I was co-leading the 1st 13 chapters of 1 Corinthians (we just barely skimmed Chapter 7, since none of our students are married), and I felt that pieces of Paul's writing went deeper into my heart and challenged me as I went through the material a second time, and this time as a teacher. It's kind of funny how much you learn teaching. But it was the students in our group who brought the text to life more than anything.
We had this wonderful group of 9 students (there they are happily manuscripting) and the group was absolutely perfect for a study on 1 Corinthians because of the diversity of students we had. We had 6 Cal Poly students, all of whom are older leaders, a student with a mental handicap from CSU Bakersfield, a student from Great Basin College in Elko, NV, and a pastor from Elko who just takes classes for fun and helps out with InterVarsity.
It would seem like such a random group of students would be a challenge for teaching in terms of cohesiveness, and the worry would be that the non-Cal Poly people would be left out, and that the student with the mental handicap would be difficult to deal with. And as we were reading 1 Corinthians, that seems to be exactly what the church in Corinth was doing- dividing and sticking with who they liked best and leaving out the poor, and lording it over one another.
But this group did exactly the opposite. The were welcoming and accepting of one another, and came in with humble attitudes ready to learn from everyone else. Having an older pastor in our group with incredible life experience and a perspective that college students often miss was an huge blessing, and not to mention that he was a virtual Greek dictionary. His humility was amazing, and at the end of the week when we affirmed each other, one of the students, Brian, said that he wanted to be like Pastor Dan when he got older and be willing to spend a week with a bunch of college students. Pastor Dan said he had the option of going to Spring Break Camp or going to a Pastor's conference in the fall, and he decided to come to camp because "honestly, this is more encouraging".
Having a student with a mental handicap not only helped the other students (especially Cal Poly) get out of their comfort zones, but her insight in the class was incredible. Although at times it was difficult, her presence made the things the church at Corinth was struggling with become very real, and I think the students handled it way better than the Corinthians did. The students loved her well, and as my co-leader Paul said, her communication issues are on the surface for everyone to see. We all have communication issues, but ours are just hidden. We're not so different from her, and actually we have a lot to learn from her.
The students were really vulnerable with how they were interacting with the text and the application questions we gave them, and what was amazing was the student who led the way in vulnerability was Laura, the student from Great Basin who knew no one else in the group except a Pastor. Her honest expression of what she was struggling with helped all the other students to be vulnerable the rest of the week.
I learned a lot about the way the church is supposed to love and care for one another, and everyone in the class saw how far we in the church often act like the Corinthians and fall short of our call to become slaves for each other. We learned to give up our entitlements to the things we think we need or enjoy in our lives for the sake of others, and that the spiritual gifts we are to strive for are not necessarily the ones we feel gifted in, but the ones that the church most needs at the time.
I saw the students love each other well. Paul would have been proud.