I was 20 years old when I signed up to be a camp counselor at a Lutheran Christian camp in northern Wisconsin. I had never been so tired and stretched beyond my limits. And I had never been so changed by a single summer.
My kids are at Camp Wartburg in Waterloo, IL this week, so here's a shout out to those counselors and all who labor at a camp this summer. You gave up a college summer to serve kids. You sacrificed leisure, a job that pays more, or an all important internship for swim time with screaming kids and camp food.
These are lessons I learned as a camp counselor:
If you search leadership books on Amazon, you will find some 57,000. The market for leadership books is saturated. A friend of mine named Jim Galvin published a book last year on leadership. Why another leadership book when there are 57,000? Jim’s book is a little different. His thesis is this: Good leaders need to be good followers. Every leader is a follower, and every leader has followers.
Jim calls this “followership." Fundamentally, it's nothing new. It captures the essence of Christian discipleship.
There is a gap in my postings, partly due to a trip I had last week. Once a year I join five other younger pastors and we sit at the feet of older, wiser pastors and leaders. This is our professional development. Most professions have some sort of continuing education, whether a certification, a degree, or professional learning hours. I feel that my job is no different. I must always be growing.
Charles Spurgeon once said, "We work as if it all depends on us, and we know that it all depends on God." So I work my tail off. I have to be a better administrator and organizer. I have to be a better teacher and preacher. I have to learn budgeting and finance better. I have to hone leadership and management skills. I must grow in counseling and crisis care. I must mature in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study of the word, and meditation.
Yet while I work as if it all depends on me, I also know that it all depends on God. In all my working, sweating, and heavy lifting, there is grace. God does stuff that I couldn't imagine. So I continue with professional development, and God continues to develop me.
"I touch the future. I teach."
Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who lost her life in the ill-fated launch of the space shuttle Challenger
Who has invested in you? Who has God placed in your life to form you into the person you are today? Who are you investing in? Who are you teaching and influencing? Who is your future? Who will one day say, "God used . . . to make me who I am today."
Deuteronomy 6:4-9; I Timothy 1:1; II Timothy 2:1-2
"College students spend a lot of time listening to lectures. But research shows there are better ways to learn. And experts say students need to learn better because the 21st century economy demands more well-educated workers. Lecturing was invented as a way to share information in a time before books were widely available. Now, there are better approaches."
My friend Andy Thompson turned me on to this article on lecture-based learning and college education. See: http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/tomorrows-college/lectures.
Basically, lecturing is old school and ineffective. Maybe you already knew that. But there are some ideas about what's next in education. As a pastor, I'm always listening and learning. The preaching and teaching of the Word of God demands our best. Of course I'm not suggesting a change in the "content." But our means can be as varied as the literary genres of the Bible. From prophets to wisdom literature, historical narrative to acacolyptic literature. And don't forget about the tactile nature of the sacraments. You can touch and taste.
Two things I have learned educationally:
- Learning is relational. Preaching, teaching, and learning do not happen in a vacuum. The Word is digested in community. Discipleship is not a book, but people pouring into people. This includes preaching, and also conversation, debate, prayer, and living together through shared experiences.
- Learning is incarnational. People relate what they learn to what they already know. Preaching and teaching requires that we make connections to what people already know and experience. Therefore it is vital for preachers and teachers to listen well and study their context.
Let me know if you have educational insights or thoughts on this article. Tell me what you've always wanted to tell your pastor about his preaching and teaching.