It feels like a hundred years ago, but before I came on staff at Westwood I taught public school for two years. It was undoubtedly two of the hardest years of my life. I knew God had called me to ministry, but for two years that was my ministry.
They were pretty intense days and I have both fond and not-so-fond memories. I’ll never forget sitting with 30 fourth graders the day after 9/11 trying to explain what happened in our country. God had me there for lots of reasons, but one huge reason was to prepare me in many ways for the ministry I would spend the rest of my life doing.
Here are several areas that I believe I’m stronger in because of the preparation years in the public school classroom. I’d love to hear your ideas on the subject too, just leave me a comment below.
1. Classroom management – You learn a lot of tricks as an elementary teacher, and one of the basics is how to control and manage a classroom full of students. Learning how to speak with authority, how to set rules, and how to get kids to do what they need to do are invaluable skills for children’s ministry.
2. Working with curriculum/planning lessons – Elementary teachers must plan multiple lessons a day, incorporating learning objectives, activities, and methods of measuring understanding. Having this experience helps me plan curriculum for our kids’ ministry and write effective lessons quickly. I think this experience helps me focus on how to more effectively teach God’s truth through learning theory and teaching strategies.
3. Planning trips – School field trips are a big deal. I learned so much about permission slips, budgeting, chaperones and planning. Most importantly I learned a lot of things NOT to do.
4. Dealing with intense parents – Wow, parents. In ministry, we all have incidents with tough parents. In public school, you can multiply that toughness by a thousand. While teaching I learned how to communicate calmly and effectively with upset parents, how to document situations and concerns, and how to love the child regardless of how goofy his mama might be.
5. Understanding real needs of kids – The years that I taught school and the years immediately following were definitely the time that I had the best grasp on elementary culture. I knew what songs and tv shows they liked. But I even knew smaller details such as what they liked to play on the playground or what favorite snacks they brought for lunch. I was better at children’s ministry because I knew how to connect with the details of their worlds.
6. Seeing the mission field – Unfortunately, when we are in the church long enough our view of our community can become limited. We see our church kids and occasionally their friends. At a big event we may see more kids. By and large though, we often become secluded from the big picture in our community. School teachers, however, see it all. I have a dear friend who teaches at a local school of 900 kids. She is often overwhelmed by the pockets of poverty, the home situations, and the needs that are out there. We don’t see a lot of that from the church office unless we make a point to. Teaching helped me remember that there are hundreds of kids who need Jesus beyond our church walls.
Want to hear the other side of this story? Then read my next post where I talk about 5 ways being a teacher DID NOT prepare me for the challenges of kids ministry.