By Dr. Dawn Morton
I just celebrated a milestone in my life. I have been teaching for more than 40 years in the church. I have taught children, youth, and adults (all of various ages and groups). I am called to teach. Teaching is in the depth of my soul. Many ask me, “How can I develop good skills for teaching?” or “How can I be a teacher like you?” While I am humbled that others might want to emulate my teaching skills or life, it did not happen overnight. In fact, it was a lifetime of learning that shaped me into who I am today, even as a teacher.
Many people in today’s world want instant everything, including those who want to teach. But teaching is not something that is instant, nor does it come easy. It comes from years of practice, learning new ideas, experiencing the classroom and students, teaching a variety of subjects, willing to explore, and a teachable spirit. While all of this is true, there are three keys to successful Christian teaching.
Robert W. Pazmiño wrote a concise practical book for Christian teachers, whether in the church or in the academy; Basics of Teaching for Christians: Preparation, Instruction, and Evaluation. This book put into words for what I had experienced in teaching, yet pulled me to new heights in the teaching ministry, and higher education. “The Christian ministry of teaching requires the devotion of persons called by God to make a difference in the lives of individuals, communities, and societies” (Pazmiño 2002, 7). I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those whom I was teaching. It required devotion and being called by God!
Preparation is needed to not only prepare materials to be taught, but to prepare oneself as a teacher. Prayer is the foundation to the preparation of the heart of the teacher. Instruction involves the actual teaching process; what we do, our techniques, and yet having an open ear to the Holy Spirit and His work among the learners. Evaluation is needed so that we can improve as a teacher; learning from mistakes, and building upon strengths. By using these keys, anyone can improve in the task of teaching. While they are beneficial, here are teaching tips that I give to aspiring teachers.
- Be sure that you are called to teach. Don’t take it lightly, as it is a calling from God.
- Be devoted to the calling of teaching. Devotion means you will do what it takes to be a great teacher.
- Invite the Holy Spirit into your classroom. He is the teacher; we are merely the vessel God uses.
- Bathe your teaching in prayer. Pray for your students and yourself.
- Remain teachable. Learn from others. Ask questions. Learn new techniques.
- Evaluate your own process. Learn from your mistakes. Use your strengths.
- Give God the Glory! He created you for this purpose, so give Him the glory for all of it!
Pazmiño, Robert W. 2002. Basics of Teaching for Christians: Preparation, Instruction, and Evaluation. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock.
Dawn Morton, EdD is Associate Dean for Institutional Assessment and Assistant Professor for Christian Formation and Leadership. She also serves as a Doctor of Ministry Track Leader for Transformational Leadership at Ashland Theological Seminary.