Thursday Book Club: The Teacher

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages. In this post, I plan to finish out my extended review of  Hear, My Son that I've been working through for much of this year.    The final three chapters of the book unpack the educational process and the role of the teacher and learner in that process.  In Estes' observations of Proverbs 1-9, he finds three primary roles for the teacher that correspond with three primary modes of instruction.

Teacher as Expert Authority. Estes presents the teacher as a reliable transmitter of tradition who is qualified to speak with expert authority when he uses directive modes.  In these modes, the teacher is central, and the learner is expected to accept the teaching on the basis of his authority.  But, even when the teacher's authority is most prominent, his most direct instruction is  crafted as part of a literary devise.   This demonstrates the Teacher's own wisdom and humility.  In two passages where direct address is used, the speaker is not the teacher at all, but personified Wisdom (Proverbs 1:20-33; 8:1-11), a prophetic character that the teacher describes and recommends to his student.  In these texts, Wisdom speaks openly in the streets, and she denounces evil with accusations and threats of judgment.  She boasts of her own authority and the gifts that she can bestow.  She is the authority that the teacher recommends, but he is subversively recommending himself and his own tradition.  Similarly, the teacher paints a negative portrait of the evil person and evil activities that the LORD hates in Proverbs 6:12-19.  The teacher gives direct commands without literary subversion or substantiation (see below) only in Proverbs 6:1-5.  In this passage, the debtor has risked his own impoverishment by rash pledges, and the teacher directly commands him to free himself from debt.  The directness of the commands are appropriate to the conditions.

Teacher as Facilitator. The teacher is seen as a facilitator when he uses incentive and invitation.  In Proverbs 3:13-18 and 8:12-21, there is an appeal to the learner that praises all of the benefits of wisdom.  "By describing the intrinsic good of wisdom and the instrumental benefits which it can provide, the teacher endeavours to create in the learner a desire to choose what is best" (121).  In these passages, there is a focus on the learner's involvement with no commands or appeals to logic.  The teacher simply "presents the advantages of the way of wisdom, but leaves the choice up to the learner" (128).

Teacher as Guide. When the teacher gives commands with substantiation (reasons, illustrations, consequences, rhetorical questions), he regards the learner as an active participant in the learning process.  Instruction is seen as a "synergism, with both the teacher and learner playing crucial roles" (112).   "Commands with reasons" constitutes "the largest single category of rhetoric in Proverbs 1-9" (111).  The teacher speaks from his own knowledge and experience to provide direction for the learner, and he also appeals to observations.  In making these appeals, the teacher respects the learner's own experience and readiness to hear.  At times, illustrations (1:10-19), consequences (1:8-9), and rhetorical questions (6:27-28) are added to reasons.  These additions constitute an appeal to the learner's desires and affections, and they help to move the learner toward the point of decision.

For an overview of the first several sections of Estes' book, check out:

David and Sally Michael: Nurturing the Faith of the Next Generation

UncategorizedJared Kennedy2 Comments

Children Desiring God  Pre-Conference, Session 3Nurturing the Faith of the Next Generation: A Heart Response Centered on the Gospel David and Sally Michael

Our goal is to reach a child’s heart through the instruction of his word (Colossians 1:9-10). “It is your job to make clear how the truth you are teaching is practiced experientially.”—Lou Priollo

5 Levels of Learning—Lawrence O. Richards, Creative Bible Teaching, (Moody Press). (1)    ROTE—Ability to repeat without thought of meaning (2)    RECOGNITION—Ability to recognize Biblical concepts; comprehension; can answer a multiple-choice question.  Often this is as far as we get, but we must go beyond facts to meaning and application. (3)    RESTATEMENT—Ability to express or relate concepts to biblical system of thought.  Can answer “why” questions about the story. (4)    RELATION—Ability to relate biblical truth to life and see what a biblical response would be.  Can make a connection to one’s own life.  Can answer the question, “What difference does this make in my life?” (5)    REALIZATION/RESPONSE—Actualizing response: to apply biblical truths in daily life.  Application can best be done by questioning.  This is the way that they learn to think and understand.  Share from your own life experience.  Know your children, and it will help you guide them.  Children need to know what they need to do in response to what you have heard today.  This is a knowing that possesses us.

We must be faithful with the truth—beginning with the truth—then affecting the heart and emotions, and then moving the will.

