Friday, April 28, 2006
Kevin Nelstead, a missionary science teacher in Bucharest, reminds us about the limits of education:
"Education doesn’t always have a positive effect: 'What do you get when you educate sinners? The answer is simple enough—clever sinners. Knowledge, by itself, does not make people better; it may make them worse.' —Douglas Wilson, Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning
Education can be social engineering of the worst sort—think of education under the Nazis or the communists. But even in the Christian classroom, I need to be aware that I, a sinner, am teaching students who are sinners, and I need to constantly be in prayer (I need to work on this) and to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5 NIV)."
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Is there someone else who can use your literature, Sunday School materials, and books? You bet! I was delighted to read about Edwin Hodges Ministries, which has collected and sent over six million pounds of literature to needy brothers and sisters around the world! "Studies show that 80 percent of Christian believers outside of the U.S. have no Christian literature available to them."
"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." (2 Cor 9:11)
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
In the past year I've been working on stronger class endings. Lots of times we wind up asking -- with about 30 seconds of official time left -- "Any questions?" Of course we, and everyone in the room, secretly hope there are none, so we can go through the perfunctory prayer and get on to the next thing.
Here's a strategy that may help.
Plan for a strong ending statement -- a summary of the key points from the lesson, an application or assignment before the next class, or a challenge to godly living. This should be 90-120 seconds, tops.
Before you ask for questions, say something like, "I have something else to say to you, but let's take a few minutes here for questions and your comments."
Then end with your strong statement or challenge.
This strategy lets you have more control over what tone the class ends on. So many times the questions you get in class are not in line with the key ideas you want people to leave with.
Give it a try, and let me know how it works for your classes.
As we seek to be effective teachers of the Word, we need to keep our audience in mind. You, as the teacher, are not the most important person in the room -- the students are! And many (most?) times you will be teaching a mixed audience of believers and not-yet believers.
Erich Bridges reminds us that we should remember what life without Christ was like: "But I don’t want to forget what it’s like to be hopeless, because that’s the way most people in this world live. They search for light, but see only darkness. They yearn for hope, but don’t feel it. They sense deep down that God cares, but can’t find Him.All they know is the struggle to get through today -- and dread about the future."
This will help you as you teach, because you'll be able to better identify with your audience. You can also pray more effectively!
Monday, April 24, 2006
If you're recording the audio from your Sunday School class or small group Bible study, in order to share with others, please write me and let me know about your experience. I'm looking for good examples to share with the teachers who are interested in doing this. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
Saturday, April 22, 2006
There is a whole range of ideas about how to use notes while teaching, and how many. I thought there was some good suggestions and watch-outs in this article. Though written to preachers, the ideas would apply any time you are helping people understand the Word.
Get this article on teaching effectiveness from Howard Hendricks. Read it, study it, talk about it with your colleagues, and start putting these ideas into practice. Print it off for you files, and make a note on your calendar to read it again in a few months.
A Bible teacher in Tennessee corresponded with me and said he wants to improve his teaching so he's "right about the middle of the pack. I don't want to stick out as weird or really bad, just in the middle."
Great Bible teachers, the ones whom God is using to change lives, who understand teaching as a ministry, must say NO! to being average.
Don't settle, dear teacher, but keep stretching forward. Don't settle for the dull, lifeless questions in the study guide someone told you to teach from. Pester the Lord until He gives you the perfect questions for your class, this week.
Don't settle for lessons that leave people sleeping and anxious to be anywhere else. Find ways to engage the class, right from the start -- hook a nerve with your opening, and leave them with powerful application opportunities.
Don't think about how to occupy their thoughts for 60 minutes. Think about how to have the Word of the Lord occupy their hearts for 60 years, and then stretching away into eternity!
When does God honor the people in the Bible for being average, middle of the pack? Jesus condemns the lukewarm in Revelation 3:16! I don't see anyone listed in Hebrews 11, the great pantheon of faith heroes, who are commended for being average.
