My son has, only in the last couple of weeks, started school. Already he is receiving homework (I’m sure I didn’t get any homework until I was much older!) Anyway, each time he has brought home stuff to do, guess who has wound up doing it with him? His mother. In fact, I am fairly sure there have been one or two that she has just done herself on his behalf.
I’m not sure at what point schools thought it was a good idea to send 4-year-olds home with stuff to do that they obviously can’t do by themselves. Surely most of what is being assessed is how involved the parents are in their child’s learning? I struggle to see what my son is being assessed in as my wife sticks posters together, on his behalf, describing all the stuff he enjoys and whatnot.
I suppose the principle is to get alongside your children to support their learning. I suspect the reality is a lot of parents doing stuff that they have long learnt to do on behalf of their children. I’m not saying my son hasn’t been involved at all. But, it is fair to say, often things just end up with us doing them for him.
There is a similar temptation in the church. Rather than letting people test out where they might be most useful for the kingdom, or giving them the tools they need to dig into scripture for themselves, we can sometimes be a bit quick to do their homework for them.
We often don’t want to let people struggle with the text or work out exactly how they will share the gospel in that particular scenario. We often want to jump in, take over and do it for them. After all, we know how to do it and it will be quicker and easier for everyone.
The problem with this approach is that people very rarely learn to do anything for themselves. If I always cut up my daughter’s food for her, she will never learn how to use a knife and fork for herself. If my wife always does my son’s homework, he won’t learn whatever he is supposed to learn by actually doing it himself. In the same way, if I always take over my church members’ evangelism or I’m quick to jump in with the right theological answer without giving them room to hold the conversation or wrestle with the text on their own, I run the risk that they won’t ever learn how to do those things for themselves and, as a consequence, inadvertently impede their growth.
The fact is, I learnt to do evangelism and apologetics by being given the room to share the gospel and answer people’s questions in real-life scenarios. I didn’t learn to preach primarily in the classroom but by getting on and doing the work of preparation and sermon delivery. I’m not saying there aren’t classroom-based things that can help, nor that there aren’t time to tell people the right answers, but this is not the primary way we learn to do these things.
You can learn all about punctures, their causes and the theory of changing tyres in a classroom. But the best way to learn to change a tyre is to simply get your hands dirty and do it. If somebody always jumps in and offers to do it for you, the chances of you learning to do it for yourself are slim. The same goes for training in the church. If we are too quick to jump in and do things for our people, it is likely that we are stopping them from actually learning to do it for themselves.
If you want your people to learn to read the Bible for themselves, if you want to train them to teach it and want them to learn how to answer people’s objections, you need to not jump in every time they are called upon to do it. Let them learn by doing. Don’t always do their homework for them.