Educational Ministry of the Church - Lesson 16

Two Definitions

How you define teaching determines content and strategy.

Gary Parrett
Educational Ministry of the Church
Lesson 16
Watching Now
Two Definitions

Confluence: How do we teach?

Part 1

I.  General Maxim for Ministry

Meet people where they are, help them go where they need to go.

II.  Two Definitions of Teaching

A.  Parker Palmer, To Know As We Are Known

To teach is to create a space in which obedience to the truth is practiced.

1.  Head, Cognitive, Thinking

2.  Heart, Affective, Feeling

3.  Hands, Behavioral, Doing

4.  Eyes and Ears, Perception, Perceiving

B.  Gary Parrett

To teach is to come alongside another, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to seek an encounter together with the Truth: taking aim to perceive it more clearly, consider it more critically, embrace it more passionately, obey it more faithfully and embody it with greater integrity.

  • Seven questions that provide a framework for choosing and implementing curriculum.

  • Our misconceptions about Christian education can cause us to choose poor or inaccurate content and use ineffctive strategies.

  • The three essential tasks of the Church are worship, outreach and teaching.

  • Christian formation focuses on the process of becoming more like Christ.

  • Instructions for spiritual education from passages in the Old Testament and New Testament.

  • History of Christian education from the early church to modern Sunday school.

  • The Heidelberg Catechism provides essential elements for a Christian education curriculum.

  • The Torah contains the essence of what God wants us to know. Jesus clarifies and exemplifies the Torah.

  • A CORE curriculum should be Comprehensive, Orthodox, Reforming and focused on Essentials. Delivery systems may include bible studies, small groups, Sunday school and sermons.

  • The Ten Commandments are the basis for Old Testament Law and the core teaching of the New Testament.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • A key element for effective education to take place is for teachers to know their students relationally.

  • Effective teachers know their audience and avoid attitudes and expressions that would create obstacles to communication.

  • Asking the right questions about the curriculum and the audience can help you identify what information to emphasize and how to present it effectively.

  • How you define teaching determines content and strategy.

  • Effective teaching engages the whole person.

  • When preparing curriculum, an effective teacher will take into account both the content and the audience.

  • Many people fill the role of teacher in your life at different times and in various ways.

  • Christian education involves recruiting, training, modeling, organizing and supporting people who volunteer to teach.

  • Being trained in skills for conflict resolution helps you to have realistic expectations and gives you the tools you need to effectively resolve situations as they arise.

Through this course, you will gain a deep understanding of the educational ministry of the church, its foundations, principles of teaching and learning, and the development of an effective educational ministry. You will also explore strategies for different age groups, including children, youth, and adults, and learn how to address contemporary issues such as cultural relevance, technology, media, and special needs inclusivity.

Educational Ministry of the Church 
Dr. Gary Parrett 
Two Definitions 
Lesson Transcript


Today, our focus will be on the questions, how and where, how do we teach and how does how we teach affect the context in which we teach? To continue our discussion in the how question, I want to offer two definitions of teaching. First of all, here's something that we had yesterday. I use this as kind of a general maxim for ministry. This is not a definition of teaching. This is a kind of description of our of our task and disciple making. This is part of our mandate. Meet people where they're at, help them go where they need to go. This would relate directly to issues like congruence, contact, those kind of things. This one relates more to issues of concept content. I need to know what it is I'm aiming at. I need to know where I'm going, and then I need to meet people where they're at to help them get there. That's more of just a general ministry maxim. But let me give a couple of definitions of teaching. The first one is by Parker Palmer, who is a Christian educator in a little bit different sense, is a Christian and an educator. He's been in higher education for a long time, and he's written a couple of books relative to education in general, not education in the church in particular, but education in general. This is one of them. And this is a very most people find this a fun a fun book to read, a challenging book to read is called To Know, as We Are Known to know, as we are known by Parker Palmer, to know, as we are known by Parker Palmer, of the definition that he offers in this book is to teach us to create a space in which obedience to the truth is practiced.


