a lesson from my education professors (and what Doug was saying in this episode of the podcast) and make every effort to consider teaching our STUDENTS God’s word and not GOD’S WORD to our students.