Honor God, reject passivity, seek to teach to change lives! It matters little what happened yesterday or last week. Start today.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
If you want to be introduced in heaven as being Great, then teach Jesus' Commands!
"19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19)
Imagine Jesus introducing you to your brothers and sisters in heaven.
"This is Susan. She taught 428 4th graders about Me, and their eyes shown and hearts were warmed."
"This is Jim. He taught 53 men how to study the Bible to hear My voice for themselves, and they in turn taught many others."
It's going to be great to be introduced as a great in heaven!
Yesterday I fell to my knees in prayer as I read this in Habakkuk 3:2
"Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."
I've read a lot about God's deeds and fame, from the Bible, and history books, and events today. I've heard many testimonies. I've heard much more than I've seen first-hand! This is going to be my prayer for a time:
Renew your fame and deeds in our day, Lord! I want to see You.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Great Bible teachers are authentic. They don't put on a mask or try to "look" more holy. I like the cartoon, because it plays on the normal foibles of humans.
You probably do want to fix your hair and dress appropriately, but for only one reason -- so your appearance is not a distraction. As you teach, everything about you needs to move into the background, and the Word of God needs to be the focus.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
"There was a big-game hunter out to get a grizzly bear. He prayed for prey. He tramped through the big woods for hours, but never saw even a trace of a grizzly. Weary and dejected, he finally sat down on a hickory stump and leaned his gun against a nearby sapling, to rest for a while. Suddenly, he looked up to see a mighty grizzly bearing down on him. With no time to reach for his gun, he breathed a desperate prayer: "God, give this bear religion, so he won't kill me." The bear halted dead in his tracks, rose on his hind legs, spread his mighty paws, and looked to the heavens with thanksgiving. "Thank you, God," the bear shouted, "for sending this wonderful meal I'm about to eat."
Scott Aughtmon relates a Watchmen Nee story about saving a drowning man -- "a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself." Read the whole story here.
As we teach from the Word, we remind people that we must be absolutely dependent upon the Lord. As long as we think we can save ourselves, we're still not able to do what the Lord is asking us to do!
This is an interesting video of a debate between Cliffe Knechtle and Dr. Michael Newdow, the atheist who sued to remove "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegience. I once spent part of a day with Mr. Knechtle at Northwestern University. He's an outstanding communicator.
I also recommend Mr. Knechtle's book, "Give Me an Answer."
Friday, April 14, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
You can learn so much from sitting under the teaching of great Bible teachers! I’m privileged to get to hear several great teachers at CrossTrainers, a weekly men’s group here in central Iowa.
Mike Swaim taught last week from Psalm 112, and I highly recommend this talk to you.
* He does a wonderful job of teaching directly from the Word.
* Few teachers I’ve seen are more capable of engaging men and inspiring them.
* This lesson is about the blessings that come from delighting in God’s Word – which is true for all of us, men, women, and children.
* Mike weaves in personal stories to illustrate and emphasize points.
It will help if you know these things:
* At the beginning of the talk, Mike is holding up his well-worn Bible when he says “this book”
* Mike is a West Point graduate, served in Vietnam, and is a high school basketball coach
You can download Mike’s talk as an mp3 file (12MB, 52 minutes) from here:
Get this and listen to Mike's important message – it will bless you, and you can learn a lot about how to teach by studying Mike’s example.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
The Barna Group is reporting some positive trends, including increased adult Sunday School attendance:
"Church attendance has increased slowly in recent years. While we have not returned to the 49% of adults who attended in a typical week as recorded in 1991, there has been a significant rebound from the 37% recorded in 1996, climbing to 47% in 2006.
Involvement in small groups that meet for Bible study, prayer or personal relationships, other than Sunday school or Christian education classes, has reached a new high in 2006. Currently, nearly one out of every four adults (23%) is engaged in such a gathering during a typical week. A decade ago, one out of every six adults (17%) did so.
