Dr. Lesa Seibert--Faculty, School of Education at BJU
Every educator has her own personal teaching philosophy. She demonstrates this teaching philosophy in ways such as choosing to use a group round-table discussion (instead of a lecture) or choosing to suspend the teaching of her content (even though it may make her a little behind in her lessons) so that the whole class can pray for Timmy because his favorite dog died last night and he is really upset. Sometimes she may take extra time to answer a student’s question, involving other students in the answer, so that everyone can learn that particular content. All of these situations are examples of choices made based on a teaching philosophy. In its simplest form, a teaching philosophy means the underlying reason the educator makes the teaching decisions she does (i.e., putting her beliefs into practice).
Many of my teaching philosophy choices focus on what teaching strategies or what specific assignments (project or exam) I choose for my students. In teaching, I don’t choose randomly. I choose based on what I know about how my particular group of students learn. The more I know about the nature of students, the better choices I make for those students—and the better learners they become.
A basic “rule of the learner” involves making active learning choices specifically when the students (1) are younger or (2) are not native English speakers or (3) have weaker educational backgrounds or (4) need more time to process the information. These students need to be doing something in order to learn (NOT merely listening to something). For example, I may have a group of students to whom I’m trying to teach good sentence writing. I already know that these students have not done well so far on their previous grammar assignments; so I determine they need more processing time and more involvement in the learning (i.e., active learning). Therefore, I would choose not to lecture about the seven types of sentences for most of my 50-minute class period. Instead I choose to demonstrate one type for a shorter period of time and then have the students practice using that one type. They will demonstrate their learning before I move on to the second type, and then the third type, etc.
To extend my ministry even further, not only do I need to know about my learners as a group, but I need to know specifics about each of my learners. I may discover, for example, that one of my learners has a reading disability. This reading disability may affect his ability to choose the correct subject and verb in sentences only because he struggles to read the words (not because he doesn’t know how to make the correct choice). This type of student would profit from some adjustment in my teaching. If I (or his parents) read the sentences to him, he can make correct choices--because he is hearing them and not having to struggle to read them. (By the way, as a teacher, I have the legal [and ethical] right to research the records of each of my learners to determine if there is some specific information which would help me make even better teaching choices.)
I make good choices, as a teacher, when I know about my learners. And the more information I have about my learners, the better choices I make, which, of course, means the better learners they become. For me, personally, my most deliberate and important teaching philosophy choice is that each student with whom I work means more to God (and, therefore, to me) than the content I teach.
I have taught English to high school students and now teach educational methods to university students. (And yea for teaching!) No amount of educational content, however, is more important than any other need my student has. I am as concerned about the spiritual, physical, and social well-being of each image bearer with whom I work (Luke 2:52) as I am with his educational well-being. So, it makes logical sense that the more I know about the spiritual, physical, and social aspects of my students, the better choices I will make in meeting their needs.
For several years, I have taken seminary courses here at BJU. I began taking them as part of my doctoral work, and just last year I took another. In that one course, I obtained a better understanding of image bearers who are ethnically and culturally different from me. And, I am excited about being able to fellowship and worship and learn with “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9, ESV).
In my classroom, I have students who are different from me. And many have different problems than I do, and different plans, different goals, different dreams. It is a great joy to be able to minister to them and to fellowship with them spiritually. The more I learn; the better choices I make—and the better I can minister.
You and I matter to God. Students—people—matter to God. It is a blessing to know how to minister to those God for whom places in our path.
Dr. Ted Miller Jr., Bible Faculty at BJU
It was in middle school that I first began to think that God wanted me to serve him in some kind of ministry. I had no specific idea regarding how to pursue this sense, and the idea of preparing in a formal sense certainly wasn’t on my mind.
By the time I graduated from high school, I had given far more thought to where I would study than what I would study (my dad sent me to visit five different colleges). Once I decided to enroll at BJU, choosing a major was almost an afterthought. I didn’t know what to choose, and I wanted to sample a lot of options, so I majored in Humanities.
