Called to Teach by William Yount

Yount, William R. Called to Teach: An introduction to the ministry of Teaching. Nashville, Tenn,   B&H Publishing Group, 1999.

Through his book, Called to Teach: An introduction to the ministry of Teaching, Dr. William Yount seeks to bring his readers to a “clearer understanding of how to teach, a deeper conviction for teaching ministry, and confidence that [the reader] possess the skills to make it happen” (x-xi). This may be a tall order for a book subtitled, An introduction; however, Yount does succeed in providing solid how-to material, a strong introduction to teaching ministry, and enough to leave the reader excited to try. His experience and expertise are present on nearly every page and his style is such that his arguments are accessible as well as convincing. Called to Teach serves as a great introduction to teaching, a guide for newer teachers, and a jolt back to something exciting for seasoned instructors.

In four parts, Yount moves through the overarching roles of the teacher. He starts with whom the teacher is in Part One, titled, “The Teacher as Person.” Opening with the Triad of Teaching, Yount introduces a textbook discussion; but before the reader can get lost in the linear nature of the thinking, feeling, and doing, the reader is challenged with the problematic methods many teachers. Yount argues that compartmentalizing the rational, emotional, and behavioral areas of learning open the door to grave weaknesses and is often is a disjointed approach (14-15). “The answer to the dilemma,” Yount writes, “is to integrate the rational, emotional, and behavioral into a single teaching style that communicates concepts clearly, warms students personally, and engages students productively” (15). This global model becomes the foundation for the remainder of the book.

As Yount builds upon his foundation he starts with the heart and motivation of the teacher. Providing many examples, he demonstrates that most poor teaching is do to a lack of maturity and proper motivation. “Mature teachers see teaching as a mission;” argues Yount, “The mission is greater than reading and lecturing and answering questions—it is to stimulate a desire for excellence, first in the subject at hand, but beyond that, in life itself” (37). Therefore, much of Yount’s opening two chapters deal with the teacher rather than the classroom environment, teaching style, or how-to material for instruction.

Moving into the second part of his book, “The Teacher as Instructor,” Yount shifts from the conceptual matters of teaching and the internal matters of the teacher toward the actual task of teaching. Idea after idea are shared in a structured approach that keeps each idea and subsequent example framed in clusters of concepts, demonstrating the value of one of Yount’s suggested formats (50). It is this section where most of the introductory matter of teaching is found and it is also this section that would likely be most helpful to the Sunday school and formal teacher alike. However, for those who need specific how-to material, Part Three, “The Teacher as Manager,” provides information on organizing the class, keeping order, and writing tests. Yount offers outlines and examples that could have an immediate impact upon the quality of the formal classroom. How to write good test questions and samples of the good, bad, and ugly serves as but one example. This section, however, will not likely be as helpful to the adult Sunday school teacher. The final part, “The Teacher as Minister” brings the entire endeavor into greater spiritual thinking.

Yount provides an excellent example of his approach and style through the way his book is written. For example, he argues, “As you gather material for your course, you will find numerous cross references—common essentials among the endless words—that reflect the structure of your subject. These are the elements worth talking about because they form the skeleton on which all the other words hang” (47). Called to Teach offers a fantastic skeleton of ideas without getting overly bogged down in the various theories and mechanics of teaching. He gives concepts as well as offering an introduction to the various ideas and theories. Yount also blends his whole-part, sequential, and relevance organizational ideas through out the book (49-50). He has a clear roadmap, leaving the reader aware of the destination but interested in the journey (47-54). And his personal experience offers engaging examples that allow the reader to warm up to Yount as a teacher.

One weakness of Called to Teach is Yount’s handling of Scripture. Very little of his book, if any, was driven by God’s Word but instead seemed to be an after-the-fact add-on. If all the scriptural references were removed, with exception to the final section about the teacher as an evangelist, the book would work extremely well in the secular world. Many of the verses quoted were tacked on to further make the point rather than leading the idea. This paragraph from page 11 serves as but one example,
One last word on humor. Be sure that the humor is positive and uplifting. Avoid crude or vulgar jokes, stories with a double meaning, and even lighthearted pranks or gags. Humor is wrong when it denigrates others or demeans the sacred task at hand. “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4).
Rather than simply tacking on the passage as if to spiritualize the point, a simple rewrite could have signaled that God’s Word was the leading reason for the argument. This paragraph could have opened with something such as, “Adhering to Paul’s instruction, ‘Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or course joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving’ (Eph 5:4), be sure that humor is positive and uplifting.” In addition, some of the Scripture used is taken out of context. In these cases, Yount may have been better off to avoid using the Scripture all together.

Another difficulty of Called to Teach is the feeling of screeching breaks when the reader hits Part Three. Part Two is helpful to anyone teaching in nearly any formal environment. Part Three however, is a rather mechanical manual on class design, testing, and keeping young people or those required to attend the class under control. This creates a lurch that leaves the reader suddenly feeling less excited about the ministry of teaching. The material of Part Three is very helpful but a strong signal of the coming shift may have removed this awkward transition. Another idea may have been to add two sections at the end: one for the Sunday school teacher and one for the formal classroom teacher. With an introduction to each section alerting the reader what was ahead, the hard shift in tone and structure could have been avoided and the excitement of the new teacher maintained.

An additional section on teaching outside the classroom could have been added as well. Much of Part One and Part Two could be incorporated into an out-of-the-box format for the father trying to find ways to teach his children, the camp counselor desiring to teach as they go, or any other non-traditional format. This section might have greatly enhanced Called to Teach and provided additional thinking on what it is to teach and disciple those the teacher is called to serve, even if outside of a formal class setting.

Shortcoming aside, Called to Teach is an excellent introductory book on the topic of teaching. It is exciting, flows well, and is enjoyable to read. Sunday school leaders as well as formal academic teachers could greatly benefit from Yount’s book.

* This post comes from portions of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.  ** Purchases from this website help support this ministry.