God calls ordinary people to the front lines each week to deliver God’s extraordinary message of life and hope. Is 2016 the year you can make a difference in Life Bible Study leadership? Here are some who are — and how you can be equipped to join them.
Joe and Nancy DeLorenzo began “teaching” by ministering to their two oldest grandchildren, Sophia and Jack, who both hve cystic fibrosis, when they were babies. “We rolled them around in strollers in the lobby while their parents went to church,” said Joe. As they got older and strong enough to be around other children, the DeLorenzos followed them into the Preschool ministry as Life Bible Study teachers. “It’s a critical time in the lives of children to plant seeds,” said Joe. “They’re becoming little people instead of babies.”
Two more grandchildren, Grant and Paige, came along and the DeLorenzos are still teaching after eight years. “Nancy was the driving force behind our involvement,” said Joe. “She’s been the teacher all these years.”
This summer, Nancy suffered a severe stroke, but while she was rehabilitating from surgery, Joe attended his post each Sunday morning. Nancy was able to come back to church for the first time in early December. “We will see where God leads us from here,” said Joe.
Brandon James’ call to teach was dramatic and came as a result of a low period in his life. Depressed and not knowing what direction to turn, Brandon had come to the end of his faith — and his desire to live.
“My faith had failed,” he said. “What I had learned in childhood about God was not necessarily true.” On the brink of suicide, Brandon heard an announcement about Counseling Center sessions at the Cypress Campus of Houston’s First and decided to check it out.
“Depression was like being in a dark cave,” he explained. “The counselor led me through Scriptures and had me repeat them out loud over several months. I was speaking truth, and prayer gave me hope.”
After a number of months of prayer and counseling, God led Brandon to share his story with Life Bible Study leadership. Next, he shared his story with the rest of the class. Unity, a new class, was formed in 2013 with Brandon as teacher. “One of the co-teachers has been in prison and another has a really tough past,” said Brandon. “I’m stunned at the things I’ve overlooked by just flying over Scripture. Teaching has caused me to go to greater depths. People are responding to God as I’ve been vulnerable to share my story.”
Chris and Tara Read have four children and a dental practice, and yet they have had the energy and enthusiasm to direct a Life Bible Study for half a decade. “We have a desire to serve,” said Tara. “We were taken out of our comfort zones and have grown a lot as a result of committing ourselves to leadership.”
Directing the class has helped them keep their priorities straight and kept them accountable as the challenge of raising children can sometime be a distraction to serving outside the family unit.
Before directing Saved 2 Serve, the couple spent the prior year leading a small group. “We were never responsible for the wellness of the class as we are now,” she said. “Directing has given us a chance to know our classmates better and to let them know, ‘Hey, I’ve been praying for you,” she said.
Rhett Dotson began filling in time to time as his regular Life Bible Study teacher needed time to prepare for upcoming lesson series. “I usually taught on something I was passionate about,” he said. “I got great feedback and began teaching more often.” He attended Midnight Madness, a training opportunity for Life Bible Study leadership, and received some valuable resources he didn’t know were available for part-time teachers.
“Midnight Madness offered me good principles for leading a class,” said Rhett. “I learned how to ask the right questions and got an understanding of the resources available for teachers.”
Retaining more of the lessons of the Bible when teaching rather than being a passive listener is a most often quoted benefit. “Bible principles become ingrained in your heart when preparing a lesson,” he says. “You get a much deeper insight into the Word when you have to deliver it to others.”
Rhett encourages others to attend Midnight Madness for their own personal development. “You never know when you might be in a situation of leading in a small group,” he says. “A small group is the place I developed a new appreciation for the Word of God.
Dena Lee always wanted to teach the Bible, but thought she didn’t know enough. “My teaching is a case of God equipping the called, not calling the equipped,” said Dena. She was involved in a singles class and became co-director, and got her first teaching assignment in a single ladies’ class after Women’s Ministry Director Carolyn O’Neal began encouraging her. In 2002, she filled in for Dayspring, a women’s class, for a year after the teacher stepped down. She’s been there ever since.
Knowing your spiritual gifting is the first step in understanding God’s place and purpose, according to Dena. A free spiritual gift assessment is available for members to help point to their innate giftedness and a place of service. (The assessment is available online here.)
“I tell the women in my classes: you were created for a purpose,” said Dena. “It’s never too late to understand your purpose and to follow it. As long as you’re breathing, God’s not through with you.”
Midnight Madness is a free annual equipping opportunity for Life Bible Study leaders and workers from every campus and age group at Houston’s First. The evening is also open to anyone who wants to get involved in the Life Bible Study ministry. Midnight Madness takes place on Fri, Jan 29, from 5:30p-midnight at The Loop Campus. Visit the Midnight Madness page for the full schedule, review the list of speakers and topics, and to register.