And a little bit later he tweaks this definition and changes it from obedience to the truth to in which the community of truth is practiced. And he does that for two reasons. Not that doesn't come out so much in this book, although it comes out in the introductory comments. But in his later usage, he changed his definition to follow that second phraseology for two reasons. Number one, he wants to emphasize the place of community in the teaching learning process. But number two, he found that after he written his first book, many people, though they appreciated the book very much, had problems with the word obedience. And it turned out that it was people who have historically been oppressed. And it was kind of in a built in reaction to the word, and it raised a number of questions like obedience to whom? Obedience to what? Remembering that he wrote this to a very broad audience. It's not written to the church in particular. It was written to educators in general. So a lot of people had struggled with that word obedience. I think actually he winds up using both of these interchangeably, but we'll work with it in either either way, that is comfortable for you. But think back to think about this definition a little bit, to teach us to create a space in which obedience to or some faithful response to the truth is put into practice. One of the things which is really wonderful in this book and please put this on your book, your list of books to read. One of the things that he does here is he makes a strong argument against overly objectifying truth, as though with the emphasis not on objectivity here, I guess, but the truth, the object on emphasis, on the word object, the idea of taking truth as some object which is out there somewhere that I can look at indifferently.


He rejects that notion of truth as some object out there of information for me to manipulate for my own purposes. And he calls me into relationship with truth. Whatever the truth is, I have to face it and I have to relate to it, and I have to let that truth speak to me and challenge me and confront me. I can't just put it off at a distance and then manipulate it for my own purposes. Truth makes demands on me. That's a key emphasis in the book. So here he's saying to teach us to create a space in which obedience to the truth is practice, create a space open in the hearts of people. I think might be a good way to think about this so that we get people to the point where the proper response to truth is not simply, okay, I got it. It's not simply cognitive assent, mental assent, but the proper response to the truth is, I submit, I see the truth and I submit to you. Let me show you another way that Parker Palmer unpacks his definition. I'll tell you a story that Parker Palmer tells. I think about his definition as soon as you hear the story here. This is a story from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, and it's a story about ABA, Felix avers. Just the word meaning father. Some brothers went to see Arbor Felix and they. Begged him to say a word to them, but the old man kept silence after they had asked for a long time. He said to them. You wish to hear a word They said, Yes. And the old man said to them, There are no more words nowadays. When the brothers used to consult the old men, and when they did what was said to them, God showed them how to speak.


But now, since they ask without doing that which they hear, God has withdrawn the grace of the word from the old man. They do not find anything to say, since there are no longer any who carry out their words. Hearing this, the brothers groaned, saying, Abba, pray for us. That's the end of the story. Palmer uses this as a story to illustrate a teacher who creates space for obedience or response to the truth. What do you think the truth is in that story? What's the truth that the teacher wants to get across here? I could also think of another line lifted right from the pages of Scripture. There's Faith Without Deeds is dead from James or also from the Book of James. Be doers of the word and not here is only bless you to save yourself. So the truth is that the word must be practice. That's the truth. The truth is that the word must be practiced. So we have the Who. Here we have the arbor. Felix's the teacher. We have the whom. These people who've come for a word. How does he make space? What's he do to create space? Silence becomes one of the key components here. Is silent for a long time. The silence itself is space making. And then when he breaks the silence, what does he do? It's sort of like a question. But actually he winds up kind of telling a story or some very enigmatic sort of saying there are no more words anymore. That would have been very thought provoking. But you mean there are no more words anymore? So the silence creates space. And then this strange saying that he finally gives him the non word that he gives makes space for them.


All of this is to get beyond just mere thinking where we write stuff down. We think we've got to really think about at a deeper level the implications of truth. And Palmer says that finally in this story, the teacher succeeds and obedience begins. What? How does obedience begin? What's the sign of obedience in the story? Yeah. Pray for us. They groan, aware of their sinfulness, and they say, Pray for us. First step obedience. Dallas Willard does an interesting thing in his book, The Divine Conspiracy. Just kind of a thought provoking little, by the way, as you're reading, has a passage on on our current obsession sometimes with gathering information and following it away and talking about how in Jesus day Jesus, the master teacher, the rabbi, it was basically just wasn't it wasn't the point. Nobody would have done that. People wouldn't have just sat down to write the stuff down and go file it away. He makes a reference to the Sermon on the Mount. He said today, Of course, if it were the Sermon on the Mount, we we'd advertise it as the seminar at the Sheraton instead of the Sermon on the Mount, and we'd all go there with our big binders and we'd wonder we'd wonder at the fact if we walked into this teaching episode of Jesus, we would be wondering at the fact that people weren't writing down what he said. People weren't filing it away for another day. The whole point was here. These words weigh these words. Let these words confront you and act upon these words. But we have just a different approach to things nowadays to teach. However, I like Palmyra's emphasis here that to teach us to go beyond mere transmission of content. We talked about that phrase earlier on, I believe absolutely in the importance of passing on content, but not mere transmission of content, to teach us to go beyond that, to create space within a person's mind and heart for response.


