If you missed Part 1 of this discussion, it is available here, though it’s not necessary to read them in order. Essentially, in the last six months, I became a parent, a teacher, and a boss. In Part 1, I wrote about what it’s like to be a first-time manager, if even for a short term. Today’s episode of Dude Where’s My Youth discusses a far greater responsibility: being a Sunday school teacher.
In which I attempt to get sheep to go where I think they’re supposed to go, but my manual is missing a few notes on the subject.
I’m a lifelong LCMS Lutheran, and I love my church. It’s a source of great comfort and peace for me. But I’ve mostly been an attendee, not a leader. I’ve felt very connected to my faith, but have always been a casual participant in the non-worship activities of the church. (I’m the guy who brings chips to the potluck. Probably purchased on the way to the potluck, too.) That all changed this summer, when I was asked to take over the adult Bible study.
I didn’t seek that responsibility; our current Bible study leader moved to Georgia to take a new job, and the class elected me by acclamation, mostly because I asked, “Who’s going to lead our Bible study when Mike is gone?” Instead of responding like Isaiah–
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
— my answer was more of the Moses variety.
“But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.’”
The class’s response was less gentle reproach and more booming voice from heaven. Thus, here I am, albeit reluctantly.
So now I’m responsible for properly teaching and guiding several people in their faith. I’m not trained for this, at least not in any formal way. (Though Paul’s charge to Timothy makes me feel a little better: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I’ve had many concerns since I took over the class in July. Among them:
- What if I royally screw up? (Pretty much a daily worry.)
- What if I look like an idiot in front of these people, who are all at least two decades older than me, and some four or five decades?
- What if I cause people to doubt?
- What if I instruct wrongly?
- Who am I to tell these people how to interpret the Bible?
The good news is – haha, get it? Because the Bible is called the Good News? Little Bible study joke there folks – that the church has many resources available for me. And, I have a wonderful group, everyone has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. My antidote to anxiety about inadequacy is: I’m going to prepare for every possible disaster.
My role model for Sunday School teachers is Stephen Colbert.
I know. Stay with me here.
This might sound odd given that Colbert is (A) a comedian; (B) a Catholic; and (C) not a teacher I’ve ever had personally. What I admire about Colbert is his bravery, his resilience and his passion in teaching in the faith he believes. For example, one of the rare times he “broke character” on the Colbert Report was in a discussion about God with the author of the Lucifer Effect, Philip Zimbardo.
On the Late Show, Stephen used prime time to try to convert Bill Maher. Bill Maher! The atheist who has avowed that all religions are “stupid and dangerous.” He called Judaism “insane” and Christianity “warlike.” Would you spend your valuable time, risking ratings, your public image and the millions advertisers pour into your show to try to convert that man?
That’s the kind of bravery I’m talking about.
Whether you agree with his points or not, Christianity would benefit from more people who proclaimed their faith as boldly as Colbert.
I’m sure most teachers in most subjects in most classrooms around the world walk into their first teaching job worried about messing up or not knowing the answers. I don’t claim to know the Bible better than anyone else, and I’m sure that’s not why they picked me. My goal every week is to foster discussion that raises challenging questions, that encourages us to grow, and that demands we enter every week looking for new opportunities to love and serve our neighbors.
Ultimately, though, it’s not me who is responsible for the spiritual growth and development of the class. It’s up to God. I don’t cause the rain to fall or the crops to grow or the sun to shine, I’m just another worker in the fields, trying to gather what He bestows.