Parents Seizing Opportunities Parents are in the best position to help children apply to truth to the trials of life, that is, the homework that God gives them.  God gives parents a unique position of influence in the lives of children.  Parents must be clear on what their children are being taught so that they are in a position to apply these things to their lives.  Parents who love God and his word seek to bring God into every situation.  Take home sheets can be the difference between life and death for a child, because these are words of life for the child to believe and live or disbelieve and experience judgment.  One of the best ways to bring a child to the point of response is to respond to it myself.  This may require humbling myself, admitting my need, etc.  One of the privileges we have when we teach children is that the Scriptures grip us. Teach In Such a Way that Children Understand What Proper Responses Are It is so much better for a child to learn a heart lesson though it cause her temporary pain than to experience eternal pain.  Experience is a good teacher—both bad and good experiences.  God brings these life experiences in order to teach our children that He is good.

14 Educational Benefits of Children's Ministry


Over at Children's Ministry Online, Tony Kummer has posted an article entitled "68 Benefits of Children's Ministry."  One section of his article addresses "14 Educational Benefits of Children's Ministry."  Kummer's entire article is helpful, and this section is particularly valuable.  I have listed it here for your benefit. 14 Educational Benefits of Children's Ministry

  1. It accommodates the unique educational needs of children. We all know that children learn differently than adults. Targeted teaching for kids helps accommodate these differences. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Learn about cognitive development and know the limitations of your learners.
  2. It allows teachers to target multiple intelligences in their teaching. New research in education points to various types of intellect. Typical children’s ministry curriculum already addresses these different learning needs. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Use a variety of learning activities that appeal to distinct learning styles.
  3. It allows for age-graded instruction. A tried and true way to promote learning is to teach on different maturity levels. Children’s ministry programs (like Vacation Bible School and Sunday School) have been doing this for years. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Plan times when children from similar grade levels can learn together.
  4. It allows children to memorize large portions of scripture. A major focus for most children’s ministry programs is Bible memorization. Concentrated efforts in this area while kids are young can yield lifelong benefits. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Challenge kids to learn and retain three verse each month. Review these every week all year long. Use games and drills to make it fun, but don’t skip the Bible memorization.
  5. It provides systematic Bible instruction. Sunday school publishers arrange their lessons according to a defined scope and sequence. This assures that kids get a broad introduction to the Bible and its major teachings. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Evaluate your ministry programs. Ask yourself, “Will a child who completes this program know all the basics needed to continue their spiritual growth?”
  6. It allows learning to worship in a group through singing. Kids who learn to worship in groups of other children, using simple worship songs, are better prepared to participate in congregational singing [in an adult gathering]. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Choose worship songs and teach about the difference between singing and worshiping through singing.
  7. It allows children to learn how to read scripture in public. Having kids read scripture in Sunday school helps them learn to read the Bible aloud. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Make this a regular component of your ministry time.
  8. It helps kids learn to pray aloud in public. The same is true for praying in public. This is a much less intimidating process in a small group, such as Sunday school. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Invite children to lead prayer in Sunday school.
  9. It provides a context for children to learn how to respect older adults. This habit is also best learned-by-doing. Children’s ministry is an excellent format to teach kids how to interact with and to respect older people. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Invite an older church member to share a testimony about their many years of serving God. Hold up long-term faithfulness as something that should be greatly respected.
  10. It increases the total amount of instruction time children will get in the Bible. Promote biblical literacy by teaching the Bible. Even children who read their Bibles at home will benefit from this extra learning time. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Add a regular Bible reading portion to your ministry time. Even 2 minutes at a time will add up over the years.
  11. It promotes the use of music as a learning tool. One of the easiest ways to learn is through music. Most children’s ministry curriculum provide music designed for worship as well as teaching. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Find the best mix of musically quality and content. Don’t just settle for contemporary music. When possible, teach the children songs based closely on scripture passages. Give away CDs with these high quality learning songs.
  12. It provides a context for children learn share the gospel with their friends. When kids invite other kids to church, they take the first steps to witnessing to their friends. Children’s ministry helps make that happen by encouraging kids to share Jesus. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Encourage kids to invite friends to church and talk about Jesus in their regular life. Younger kids don’t have the same shyness about witnessing as adults. So, help them spread the message.
  13. It provides opportunities to re-teach the Gospel in every developmental stage. Often a child’s response (or lack of response) to the Gospel is hidden by their immaturity. The best way to overcome this concern is to continue to reinforce the plan of salvation as they mature. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Have a plan to re-teach the Gospel in detail (at least four weeks worth of lessons) at least once each year while a child is in your ministry programs. If they don’t understand the way of salvation, then we have failed them.
  14. It helps maximize spiritual development at every developmental stage. The principle is true for their spiritual development after they are converted. – Children’s Ministry Tip: Watch out for 9-11 year olds. This is a prime time when kids learn to pray long and deep. Celebrate their maturing spiritual capacities and help them become consistent in daily private worship times.

