TIMELESS TRUTH: An Essential Guide for Teaching the Faith
TIMELESS TRUTH: An Essential Guide for Teaching the Faith. By Pete Jurchen. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2018. 120 pages. $0.00 (Free)
Timeless Truth: An Essential Guide for Teaching the Faith is exactly the kind of book I wish was available to me when I was at the seminary taking the class “Pastor as Educator.” In this book, Pete Jurchen guides the reader (presumably an educator of the faith) through helpful approaches toward teaching the faith to others. He takes the monumental task of education and breaks it down. He does not break it down according to his whims, but according to current research and trends in the world of education theory today.
However, before you raise your eyebrows in suspicion at the next new-fangled teaching technique, let me be clear that Pete Jurchen lets Luther’s Small Catechism drive the bus, and he really isn’t hopping on some flash-in-the-pan pedagogical bandwagon anyway. This is a well-researched book. Ultimately, he has taken concepts gleaned from the broad field of education theory, organized them in a helpful format, and presented them all to the uninitiated reader to help said reader evaluate, plan, and execute their own catechetical programs.
Jurchen is refreshingly honest about the challenges of congregational catechetical instruction. He speaks as one who has been there and done that. He anticipates objections, articulates fears, and answers questions. Jurchen is a realist. Rather than joining the chorus of laments about how confirmation instruction is difficult because of all the factors working against the educator (time, conflicting schedules, lack of parental support, etc), Jurchen reminds the reader that we still have a job to do in spite of those challenges, so let’s make the most of the time that we have.
The book itself is divided into eight chapters, many of which seek to answer questions such as, “What do I want my learners to know and be able to do?” (Chapter 4) and “How will I know if my learners actually learned anything?” (Chapter 5). These are the kinds of questions educators should be asking. If you’re asking these kinds of questions, that then means you’re planning ahead, and that’s the biggest take away of this entire book. Have a plan!
This book advocates for a “spiral approach” to teaching the timeless truth of God’s Word. A spiral approach to teaching is simple. Rather than chronologically moving from one point on to the next, you instead circle around the most important points again and again. Jurchen identifies four “timeless truths” and then supplies five angles that you can take in spiraling around them. Each angle begins with “con” to make for a nice mnemonic device: content, context, confession, consideration, and connection. After providing these fives angles for us to consider approaching a timeless truth, Jurchen then speaks of all the different ways that we can get there and assess whether we’ve accomplished anything or not.
I particularly appreciated this book for its many ideas. Not only does it hone my own approach to education, but it also gave me a ton of other ideas that I can try to incorporate into my classes in the future. If you’re like me, you’re coming toward the tail end of confirmation instruction. Now is the perfect time to read this book, as you can evaluate what you’ve done this year, and then use the entire summer to prepare for next year.
My one major objection to this book is about the “angle” of “confession.” When this “angle” is first introduced, the text reads, “Can your learners take a step back and confirm the timeless truth in relationship to other confessions of truth?” (p.26). This same concept (and verbiage) comes up again and again and again. I don’t like it because as it’s worded, it tacitly suggests that other worldviews are “truth.” It literally calls them “other confessions of truth.” The problem of course, is that Islam is not a confession of truth, nor is humanism, secularism, Mormonism, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The surrounding context of these paragraphs makes it clear that Jurchen doesn’t actually believe that competing worldviews are confessing the “truth” but the problem remains: false worldviews are called “confessions of truth” in this book. It’s so uncharacteristic of this book that I wonder if maybe I’m just misunderstanding what he’s saying…but I don’t think so. If so, I hope he or someone else can clarify where I’ve misunderstood the point.
I was given a free copy of this book from a CPH booth at our most recent district convention. I was unable to find a place where this book could be ordered in a hard copy format from CPH. However, an e-reader version of this book is offered for free here.
I’m currently serving as a vicarage supervisor, and though I pride myself on being a good teacher, one thing that has been made quite clear to me is that I struggle mightily to teach my vicar how to teach. After only forty pages into this book, I happily texted my vicar and informed him that this book Timeless Truth will help him in a way that I have been unable to do so thus far.
This is a great resource. And at the cost of $0.00, there’s no excuse for you not to have it.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota.