Wait. What? I haven’t had this much homework in years. My brain is just a little bit fried.
This September was an avalanche of things/programs starting all at once. Not only did we have Silas’s start to school and soccer, but Stephen and I have begun volunteering in children’s ministry at church after a year of rest. I mistakenly thought I was volunteering to just show up and help with childcare, but instead, I’m teaching the two year old class once a month, and Stephen is helping teach the K5/1st grade class once a month. Of course, this is a huge privilege and not out of our comfort zones, but with all the other homework I have going on, it’s been an adjustment.
I’ve recently learned some truths that encourage me as I minister to these little neighbors of mine at church. In a sense, children’s ministry workers are missionaries to the future. These two year olds will out-live me by several decades, and I have an opportunity to impact them with the gospel and impress their tender hearts with truth and God’s love. On occasion, teaching children can be a chance to speak truth to an un-reached people group. There may be a child that is brought to church only while visiting Grandma’s house. Perhaps there will be no other chance to tell that child about Christ. Working with children is an exciting and precious opportunity—one that I’ve often taken for granted and grumbled about.
Not only am I thankful for the chance to serve in children’s ministry, but I’m excited to serve as a co-discussion group leader at our women’s Thursday morning Bible study. This is my first time to lead a discussion table, so I’m praying for wisdom, humility, and a heart that’s dependent on Christ. This year we’re studying the book of Mark. It’s so rich! We walk through the passage observing the text, interpreting the text, and then applying it to our lives. The study is not for the faint of heart as there are about 25 in-depth questions to work through each week, but it’s worth the investment.
Our small group is reading a book together this fall, which means we have a bit of homework each month. And one of my friends, who is finishing her college degree, asked me to proofread her final paper since English is not her first language. She sends me ten page sections of her paper, I mark them up, and send them back. Makes me think of my literature teacher best friend while I do it. I also have a bit of physical homework as I’m seeing a physical therapist for my diastasis recti (the separation of my abdominal muscles due to my three pregnancies). The weekly exercises aren’t hard, but they do take concentration, and I haven’t made them a daily habit yet. I’m thankful to be learning more about my body and how the muscles work so I can exercise correctly and strengthen my core. (I hope!)
Stephen is currently enrolled in a class called Perspectives that’s hosted at a church near our home. It’s a history of missions and theology of missions survey course. He has weekly reading assignments and could get college credit for the class, but chose the “reading-only” route this semester.
And, finally, I’m enrolled in the Women’s Simeon Trust course offered through our church. It’s fantastic, but intense! This course has a men’s track and a women’s track. Stephen took the course this summer, so I’m thankful for the opportunity. There are weekly videos that teach strategies for understanding and mining truths from the text. Then, we are each assigned a passage of Scripture that we prepare as if we were teaching it to a class. At our class meetings, we present our work to our discussion table by simply reading through our worksheet. Then, the group gives encouragement, asks clarifying questions, and helps move our work forward as we strive to learn to faithfully teach Scripture.
The most helpful part of it has been a flow chart that the Simeon Trust has developed to ensure that teachers “stay on the line” of scripture—not adding to it or taking away from what it says. We start with the text, and instead of moving directly to Us/Now (how does this apply to my life?), we first discern what the text meant to Them/Then (what did the message mean to the original audience?). This is called exegesis—where the main emphasis of my talk is shaped by the main emphasis of the passage. The strategies used in exegesis are structure (how did the author organize this passage? is it poetry? narrative? argument? dialogue?), context (how do the verses immediately surrounding the text influence its meaning? how does its placement in the entire book affect its meaning? are there historical or whole Bible connections that influence its meaning?), and melodic line (we have yet to learn what this is, but I think it’s dealing with the theme of the entire book). After discovering what the text meant to the original hearers, we don’t jump directly to Us/Now. That would be an intellectual dump (merely delivering our research paper to the audience) or a list of imperatives (commands and a tendency towards moralism/legalism). Rather, we spend time in theological reflections on how the gospel (the life, death, and resurrection of Christ) connects to this passage. Interpreting a passage in light of the gospel gives life and hope! Finally, we can now offer implications and applications to Us/Now since we’ve done the hard work that protects us from straying “off the line” of Scripture. I’m so very excited to be learning how to accurately study/teach the Bible!!
So maybe now you can see why blog posts have been a little lean as of late. I’m sure my teacher sisters and parents have tons more homework than me, but I’m slowly getting into a rhythm and routine. This month I plan to start volunteering in Silas’s class, and Moms in Prayer will begin meeting at my house once a month.
Autumn has been a busy, but beautiful season of study!