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Thoughts on the educational journey
pastor corner

Pastor Devin Strong

Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church

As the school year begins, I can’t help but think about my own educational journey. I remember coming home from college for Thanksgiving my freshman year. I was unbelievably arrogant, a recurring theme of my younger years. 

After a grand total of ten weeks of higher education, I acted like I had all the answers. I knew things that nobody in my hometown—least of all my parents— had ever heard of! In my defense, college was opening up my whole world, exposing me to people and ideas that I had never experienced before. I was filled with wonder!

These days there is much debate about what teachers should teach and exactly what role parents and politics should play in the system, but here I just want to say a few words in praise of asking questions.

A lot of pastors moan and groan about teaching Confirmation class to teenagers with short attention spans, raging hormones, etc., but I honestly love teaching young people.

I enjoy working with adults, too, but youth are fun because they ask way more interesting questions than most of us older folks. Research suggests that the average four-year-old asks between 200 to 300 questions per day. That number steadily drops with each passing year down to the point where most adults ask only 20 queries per day, including, “What’s for dinner?” and “Where are my keys?” Kids are willing to ask wild questions of the Bible, faith, and church. They worry less about being embarrassed. They just want to explore the truth and make meaningful connections with real life.

My mother was a huge influence on my faith journey as were pastors, Sunday School teachers, and camp counselors, but two of my biggest guides were a couple of buddies that I had in high school. Doug and Roger were not churchgoers to speak of, while I was required by my mom to be in Sunday School and worship every week. Being a bit nerdy, my buddies and I would stay up late into the night talking about all kinds of things, including religion. These guys were brilliant thinkers. As I tried to explain my growing faith in Jesus, my friends did not understand “church lingo,” and they were not about to accept pat answers. My many long talks with Doug and Roger greatly helped me clarify and refine what I believe about God.

Teachers should ask hard questions of their students, repeatedly. They should encourage them to challenge the common wisdom and the tradition, not because they are better than everyone who has gone before them, but because asking questions is the only way that we can uncover new truths.

Students should ask hard questions of themselves. One of the things that worries me most is what appears to be our increasing inability to be self-critical. We know what we know. We know whose team we are on, and any problems in the world are always the other guy’s fault. I think that one of the hardest things to do is change your mind.

Parents’ role in education is also to ask their kids LOTS of questions. What did they learn today? What do they think about what they learned? How does school fit in with their faith? Of course, parents can and should also share what they think about things.

Maybe that way we can all grow together.

A blessed school year to all!

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