And a response will be obedience. The response will be faithfulness, the response will be integrity. The response will be what demands is truth making upon me and how do I yield to that truth? Let's let's do this just to look at this a little bit more fully. Right now there is a traditional triad of Christian educators, and I'll use these words educators in general, but Christian educators in particular have have played with this triad of head, hearts and hands and said that what we need to do is find ways to weave these things together to achieve sort of a confluence of these extremes of learning to make truth really transform lives. So teaching needs to aim at the mind, the level of the mind. Sometimes this is called cognitive learning at the level of the hearts, and this is often described as affective, not affective like we use the word in some other ways, but affects the affective domain of the learner. Speaking about feelings, values, emotions. This one's speaking more about just the intellectual domain and this one speaking about. The behavioral domain. So another way to put these words, just to find some other words to help illustrate what we're talking about here, teach by stimulating thinking, teach even by stimulating feeling, and teach by getting people doing the thinking, feeling. Doing. Head. Hearts, hands. Cognitive. Affective. Behavioral. And in some ways, we could say that space space making has a feel that the emphasis is here. There's some part of this that has a feeling that the emphasis is here, but in fact, it's not that easy. Making space could involve all of these domains very, very clearly. If someone has just been thinking on one level and their level is simply a consumer level of thinking where you give me the information, I'll package it.


I can make space by getting people to think at a little different level. So push the push the issue a little bit. Go back to our understanding the Ten Commandments instead of your your job now as a thinker is not just to repeat back to me the commandment or repeat back to me what I said. Some of the implications of the commandment are that your job is to wrestle with the claims of that commandment upon your line. Well, clearly that involves thinking. So if I raise the bar of thinking, that creates space. If I take a truth which we've talked about and we have some, often you can touch the level of heart by taking that truth and telling a story or by having having a powerful piece of music. So if you aim at the head, you can open up space, but you can also open space by moving to at that level of someone's heart may not be there's new information for you, but this is going to challenge you about your own response to this truth. And the same way, if I get people engaged in action doing something that maybe they've never done before, something uncomfortable, the act itself can be space making. And then we find out that there are no fixed lines between these things. Remember what we talked about when we were introducing develop mentalism? One of the principles was that although there are different aspects of our development, we are whole people. So I might be yeah, there is a cognitive element about my development, but my cognitive element is not somehow nicely isolated from the rest of my being. I'm a whole person. So sometimes you touch the mind, you touch the heart automatically. So in any way, raising the bar can be part of this for sure.


Be creating space and another way that we create space. What I like to add to our discussion of the traditional triad, I think it's absolutely critical in these days to add to that discussion the notion of just opening eyes and opening ears. Some people are not quite ready to wrestle with implications of truth on a cognitive level because they're just totally unaware they're not paying attention. This is the problem of attentiveness. And we were raising this issue a little bit yesterday with our discussion of the total value of the soul and the fact that the retainers are not particularly good shape. So we're just helping people see we're going to come and look at each of these levels piece by piece and how that may translate into our own teaching ministry here. I'd like to give you one more definition of teaching. This is one that I've been working on. Not as nice and clean and short and pithy as Parker Palmer's. By making a long definition, you can cheat and put lots of stuff in it. So here's here's a definition for teaching that I've been using recently and continue to try to think through and tweak a little bit. To teach is to come alongside another in the power of the Holy Spirit for an encounter together with the truth. And this encounter, together with the truth, can be described in these five ways to perceive it more clearly, to consider it more critically, to embrace it more passionately, to obey it more faithfully, and to embody it with greater integrity. To teach is to come alongside another in the power of the Holy Spirit for an encounter together with the truth. To perceive it more clearly, consider it more critically, embrace it more passionately, obey it more faithfully, embody it with greater integrity.


