If Jesus Led Teacher Training

From Classroom to Koinonia

Would it be a packed room, where everyone arrived early so they wouldn’t miss a thing? Would we hear pens flying across pages and fingers punching keyboards, trying to capture each word he said? Or would we be still, all eyes fixed on the speaker, transformed by the moment? Would we leave with facts, strategies and tips to increase attendance? Or would our takeaway be some new conviction or inspiration? What would he most want us to know? How would he change the way we teach?

When I imagine Jesus leading a training session for Sunday school teachers, I don’t picture his power point presentation. He begins with a personal story. “You may have heard this before, if you’ve read Luke 24,” he starts. He tells us about walking the Emmaus road after his crucifixion. He suddenly finds himself leading a Bible study of two. But even as he shares his knowledge and insight, even as the Master Teacher interprets the Scripture, the couple misses the point of his lesson. As he describes their blank stares for us, we feel empathy—and surprise. We know those moments in Bible study when a student’s eyes glaze over, when we prepared for a big group and two showed up. We’re amazed, and a little encouraged, that it happened to Jesus as well.

His story doesn’t end after the unsuccessful Bible study. Jesus takes more time with them. He stays for dinner. Finally, something in the way that he breaks bread and offers it, something in his presence, something in the way he cares, something in the way he asks a question and listens to their response, something in the way he relates, leads to the “click” that educators hope for. The key turns after it’s been stuck awhile. The door opens and everyone enters a new place. They experience truth because their Teacher stays until they do. They connect the dots between the Bible Study and their lives.

At this moment in my imaginary Sunday school teacher training group, we connect dots, too. We have Sundays when we need to follow Jesus by trying to teach as he did. On the days when we get through the material without hearing the click of a lock opening, we can remember Jesus and stay present. When our view of teaching is too small, and we think only about what we have to do to get through the hour, we can pray for a broader vision, a sense of possibility beyond the one session, the willingness to see and grasp teachable moments in and out of the classroom like Jesus did. We can live and ponder the text throughout the week. We can anticipate the fog clearing—in us and in our students. We can experience the moment of excitement when our eyes open and truth makes everything different and fresh.

This happens in koinonia classrooms, where teaching becomes something we do not because we couldn’t tell the nominating committee “no,” but because we thought we heard Christ asking us to do this through the other voice on the phone.

Calling this monthly blog “From Classroom to Koinonia” assumes that educational experiences at church can lead to formational koinonia experiences, communion with Christ and each other. In the months ahead, we’ll look at ways to invite and nurture such experiences. We’ll consider classrooms that led to life changing events for particular Sunday school groups. We’ll hope that as we grow as teachers, we experience koinonia anew.

Carol Davis Younger is Writer/Editor for the Center for Teaching Churches at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. For over twenty years a variety of church groups and classes have created, tested, tried and tweaked Bible study materials with her, teaching her about how to write them. “From Classroom to Koinonia” reflects this ongoing adventure of learning what is helpful for churches and their teachers as they pursue their teaching ministries.

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  1. Hazel M. Morris says

    The article is very thought-provoking. I have been in those situations you described: when the click happens and when it doesn’t. Thank you for the challenge to keep on keeping on!

  2. Carol,

    Great thoughts. Would that more of our churches actually had teacher training at all!

    • Lyn, I think training may be more individualized (and digitalized) now, but what a gift it could be for churches these days.