Church volunteerism, after experiencing the same mid-Nineties doldrums as most other religious behaviors, has returned to its 1991 level of 27%. Volunteering at a church has been one of the more stable measures during the past 15 years, ranging from a low of 20% to the current high.
Even adult Sunday school attendance has risen in recent years. Once a mainstay of Protestant churches, Sunday school lost its cache in the Nineties, but seems to be on the rebound as evidenced by attendance numbers that reached 24% in this year’s tracking survey. That is up considerably from the 17% mark recorded in 1995 and in 1996. "
Friday, April 07, 2006
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The Barna Group has released some new survey results that I find difficult to believe:
1. 47% of Americans read their Bibles in a given week (away from church)
2. 47% of Americans go to church
3. 23% are are part of small groups (other than Sunday School/CE Classes)
4. 27% of Americans volunteer in church work
5. 24% of Americans attend Sunday School
6. 84% of Americans say they prayed in the past week
7. 60% of professed Christians have personally shared their faith in the past year.
What do you think? Barna usually has some good survey methods. If these numbers are true, then these activities are having a low impact on transforming lives and communities. For example, there is a difference between "reading their Bibles" and "delighting in His commands" (Psalm 112:1).
If you are teaching the Bible well, then people will say nice and not-so-nice things to you. Check out Martin Luther's counsel:
"The ministers of the Gospel should be men who are not too easily affected by praise or criticism, but simply speak of the benefit and the glory of Christ and seek the salvation of souls. Whenever you are being praised, remember it is not you who is being praised but Christ, to whom all praise belongs. When you preach the Word of God in its purity and also live accordingly, it is not your own doing, but God's doing. And when people praise you, they really mean to praise God in you. When you understand this--and you should because 'what do you have that you did not recieve?'--you will not flatter yourself on the one hand and on the other hand you will not carry yourself with the thought of resigning from the ministry when you are insulted, reproached, or persecuted."
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
There's been much newspulper trumpeting of the study showing no effect of prayer on patients.
My friend Kevin Nelstead addresses this WONDERFULLY in his blog, The Earth is Not Flat. Just nails it.
If you are at all interested in scientific issues and a Christian perspective, add Kevin's blog to your reading list. He's sharp, dedicated, and a good writer. Kevin is a missionary teacher in Romania, currently home on furlough.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Here's an interesting quote:
"Our minds are not supercomputers and not even good filing cabinets. They bear more resemblance to Post-it Notes that have been thrown into a bin and covered with coffee. the ease with which we can recall information is likely to be influenced by the impact that information made when it went in." -- James Montier
Great Bible Teachers acknowledge that the human brain is wired for learning and comprehension, but some ways of introducing information are more likely to lead to understanding and retention than others. Great Bible Teachers work with this flow, rather than against it.
Great Bible teaching has to engage students (no matter what their age). There has to be some emotional and sensual impact to help information get across and retained. Great questions help engage people. Creating freshness (e.g., using a different Bible translation than usual) helps, because we tend to overlook or skip the familiar. Change up the seating arrangements. Challenge people to engage with one another on a topic. (People are more likely to remember what they said than what you said.)
Work to teach to change lives! And you'll have much more fun, too.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Good group Bible studies and adult Sunday School classes are built on questions. These aren't sermons, but need to be interactive. And questions are the key! (That's why I wrote "52 Model Questions.")
I was delighted to see Scott Aughtmon's blog post, "Could you change your life if you changed your questions?" An excerpt:
"We don't have to have all the right answers, but we SHOULD know the right questions. Matt Rawlins in his book "The Lottery: A question can change your life" said these things through one of his characters in this story that's modern day parable..."...successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers."
"The right question, at the right time, in the right place, with the right people is one of the most powerful tools in the hand of any man, woman or God."Skim through the gospels and look at how many times the pharisees, the sadducees-- even the disciples were asking the wrong question -- and Jesus had to correct them."