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BPC professor guides minds, hearts in college,
Sunday School classes
By Kelley M. Arnold
Director of News and Public Information
|Professor Vance Rhoades displays his collection of Our Daily Bread, a source of inspiration in his life and his calling.
MOUNT VERNON—Professor Vance Rhoades’ teaching philosophy extends from the classroom at Brewton-Parker College during the weekday to the “Pairs and Spares” classroom at First Baptist Church of Mount Vernon every Sunday.
“Faith without works is dead and knowledge without application is useless,” he says.
He’s not the first to teach this. In the Bible, James is concerned about the reader’s spiritual health as he or she attempts to integrate their faith with everyday life; and today Rhoades encourages each of his students to fulfill this truth, whether they are in the college or church setting.
“My greatest reward is not during the moment of instruction but when a student comes back and lets me know that (his or her) application of what I’ve taught them has made a difference in their life,” Rhoades says.
Rhoades, 50, has been a member of the Brewton-Parker faculty since he was 23. He is currently an associate professor of psychology and counseling.
“That’s very young to be a college professor, 23. I was the most saturated shade of green,” he says with a smile. “In the first class I taught, I was younger than some of my students. My wife says that one of the reasons I was hired was because I was balding up top then and they figured I was older than I really was.”
In 1988, Rhoades was given the opportunity to teach in another learning environment – the Sunday school classroom.
“The leaders of the adult Sunday School class I was in came to me one Sunday morning after class and said, ‘We’ve been praying about it and we think the Lord’s leading us to ask you to lead this class’,” Rhoades said. “I was floored. I was saved when I was 11 but I thought, ‘I don’t know enough to teach!’ And we did something un-Baptist, we skipped the worship service and just sat in the classroom and prayed and talked about it. I told them they needed someone with a lot more years experience, and they said, ‘No, one of the things we have noticed is you listen to what people are saying in Sunday School and make wise Biblical comments and life applications. That’s what makes the best teacher.’ They told me to try it for a year and if I felt led to stop then that would be fine. That was in 1988, and I’m still teaching the Pairs and Spares class. It will be 19 years the first weekend of October.”
The class caters to adults, whether single or couples, and teaches out of the Life Answers series, a popular Baptist workbook guide for Sunday school teachers. The class has gone up and down in size over the years.
“We’ve had as little as two, just me and one other person, to about 50 people in the class. And it rotates too, as to the ratio of singles and couples. It’s amazing to see how God works.”
He also teaches Sunday School out of the non-denominational devotional, Our Daily Bread. In fact, he has collected almost every one of the mini-catalog devotionals over the last 20 years and has each of the publication topic series cataloged in a file according to their Bible chapter and verse! He keeps the file with him in his office and for those who ask, he’s willing to share.
“I don’t have every chapter and verse, but I have most of them,” he adds with another warm smile.
Rhoades, who says that he’s “a teacher by heart” and “by calling”, doesn’t always call himself a teacher either.
“I call myself a facilitator,” he said. “I leave it up to the individual to understand what God wants them to do with the knowledge they are receiving.”
And he encourages all his students to seek God’s wisdom in their lives, whether he’s teaching child psychology or the Gospel.
“I think the Lord really does want me at a small, Christian college,” he adds. “I’m not going to compromise my principles and I have the freedom to say some things here I would not have in secular colleges. I like to bring the principles of Christ to the subject that I’m teaching. My belief is all knowledge starts with Christ, thus the process of education and trusting God, they merge and marry perfectly.”
He and his wife, Paula, live in Vidalia. Both their children are attending college; their daughter, Holly, is in her first semester at Georgia Southern and their son, William, is in his final semester at Mercer University.