Since arriving at my new appointment I’ve been given several opportunities to teach, from Sunday School Classes to our Pastor’s Bible Study, it’s been enriching to be back to teaching. I’m not preaching on the regular, yet, and while we prepare to launch a few new projects, I take every chance I can get to join in community with others and teach,
So far, I’ve done deep dives on the books of Acts and Exodus with two different groups, writing my own study in the process. I have learned a LOT along the way.
This isn’t a dig against teaching works by others ... Far from it. Right now, I’m doing that very thing for an Advent study - and it’s super refreshing to just lead discussion during a season when church life is crazy. But ...
Here are a few of the things I learned by writing my own Bible studies:
- I learned about the Bible. That sounds silly, I know. But writing my own curriculum forced me to actually study the Bible. Not just to read commentaries, but to actually read it. To internalize it. To find nuggets of scripture and divine inspiration that I hadn’t seen before. I put in many more hours of study to prepare to teach than I did on any seminary paper. Compound that with picking a book like Exodus ... You can’t teach the Exodus without diving into the rest of the Torah.
- I learned to get to the essence of the books. When you’re doing a survey of a whole book ... Like EXODUS for example ... In just a few weeks, you have to narrow things down to the major narrative moves. And that requires #1.
- I have awesome, comprehensive notes now for future studies and preaching opportunities. Maybe even books.
- It’s fun to have more time to teach than a twenty minute sermon. But, just as in crafting a sermon, crafting a study requires building in a rhythm that keeps people engaged. Yet, I found that filling an hour wasn’t difficult AT ALL.
- Inviting dialogue, which for me is essential in any study (I’m not the only person in the room who’s ever studied the Bible), can create [good] chaos. Getting things back on track with out alienating people that participate takes real practice that you really only learn by doing. Which brings me to my next point ...
- Every group has different needs when we come in to teach, so the need to improvise is huge. I had an overall plan going into each of the big studies I’ve led so far, but they were all adjusted as I went along. But, again, diligent study enables an ability to change course as needed.
- My people learned a lot more about what I’m passionate about. People don’t want to know what a pastor thinks, they want to know what they know - as with any teacher. Does that include learning from the wisdom of the crowd that gathers? Yes, but embarking on a high nerd level word study in Biblical Hebrew or Greek - something REALLY hard to do in a sermon - can be super fun in a class setting when done with enthusiasm. Because, why not?
- And, the old axiom really is true: when you teach something, you learn it better yourself.
I could write a few more things, to be sure. The things I actually learned about the Bible in studying it to teach it ... I’ll carry them with me for a good. long. while.
Pastors, ministers, teachers ... Put yourself out there. It’s worth it.