And let me just walk through this definition with you as well. Then we're going to come back to this idea of eyes, ears, heads, hearts, hands, and look at each of these individual components. First of all, one of the ways that we can look at this is by just making reference to our seven questions one more time here. I see all seven of the questions in this definition. Here. See if you can see it with me. Why do we teach? What are we aiming at? You see that in this definition you learn. What's the point? Okay. Two things that can jump out at us here. At least encounter together with the truth. That can be part of the why question. Further, I think down here, when I'm thinking of the why question, I'm thinking mostly here. All of those are parts of this. But here's the way that I would summarize it. This word right here. Integrity. I want to become a person who embodies the truth, and I want others to embody the truth. That's that's another way for me of seeing people becoming conformed to the likeness of Christ. How about the what question? Well, the what question shows up here. An encounter together with the truth. And I have capitalized t and I've added the definite article just to remind us that it's not any truth in general, but it is there is a commitment to something objective called the truth, just as we have commitments to nothing to whom? The question for me shows up here, come alongside another and I very specifically wrote another as opposed to others plural, because my thought is that even if I'm charged to teach hundreds as a pastor, for example, that my commitment has to be one by one.


There's a sense in which I have to respect every person as an individual and try as well as I can to know that person as an individual and and in some way come alongside that person. So the question shows up there, the when question the idea of building on previous knowledge and preparing for subsequent knowledge comes up, especially in this little word more and the word greater. I'm not expecting that know it all begins and ends with my encounter with this person, but I have my my role to play. Maybe I'm the apologist in someone's life. Seeds already being planted in my job is just to come and water and help some sort of progress take place in their journey. And even in the idea of coming alongside that has in my mind, the imagery of a journey. And we're in process here. So we have the why? QUESTION The what? QUESTION The whom? QUESTION The when. QUESTION The how? Question is right here. And what I've got here are eyes and ears and heads and hearts and hands. So this is back to those words again. Perception. Eyes and ears has hearts and hands. We can say it like this perception, cognition, affection, behavior, and maybe the word integrity again, or just the word being in general. So how do we do it? By addressing all of these areas, not thinking that these areas are exclusive one from another, but by making sure that we attend to all of these areas. We'll come back to that in just a minute. If we understand this this kind of thinking here again, eyes, ears, heads, hearts and hands, we could ask the question, well, which of these two questions? What are we aiming at in terms of transformation? Which part of this has to be transform the heart? Anything else? How the whole the heart needs to be transformed.


Absolutely. But the whole needs to be transformed. We want the whole person transform to the likeness of Christ. If that's the case. You could you could say, ultimately, we're aiming for the hearts here, but you could also say someone can make a case. Now we're aiming for a transformed behavior. That's what we're looking for. I like to say the whole thing. I want people who see more clearly, who think more deeply, who feel more passionately, who obey more faithfully. Then we could ask the follow up question. Well, if we want to transform the whole is there one place in particular here where we have to start? Does the process begin with one of these openings? And I would say no. You can make an argument that perception has to proceed. The others, but not necessarily. Sometimes the whole thing could begin right here very easily. You take your youth group out for a short term mission trip, and they've been they've never paid attention. Now they just get excited about the idea of, Oh, wow, a trip, this'll be cool. And then you take them to Calcutta. Diana Gordon College. One of the best things that the college does is take a students out on a short term mission study abroad. And it's absolutely transformative in so many cases. But most especially every winter, they send students to Calcutta. And you can watch these students, they go off from the fall semester down to Calcutta, India, and they come back and the whole spring semester, they're worthless. They're not good for anything. The whole spring semester, they just walk around campus with glazed eyes. Often that's the case. That's what I sign. You find them sitting by themselves alone, thinking part of what happened. They went out, so they did something.


