Confessions of a Missionary: I Entertain Instead of Equip

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During my Senior Year of College I had the opportunity to preach in chapel (normal for all Biblical Studies Majors); sitting on the stage that morning I noticed a close friend who was introducing me held a piece of paper in his hand.  He showed me it was notes that would be used in the two-minute introduction; I started laughing in response because there were no written notes for my sermon.

The reason for that is the sermon itself was burned into my mind over months of mental preparation, and in many ways that’s been the way I prepared many sermons, ministry presentations, or lessons.  Being a person who learns verbally (an auditory learner) my prep work involves creating a short outline of the information on a card and using it for verbal review during the week while driving or while listening to music (I literally wore out a “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Soundtrack” during College).

That form of outline preparation served me faithfully for years until the Lord called me to a teaching ministry in Australia (volunteering with computer tutoring, religious education, homework help, and conversational English ministries).  Suddenly there wasn’t enough time to go through my verbal processing form of speaking so I was forced to begin putting together lesson plans.  For those of you who may not know lesson plans are outlines that the Teacher uses during class to help Students achieve goals, and learn outside of the classroom independently.

To be honest the lesson plans early in my teaching ministry weren’t all that extensive.  They were not written on a card, but  were typed up the night before, and many times didn’t have a lot of exercises for student interaction.  My lesson plans (like many others) fell into the trap of what is called TTT, or Teacher Talking Time, which is when the Teacher spends most of the time doing all of the talking themselves instead of challenging Students to do things on their own.

I happen to be an “entertainer” or someone who loves to speak in front of crowds (the Lord has given me a gift to connect through public speaking) so at the beginning my lesson plans resembled a stand up comedy routine.  The problem was my English and Computer Students didn’t exactly respond like people at Church with laughter or encouraging words.  Instead the time-honored jokes or entertainment routines were answered with looks of confusion or the dreaded words that destroyed countless English ministries (“no comprende”-Spanish for I don’t understand).

It wasn’t till months later while taking online classes to teach ESL that I learned what TTT was, and how it damaged teaching ministries.  While Teacher Talking Time is directly connected to English it does harm any class where a Teacher is trying to empower students to learn on their own instead of relying on them at all times.  These classes also helped me understand what a real lesson plan looks like….one that doesn’t focus on making someone laugh or have a good time, but emphasizes challenging their mind, and at times forcing the Student to step out of their comfort zone.

This week I began teaching a second English Student, and plan to take on a third in early December.  I’m thankful for these new ministry opportunities because it gives me experience on preparing lessons that equip instead of entertain with the Lord’ help.  Because in the long run what really matters isn’t whether or not they had fun, but whether they continue learning at home.

Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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