All Christians have a ministry. (I had to re-read this sentence about ten times before I understood it enough to move on.) I’ve learned that teaching is all about living one’s life. It’s easy to forget that we are teaching instruments when we walk out our front door. Every single person we come in contact with will be watching us. I don’t say this as a warning, but more to call attention to the opportunity we have as Christians to minister to the world. Considering this, how do we as Christians most effectively minister to others? A very important part of that answer is this: psychology. (Period.)
To be honest, I’ve never paired psychology with discipleship before. I’ve definitely been interested in psychology. I want to be a counselor, so you kind of assume that I am interested in the mechanics of human brain function. But, what’s very interesting and awesome is that psychology is not merely secular. Consider this: everyone is made differently. That’s probably not ground breaking information for you, but this simple fact means that each of us have our own needs and will respond differently as students to the same teacher. Thus, the teaching and learning dynamic has to consider the psychological connection.
The big question that needs to be asked before we minister to anyone is “How do we engage the learner?” This means that we need to be thinking more educationally when we have conversations. Are we having respect for the person and their human situation? Developmental psychology is a great thing to study because it helps us be aware of people’s needs. According to Maslov, we enter in to differently developmental stages as we age where our “hierarchy of needs” changes. Each person has his or her own life situation. This is why it’s important that we value where they are, who they are, and what they’re doing. Take young people, for example. It’s important to know if the kids you’re dealing with have experienced love and affection at home. What are their parents like? Our love for Jesus comes largely from the way we experience our parents. We need to make sure children are loved. This is why one of the keys to effectively ministering to kids is to love them.
It’s important that we think philosophically. Why do we do what we do in the teaching ministry? Where have we fallen short and where are we doing well? What is it we’re trying to accomplish? How do we come to believe? Why do we believe what we believe? How do we take people from the questions of belief to the imperative of “how do we believe?” Philosophy, theology, and psychology come together with methodology. We have the task to tell people about Jesus and teach the Bible, so it’s our duty to know how to do that well and know what the hell we’re talking about. Philosophy can be so theoretical. We can talk philosophically without being practical. In the same way, we can talk about the faith to others and please ourselves thinking that we did a great job, but, in reality, fail completely at engaging the people we’re ministering to.