Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Not Reading

I was recently reading a post on the Jesus Community blog which discussed the love of reading and how Paul asked for his scrolls in 2 Timothy. It's a good post about how much we love to read, and it probably rings true for many in the Christian blog world. We're readers, or we wouldn't be here.

I've mentioned the Ekklesia Project before and how one of the things the members and guests enjoy at the annual gathering is the tables of books from Wipf&Stock, Brazos and others. The fact that we're all book junkies becomes apparent when you see us circling the tables like vultures. It probably helps that there is usually a conference discount, but we may be approaching book gluttony.

But the members of my Sunday school class are not in danger of book gluttony. Most of the people in my class are not readers. I don't mean that they don't read Volf, or Hauerwas or whoever else the rest of the theologeeks are following these days. I mean that they don't subscribe to newspapers, and they don't go online to read the news. They may occasionally read some things that are work related or hobby related, but they probably aren't likely to spend much time circling bookstores or a publisher's table.

Don't get me wrong. I love the class. They are good people who are supportive and helpful and mission minded. They just don't want to have to read.

As a teacher, this can be frustrating. I've had copies of books that I intended for the class to read at home and had at least one member say "Just keep it, I won't be reading at home." So maybe I should be more demanding. Maybe I should find other materials. Maybe it's too late to form good reading habits as an adult if you've never read much before adulthood. Maybe reading just isn't that important.

But it feels important. There is much to know, much to learn, and not all of it is available on videos. Not all of it can be read to you during worship. Most of it must be studied more than one hour of one day of each week. So I think good Christians should be good readers. We should study. We should encourage one another.

Last week during Sunday school, we read a chapter of scripture out loud. I intend to do more of that and try to be clear that I think reading is expected. In the meantime, if you have suggestions, I would be very receptive.

2 comments:

  1. Gary,

    I've had some of the same problems you mention in my SS class. They started off motivated, but it hasn't lasted. Like you, I have prepared lessons only to find myself the only one there come Sunday.

    What I finally started doing was reading the Bible to them. Each week we pick up where we left of the last week. I don't care how far we get. I read a bit, then stop and talk about it. Sometimes they will stop me and ask about something.


    I have almost completely stopped bringing in secondary literature. If there's something I think is important, I just summarize it for them. We spend our time reading Scripture verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter and talking about it along the way.

    I completely agree that Christians who can read should read the Bible, but many Christians really can't read. They don't know how to read a story, paying attention to characters, plot, etc--much less interpret it. The only thing I can figure to do is to read to them.

    I figure they are no worse off than the millions of other Christians throughout history who were illiterate. Naturally, I think it's better to be able to read than not to, so I do everything I can to turn my daughter and my students into readers, but I'm ultimately more concerned that they know the faith and live it. If they can learn about it through reading then that's a bonus.

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  2. When I was an adult Sunday school teacher, I quickly realized that I couldn't ask for outside reading. All reading would have to be done in class, or it wouldn't be done.

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