Christianity in the ClassroomElizabeth Park
Almost fourteen years ago, God called Michael Mickens away from the world of insurance and into the field of education. “Teaching runs in my family, but I never thought initially I would be a teacher, especially middle school or high school level. I always thought maybe one day I’d be a college professor.” But God had different plans. In December of 2005, he reflects, “I felt God telling me it was time to move on to another career. I didn’t have any job prospects on the horizon. A lot of family members thought it was crazy. But I felt God telling me it was time to leave and to trust Him.”
A month after leaving his job, his wife, Kewanna, heard about a business education teaching position opening for the next year in the school where she taught. She told him, “Maybe God is leading you this way. It’s your skill set and requires someone with a business background.” Prayerfully, Michael pursued this path, gaining experience as a substitute teacher that spring, and then applied for and accepted the business education position that summer. Now, he is in his thirteenth year at Oak Grove High School as the Business Education and Marketing Career Technical Teacher. Looking back, he says, “That leap of faith paid off. I have been thoroughly blessed in being here.”
His daily duties consist of teaching a wide variety of subjects, such as accounting, personal finance, business applications, management principles, career preparedness, and more. While he understands the value of this material for his students, he also views his job as an avenue for sharing his faith in Christ. He treasures the opportunity he has to influence kids in their formative years. “I have this article that I always I keep by my desk about evangelism from Barna research. It says that if a person is not reached by 12-years-old, the odds of them being reached start to decline. I view that as I’m in a key time, with these kids in middle school and high school, and I want to be a good voice and a good influence to them.”
“I try to create a general atmosphere in my classroom that presents a different type of faith and presents a clear picture of Christianity. Your classroom is your domain and you set the tempo and feel. You try to teach the kids discipline and Godly characteristics that they may not be getting at home. You hope they can see what Christianity looks like to be lived out.” As a result of this, he’s had students come to him and say, “‘Mr. Mickens, what does the Bible say about this?’ or ‘How should I approach this?’”
God has even provided one-on-one opportunities for Michael to share the gospel with students. He remembers one student who shared his interest in comic books. “He wasn’t a Christian, so I tried to think through the best way I could reach him. There was one book I researched and it showed different superhero characteristics and certain attributes of Christ in that. The student appreciated me presenting the gospel as something he could receive and we had really good discussions on that.”
Another way he has been able to share Christ through his teaching position is through bible studies and First Priority. “One of the first things I did after I started my job was start a bible study in my class. That transitioned into me starting First Priority on the campus. Initially, I would teach, but then it got to the point where I was able to hand it off to the local pastors. That has been a blessing for the kids to come out on Tuesday morning and hear a rotation of the local pastors. Then if they want to get plugged in with a church, there is a natural follow-up.”
For a period of time, he and his wife taught in the same school and on the same hallway. They saw this as an opportunity to lead separate bible studies for students of the same gender, going through material such as “Every Young Woman’s Battle” and “Every Young Man’s Battle” to help the students understand biblical sexuality.
This area of purity and biblical sexuality is one way he mentions we can specifically pray for our students. He also says, “Peer pressure in middle school is really hard. Even for our Christian students, a lot of times they know what is right and they’ve been taught what is right from their youth minister or senior pastor, but it can be hard for them to have the courage to be different and ok with that, even if they’re ostracized for following Christ.”
Reflecting on his calling in education to this point, he says, “God continuously teaches me patience. I’m always humbled that I need to be taught as well. My students teach me things and remind me that I need to have the spirit of a learner. If I teach every day, then I can also receive.”
Michael Mickens is married to Kewanna. They have two daughters, Kezia (12) and Bethany (10). They have been members of Brook Hills for 6 years and are both involved in our Student Ministry. Michael also serves as an elder.