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Entries in Seminary Notes (83)

Sunday
Mar222015

Seminary Notes - Day 3

The first three days of my four day module at seminary are completed. They were long days. I don't think I'd want to do every course this way. An intensive format is good in that the material is always right at the forefront of your mind, but it also eliminates the opportunity for mulling things over in between sessions. I arrived home around 6:00 each evening, and was in bed by 10:00 to get enough rest for the next day. The time I had at home was spent with my husband, and tending to my home. The hour drive home gave me time for thought, but mostly, I was just eager to get home.

I really enjoyed the first two days, but I found the last half of yesterday tedious, and I didn't enjoy it as much. The morning discussion was excellent, as we looked at evaluating bible studies, but the afternoon was all about how to train a "curriculum writing team." That was a major focus of the class, i.e. training others, so there was a lot of talk about people skills, group dynamics, administering training sessions, etc. Kind of reminded me of a corporate training session. And while I think training others is valuable, I had a couple of reservations.

A "team" of writers means a very different result than what you'd get from one person (or even two) working on a study. The approach to the team idea was that each lesson was worked on individually by a different person. Each lesson would be submitted to the editor. Before someone could be on a curriculum writing team, she had to go through training. It came across as a large-scale project. That is not the same as me sitting down to write a study for use in my local church or even to submit for publication in the way that Keri Folmar produced her studies for publication. I got the feeling from the professor that she is used to working with very large groups, on a large scale. She confessed to enjoying training others more than writing bible studies, and that was apparent. The young woman sitting near me was having a hard time envisioning this process in her little church which is less than 75 people. She just wanted to know how to put material together. 

My other reservation was that it seemed like the step from writing the bible study to becoming a trainer of someone to write the study was a little hasty. I don't know as if writing one or two studies qualifies me to train others how to write them. I wish we had spent more time practicing the various aspects of putting together flow questions for lessons. My "big" assignment for the end of the class is to write a five day lesson plan on a topical study. I don't like topical studies, and we spent very little time discussing that, so en route home yesterday, I was seriously wondering how badly I might blunder this big assignment. I wish we had looked at some examples, or at least done more than read those pages from the manual.

One of the things which did yesterday, which I enjoyed, was to evaluate bible study workbooks. There were some provided, and we were invited to bring some of ours. One of the women brought in a Beth Moore bible study on the book of James. There was absolutely no personal criticism of Moore nor were any aspersions cast upon her character. It was simply a look at what we determined were some shortcomings of her material. And for that post, you'll have to check back later, because I'm already a little long with this post.

Saturday
Mar212015

Seminary Notes - Day 2

I intended to share what happened at seminary yesterday once I got home, ate dinner, and relaxed, but my brain was pretty worn out. If I didn't know I'm a morning person before this class began, I would know now. In the afternoon, after 2:00, we were working silently on developing observation, interpretation, and correlation questions for two passages, James 1:1-18, and Mark 5:21-43. After that, we were to be ordering them in a flow which would direct the lesson. I really find mid afternoon is not my favourite time for such concentrated work, and I really struggled to focus. Fortunately, these are not due for a while.

Creating bible study material is a writing exercise as well as a study exercise. It means knowing how to communicate questions in a way that will generate deeper thinking, and without giving the student the answer. The student needs to work for an answer. I was taught once that when I organize discussion questions, I ought to ask it in a way that the answer is obvious, and the student feels a measure of success. That worked with homeschooling, but for students of the bible, it does tend to make it too easy. Certainly, for beginners, we may want to approach it in that way, but for a keen student of the bible, they ought to be directed back to the text. That is what we have been doing for the past two days: looking at the text. 

One of the things I enjoyed yesterday was when we were able to share some of our questions with the person next to us, and hear theirs. Corporate study is always so helpful. Later, we shared some of our questions from the Mark passage (the healing of Jairus's daughter) and some of the correlation questions were so good. One of the goals is this study, which we're going to be looking at today, is the benefit of producing curriculum as a team. I'm interested to see how that will work. We will also be learning how to evaluate a published bible study. We had to purchase three for the course, and we've been invited to bring some if we have them. I'm bringing Keri Folmar's study on Philippians, because I think that will fall under the "good study" category.

