Pedagogy: A practical tool for pastoral ministry
One of the primary objectives of the pastor is to facilitate both the redemption and the equipping of church members by teaching the Word of God.1 This means that even as the pas-tor preaches the Word, he or she also undertakes the work of a teacher. The Bible says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).2 Therefore, the ministry and teaching are inseparable—they are entwined for a collegial purpose. Ellen White stated, “The work of education and the work of redemption are one.”3
Pedagogy, defined as “the principles and methods of instruction,”4 is a common word among educators in general and in religious education in particular. As pedagogy and pastoral ministry are integrative, the following questions are pertinent: (1) What effect does pedagogy have on pastoral ministry? (2) Can the pedagogical skills of the pastor facilitate the process of church growth?
Impact of pedagogy on pastoral ministry
Matthew tells us about the Great Commission that Jesus gave to the disciples: “‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have com-manded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ ” (Matt. 28:19, 20). This verse is among the many verses that have set the tone for pastoral ministry and is an assignment applicable to all faithful Christians of every age.5
Today, the work of pastors is undoubtedly dominated by preaching. However, it is not enough to just persuade the people to accept the message of salvation. What is more important in promoting discipleship is retaining new members.
Bible instruction will not be effective if pastors fail to follow the principles that support teaching. In my pastoral ministry, I have observed various times how members react to the way their pastor and other teachers handle lessons. Recently, I observed a local church during their Bible study session. While the pastor was teaching, some of the members were sleeping. A few minutes after the class was dismissed, I called on one of the students and asked, “How do you feel about the teaching?”
He answered: “The class was boring, and the pastor was preaching instead of teaching. I am not interested in attending his class.” If this type of deficiency is not addressed, the ministry of the pastor—in the context of discipleship—might be defeated. Therefore, each minister needs to acquaint himself or herself with pedagogical knowledge in terms of planning and paying attention to the needs of the learners.
Planning. Planning is one of theelements of pedagogy. Indeed, “wise planning is needed to place each one in his proper sphere in the work, in order that he may obtain an experience which will fit him to bear increased responsibility.”6 This part of the instruction involves setting objectives. You do not teach without purpose; therefore, make sure your objectives are clear.
Ask yourself, why do you teach the lesson that you teach? The answer will form your objective. Then identify strategies or teaching methods you can apply to achieve your objective. Jesus was a planner. While on earth, He taught with an objective and used different methods. When Jesus met Andrew and Peter, they were struggling to catch fish. Jesus taught them how to catch fish by asking for a demonstration. This act is what modern educators call learning by doing.7 Similarly, a pastor should allow the members of his or her class to contribute immensely to the lesson. Assign work to them, and if possible, request members to teach certain topics. In addition, use the Think-Pair-Share technique.8 After the lesson, ask the students to pair off, talk together, and then share with the larger group what they have learned.
Understanding learners. Understanding the learners that constitute your audience is a critical principle in pedagogy. Jesus was a Master in this practice. Jesus knew His audience. You cannot teach effectively if you do not connect the lesson to the needs of the learners. Today, our classes can be dominated by millennials, a group of people “that walk with more information in their fingertips.”9 Church leaders must, therefore, pay attention to the needs of the diverse groups within their church and prepare lessons to address these needs. The factors that differentiate individuals from each other are “abilities, interests, values and attitudes, and home background.”10 A pastor in the ministry of leading people to attain maturity in Christian faith should become acquainted with these factors and the diverse, differentiated teaching activities to address individual learning needs. Pearl Subban puts it this way: “It is necessary to take into account the vast differences among students in a classroom, acknowledging each student’s strengths while accommodating their limitations.”11
Love for the people should motivate your curiosity to know your learners. Jesus, in His time, loved His audience and was patient with them at all times. The duties of a pastor should follow those of Jesus Christ: “Let our teachers strive to follow His example, to cherish His spirit of tender sympathy.”12 This statement implies that all pastors need to replicate the love Jesus showed to the people during His time in the ministry. Love will produce patience. Without the value of patience, a pastor will be unable to cope with different learners.
Pedagogy and church growth
The passion for growth is a precursor for teaching. If gospel teachers teach as the Spirit directs and perform God’s work as the Word dictates, they will experience endless progress until Christ appears.13 The Bible speaks extensively about men and women of God who devoted themselves to teaching the Word of God. In most cases, the people who received God’s Word grew to become strong believers.
Jesus went to the synagogue on different occasions to teach the people about the kingdom of God: “He was teaching in their synagogues, and every-one praised him” (Luke 4:15). Almost every word in this verse is emphatic. The Greek word for teaching, as used in this context, is didasko (διδάσκω). This word means “to impart instruction.”14 Jesus spent a great portion of His life instructing His disciples and those who antagonized Him that the service of God is paramount in life.15
Also, in the verse, the Greek term δοξαζόμενος ( doxazomenos ) 16 — “praised,” implies that the church members acknowledged His teaching and honored Him. Nobody will celebrate your work unless he or she is happy with your instruction. As in marriage, your Bible teaching should bring joy and happiness to the members: “Each is to minister to the happiness of the other.”17
Many a time I had been a victim of laxity. When I first joined the ministry, I felt the best thing to do was to be hard on church members. Most of the time, lessons would be prepared to attack weak members instead of appealing to the fainting souls. Because of the way we prepare lessons, our classes sometimes end in chaos: an attitude that remains dominant in most congregations.
