Friday, March 31, 2006
Bible teaching is hard work, and our crummy enemy seeks to discourage us. Yesterday I received this email message from a teacher:
"Just want to send a note to you, to thank you for your [encouraging email]. I must admit that after I completed teaching Bible Study last night I was a little discouraged. The church which I am a member & Elder of is a Outreach Ministry and some of the members just don't take part in Bible Study. Therefore, I have to take care of all of the following: Prepare the Church, Drive the Van to pick up people that want to come to class. Teach the class, Close the Church, Run the Van Route to take the people back home. Return the Van to the church then head home. So as I was on my way home last night that's when discouragement tried to creep in. But; in my studies I have read where other men of God, have stated that discouragement can try to creep in when you are tired. So I was able to refocus and get back to studying for next weeks class. But your e-mail today really blessed me."
I'm trying to support and encourage Bible teachers wherever and whenever I can. Let me challenge you to do the same. Is there a another teacher you know who could use a thank you, a reminder of God's faithfulness to them, a testimony to how much their ministry means to the Church?
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I hear frequently from Bible teachers frustrated that their students can't tolerate more than a few minutes of class without fidgeting (including the adults!), and can't seem to absorb more details than what bullet points provide.
I'd first look at how the teacher is teaching. Make sure your teaching is dynamic, interesting, and relevant. Engage your class with questions! This is NOT a sermon. See my books here and here if you need help.)
Also keep in mind that most cultures today are pushing NOISE and "multi-tasking," and though we're seemingly addicted to it (especially teens), it's bad for us. Our brains aren't built for it.
We can do more than one thing at a time, so long as only one of them requires conscious thought and monitoring. If we've practiced a task so much that it doesn't require cognitive planning (e.g., walking), then we can do something else at the same time. But no matter what people say or think, the data is clear -- you can't really multi-task well. In fact, some studies suggest that frequent multi-tasking makes you stupider!
So what does this have to do with teaching the Bible?
Have some empathy for your students -- they probably haven't been trained to study well by focusing on one thing at a time. Challenge them, but make some accommodations.
And for you? Stop trying to multitask. If you're praying, then just pray. Don't do four other things. If you're studying the Bible, get rid of every other distraction you can. Focus. If you are preparing your lesson, put away everything irrelevant to your task. Chunk your time and work at it. Ask the Lord to help you.
As you develop more capacity for focused, single-minded work, then you'll be a much better teacher -- and can help your students grow in this direction, too!
Here's a handy list to review if you want your students to hear what you are saying:
1. People don't care about the church database.
2. People aren't motivated by your need. They're motivated by theirs.
3. People don’t care about their next step until they know they're valued where they are now.
4. People don't know who you are, no matter how long you've been around the church.
5. People multi-task and can't remember squat.
6. People are turned off by lack of preparation.
7. People relate when you talk about them or people like them.
8. People feel left out and frustrated when you use insider's language.
9. People aren't impressed with your theological vocabulary and holy dialect.
10. People love stories not lectures.
[and the bonus item...]
11. People shut down when your message sounds like a scolding.
Now also keep in mind that people are not really listening to what you are saying. They are listening to the conversation(s) going on in their minds while you talk. Great teachers work at engaging as much of that internal conversation as possible!
Monday, March 27, 2006
I've been fairly impressed by what I see at www.sermoncentral.com --
* great free search for sermons by keyword, scripture, topic, and category
* a number of fine articles
* a database of 15,000 illustrations
* a "what's new" list
A lot is available free. You can try the "pro" version for free for 30 days. Recommended for teachers and preachers!
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I received a letter recently with this statement in it:
"You are working hard on preparing your lessons, so it is completely nailed down beforehand. This doesn't let the Holy Spirit work! You should instead just go into your class open to what the Spirit leads you to say. That's the right way to teach."
I had several points in my reply:
"This is taking a small view of how the Holy Spirit works. I believe that He is at work throughout all the preparation time, directing and shaping the content of the lesson, the questions I will use to get conversation going, and the life application. There is no doubt that we need to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit during class time -- and I coach teachers on that. But to suggest that teachers should not be seriously investing themselves into the material, prayerfully going over and over it, is to give less honor to the Lord, not more. God can and does steer teachers in the right paths."
Friday, March 17, 2006
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I'm running into potentially useful stuff all the time. Some things I like to print off, markup, and file. Other things I don't want to lose, but don't feel like filing as paper. So I email it into a webmail account so I can go back to later on.