They went to to love their neighbors by traveling across the sea. But what happened there is once they got there, their eyes were absolutely opened. And talk about just equilibrium on a cognitive level. I never knew the world could be such. And it's gripping them here. But it all started here. So you can you can find any kind of entry point in here. There's not one that has to necessarily lead the way. There are some things you can make as biblical arguments, for example. Romans 12 two says Transformation through the renewing of your mind. And you can also find a passage in Ephesians four when it talks about cutting off the old man, putting on the new in between those two expressions and Ephesians four I think is verse 23 says putting off the old man and being renewed in the attitude of your mind, put on the new man. So the mind clearly plays a critical role in this and I think you could certainly make the case that there's no transformation without mental engagement. There's no transformation apart from truth. There's probably no transformation apart from perception. But I don't think you have to necessarily start at one spot, enter this way, you enter that way. It doesn't matter. The whole person needs to be transformed. The WHO question a couple of couple of points of emphasis here. First of all, this is very intentional and explicit for me, that this is not something that we merely nod the head to at a cognitive level, but it's something that we ourselves have to respond obediently to. If the Holy Spirit, for example, just think about this practical terms. If I really believe the truth that it is the Holy Spirit who transforms lives, that the Holy Spirit is the only teacher, if I really believe that, because that's what the Bible says.


John, Chapter 14. I will give you another comforter. He will lead you into all truth. Our spirit of truth will be with you forever than John 15 and 16. He's the one is going to reveal all things that are taught you. He's the one who's going to guide you into truth. And then first, John, Chapter two says it twice. It says You have an anointing from the Holy one. You don't need a teacher. It's a pretty profound statement. But if I really believe that, how will that practically translate into action for me as a teacher to get beyond just, okay, I know that theologically is true. What difference would that make in practice for me? So one of the things that that could translate into for me is it translates into a sense of humility, but it also translates into a sense of confidence. There's not a sense in which the burden is wholly on my shoulders. I got to make this thing happen. Reality is I can't convert anybody and I can't transform anybody. So I'm humbled by that. I'm also assured by them, made confident by them. So the other thing in the WHO question here is right here for me is an encounter together with the truth. Part of what I'm trying to do here is emphasize that I am not just a teacher. I'm also a learner here practically. How else will I obey this truth that the Holy Spirit is a teacher? I really believe this. Then probably the most foundational component of my teaching ministry will be prayer. So think, for example, of Paul's obedience here. Pick any of the letters of Paul and guess how he starts. Usually he starts by getting on his knees. Unless he's really mad.


Like with the Galatians, he's so Mattie can't pray. But most of the time Paul is on his knees, so he gets to Ephesians one. I pray and notice how he prayers. I pray that the eyes of your understanding may be opened. And then chapter three says, I pray that you may have power together with all the saints to grasp a wide and long and high and deep is the love of God. Colossians one powerful prayers. Paul prays because he believes this stuff he believes is the Holy Spirit. And it turns out that, you know, it's kind of cliche and we say it all the time, but it turns out that it's not ultimately our ability, but our availability. God is the one who's supplying the power here. We just have to supply the yes, here I am from Isaiah's. Here I am. Lord, send me to Mary's Lord. I'm the humble servant of God. May it be to me, as you've said, it's not us, it's him. We just have to be available. So if I really believe that, that would translate certainly into prayer. And it will also remind me that I'm not the teacher I am. I'm a fellow learner. I'm a fellow learner. So we're going to have an encounter together with the truth. And part of my commitment as the teacher in the setting should be something like I commit in this encounter that not only is this about transforming you, but I'm willing to be transformed once again by the by the truth. So the home question was the where question. The only thing that I want to put here is just this idea of come alongside the emphasis on a relationship with one another. And I use this word also to remind me a little bit about something else here.


If the Holy Spirit is the real teacher, he's also our ultimate model. As a teacher. And so I borrow from this idea of come alongside. This is parkway to us. That's that word that's used in John 1416, if you love me, will be my commands. I will ask the father. He will give you another tell a counselor. But what are some of the other words that are used to translate Heraclitus and John? 1416. Anybody know? I will ask the father and he will give you another comforter Helper. Counselor. Advocate. First, John. Two to the same word is translated. If anyone sends, we have an advocate with the father. And I says, we have one who speaks to the father in our defense. It's a lengthy definition of our acquaintance, but all of those become wonderful images of what a teacher is, a counselor, a comforter, a helper, an advocate, someone who comes alongside to lend aid to another person. Teachers, all of those things.