I recently met with a fabulous group of adult volunteer Bible class teachers who were thinking about their roles on Sunday mornings. Our conversation focused on one important question: What benefit do learners receive from having a Christian teacher? This question emerged from the realization that most students can access the same information the teacher will share during a class time. If students can Google the answer, why bother?
Those who teach should know the answer to this important question: “Does my teaching matter?” My answer is, absolutely! Christian teachers make an eternal difference. What Christian teachers bring to the classroom is more than new content, as important as that is. Here are six things Christian teachers give students through their presence:
- Students get to experience the passion of the teacher. Some students can’t imagine how exciting 1 Thessalonians could be until they have a teacher whose enthusiasm for this letter is displayed in class. The teacher’s passion inspires curiosity and leads people to want to read the Bible on their own beyond the walls of the classroom.
- A teacher can also provide immediate feedback. A classroom sets the stage for conversations to happen . . . between students . . . and between students and the teacher. Teachers offer verbal responses to ideas and help guide thinking. This immediate feedback is important to help people learn.
- Next, and closely related, the teacher creates an environment of learning in community. Teachers are the keepers of culture. By that I mean that they set the tone of the class, communicate who can speak, and how people who speak are treated. They invite exploration and discovery by creating experiences in the classroom that help students engage content in collaborative rather than competitive ways.
- The teacher’s presence in the classroom also serves to maintain civility and peace; teachers are often called on to be a referee when opposing points of view are expressed. Teachers offer a balancing presence to conflicts in classes when disagreements emerge or when strong opinions are shared.
- Another value of teachers is that students can learn the habits of quality learning from this discipline of study. That’s why books have been written such as “How to read the Bible for all it’s worth.” The authors knew that the Bible could be read through the wrong set of lenses. Teachers model holding the Word of God responsibly as they share how they’ve learned about the content. Teachers take learners on the journey of discovery that they’ve already traveled.
- Finally, the Christian teacher models life in relationship with God. The wisdom of the teacher and the faith of the teacher are on display for all to see. This living lesson serves as a testimony that validates the message of the Bible and can inspire others to commit their lives to more intentional discipleship. This will often extend into mentoring relationships beyond the walls of the classroom. When this occurs our teaching is looking even more like the teaching of Jesus.
When you think about the importance of Christian teachers, what would you add to this list?
Houston Heflin is an associate professor of ministry in the Bible department at ACU. After spending 12 years working in churches in adult spiritual formation and youth ministry, he now serves as a volunteer adult Bible class teacher and a 9th grade huddle leader at his church. He is the author of the book “Teaching Eutychus: Engaging Today’s Learners With Passion and Creativity,” and frequently hosts teacher-equipping seminars at churches across the country. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family, playing basketball, and conducting research in the areas of teaching, learning, and technology.