“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15: 1-4 NIV)
How can we be the most productive SS teachers for our class/community? We need to make sure we have time for renewal and re-creation. One of the great reminders of this for me was my time in a discipleship huddle group a few years ago. (If you are interested in huddle groups, contact John Chandler or Laura McDaniel in the Spence Network of Virginia Baptist life: http://www.spencenetwork.org/)
I was reminded of the need for Sabbath (not as a way to rest from all of my work), but the time to abide in Christ so I am more effective in my work. Here is the crux of it all: Do you work in order to have time to rest or recreation? Do you rest/abide in Christ in order to work out of God’s design for you? Too often our priorities get out of the appropriate order and we need to be reminded of time away from it all with God for rest, renewal, abiding and pruning. Here are some ideas for you as teachers to remain effective:
Take time each day for God. I am not talking about preparing a SS lesson. We each need some quiet time with God. It does not always have to be in your study. For me it is time while I am pushing a lawn mower, fishing, taking a prayer walk, working in a garden or in other methods while enjoying God’s creation. Whatever energizes you in your relationship with God is appropriate. Though prayer on bended knee is important, so is prayer in other ways each day.
Have a Sabbath day each week. God chose for each of us to have a Sabbath day to rest and abide.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-3 NIV)
For ministers and teachers, Sunday is not a Sabbath. We need another day in the week to seek renewal and rest if possible.
We need longer periods of time for pruning and abiding each year. Part of this time each year is seen as vacation. Often we pack so many items into the agenda that it seems like work! Pick some time each year to seek renewal for your soul, and whatever that would look like for you.
Part of this time is pruning for teachers. This is a time of training and renewal as well. Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professions need continuing education each year. Why not SS teachers? We have the greatest responsibility in sharing God’s Word. Take time for training each year. You may want to take a Sunday off and go hear another teacher in your church or another church. This could be a great experience to continue to prune and grow.
So how do we make time for vacation/training? Make sure you are mentoring someone as an apprentice. Every teacher needs an apprentice to train. When we do so, we will have plenty of new teachers to fill in for us and be prepared to teach a new class.
Help your church see the potential for Sabbaticals. All church staff should have opportunities for an extended period of time (for instance after the 7th year of ministry) for sabbatical. This is a time (1-3 months for rest, renewal and continuing education) to fan the flame within and step back to see a clearer vision for your ministry. Check with your VBMB Field Strategist about advantages of Sabbatical for church staff. SS teachers need a Sabbatical as well. I know of a church that requires teachers to take a year break after every three years. This decreases burnout and provides energized teachers when they return.
The bottom line is we sin against God when we do not take periods of time each day, each week, each year and longer periods of time to abide in Christ. I look forward to writing again in a little over a week. For the time being I am trying to practice what I am sharing, and will be on vacation and conference time. Until the next blog, may God provide restful, abiding moments for you as well!