Monday, January 11, 2010

The Student Teacher

Last week, I shared how we taught our children’s church class about setting goals. This week, it was time to return to my regularly scheduled lesson from the curriculum. Since we use a rotation of three teachers, I haven’t taught for two months. The last teacher couldn’t quite remember which lesson she had taught last, so she and I guessed at which one it would be. I was delighted. The lesson I thought was next dovetailed beautifully with what I had shared with my students the week before.

The scripture text was from Acts 16, how the Spirit of God kept Paul from going into an area where Paul wanted to go next. Then Paul had a dream of a man from Macedonia imploring, “Come help us.” My curriculum suggested the application that God will guide us in what we set out to do. Perfect! As I told my class the week before, life doesn’t always happen the way we want it to but we definitely won’t reach our goals if we make no goals at all.

There was an extra dimension to this lesson, however. On first read of Acts 16:6-15, the story seems confusing and I began wondering, “Why am I teaching THIS passage to elementary age kids?’ My bible scholar husband enlightened me. You have to know the geography of the Mediterranean to catch the significance what God did. Paul was in southern Asia Minor and wanted to go up north. But God sent him to Macedonia, an entirely new country, across the Aegean Sea, an area Christianity had not touched. In fact, there were so few Jewish believers, only a few women met at the river for prayer each Saturday. In modern terms, it would be like my husband and I wanted to start a new church in Cleveland and God said, “I’m sending you to London!”

Paul’s life goal was to preach the gospel, particularly where the gospel had never been preached. He thought he would reach his goal by going to Bithynia. But God said, “I’ve got bigger plans for you!” When Paul reached Philippi, the main city of the area, he led Lydia and the Philippian jailer and their entire households to the Lord, thus starting the nucleus of the Philippian church. It was a harvest ripe for the picking!

I arrived at church, excited to teach my lesson. To my dismay, I had forgotten my copies. No problem. I’ll take the kids with me to make copies. One boy looked over my shoulder. “We already did that lesson!” I met the teacher in the hallway. Indeed they had, but in front of the kids, she and I both affirmed each other that teachers teach differently and I will come at the lesson from a different angle.

I was living what my lesson taught; that God will guide us to accomplish His purposes. Proverbs 16:9: “In his heart, a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps” was reenacted on the stage of my classroom. I built upon what I had taught the previous week about goals. I led the kids to make concrete goals that were character based rather than just accomplishment driven, something I had hoped to accomplish the week before. One little girl, after finishing the worksheet, remembered how she had applied the lesson the last time. Her goals had been to be nice to someone who wasn’t nice to her. In the next week, her “enemy” got his coat caught on something and she reached behind him and freed him. She would never have had the chance to give that feedback had we not repeated the lesson.

At the end of the lesson, I had the kids state their goals for the week. Then I told them, “Prayer is simple. All you have to do is say, ‘God help me’ then state your goal.” We did that. Then I said, “Praying for others is simple too. You say, “God help (the name of the person standing next to you)’ then say that person’s goal.” For the first time, we had a solid prayer time where everyone participated and some kids even expanded their goals. We prayed for each other instead just sick people none of us knew. None of this would have happened if the previous teacher and I had nailed down the correct lesson. God was guiding me to teach that particular lesson a second time.

The kids walked out with a goal for the week. And I learned to trust God to guide me when I face roadblocks to my lesson plans. As I said to one student, the teacher always learns more than the students.

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