Creative Diversity

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

On Tuesday, October 14th, the Sojourn staff was privileged to sit down with Dr. Harold M. Best, emeritus professor of music and dean emeritus of the Wheaton College (Illinois) Conservatory of Music. Sojourn pastor, Mike Cosper, began the time by stating our desire to see the next generation embrace creativity that is informed by the gospel.  In a Leadership U lecture, "Creative Diversity, Authenticity and Excellence, Best writes about the kind of creative pluralism that should be fostered in church communities.  He states that children are natural pluralists who must be cherished and nurtured:

These wonderful and inherently creative people are the true naturals at diversity.  They are multi-lingual; the width of their perceptual and cognitive proficiencies is astonishing.  They are our intrinsic pluralists, the ones in whom the first day of creation is summarized.  They are at once as capable of cavorting to a Bach gigue, as of being quieted by a Nigerian lullaby, as of being enamored of a Picasso, as of learning several languages at once.  They dance, they improvise, they imagine, they ask profound questions.  They are idiomatically diverse. Their world is of one cloth and they have a need for it as boundless as their need for their mother's breast.  They not only must live but they must abound within the abundance around them.  They are scribbling, babbling poets before they know what grammar is.  Yet, early on they begin to sense the importance of imposing structure on their poetry.  Somehow they intuit that order and syntax are part of the relational, communal side of life.  And the poetry and the grammar grow up together.  As the linguist Noam Chomsky would put it, they bring the sentence with them, we just give them the vocabularies.

When speaking to us about children, Dr. Best emphasized that children are at base poetic.  Affect is so important for a child because propositions are secondary developmentally.  Yet if education is poorly done while teaching children the necessary grammars to "fill their sentence", it will cut off their poetic nature-the speculative, imaginative gift with which we are all born and by which we enter into the world of holy and sanctified guessing.  While it is necessary to use propositions (after all, we must get the truth across), we must not limit children to thinking linearly, from A to Z or in outline form.  With this in mind, we can examine our institutions and church education programs to see how and if we have mixed up poetry and grammar?  What are we doing here?  Are we simply teaching our children to think about the Bible and about the arts?  Or are we leading them to know Christ and then to experience what it means to creatively live within the Creator's world?  In the same essay quoted above, Best goes on to survey the way that our culture quashes a child's creativity:

But to our dismay, all of this wondrous stuff begins to be constricted and shut down by a slickened and cynical culture in which our children and young  people are made to think that they are personally unique, while unwittingly  being made into each other's image.  It is really commercial totalitarianism:  this massive hype, this cynical flattening of human diversity, this ornamented stasis.  Our children are Michael Jordaned, and Barneyed, mega-churched, Sandi Pattied, Nintendoed, and MTV'd clean out of their uniqueness.  The local, home-grown heroes--those necessary stay-at-home mentors--are almost no more.  They have either left us, trying for bigger things, or if they humbly choose to stay at home, their worth is belittled by the steroided hype and illusion which surround the super-stars.  Their options are curiously shut down by the  gatekeepers: these product mongers who choose our culture for us and then manipulate us into thinking we have freely chosen it.

In his essay, Best makes clear that the solution is a group of local heroes who while embracing the gospel also embrace creativity and kids.

Above all, these are the ones,  who, by choice, stay close to our children, to nurture them in the rich context of creative diversity.

Let us pray that there will be many of these at Sojourn.  We need every one of them.

Hear Harold Best lectures, “What Creative People Can Learn From The Creation,” and “Art For The Church, Art From The Church, Art Facing The Church,” delivered at Sojourn’s home, The 930 Art Center

Hear a Q&A panel with Harold Best and Sojourn's Pastors, “Thoughts for Christian Artists And Musicians."