I love being a professor. It’s such a gift from God. It’s what he made me to do, though he quite patiently took four decades to form and fashion me for its rigors and requirements! Thirty years of formal education as a student, though, doesn’t prepare a man or woman for all the various responsibilities that classroom teaching and other faculty work entails. There are many components of the job, the vocation, that one learns along the way by actually doing it. Though I’d always been a “scholarly” person, it really wasn’t until I was reading Desiring God (for the second time) in 1999 that it occurred to me that loving others in the way I appreciate being loved (i.e. “my neighbor as myself”) might mean being a full-time instructor of things I love to be taught, to learn about and understand. I cut my teeth as a classroom teacher during five semesters at the Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary (2003-2005). I also had the tremendous privilege of being a teaching assistant at Boston University during my PhD program there. What a delight it’s been to spend the past eight years growing in professional experience and capacity at Bethlehem College & Seminary.
I thought you might appreciate an “inside look” at the variegated endeavors of a full-time professor. Your generosity to Bethlehem College & Seminary enables me, and my colleagues here, to serve and thrive in such a role at such a strategic institution.
Here are some of the things I do that you probably expect me to mention. Remember that I note these things as things I enjoy doing. I really do!
- Constructing syllabi: this is a kind of instruction, i.e. assigning information and experiences;
- Organizing class time: i.e. planning the “order of service,” from a devotional and opening prayer, to review of the readings for the day, to application questions for consideration, to student presentations, to guest missionary speakers to round out the period often;
- Guiding discussions: directing the flow, providing input and corrections, and always striving for good pedagogy along the way;
- Grading assignments: providing good and helpful feedback, which is a kind of pastoral work (these texts are good guides for graders: Micah 6:8; 1 Thes. 5:14);
- Emailing students: networking, scheduling events, noting opportunities for them to learn and serve, and pointing out things I see in the media that connect with course material;
- Advising students: informally in spontaneous conversations (in the hallways and after classes) and formally in scheduled meetings (in my office, a coffee shop, or our home) to help them plan their future well in the face of a myriad of good options, usually;
- Mentoring future pastors and scholars: in the classroom and out, especially collaborating with Teaching Assistants, having students lead classroom devotions and make other presentations, and meeting regularly with a few specific students each semester to hear what they are going through and pray with them (this of course looks different with different students depending upon their personalities and needs, as well as whether they are in the seminary or college, and whether they are female or male students).
Here are some of the lesser known things, perhaps. Remember that I note these things as things I enjoy doing. I really do!
- Writing recommendations: supporting the next step or “launch” of students by recommending them (when appropriate) to a graduate school program or a pastoral search committee;
- Committee work (there is wisdom and security in many advisors [Prov. 11:14; 15:22]): helping review and improve programs, assess applicants (to the college, to the seminary, and since we’ve been accredited, international MDiv students [something I’m very thankful for]), and some of us are on hiring committees;
- Collegiality: relationships and collaboration with colleagues as a complementary team is fostered by monthly discussions over lunch together and passing around things we’re writing for the feedback of others; also, the academic fellowship of the historical, theological, and missiological guilds are maintained by annual professional society meetings where old friends and former doctoral program cohort-mates who teach at other schools can be seen and enjoyed;
- Professional development: this includes guild meetings where presentations are heard, but also includes other kinds of study and keeping up with what’s being published and done in one’s field (Bethlehem generously provides each full-time faculty member an annual fund from which we can draw for the purchase of books and conference expenses for this purpose);
- Representing the school: this is done via the publication of books and journal articles, a social media presence (especially at DesiringGod.org), pulpit-fill in local churches, and conference attendance (both academic conferences and “churchly” conferences, sometimes as a keynote speaker, seminar leader, or panel discussion member);
- Providing counsel: we have the opportunity at Bethlehem to advise leaders of the church in areas of our specialty, which for me means our Global Outreach Department, mostly.
Thanks again for your ongoing financial and prayer support of our labors here. To be a professor to the glory of God and the good of his church is a calling above and beyond what I’d ever asked or imagined until about fifteen years ago. It’s certainly a dream and prayer come true, the endpoint of a long journey of ministry preparation and the daily matrix for my own spiritual formation and Christian discipleship.
Travis L. Myers
Assistant Professor of Church History and Mission Studies
- Ask God to bless our upcoming visit by a team from the Association for Biblical Higher Education, who will assess us regarding our application for another ten years of accreditation.
- Ask God to provide our students good health, energy, curiosity, and hope to get them through the second half of this second semester of the academic year.
- Ask God to give pastoral wisdom and insight to our third year MDiv cohort at the 9Marks “Weekender” in Washington, D.C. and to make things go well for the wives and children at home without them for their six days away.
- Thank God for the success of our new house system in the college which has provided more and better opportunities for student community and leadership development.