Matthew 10:24-25 "A disciple is not above the teacher nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and the slave like the master."Mr. Ryan knew how to keep a kid out of trouble so when I kept hanging around the barn he was renovating into a church, he gave me a job to do. I was 10, maybe less, and my dad had been called as the congregation's first pastor. They bought a small farm making the farm house our parsonage and the barn would soon to be a sanctuary and classrooms. I was out of school for the summer and nothing was a tempting as the nearby work site. Instead of telling me to stay clear and be safe, Mr. Ryan set me to pulling nails out of a supply of used firring strips. He gave me a hammer and showed me how to use the claw end and how to wedge my foot as a brace without putting a nail into it. Then he left me to my work. I was the apprentice for the summer.
Discipling youth should be a similar task for us a teachers and preachers. Yet we are more often found instructing and questioning; asking if our words are understood and requiring repetition of key phrases and important scripture concepts. When I think back to Mr. Ryan, I realize that he didn't ask me how I was going to pull out those nails, nor did I reply to his instructions with details such as, "I'm going to take the claw and put the tines on either side of the nail. Then I'm going to pull with appropriate force until the nail is freed from the wood. . ." No, I simply put my hammer in the right spot and pulled. If the nail didn't come out, I pulled harder. Mr. Ryan showed me how to use the hammer head as a lever and once he saw that I could get a nail out - with some effort - he left me alone to work. He was never far away and called me over from time to time to snap a chalk line (the highlight of my day) or see something new he was doing. But he didn't hover over me, or inundate me with questions. I had been shown the way, it was my turn to do it.
We hear a lot about what Christian education programs should and shouldn't do. We certainly try a variety of plans and programs. Yet there is no substitute for a master's teaching and there is no better way to learn than to be an apprentice. One willing and open learner with one patient and loving teacher. Soon there is one more accomplished disciple in the world ready to take on another apprentice. Such a simple equation; 1 + 1 = 1 more.