Saturday, February 26, 2005

Getting over Fear in Teaching

There are three ways to get over fear in teaching situations:

1. Keep perspective: this is the Lord's business, and you are His tool
2. Remember that the students want to like you
3. Be prepared

Let me talk more about #2, because it's often the one that helps teachers the most.

Psychological research has shown that audiences really want to like the speaker. They feel much better about being there in the first place.

You can help your students like you by having a conversation with them, rather than speaking "at" them as if they were distant alien beings. Use words, tempo, and story that are authentically you and come from your own experiences. Your tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact convey a sense of how important the students are to you.
Is EPIC in our future?

If you're interested in communication and information sharing trends, then watch this 8 minutes flash movie and prayerfully meditate on the implications.

The movie is fictional, but a number of people argue the trends are real. I'm not sure EPIC will exist by 2014, or what fraction of the planet's population would be able to use it.

Does it remind you of the Tower of Babel? How would it change our communication strategies for the Gospel? I think tell-a-person is still going to be the most effective communication means, because the premium on real relationships only increases in a world that includes EPIC.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Quote of the Month

"Your opinion and 27 cents will get you a refill at Dairy Queen. Don't give people your opinion. Give them the Word of God."

-- Neil Cassata, a "cowboy minister" in Groesbeck, Texas

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Pressing On

It's common for teachers to get discouraged, bogged down, and stalled. That's one reason why you need to be systematically in the Word and prayer, and organize a prayer team for your teaching ministry.

Teaching is hard work. Relish in this, rather than moan or brag about it. It's the calling you have received. It requires persistence to press on, even when obstacles come up.

Consider the friends of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-5.

" A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

They had faith that Jesus would heal the man. (v 5) But they were not deterred by a unmoving crowd! They pressed on and found another way to connect the power of the Jesus with the person who needed it. That's what you do as a Bible teacher.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Timing of Change

Great quote from John Maxwell: "When it comes to change, there are three seasons of timing: People change when they hurt enough that they have to, when they learn enough that they want to, and when they receive enough that they are able to."
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Readers and Listeners

People are wired differently for learning. Some of your students will learn much faster by reading than by listening, others really need to listen rather than read. Therefore I recommend you create some form of handout for your classes, to give people support for their listening, and to give some reading material for those who like to read. Plus, in this video-saturated generation, a handout can help keep focus on the lesson.

Seems obvious, but we need to do things consistently well.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


John Piper has written a fascinating biography article about Athanasius -- worth the time. Pastor Piper compiled a few lessons from the life of Athanasius. #6 jolted me out of my chair:

6. Don’t aim to preach only in categories of thought that can be readily understood by this generation. Aim at creating biblical categories of thought that are not present.

I'll be chewing on this thought for a while.

By the way, dear teacher, if you haven't been subscribing to John Piper's sermons and writings by email, you should sign up. This is terrific, mind-challenging and heart-stocking stuff.
Sticky Message --> Changed Lives

Terry Storch writes about the power of the message of the Gospel at his church, and the need for good communication to help people respond to the message:

"The Fellowship Epidemic- Ed [senior pastor] is God's messenger. You will hear Ed say that if the message is boring don't blame God, blame the communicator. Ed works very, very hard at his communication and spends almost all of his time focused on honing and improving his communication. Why? The messenger is what makes The Gospel spread. Next, the content. The content is important. God's word... it does not get much better than that. But that is not all. You can not get by with just opening your Bible and expect it to "just work". Why? Well, keep reading... the quality must be at a level that it creates "stickiness". Stickiness will make it memorable, and if it is so memorable it can create change. Life Change! So sticky that the life changing story of Jesus Christ can truly evoke a decision of life change."

What are you doing to increase the quality of your teaching so your key points are "sticky" and lives are changed?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Fundamental Building Blocks for a Great Lesson

Sturdy, useful buildings need a good foundation. Sturdy, useful Bible study lessons are built on the foundation of the Word and prayer. But what do you build on this foundation? What fundamental elements go into a great lesson?

I’m going to lay out a completely non-secret plan that I use all the time. Almost every lesson I’ve given in over twenty years of teaching is crafted on this plan. It’s repeatable. It’s durable. It works.

Begin with a good “hook” to bring people into the lesson, get them hungry for the big meal ahead, and ready for some life-change application to come.

A small number of focus points
My grandfather used to say, "If you don't want people to learn anything, try to teach them everything." (I doubt he originated this idea.) I’m sure you’ve been in a situation, maybe a high school or college class, where the teacher just piled on the content and you came away with…nothing. Your brain just shut down when it was overwhelmed. Good teachers work with human psychological realities, not against them -- pick fewer focus points and drill them home.

How many is the right number? That depends on your class. Limit yourself with one to three, my dear teacher, hold yourself in! If there are more items, then pick three for emphasis and only highlight the others. You aren’t going to exhaust the depth of Scripture in any lesson, so there’s no cause to feel badly about not covering it all.

