Symposium report

Almost 400 people attended the seminary’s annual fall symposium from Sept 21-22. Pastors from across the U.S. and Canada heard three papers presented on The Pastor as Teacher. One of God’s requirements for pastors is that “the Lord’s servant must be able to teach.”

From teaching adults and children to instructing those with a deep Bible background and those new to the faith, pastors face many challenges in their varied teaching roles. Three papers helped pastors identify the challenges honestly and supported them in their continuing efforts to be able to teach.


Following Jesus’ example in teaching

Aaron Mueller, class of 2004, began the symposium with his paper, “Jesus taught the way of life—and so do we.” He noted that pastors need to be apt to teach. This aptness, he said, “is a knowledge of and ability with the Word, a genuine interest in and understanding of people, and the skill to connect them both.”

Using a wealth of examples from Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Mueller, who is a pastor at Shepherd of the Hills, Tucson, Ariz., shared how Jesus taught truth and, “with the methods he chooses (and recorded for us in Scripture), he speaks with full consideration to how is this truth best conveyed for my neighbor.

He then encouraged the participants to consider how a multitude of methods can reach people with the truth.

Prof. Joel Otto in a reaction paper, wrote, “Since Jesus is perfect, the stories he employed never get outdated. In fact, the divine genius of Scripture is that our thinking is stimulated every time we read it. But do we find ourselves referring to movies from the 1980s, athletes from the 1990s, and issues from the 2000s when we’re teaching catechism class in 2015? Do we stay with the standard applications we’ve used since we graduated from the seminary? The importance of continued growth in knowing people and knowing how to communicate to people is emphasized again.”

Mueller paper


Teaching adults

Daniel Habben, pastor at Saint Peter, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, wrote the paper, “St. Augustine taught the catechumens—and so do we.” He took a look back to see how instructors like Augustine taught adults. He also shared what contemporary research says about teaching adults. He analyzed common teaching practices and habits too.

“The purpose of any Bible class is not to make spiritual smarty-pants out of God’s people so they can answer all the questions in Bible Trivial Pursuit,” he says. “No, we want God’s people to know God’s Word, to believe it, and to put it into practice.”

Through practical, interactive examples, Habben, a graduate from the class of 1999, shared

how pastors can engage a wide-range of learning styles. Yet he also sounded the caution, “Let’s not do anything that gives the impression that God’s Word is a sandcastle that can be refashioned at will. We have been called to teach God’s Word with authority and without apology!”

Professor Tom Kock reacted positively to the paper: “Pastor Habben practiced what he preached. He not only told us; he illustrated it for us as he presented the paper in a way that allowed us to actively participate, to munch on the ideas for ourselves.”

He also appreciated the wealth of resources and encouraged the seminary students, especially, to hold on to the paper for their future reference.

Habben paper


Teaching children

For the final presentation, Rev. Paul Prange, class of 1988, spoke on “Luther taught the Children—and so do we.” As he encouraged the use of the Small Catechism for personal use, he explained that Martin Luther championed the cause of the education of children as much as anyone in modern history. “Perhaps the most significant contribution of Luther in this area was the strong encouragement that primary education be compulsory and universally available,” wrote Prange, Ministerial Education Administrator. “He hoped that every person would gain the ability to read the Scriptures and learn about forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Professor Stephen Geiger wrote the reaction to this paper. He commented, “Thank you very much for a reminder of the key role God’s servant Martin Luther played in the development of education more generally, and more important, the role he played in promoting an education that is distinctly Christian. We stand on his shoulders.”

Prange paper

The archive of the Symposium is available at