Today is officially “teacher appreciation day,” and while it is right and good to be thankful for our teachers every day, I am glad there is a designated day that reminds us to be grateful. I am so thankful for the teachers in my life. Those teachers who have invested in me have made a massive impact on my life. My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Chauvin, told me I was a leader. My 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Landry), helped me love to read and think about writing. My seminary professor, Dr. Waggoner, became a mentor for years. I married into a family of teachers and saw quickly their passion for people and their love for teaching. Kaye’s father was a high school principal and Kaye’s mom ran the cafeteria. Kaye became a teacher. Her brother is a principal. One of her sisters is a college professor.
When I think about the influential teachers in my life, there are at least three lessons I must apply to being a pastor.
1. Teach content to people; don’t just teach content.
The most influential teachers in my life did not just love their content; they also loved me. Effective teachers (and preachers) combine a passion for what they are teaching with care for the people they are teaching. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.” Desiring to get “through” the content is very different than getting the content “through” to the people you love.
2. Plan what you desire people to learn; don’t just wing it.
Teachers are under tremendous pressure to ensure students learn certain skills and acquire specific knowledge at different stages in their development. They plan their teaching, their testing, and their assignments around those learning objectives. They don’t simply wing it. The goals are too big and too important to do so. Wise pastors do the same thing. They prayerfully establish a journey they will take people on over time. They systematically bring people through the Scripture to encounter the character of God, to understand His grace extended to us, and to live in response to Him. What we do is too important to just “wing it.”
3. Equip, don’t entertain.
Great teachers are always preparing students. My eleventh grade English teacher prepared me for my senior year, for college, and ultimately for much more. She was not simply performing class for me; she was preparing me. Pastors are not called to perform, but to prepare God’s people. We are equippers, not entertainers. We equip people to serve one another and to live in response to God’s grace.
Teachers are heroes. No matter where they teach, their work can be sacred. They have been pulled into a profession where they form the minds and the futures of those they teach. Pastors like me have much to learn from them.