You want to engage the class to discover these focus points by asking good questions. Where possible, illustrate these focus points by stories, props, and metaphors.

Life Application
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The revealed Word of God will have an impact on us, and not return empty to the Speaker. (Isaiah 55:11) Identify at least one life application messages for your students. Great Bible teachers teach for changed lives, not just piling on head knowledge that does not also affect our hearts and actions.

Wrap up the package and make it easy to take home – or take to heart. This is often a quick summary with a final challenge to further growth in Christ. Sometimes an open-ended question or thought for reflection through the week.

That’s it. Opener, small number of focus points, life application, and closer.

When it’s done right, my students didn’t identify the different building blocks – they just flowed and worked together. But every student should have one or two take-aways that Christ can use to change their life. They don’t leave saying, “Wow, wasn’t Glenn’s opener great today? Best hook he’s had for months.” They leave thinking about the application, or at least some new understanding of biblical truth.

Friday, February 11, 2005

"Whew, That's Over!" -- Not

Have you ever finished teaching a class and said to yourself, "Whew, that's over!" ? Or heard someone else say it with gratitude?

Your job as a teacher is not over when the formal part of class is done.

Let me repeat that again: Your job as a teacher is not over when the formal part of class is done.

Your job now is to continue praying for your students, these dear souls whom the Lord has entrusted to you in some measure. Pray that their lives would be changed as they discover new life in Christ. Pray that the Spirit would continue to prick their conscience and reveal to them the way they should go. Ask the Lord to make plain the good works He prepared in advance for them to do. Pray that the key points of your lesson would have lasting impact in their lives. Pray that they would in turn teach these things to others around them.

Let's say that you're teaching an adult class each week. Your students might be getting 50 hours of instruction and discussion and group prayer time per year. (Some watch more TV than that in 2 weeks.) That's it.

Your prayers, dear teachers, will amplify the effects of those 50 hours, by the powerful working of God in their lives. Keep on praying for all the saints!
Do We Need More Bible Study Guides?

My answer is yes -- LOTS more -- but not the printed kind.

I counted eight (eight!) different study guides for Ephesians at a local Christian bookstore. The store has a whole section devoted to these materials, with cases and cases in the back room. There are booklets, books, videos, DVDs, workbooks, and laminated summary sheets. The sales clerk excitedly pointed out their growing collection of Spanish-language translations from the bigger publishing groups.

I'm grateful that the Lord has gifted those who created these and those who can mass-produce them.

But we need Bible study guides of a different kind -- qualified teachers capable and willing to teach the Word of God. My dream is to see the Lord raise up a new generation of teachers who will wrestle with the Word directly -- no outward props -- and bring teaching that meets the precise needs of a class at a particular time. Teachers need to bathe their study in prayer and ask the Lord of Heaven to move hearts and minds to greater understanding and application of the truth.

All these study guides will sit on shelves useless unless people step forward and use them effectively. All these outward props can go away.

Yes, we need lots more Bible study guides, but of the redeemed people kind.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Pump up the volume!

I've written before about the need to speak loudly and clearly. This is a personal area I need to work on! Cliff Atkinson suggests doubling the amount of enthusiasm you think you should have in a presentation -- exaggerate your tone, stresses, and pauses. Overcome your resistance to greater inflection because you don't want to come across as "fake" or "cheesy." This is part of the difference between a conversation and a presentation -- you have to increase the energy and volume to overcome the greater distance between you and the listener(s).

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Salty Teaching

Jesus was tough and tender. The strong Biblical examples of the prophets and apostles should guide our teaching. Teachers in the Church, men or women, young or old, need to be tough and tender, bold and gentle, salty and illuminating. (My other blog, Be Bold, Be Gentle, is about fleshing out this theme as husbands and fathers.)

Doug Giles has a challenging column today, "Got Salt?" An excerpt:

To be a faithful salt dispenser for Christ, you and I must have the
resilient thick hide and attitude of a bulldog to maintain faithfulness to His
call, even, or especially, when it means saying that which might cause

My ClashPoint is this: Man … do we need a group of believers
who are not men-pleasers and who do not buckle to the demands of Generation Duh.
When Christians, especially ministers, cease to be piquant provocateurs, then
the villainous will fill the vacuum. Yes, I blame our world’s problems on the
tame, timid, and tepid religious person who will not stand for what he
supposedly believes when it means there might be conflict.

I do not blame Playboy, Las Vegas, the gay agenda, Air America, or whomever for our societal
tooth decay. I blame the "righteous" ones who will not shamelessly proclaim
truth in such a way that it is persuasive, provocative and preserving. Yes,
churches that do not seriously stand for truth commit institutional suicide and
effectively marginalize themselves, rather than being the salt-shaking organisms
God has called them to be.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Bible Atlas

EBible Teacher makes a nice collection of Bible maps and templates available for free, as well as many tips for using PowerPoint effectively while preaching and teaching. Recommended.