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Tuesday, March 10, 2009 


Pronunciation: \ad-ˈmä-nish\
Function: transitive verb
1 a: to indicate duties or obligations to b: to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner

I was admonished on Sunday by my missus for not properly conducting a Sunday school class. We got a “bit” sidetracked when one of my students took us down the evolution bunny trail. My missus’ complaint was that she felt she was sitting in a science class and we shouldn’t be spending all our time addressing the problems with scientific models that claim with certainty to have proof for evolution as fact.

We talked about finding carbon 14 in diamonds when there should be none if diamonds are really as old as the models say. We talked about finding soft tissue from dinosaurs supposedly tens of millions of years of old. We talked a lot about the science of oil and how we find oil in places where there were no forests as well as the recent discovery of a bacteria in the Amazon that produces oil from decaying leaves that have just fallen off the trees.

I will never dismiss a question from our youth as long as it is remotely on topic. The first youth’s question concerning order from entropy and evolution was well within bounds of where i was at so I thought I would briefly take it up. The problem is that one question led to another and all these put together did take up a large segment of our class. My thinking was that since our kids hear that science is infallible I’d address the evolution issue by talking about science.

After class my missus informed me was not amused with our science lesson and admonished me to talk more about Jesus next time. She was clearly not pleased that I talked for some twenty odd minutes before I took up what a day means in Genesis. At the end of the day she was right and I do need to keep better control of the discussion so that all loose ends can be tied up in our allotted forty five minutes. A Sunday school class should clearly proclaim Christ and I did indeed get off track.

However, we’ll need to take up a few more science lessons as Christians don’t, or at least shouldn’t, hide from scientific topics and debate. I see way too many folks that are ignorant of all the cool new discoveries in the scientific realm or simply afraid to engage in a debate because of a fear of being labeled flat earth freaks. That is a sad state of affairs really as science is just now catching up to what creationists have confessed to be true all along.

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A bunny trail here or there every once in a while isn't such a bad thing. While you weren't discussing Jesus per se, you were strengthening them against a popular and successful tactic of Satan to lure people away from Jesus. If these kids are exposed to lots and lots of Christian instruction and catechesis, maybe you wouldn't take so many side roads, but Sunday School may be the only time you can reach them. Worse, you may be the only person to discuss these matters in depth with them.

We actually discussed this very thing this morning in Catechetics class.

Apologia at its finest Frank. It definitely has a place. Besides, your little diversion was nothing compared to some of the stuff we get sidetracked on in our adult Bible class. Maybe you could calm the Missus by scheduling an entire class on the sorts of issues you covered, which could compare what the Bible has to say with evolution and related topics. I'd think that would be very beneficial for your kids.

Good advice from everyone.

I also get those kind of bunny trails in class, and every once in a while I actually restructure the class so that the stuff they think is important comes sooner.

The big thing I look for is interest from the rest of the class. If a guy is looking to push an issue after the first question and everyone else's eyeballs are rolling into their heads, then I'll be willing to discuss it with them over lunch or answer it in class. But I ALWAYS thank them for thinking about how the program will be used, even if it's the most subversive thing I've ever seen. :)

As long as you're prepared to answer the questions and they are meaningful, I say go for it. Any time you can get kids interested in talking about the issue, that's a good thing. On the other hand, if the kids are trying to distract you with questions or if you have one person who is taking the class the down a different path, that's different.

All, thanks.

Scott, there’s no calming that chick. She had me running out of the room in tears as I’ve never been very good at handling conflict or critique. BTW, the whole conversation started when I said that we would be spending some time discussing evolution and scientific theory after we get done with Hebrews.

BD, I’m pretty good at telling when my students are trying to “distract” me. They’re pretty smart but I’ve seen and tried every trick that they can come up with. That being said, sometimes a off the wall question has beneath it a deeper issue, like pie! I once got the question “why do we have to use bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper? Why cant we use oreos and milk?” The question was really a challenge to me to show him where in Scripture it says that Jesus used bread and wine and was it only one verse or could it be found in multiple texts. The seemingly irreverent question was really a tactic that was used to get me to defend our practice from Scripture and not as goofy as it seemed at first glance.

Der Bettler, where did the conversation go exactly?

If people are really interested in evolution-related discussion, maybe you could even do a little write-up for them to read next time you see them (for them to take home).

Kelly, the whole thing started with me asking them what specifically they wanted to know about concerning evolution and science. I asked because the range of topics is so broad that I could be going over stuff that I think is cool but bores them to tears. I started by saying we weren’t going to talk about it and then I got “sucked in” because one of them, not the one I was expecting, has a huge problem with the idea that he evolved from amoebas. The cool thing was that he was approaching it from a mathematical probability standpoint. Since this past week was a break from our normal study, I took it up.

Don’t worry, I’ll have plenty of documentation for any class of this nature. These kids are too smart not to call me out if I say something that is going to go against what is taught in schools as unchallengeable fact.

Since our class is about teaching the faith to young people, we were pretty much asking the same question about how much we should allow for tangents. The professor's response was that we should be able to tell whether a certain tangent might actually be profitable or whether it's merely wasting time. The rest of what he said was what I replied the first time -- so if there's any wisdom in it, the credit belongs to Dr. Quill. It's just a fact that for many (if not most) young people, the only instruction they get in the faith happens within the walls of the church. There are some topics that may not be addressed in their entirety from the pulpit or in Sunday School, but have to be addressed somewhere. Besides, they probably enjoy a short diversion from the material (and if you're like I was as a Sunday School teacher, so do you).

I wish the kids I've had out at Youth class here were so interested in learning and discussion. People don't really read much in this corner of the world. And generally, adults don't come to Bible study and don't send their children and teens to Sunday School and Bible class.

Kelly, just stick with it. Part of our jobs as teachers is to show them that theology can be fun! We have the same problem you do as many parents think soccer, scouting, band, or just fill in the blank activity is just as or more important than church or Sunday school. Our job is to engage them as young adults in a way that challenges them so that they ask to come to our class. Sadly I have one student that loves to come to class but the parents are “just too tired on the weekends” to even come to church.
Back to the topic, I teach our kids in a way that I could never teach an adult class. The adults would riot and shout “that can’t be true, we’ve never done it that way in any congregation I was in”, “well, that was good in Luther’s day but things are different now” or “my sister is a pastor and she says that…” Contrast that with how my students challenge me by making me prove what I’m saying from the authority of Scripture and not my life experiences, it’s night and day.
Sometimes there will be groups where the dynamic is such that there seems to be a lack of interest. Sometimes there will be a real lack of interest. But youth groups are constantly changing and new blood will always invigorate and energize the crowd if you stick with it.

Thanks for the encouragement. Unfortunately, I really won't be able to stick with it for much longer. It's been difficult enough for me to be trying to teach a class with a new baby/toddler, and no one in the congregation willing to give up their Sunday breakfast to watch her for an hour so the only person willing to teach their youth can do so. And now being 7 months pregnant, and also trying to deal with said toddler *while* teaching a youth class that one or two people are coming to, is just plain ridiculous. What else can I conclude except that the congregation as a whole is making their own wishes and priorities known in this matter, and I'm beating a dead horse? All the comments in the world about how wonderful it is that "Youth" is happening in our church don't mean anything without actual involvement and help.

You're right about new blood, and we have some encouraging prospects that way, but I think it will have to be someone else teaching. As far as I'm concerned, mothering two children that small is cause for official incapacitation in this role, even if I did have a regular sitter. I'm all worn out! My poor hubby has to dash off after our first service to do the second service at the other part of the dual parish he serves.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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