The prof's co-teacher talked a bit about writing struggles and how we can overcome those, and as she shared some of those struggles, I could nod in understanding from my own writing of my blog. It's a different kind of writing, but the struggles are still the same. It's nice to know that we all have writing struggles now and then.

Today is the last day until April 18th, and there two assignments due in between today and then. After April 18, there are two more assignments due. I have really benefitted from spending time with other bible teachers, but I will be glad not to be away from 7:30 until 6:00 p.m. I am ignoring the fact that I have to prepare a lesson for Tuesday's young mom's bible study. Fortunately, I had the foresight to make arrangements for my Sunday school class for tomorrow. However, when I start teaching from Ephesians 5, I'll be utilizing some of my new found knowledge.

One of the women in the class who is about to graduate (this elective is her last class) had done very little of this kind of study. It just goes to show that Seminary may teach you a lot, but when it comes to some of the the more hands on things like writing a study, or even leading a class, there is no expectation. I see the timing of my ability to attend seminary as quite providential. 

Onward and upward.

Thursday
Mar192015

Thankful Thursday - The Seminary Edition

Today, I am thankful for safety to and from my very first seminary class. It's an hour drive, which isn't too bad. I decided to take the time in the car to listen to good music, so Fernando Ortega came with me on my travels.

The class has about thirty women, from as young as early twenties to someone her her late sixties. There is also a variety of backgrounds. Some are pastors wives, some are seminary students, and some are auditing the course so they can take the skills back to their home churches. I suspected that I would have many "I feel small" moments as I began, and I was right. When you sit in a room of really astute women, it can do that to you. Plus, the two teachers are very skilled and knowledgeable with the topic.

The class is about designing bible study curriculum. As we opened the day, we introduced ourselves and shared why we were there. My reason was that as a teacher, over the years, I have found it difficult to secure bible study material that is both theologically robust and encouraging. The prof said she liked that phrase "theologically robust" so much she wants to use it in the course description. I told her she could thank D.A. Carson for that phrase, because I certainly didn't come up with it.

We spent the day reviewing basic inductive bible study skills, working with some passages in Philippians, James, and Mark. Sometimes, we worked individually, and sometimes, we pooled our efforts. At the end of the day, we did a structuring assignment. I was "elected" from my side of the classroom to go to the whiteboard to do the work with another of my classmates. The classmate who came with me is graduating from the MTh program this year, but even after three years in seminary, some of these bible study skills were new to her. I've done nothing but learn bible study skills, and I guess I'm glad I have had experience with them. The prof has clearly spent time attending training from Precept Ministries, ones I've taken, too. If I hadn't had some of the training, I think I might have been a little lost at points.

It is very tiring to sit all day long. I know understand the desire to stand up desks. Sitting all day, and then driving home for an hour left me feeling pretty tired. I have some work to do yet, which is not due until Saturday, but I may get a start on it tonight after I've rested a bit.

My son attends this school, and during the chapel time, he was leading music, and I had hoped to get in there to see him, but we didn't stop until noon, and by then, chapel was almost over. I hope I can see him tomorrow.

The highlight of the day was a young woman, a mother of a 6-month old baby who is being cared for by her husband. This woman has never been exposed to this kind of focused bible study. It was very overwhelming to her. At one point, she asked, "What's a commentary?" But she wants to know the bible. At the end of the day, she was in tears, but not because she was frustrated, but because she was so amazed and blessed to discover this kind of teaching. No one had ever shown her how to study for herself in this way. Seeing someone react that way to discovering the riches of God's word was worh the price of the ticket, as the saying goes.

Tomorrow, once again, I'll be on the road early, and hopefully rested, and prepared for more learning.

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