Friday, May 16, 2008

Who Is Your Role Model?

Who is your role model as a teacher? Is it someone who is currently mentoring you? Do you come from a family of teachers? Is it a teacher you once had? Someone you have read about from history? Let me tell you about one of my favorite role models. This person is a character from the Bible and is actually called a teacher in the biblical text. His name was Ezra.

What makes Ezra a role model for Bible teachers? The answer lies in a marvelous verse found in Ezra 7:10. This is a verse every teacher should consider memorizing. The first phrase is, “For Ezra had devoted himself . . . “ Then the verse lists three things Ezra was devoted to:

1. Ezra studied the Word for himself. Ezra 7:10 says Ezra devoted himself to the “study . . . .of the law of the Lord. We never stop learning. As we teach, we need to keep studying the Word for ourselves. I try to start preparations of my lessons early in the week. The first thing I do is to study the passage for myself, to make it part of my personal devotion time. This way, I have all week to mull over the principles I find in the Scripture and to allow God’s Holy Spirit to teach me what those words mean.

Ezra was such a great student of the Bible that he was known for his study. Earlier in the chapter, the text reads, “He was a teacher well versed in the law of Moses (Ezra 7:6). Wouldn’t that be a wonderful reputation to have, that people know you as a Bible expert?

2. Ezra obeyed the Word. Knowing the content of God’s Word was not enough. Ezra devoted himself to the observance of the Law as well. We would be hypocrites if we teach others how to follow God’s way then fail to observe God’s law ourselves. It sounds so obvious, but sadly enough, too many children’s ministry workers do not make Christ a priority in their personal lives. How can you personally follow Christ more closely this week?

Ezra was not a teacher who was new to the faith, high on enthusiasm and low on long term commitment. His commitment to God and His law came from a solid foundation of teaching that spanned many generations. Ezra was a from a long line of the high priests of Israel, reaching back to the first high priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses. In his lineage are included such courageous ancestors as Hilkiah, the priest who help King Josiah repair the Temple and read the discovered book of the law to the people, and Zadok, who ensured that Solomon was established as King as God had chosen.

3. Ezra devoted himself to his teaching. How devoted are you to your teaching? How prepared are you before each teaching session? If you are going to be a model teacher like Ezra, no procrastination! No Saturday night crash preparation sessions! No bare minimums! If you are going to be devoted to your teaching, you may have to give up other church activities. You may need to sacrifice your desire to be in a class of your own. You may need to face the misunderstanding of other people who criticize you for not serving on other committees or joining the choir. You may need to allow yourself to get close enough to your kids for your heart to break as you see their hurts up close and personal. Yet when you fully devote yourself to your teaching, you feel the joy of knowing there’s no other place you would rather be than Inside the Classroom.

When you fully devote yourself to the study and observance of God’s word and the teaching of His decrees, you will also garner the label of Teacher, like Ezra.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Teaching Children and Banana Pudding

When I served on a short term mission trip in Austria recently, part of my responsibilities was to work in a kitchen. In a two week span, our team of eight cooked three meals a day for 68 people. Although I love to cook for my family and friends, I begin to feel stressed if I must cook for any more than eight people at a time. This was my first introduction to large quantity cooking in an industrial kitchen. Fortunately, someone else was in charge and I only did what I was told to do, which was fine with me!

Often we started the preparations for a dish one or two days before it was even scheduled on the menu. One day, banana pudding was on the meal plan for the next day. Our head cook, knowing the end result, told me, “We’re making banana pudding. I want you to grind an entire box of graham crackers into crumbs.” When I completed that, she asked me to mix the crumbs with butter and put the mixture in a container. Next, I was to mix together nineteen boxes of vanilla pudding mix with milk.

Since I’ve made banana pudding before, I knew the next step and I wanted to continue. I wanted to be in charge of the entire process of making the banana pudding. It was not to be. At that moment, the head cook needed me to go cut up tomatoes for another project. Someone else finished the pudding the next day and I never saw it again until a small square rested at my place at the lunch table.

Teaching children is much the same process as I experienced with banana pudding. Many of us probably secretly desire to be the one to teach a young child the beginning concepts about God, then continue to train them in the ways of the Lord, bringing them to that wonderful moment when they accept Christ as Lord. After all, we’ve invested time into their lives. It would be so satisfying to be The One to bring them through to that final step of faith that brings them into the kingdom of God.

But that kind of long term involvement is more the rare exception rather than the rule. More often than not, you will have a particular child inside your classroom for 45 minutes a week, for one year. Some children will fill your room for only one session. That’s all the time you get with them. Then it’s someone’s job to influence, guide, teach and help them grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In fact, many people are teaching that child: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, church elders, dear little old church ladies who give the child a hug, the pastor, so many more.

The apostle Paul knew this part of discipleship very well. He says in 1 Corinthians 3:5-8: “ What after all is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Appolos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”

Some plant, some water. God gives the growth. We can’t always be the one to finally see a child come to Christ or disciple that child to full maturity. We are needed elsewhere. Think of Phillip who, as recorded in Acts 8, won the Ethiopian to Christ then was whisked away by the Holy Spirit to somewhere. He never saw the man again, never knew whether the man passed along the Good New much less kept the faith. Yet Phillip lost no time in continuing to preach Jesus (Acts 8:40). Our task is to make the most of each moment He gives us with each child, to teach our best, then move on, surrendering that child’s spiritual growth to God, knowing that He cares infinitely more for each child then we ever could.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Thanks for visiting my blog. This blog specializes in issues pertaining to teaching children and the lessons they teach us as teachers particularly in the Christian education realm. I'd love to hear your feedback and what touches you as a teacher. Please feel free to leave your comment by clicking on the comment link below.

I'm having to take a short break from blogging because I just had emergency surgery. I hope to be back in the grovve soon to share more about teaching the children we love.