For the past decade, Central Baptist Theological Seminary has given me the opportunity to teach classes for seminary students, primarily on the Master of Divinity level but also a Doctor of Ministry seminar. I suppose I have taught over 20 times on topics such for formation for Christian ministry, ministry praxis, Christian witness, leadership and innovation, and coaching and mentoring.
Most of these students were women and men who had years of experience in life, work, and ministry. A number have served churches in full-time, part-time, or volunteer positions for years. They have included educators, medical professionals, social workers, blue and white collar workers, and other professions that I cannot remember. I am not sure what the students have learned, but I have learned much from them.
First, I have learned that those who are called to ministry are eager to learn. Many of the students have held full-time jobs, served local churches on a part-time basis, and attended seminary full-time. They also had families. They were not just bi-vocational but multi-vocational. Even so, they found the time to read, study and prepare for classes.
Second, they taught me that “one size does not fit all.” I might find myself waxing eloquently about how things are done in the church and someone would speak up and say, “That’s not the way we do things in my church.” Whether the way they were doing things was right or wrong, it was a fact. I have learned a lot about American Baptists, National Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Methodists, Unitarian-Universalists, Pentecostals, and independents—just to name a few.
Third, I have learned that despite our different experiences and denominational backgrounds, we have lot in common. Each of us cares about the mission of God and serving the people of God. Each of us wants to help people in need. And each of us is willing to invest in God’s church.
Fourth, I learned that they could be especially tolerate of a professor who did not always have all the answers but was open to dialogue on important issues and listened to what they had to say.
Someone once told me that you learn a lot more when you prepare to teach than when you are a student. I agree, but I also must affirm that the teacher broadens his or her perspective in the classroom interchange when willing to enter into the learning experience.
Thanks to the students who have helped me to grow in my faith and welcome to those just starting the journey.