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Links for Improving Your Teaching

Churches should use a wider variety of teaching strategies, especially in their adult classes.

Those who start exploring this idea, will quickly encounter something called active-learning.

As a heads-up, I’ll tell you that there are various misconceptions about what active-learning means, and it’s something of a buzzword. So be careful. And if you’re a pedagogy nerd, you might find it useful to learn about the constructivist pedagogy behind this term. For that, Virginia Richardson’s overview and evaluations of the constructivist movement is helpful.

But for those who just want to start experimenting , Cynthia J. Brame’s executive summary on active-learning is a great place to start.

But is it ever OK to Lecture? Of course, it is. As you expand your pedagogical repetoire, dont’ leave behind the lecture.

You might map active-learning activities and lecturing onto a distinction Mark Strom makes between conversation and communication. Covnersation involves “creating shared meaning,” whereas communication invovles “sharing created meaning”.

I don’t want to be precious about this. At a certain level communication and conversation are synonyms. Yet the distinction is not just playing with words. The bigger pciture is our assumptions about knowing and meaning.

Conversation is a tool often used in active-learning. Because, conversation not only allows knowledge to come about inductively, but, as Strom observes, the process tends to “be a doorway to new meaning and new knowledge” and the formation not only of single mind, but a community.

Conversation tends to assume that knowledge and meaning take shape through interaction. Conversations highlight how meaning is tied to relationship.

Communication, on the other hand is about “sharing created meaing”.

[Communication] suggests there already exists some knowledage that others need to knjow. We need to communicate: clearly, concisely, and relevantly. This is crucial in every kind of enterprise. Sometimes things are straightforward, and the last thing we need is a never-endering process of consultation that’s supposed to deliver consensus. Communication tends to assume that knowledge and meaning are things to be discovered and passed on.

Lectures are perfectly suited for this, if they are engaging, and if the listeners know how to engage themselves in their listening.

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Isaac Watts Impresses Me

Whenever I read Isaac Watts, I feel like I see in him the kind of pastoral disposition I want.

His heart is always evident, but he’s never effusive. He’s a careful scholar, but for a broad audience. He is creative in the theological connections he makes, but he’s never wild. A good example of this last one is the connection he makes between the Trinity and the office of deacon in his book on the Christian church. He says, in part,

let them remember and rejoice, that they represent the Character of our Lord Jesus, as he is intrusted with all Supplies from the Hands of the Father, and distributing unto the Church invisible.

In case you’re curious, here’s an outline of the rest of his sermon on deacons:

  1. the office (the work of deacons, the reason for the office, the duration of the office, the way in which they become installed),
  2. how they may perform their duties well,
  3. encouragements in the task.

James M. Wilson on The Office of Deacon

You may be familiar with Samuel Miller’s book on on the ruling elder. As far as I know he didn’t write a parallel work on deacons, but in 1869, such a work appeared, with a nod toward Miller’s work, written by James M. Wilson. It’s called The Deacon: An Inquiry into the Nature, Duties and Exercise of the Office of the Deacon, in the Christian Church. (Miller does address the distinction between elders and deacons in his book.)

I found a hard-copy of Wilson’s work this while perusing the shelves at RTS-Orlando. Yay for physical libraries! His book does as the title promises and includes tons of data from Reformed and Presbyterian history. He uses exegesis and historical examples to prove his points.

Here are a couple of things I noted:

Wilson is decidedly in favor of putting all the temporal needs of the church—both individual and corporate (my distinction, not his)—in the hands of the deacons, who are subject to the session. No trustees! But I wonder, does he really think that everything temporal belongs to the work of the deacons? This seems unscriptural and impractical. I don’t think I’m misreading him, but it’s hard to imagine he’d hold such an extreme position.

On the necessity of the diaconate, he says that ensuring that this ministry is completed well and according to the will of Christ is important and should not be neglected. Why? Because it “concerns, intimately, the activity and efficiency of the Christian church in the promotion of the great ends of her organization: the diffusion of the gospel in its purity; and the accomplishment of those works of charity and benevolence, by which she is to reflect before the world, and upon it, the image of the grace and compassion of her beneficent Redeemer.” (55)

“No one is afraid to climb the heights, at least not if they have brave hearts and high courage. But the heart that is little from lack of love does not dare to undertake any great task, and does not venture to climb the heights.” (Margaret Porette)

No lack of love for Leo!

I learned a lot at the Paideia Center’s conference on the Trinity this week. Thanks to RTS in Orlando for hosting us. Here are some pictures I took of the campus.


Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? - Outside Online You can guess what this is about. And you already suspected it was true you, didn’t you?

Post-vacation: here’s what I’m doing now.

Thanks to an @appademic article, I found and read “On Intellectual Craftsmanship” by C. Wright Mills today. At the end of my vacation and the start of a big research project, this was a perfectly timed.