Positive reinforcement is one strategy that we can use to pro-mote an effective teaching ministry. Compliment members who contribute to Bible study. Commend those who find answers to questions. There is nothing wrong with appreciating your people’s efforts. When Peter told Jesus who He was, Jesus said: “ ‘And on this rock, I will build my church’ ” (Matt. 16:18). Imagine Peter’s feeling of joy at this acknowledgement of his faith. Such words of kindness could have contributed to his effective ministry. When you practice this behavior, you are indirectly strengthening that member’s particular behavior. Peter grew to be known as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The people you encourage today will grow and become church leaders tomorrow. In a similar manner, Jesus commended a woman by saying, “ ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me’ ” (Matt. 26:10). This woman had poured an expensive ointment on Jesus, but the disciples became angry with her for such action. However, Jesus saw the woman’s action through a different lens: He commended her effort.
In the context of teaching, we should commend people whenever they share new ideas with us. No idea is bad. I met a member who shared with me that he would never speak up in church again. I asked him why. He told me that a pastor stopped him from talking while he was contributing to the lesson. He became enraged and wanted to exchange words with the pastor but, he said, the Holy Spirit intervened. This is not as uncommon as we may wish. We, as ministers, should lead by example. Theological training is not enough to manage the church activities—we also need pedagogy.
Learn to accommodate people’s weaknesses. Aquila and Priscilla demonstrated this pedagogical skill when they saw Apollos. This couple had observed Paul and the way he taught. Therefore, when they heard the doctrinal mistake Apollos made in the congregation, they did not scold him publicly. They invited him home and taught him the right way of the Lord (Acts 18:26). A few years later, Apollos became a staunch man in the Christian fold.
Teaching helps members grow. Unfortunately, we live in an era when people find it difficult to control their emotions. Sometimes, it becomes more painful when it happens among Christians. It is not good for a minister to find fault with the members. Instead, look for their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. This attitude will lead to church growth.
In general, pedagogy impacts the ministry—it helps the members grow to maturity in faith. However, you cannot thrive in this paradigm of church activities if you do not follow the principles that guard it. Before you can teach effectively, you must first plan. Try to define your objectives and come up with teaching strategies that will help you accomplish your objectives. The teaching task cannot be removed from pastoral ministry. Improve your instructional abilities. To achieve this task, you must envision the growth of the church through pedagogy. Commend your members, accommodate their weak-nesses, and help them grow spiritually.
Without a doubt, we must follow the example of Jesus Christ in everything we do. He came and showed us how to perform Christian duties. He is our greatest Teacher. He uses several strategies to address different people at different times. I am looking forward to seeing a congregation where members will long to hear more of the Word of God because of the pedagogical skill the minister practices. The church belongs to all of us. As such, we must do our best to further the process of discipleship. It is not enough to just have public campaigns. The culture of nurturing the members should improve with teaching.
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1 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), 337.
2 Scripture in this article is from the New International Version.
3 Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1952), 30.
4 Princeton’s WordNet, s.v. “pedagogy,” on Definitions website, accessed Apr. 12, 2018, definitions.net/definition/pedagogy.
5 White, Gospel Workers, 26.
6 Ellen G. White, The Paulson Collection of Ellen G. White Letters (Payson, AZ: Leaves-of-Autumn Books, 1985), 403.
7 Daniel Churchill, “Effective Design Principles for Activity Based Learning: The Crucial Role of ‘Learning Objectives’ in Science and Engineering Education,” Apr. 2, 2003, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9127/b37c01 98937227a474bbc27541aa7904aa19.pdf.
8 Jay McTighe and Frank T. Lyman Jr.,“Cueing Thinking in the Classroom: The Promise of Theory-Embedded Tools,” Educational Leadership 45, no. 7 (Apr. 1, 1988): 19, ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead
9 Ranulfo Payos, Human Resource Management (Manila, Philippines: Rex Pub., 2010), 3.
10 Brenda B. Corpuz and Gloria G. Salandanan, Principles of Teaching 1, 3rd ed. (Manila, Lorimar Pub., 2013), 6.
11 Pearl Subban, “Differentiated Instruction: A Research Basis,” International Education Journal 7, no. 7, (2006): 938.
12 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2011), 362.
13 Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), 438.
14 The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, s.v. “Didasko,” def. 2.a., Bible Study Tools, biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/didasko.html.
15 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1940), 385.
16 NASB Lexicon: Luke 4:15, Bible hub, biblehub.com/lexicon/luke/4-15.htm.
17 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1952), 103.