From time to time, my deacon friend and neighbor Earl invites me to teach his “old men’s Sunday School class.” There must be 20 or 25 gentlemen–many of them friends of mine since the early 1970s, all of them retirement age or better–sitting around a conference table and along the wall. This time, I’ll be teaching the lesson the Sunday before Christmas. I’m excited.
It’s good for a pastor to sit in a room with a small group of people who listen to his Scriptural explanations, then ask questions. Some will challenge you, others will interject a story. One thing leads to another and you, the pastor, find yourself exhilarated when the class period ends and everyone is departing for the worship service.
This did you good.
In one church I served, the teacher of the older men’s class would periodically invite me to substitute for him. He always had this bit of advice/preparation: Joe, all you need is one question; they’ll take it from there.
He was referring to the way these gentlemen loved to discuss the Bible. And they did enjoy the give and take. Was it wasted time? A gossip session? Or great Christian fellowship? Good Bible study? I suspect it was a little of each. But mostly, it was a great hour for the pastor.
The close-up time with these men was good for me. There was no need for a three-points-and-a-poem presentation, but we walked verse by verse through the scripture.
Truth be known, it was also good for those men to sit in a room with their pastor. Some needed the reconnecting more than others, but it was good for all.
I recommend it highly.
Now, a couple of afterthoughts….
One. The larger the church, the more important this is.
In a small church, the congregation is upclose to the pastor all the time. In a huge church, not so much. So, for the pastor of a mega-church to sit in a room with a handful of people studying God’s Word would be a big deal.
Two. Doing it once in a while puts no burden on the pastor. He will know a few weeks in advance and can look at the text from time to time without it requiring a big investment of time.
Three. I do not recommend that the pastor take a permanent class in Sunday School. I’ve done that and speak from experience.
In one church, I started the auditorium Bible class in order to get some people into SS. They were bound and determined not to sit in anyone’s smaller class, so I announced that “we’re beginning a class here in the sanctuary and you can sit anywhere.” The class grew and became a force. And then I noticed something.
Since we were having two morning services, the class met between them. So, I was preaching a sermon, teaching the class, then preaching the second sermon. One day I listened to a tape of a sermon I’d preached a couple of years earlier, before beginning that class. I was stunned at the clarity of my voice. My voice at this time seemed to be constantly hoarse. I was overusing it on Sunday morning. That’s when we recruited someone else to teach the class. George Shalles continued teaching the class for many years and it never slacked off in attendance.
Four. My job as pastor is not to do everything myself but to enlist and train others to “do the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11). If I’m teaching a class on a regular basis, I may well be depriving someone of a great opportunity to serve and grow.
Five. There are exceptions to all of this. In my last pastorate, when the associate pastor retired, the auditorium Bible class which he had taught for years needed a new teacher. For reasons I’ve long forgotten, my wife Margaret and I decided to “team-teach” that class. We put stools down front with a microphone for each, and we had a ball. We were careful not to overplan the teaching, but to prepare individually during the week and then to go back and forth in the class session. Someone in the class made the remark that “Brother Joe will tell us what the Hebrew says and Miss Margaret will tell us what it means on Tuesday.” A wonderful thing.
We taught that class for years until we decided to turn it over to another couple so we could begin a newlywed-nearlywed class in my office. That was good also.
Six. To repeat, teaching the class from time to time is good for the preacher and great for the members of that class. I thoroughly recommend it.