the effective woodshop teacher

I took woodshop in junior high school almost 30 years ago. I had some good ideas, but poor execution. However, I had family who appreciated the thought behind the gift despite it's rough edges. Everything was rough, sanding bored me. nothing fit perfectly. My projects were functional, but not beautiful. I made coal, not diamonds. The next year, in art class, we competed to design a pen and pencil holder to be made and sold by carpenter. Being the consistent guy that I am, I designed a whale, with a long back to hold a few writing instruments. It was functional, but not very artistic, not at all like fanciful designs by the students I admired in the class. They came up with seals balancing balls on their noses or octopuses swinging all their arms around. Curiously to me, my design was chosen! My design actually held pens and pencils, and could be reproduced fairly easily. My prize was one of the pencil holders I designed.

What advantage did I have over the better artists in my class, I actually made some things in wood shop but they hadn't. I wasn't taught about woodworking by a lecture, I was taught woodworking by working on wood. One important thing I learned is that my future career possibilities would not include woodworking. One master carpenter told my pastor, a story he often likes to retell, to look at the 2x4 and realize you only have to be smarter than it. I wish I was. I'm a measure five times and still get it wrong woodworker. But I know that because I've built stuff, ugly stuff, but usually functional.

I'm a big believer in empowering people to do stuff, instead of keeping them dependent on me. This is great when your 8 year-olds start doing their own laundry. But this can also be hard when they make bad decisions without my input. But they learn from their mistakes as well. It can also be really hard for Bible teachers. It can be extremely satisfying to be the go-to person when people have questions about God and the Bible. Believe me, I know the feeling and it reviles me simultaneously as it strokes me. I've experienced and seen the destruction wrecked by those who let themselves become the intermediary between God and humanity. I don't want people I study the Bible with to experience spiritual authoritarian leadership. It sucks too much. That's why I try to be like a good woodshop teacher. We look at the pieces and figure out what we can build, together.

I try to be a Bible discussion group facilitator, and stay out of God's way, trusting Him to open people's eyes. I've been the Bible study lecturer, giving the sermonettes. I've been the leading questioner, asking stupid questions to get people to see the thing I want them to see. But none of that empowers people. It mostly made the Bible scary, a jungle in need of a protective guide to keep away the wild animals. But I'd rather be the naturalist who helps explain all the beautiful things seen in the jungle. Or a shop teacher who knows about types of wood and different tools and different techniques, but does not use those insights to scare the students but the assist them.

I want people to engage with God's word. I want them to see for themselves what the Bible says about God. I want them to see for themselves what the Bible says about humanity. I want them to see for themselves what the Bible says about how we should live our lives. If they bust out a circular saw for a piece of balsa wood I'll suggest something smaller. If they are ready for expensive hardwoods, I'll be happy to show them how to work with them. My hope is that everyone can go through life encountering those with different perspectives on the Bible and feel comfortable reading the book with those others and learning from it together. Perhaps some will become Bibilical carpenters, working in ministry full time, but I hope the rest can at least be able to build a little something from time to time, even if not elegantly.
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Anonymous said…
What a beautiful blog you have here my friend. :) I stumbled upon through a comment from Huffington Post. Rock on!

John Umland said…
Thanks MC. It's nice to know I made the HP.
God is good

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