Wednesday, May 27, 2009

is it the season or bad boundaries?

For the last seven or eight months I have been teaching 3 classes a week.  Two were pre-existing when I arrived to my current church and I merely stepped in and started teaching.  We had new people coming to the class and had an interesting mix....some people who had NEVER been in Bible study, others who had been in some study or another for over 50 years.  So, to put us on level ground I did a study on Bible history and exegesis.  We talked about how we read and what we are reading so we had common understanding and questions to ask of the biblical texts.  Next we did a doctrinal study, to center ourselves on the primary Christian beliefs.  

Those classes were going well and then another group from the church wanted something similar for them. So I started the third study.  I've been teaching all three ever since.  

This month, I added a fourth class: the UMW book study.  It's 4 Thursdays in the month of May (though I'm only doing 3 because I was on vacation one of them and we had a sub).  I also ended up adding a one-time class on prayer.  I want our laity to pray more often in do the pastoral/prayers of the people at least twice a month...the problem is people don't feel confident enough to do that, so I added a class on prayer to help facilitate their confidence and eloquence for public prayer.  

So, five studies this month.  Part of me feels like it's bad boundaries.  The other part of me feels like it's just the season of teaching.  I've noticed in ministry that at different times different issues arise and for a time I spend most of my time and energy devoted to one issue.  Examples are:  immigration, domestic violence, youth, teaching, preaching, missions.  

I have been frustrated with myself for taking on so many classes, and yet at the same time, the congregation is hungry for learning.  I am not teaching one class of 2 and another of 3 and another of 5.  I have a class of 17, a class of 12, a class of 8, and a class of 8.  Those are pretty good numbers in my book.  But I am still doing most of the teaching and people don't seem ready to let me go and to have someone else teach. 

 There's a mythology about the pastor having so much more insight or knowledge.  I could buy into the need for me to teach the doctrine classes or the major theology classes...but for a book study or a gospel study, I do not believe I have the most knowledge.  Yes, I have studied the Bible, but so have many others...and many of them for MANY more years than I have even lived.  There are riches there in their studies and their teaching, which are not being tapped right now.  

I have recruited one new teacher who has been doing the subbing most of the time when I am away on vacation and she has stepped in to teach one of the three primary studies on an ongoing basis.  I am there for this 6-week study as she gets started and gains confidence, but hope to bow out once we finish this study.  And I have started planting seeds of possibility with a couple of others who I think would do well.  The goal for next year is at least 4 new teacher/leaders.  If we do the concert, and we have significant new numbers at the church, obviously we will need more teachers and I will have to step up my training recruiting.  

As I mentioned in the last post, finding balance is tough.  From an outside perspective (as in, before I got here), I would have said, "I will teach only 1 class a week", but somehow in practice that just hasn't worked out.  Maybe because I haven't stuck to my guns about saying no. But maybe because this is what God wants me to do with my church right now, and in the fall or the winter something else will be at the forefront of my ministry....who knows?

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