One free tool you can use as a digital "catch-all" to save stuff that's potentially useful is a Google email account. Gmail, as it's called, has these virtues:
available from any internet access point
storing information is just emailing to yourself
you can categorize messages with labels if you like
you have the Google search engine to help you find things by keyword -- very powerful
you start with over 2 gigabytes of space
the interface is easy to use, and fast
they don't charge for the account
You can learn more about it at www.gmail.com .
The trick is to get an account. You have to be invited. I would be happy to invite you -- just send an email message with your name to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you an invitation.
Great Bible Teachers develop the habit of taking notes about what comes to mind -- so those wonderful ideas and insights aren't lost.
I bet you're like me and get a lot of good ideas in the shower. I'm happy to recommend a solution to you: a dive slate. It's a simple white board with a synthetic pencil that let's you write under water (or in this case, in the shower). Just $10, and a wonderful tool.
If the 8x10" is too large, try the smaller size.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
We read in Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV):
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
How much can you ask for, or imagine God doing in the classes or Bible study group that you're teaching?
Next question: how much do you ask for?
Try using Ephesians 1:15-19 as the basis for prayer for your students every day for a month.
"That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the Christians, I couldn't stop thanking God for you--every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask--ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory--to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him--endless energy, boundless strength! (The Message translation)
Give thanks for them! Ask God to bless them with intellectual understanding, passionate watching for Christ, and a greater knowledge of Jesus that changes their life! Ask the Lord to fill them with awe and amazement and joy.
Do this systematically and you will find that you yourself have new insights in how best to teach them, what their needs are, and how to engage them in dialogue that leads to life change.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Any time you're looking for more information about a Bible character, try using Google or other search engine, and search on
biography of ____
character study on _____
Usually you can find some good information this way. Check what you read against Scripture! Not everything passes close inspection.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Christian Book Distributors is running some terrific sales of key books I recommend for Bible teachers.
The best exhaustive concordance for NIV users -- $7 cheaper than usual
Vine's Expository Dictionary -- only $10 for a terrific resource
The wide-margin Bible I use -- $8 off the price I usually see it
Great Bible Teachers needs the right tools. You can do 90% of your teaching work with a simple Bible with a small concordance, but the remaining 10% is so much easier if you have the best tools. We're blessed to live in a time with some many study helps available. I've written a special free report about the best Bible study tools.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Since I've written books about Bible teaching, and coach others on how to be more effective, most people probably assume I never struggle at it.
Truth is, it's my calling, so it doesn't matter how much I struggle with it. And I find joy, even as the work is hard. But there are dry days in Scripture. There are times when I can't figure out how to create an introduction, or a life application, or make some topic sound the least bit interesting to a group of people. There are periods when I do not "feel" close to God.
This used to bother me. A lot. I was sure I wasn't spiritual enough, or mature enough, or there was some yet unconfessed sin I had missed. Or maybe I needed a new "formula" or approach that God would bless.
It's true that I wasn't mature enough. (And I'm still learning and growing.)
So now I just plow ahead with Bible study and prayer. I persist. I persevere. If I'm tired I will keep going on. I will catch myself from wandering around aimlessly, and refocus on Jesus. I am a teacher, called by God to be His tool to change lives. And He does work in me as He does work through me. Praise be to His Name!
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Pastor David Anderson reminds us not to settle for less than what God has called us to.
In Genesis 11, Terah, the father of Abram, sets out from Ur to go the land of Canaan. But along the way he settled in Haran and stopped short of his call to get to Canaan.
"Some of us have set out for the land of ministry, but we've settled for the land of church activity."
Let's ask ourselves today, teachers, "How am I doing? Where have I settled for less than God's calling?"
Pursue your teaching as ministry, with passion.
Friday, March 03, 2006
I highly recommend this book. Right now CBD is offering it for only $5.49 -- that's cheap enough to purchase a bunch and give them to all the Sunday School teachers in your church.
What Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know
By Elmer L. Towns
Whether you recruit Sunday school teachers---or have just been recruited---this essential guide gives teachers the needed confidence to joyfully embrace their role. A leading expert on Christian education, Towns offers a quick and easy guide to preparing and presenting a dynamic Bible lesson---even on short notice! Ideal for beginner and refresher training. 154 pages, softcover from Regal.