However, I always felt like I was leaving “money on the table” if I didn’t take as many credits as possible (without increasing my tuition bill), so I regularly enrolled in a variety of extra electives, among them additional Bible and speech classes: Poetic Books, I Corinthians, Persuasion, and even Pulpit Speech.
I don’t think I could have realized it at the time, but the Lord was shaping my interests and guiding my opportunities in ways that I could never have orchestrated. I didn’t know where I was going, but between classes, sports, music, and a jumble of other activities, I had a great (and somewhat chaotic) undergraduate experience.
Through a sequence of events too involved to rehearse, in the Spring of 1994 I enrolled in the MDiv program in the seminary. After that one term, I was out of money and options for continuing, but I applied for and was hired to teach En 101 and 102 as a Graduate Assistant. This job made it possible for me to finish the next four years of graduate work at the seminary.
Looking back, my path to the ministry was not as direct as others. I certainly had no flow chart of possible professions. However, I am amazed at how God guided my education—in all its stages and forms—to make it possible to do what He has called me to do for the last 20 years, both here at BJU and in my local church.
I believe that the Lord calls people to the ministry in a wide variety of ways and through a wide variety of paths. And although God wants your heart above all things, it’s easy—and not uncommon—to wonder: If what God wants most is a willing heart, isn’t that enough? Why spend time on education?
One of Paul’s best-known instructions to Timothy dealt with his personal discipline and effort in correctly understanding God’s word: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).
The fact that God’s word is truth doesn’t mean that everyone who handles it does so correctly. Paul knew this personally—he was extremely well-trained in the Scriptures before his conversion, and yet he had been entirely ignorant of his own Scriptures and of the Messiah they pointed to. After his conversion, he did more than just evangelize. In Ephesus—one of the few places where he settled for any length of time—he established a school.
For a young person entering the ministry, the skills, content mastery, and discipline to study and to teach God’s Word are essential. And very often, a formal education—going to school—can make it possible to develop in those areas in ways that would be difficult otherwise.
For me, the two greatest values that I gained from my formal education in Bible (in both undergraduate and graduate school) have been the ability to study the Bible in the original languages, and the ability to read the Bible.
This value of latter ability—reading the Bible—may seem odd at first. (Why study to do something that I’ve been able to do since the first grade?) However, as I continue to teach, I’ve learned that I need the ability to read Scripture both for its microscopic as well as its macroscopic meaning.
By the microscopic reading of Scripture, I mean the kind of analysis that is made possible by the study of the Bible’s original languages: Understanding the usage of Greek tenses, the forms of Hebrew verbs, and how to do a word study in the original languages. The ability to use these skills and others shed important light on the study of God’s word, and I learned these skills in classes. It would have been difficult if not impossible for me to learn them otherwise, I believe, even with all the excellent study tools that are available today.
By the macroscopic reading of Scripture, I mean the kind of understanding that comes from reading the Bible as it was intended to be read: Finding the theme within a narrative, following the flow of thought in a theological discourse, or enjoying the beauty and power of divinely-inspired poetry. There were specific courses—both undergraduate and graduate—that contributed to my ability to see the whole of a line of thought, even as I was reading only one part. The work required in courses such as Old and New Testament Theology, Prophets, Systematic Theology, and History of Doctrine put ideas and concepts on my radar screen as I read. I was able to make more connections and notice more in Scripture because of the unique value I got from studying for those courses.
Both of these methods build on each other, and I believe that they are one of the ways that God provides the wisdom that makes it possible to follow Paul’s next statement to Timothy: “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Tim 2:16).
For a young person entering the ministry, the skills and discipline to study God’s Word are essential. The practice of these nurture the wisdom we need to know when God’s word is being used correctly or incorrectly.
Gaining the skills and knowledge to serve the Great Shepherd by being a good shepherd can involve hard work and significant time. The diligence associated with careful study often excludes other good activities. But the calling is high, the rewards are great, and the privilege of serving as ambassadors for Christ requires us to give nothing less than our best efforts to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Sam Horn, Executive VP for Enrollment and Ministerial Advancement
Ministry is complicated.
