It seemed like a good idea. As a part-time local pastor going to seminary full-time, I thought, “I could definitely use some extra cash.” I began the process of becoming a substitute teacher. It seemed like it would be easy enough. I would get called in every so often and get paid to spend the day with students. The process was simple, I sent in an application and got fingerprinted. It was not very long into the school year when I got my first call to our local grade school. I spent that first day teaching junior high math. Soon after that I got called to the town where our local students go to high school. I truly enjoyed working there. I formed an instant rapport with the students and got to know a majority of them. Toward the end of the school year, I had the opportunity to teach high school Spanish on a daily basis for several months to cover a maternity leave. The daily interaction with the students helped to take the relationships deeper. Day after day, I began to see them in a different light. They were not just pupils that I was given charge over, they were so much more. They were beloved children of God, many of whom had deep struggles, burdens, pains. Many were troubled or came from troubled families. I began to see what started as a side job for extra cash as a ministry. I began praying over the halls as I walked in each morning, that God would give each student exactly what they needed; that God would equip me to perhaps be the one that could help a student have an encounter with God. Slowly but surely, students began sharing with me. Sharing about life, struggles, deep questions that they desperately needed answered. I even found myself in a position to be in ministry with other faculty members.
I began to have a burden for that small town, for the families there. I shared that burden and sense of ministry there with my District Superintendent. As it turned out, he shared my burden for that town. His burden began several years earlier as he drove through that town on his way to another church and began to feel that it was in need of something from God. We talked together and began to formulate a plan for extending more effective ministry there. The next thing I knew, I was meeting with Mike Crawford and the plan became more concrete. As of July 1, my appointment was expanded to include planting a new Church in that town.
The funny thing about God is that I never even entertained the idea that substitute teaching could become a ministry. The original concept has become one of the most vital pieces of my ministry and I will continue to substitute.
If you are looking for an avenue to deepen your ministry, especially when it comes to young people in your community, I strongly encourage you to pursue substitute teaching. All you need is a Bachelor’s degree and $30. More information can be found at http://www.isbe.state.il.us/certification/html/substitute.htm.