As I travel and interact with pastors and churches across the country, I see firsthand that the ministry is continually becoming more complicated. Pastors are facing increasingly complex challenges in our postmodern world. This applies across many types of ministries – I’ve observed youth pastors, teachers, counselors, and camp workers all deal with challenges ministering the Gospel in the world of 2018.
There is a battle over the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We have to address a postmodern world where absolute truth is rejected. And we’re going to constantly face the pull of an anti-biblical culture.
Our church members are facing complex life issues and are in need of in-depth counseling and assistance – addicts, victims of abuse, gender issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression. Some of us are facing the enormous difficulty of revitalizing a dying church or starting a new one in an urban setting.
I think of Minneapolis, where I used to serve – in that metropolitan area alone, there are four million people using two hundred different languages among one hundred major people groups! How can we reach such a vast and multicultural city?
In times like these, it is quite easy for pastors to feel overwhelmed and unprepared. But there is way in this complex world for a minister to take his training to the next level. It may be time for you to consider going to seminary.
What is your reaction to that statement? Perhaps you’re a Seminary graduate and think, “Been there – done that!” Perhaps you’re in high school or college and thinking, “Maybe one day – but I’ve got to get this done first.” Maybe you’re a layman in a church and think, “It’s not for me.” Perhaps you’re a current pastor who wishes, “I’d love to finish that degree…”
Seminary can help.
I want you to think about the need for and the advantages of seminary training. Think about how it would transform your ministry, how it would affect those you serve, and what ministry doors it would open. What wider platform of opportunity would seminary training give you?
Yes, there are obstacles to it. Perhaps it’s time for you. You may be in full-time ministry already, and so how could you take time to sit in class? Perhaps it’s the cost. How could you afford it? Or perhaps it’s fear. Could you really get back in the academic mode? Could you excel at classes for another 2-5 years? Is a degree really achievable?
These are very valid concerns. But take a moment to consider and pray about the possibility of you and seminary. No matter where you are or what you are doing, seminary can be a valid and viable option.
When I graduated with my undergrad degree from BJU, I had a lot of friends who immediately launched out into the ministry. I saw them take positions at churches around the country. And I definitely felt a pull to join them. But instead I stayed behind to do more school on the graduate level. I felt this sense that I was missing out on real ministry by staying behind in seminary.
What tools are you using?
Years later, I heard a great illustration that helped me appreciate the fact that I stayed. Consider a group of farmers working in a field. All the farmers get a hoe to begin working on the harvest. Some farmers take that hoe immediately out into the field and begin working. It’s slow but at least they are making progress. Others stay behind for years until finally they can launch out with a tractor. They are accomplishing much more, but it took them longer to get there. And that whole time, they were looking at the guys out there with hoes and wondering if they should just take the hoe and go.
Still others stayed even longer and were able to finally launch out into the field with a whole team of tractors!
The illustration is simple – you can go out into the field with a hoe. Or you can invest the time in seminary and launch out with a tractor. The Lord has given us all tools. But some have developed those tools and talents in seminary to be able to reap a bigger harvest.
So whether you’re a student thinking about seminary or have a number of years of ministry experience, imagine what could happen to your teaching or preaching if you went to the next level. If you went from a hoe to a tractor. Imagine what could happen if you deepened your understanding of Scripture and equipped yourself to help people with complicated needs.
When I began to think about pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry, I had been out of college for twenty years! I wondered if I could do it. Yet I knew that I needed help taking my ministry to the next level. I could read books and try to increase my ministry skills, but I was not going to reach the next level without help. I took that step and have felt it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
So I encourage you to consider seminary. BJU Seminary has built programs that are flexible and affordable for men and women in the ministry. But whatever you decide, decide to invest the time, wait patiently, and go out into the harvest with the tools that can be used best for God’s glory.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.