Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teachers Have to Go There First

Perry Marshall points out that as Bible teachers we need to grow in our knowledge and faith first, before we can lead and teach others.

"One of the mistakes I believe church planters/pastors often make is that we want our churches to go on incredible journeys with God–yet we are not personally on going on an incredible journey with God. We want to see our people grow closer to Jesus–yet we aren’t growing closer to Jesus.

And that just won’t work!

If you want God to lead your church to new places then you’ve got to understand that He wants to take you there first. If you want your church to get a fresh word from God then you need to beg Him for a fresh word for yourself.

If we are not being faithful in our personal walk with Christ then how in the world are we ever going to hear His voice in regards to the direction of the church and messages. I personally believe if we would spend more time on our faces before God and less time on the internet searching for sermon illustrations that God would continue to rock our worlds–AND the people in our church!"

(From this post)

Take this exhortation to heart! What will you do (today!) to connect with the Lord and learn?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What is a Disciple?

Bill Hull, author of Choose the Life and other books on discipleship, spoke at our church this past weekend. Great content to chew on! He's got some tough things to say (like, "it's not the pastor's job to do your Bible study for you") that he slides home with humor and wit. I recommend you listen to his sermon from Luke 15, "What is a Disciple?"

Teachers, pay attention to how Bill uses story, questions, humor, and transitions -- if he were just to hit his main points as bullet points the presentation wouldn't be nearly as memorable or effective.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Learning to Write Well

I'm occasionally asked about starting a blog. The key stumbling block isn't technical, it's writing.
Writing well is an art, a craft, and work, even writing on a blog. But it's good work that sharpens you!

And I've convinced Bible teachers need to be good writers as well as speakers.

Fortunately there are some good places on the web to help improve your writing skills. Leo of ZenHabits has launched a delightful website called WriteToDone aimed at sharpening your technique.

He’s had a few great posts already:
Edit to Done: Revision and the Art of Being Concise
How to Write First Thing in The Morning
Short Stories: The Art of the Start
Writer’s Dilemma: Your Art vs. Paying the Bills
What Makes Great Blogwriting?

Check it out!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Combine Fun and Learning With This Teaching Strategy

I know you're always on the lookout for new ideas to engage people in learning. Today I want to tell you about a teaching strategy based on the Bingo game.

In the traditional game of Bingo, players are each given a card containing a 5 by 5 grid of numbers, and check off squares on their cards when the bingo caller calls out the corresponding number. Depending on which version of the rules you prefer, the objective is for a player either to get a line of five items checked off, or to check off every item on their card. The winner of the game is the first person who checks off their items and shouts out "Bingo!"

In learning settings, you play Bingo with important differences. The first and most important modification is that instead of using bingo cards containing numbers, you use bingo cards based on the subject of yourlesson. You would use items related to theme of the class, for example, books of the Old or New Testament, names of the people in biblical stories, etc. You can also play themed versions of bingo to celebrate particular times of year like Christmas or Easter.

If you want to "ramp up" the learning, you can require the person claiming "Bingo!" to describe each of the items that they have marked off on their bingo cards - in other words, they can't claim (for example) "Isaiah" as part of their winning line, unless they can say that Isaiah is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. Alternatively, if you prefer not to make the game into a test, you could for example have a class discussion after item is called out, or ask for a volunteer to explain the particular bible story or character, etc. You know your class well enough to know how challenging to make the game.

Bingo is easy to learn, highly adaptable, and doesn't require expensive materials. The big headache, of course, is producing the cards. Everyone should have a different card, and that means you have to make them up by hand in advance. That's a LOT of time, even if you recruit helpers!

There is an alternative approach: let your computer help! Bingo Card Printer software is slick, easy-to-use, and even has a free trial version for your first project. Check out it here:

You'll find this software gets you over the "headache hurdle" that keeps you from trying out this fun teaching technique.

Try out the free download version, and keep on teaching to change lives!

Interview series in 2008

I want to share what I'm planning that I hope will be tremendous blessing to you in 2008.

As the Lord connects people to our ministry to Bible teachers, I find that you and your colleagues are facing many challenges and issues that I myself don't have the expertise to help with. I have opinions, and some experience, but believe you'll benefit more from others than you would me. My grandfather used to tell me, "If you have a belly-button, you're entitled to your opinion. That's about all your entitled to." :-)

Here's the truth: I can't provide you with all the information you need for your development and ministry -- but by God's grace I can be a reliable conduit and connector to those who can teach what you need.

So I'm starting a process of identifying sharp people who have expertise for challenges you may be facing. I'm going to make recordings of interviews with them, and make those available to you at no cost. Based on the email correspondence I've received since March 2005, this is the list of topic areas that I think will be helpful to you:

Biblical perspectives on money, and practical stewardship
Teaching elementary children
Ministering to and with teeenagers
Adult small groupsS
piritual gifts
Developing and managing Sunday School programs
Ministering to hurting people

I take seriously my responsibility to make sure you get doctrinally-sound, solid, actionable, and helpful information. Please pray that I can connect with the terrific people, and that God will be honored through this whole process. And watch for more blog posts about this in the future!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two Voices in Psalm 29

I used Psalm 29 at our church business meeting as part of the devotion. I created this handout to guide people to speak out the 2 voices in this Psalm:

Half the room took voice 1, and the other half voice 2. I love this Psalm because it reconnects us with God's power and might -- much needed in these days!

Try this with your class or group. You'll find it effective -- in part because if people speak out loud, they are much more likely to be engaged.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Saying "Thank You" Will Save You

I get a fair amount of email from Bible teachers who feel unappreciated. One earnest lady wrote me that she felt bitter. "And after all that work, do I even get a thank you? Not one."

Ingratitude kills. Bitterness kills. This is not the Jesus way, folks.

Certainly, it's nice when people say thank you. But if they don't, what should be your response? Not to whine about it!

Instead, I recommend you focus on your own gratitude.

Give thanks to God. He is our Lord, who has gifted you and enabled you to serve as a teacher. He's given you the calling to teach.

Give thanks to your leadership. They have approved your role as a teacher. They have provided you with opportunity and materials.

If you have teaching partners or people who have helped you, give thanks to them. These people mentor and sharpen our preparation and presentation.

Express your thanks to your students. After all, if you are working hard at your teaching preparation, then you've learned more than anyone else in the room! Their questions have sharpened you and helped you develop. They've given you their attention. They've shown up.

When you give thanks up, sideways, and down to everyone, you'll find your heart is clean and joyful. You'll have more strength to serve others. You'll accept criticism and suggestions in a healthy way. Plus, you'll be modeling gratitude to others -- some of whom may not have seen it, or think to give thanks.

Bottom line: if you receive a thank-you, that's a plus. But it's not essential. Don't track it or measure it, don't make it a measure of your success. Focus instead in increasing your own gratitude for this wonderful ministry of Bible teaching! That's teaching to change lives.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Prayer-Saturated Teaching

Great Bible teaching comes at the "cost" (I should say, "privilege") of prayer. It's like steeping tea -- it gets stronger and stronger the longer you keep the tea leaves in contact with the water.

I think it was C.K. Chesterton who said that we're not crawling to the backdoor of the palace, begging for scraps. We've been invited into the marble throne room as guests, to an eager King of kings!

Infuse your preparation with prayer about the lesson content (hook, questions, illustrations, story, application, launch), for yourself, for your students.

Pray as you teach! And pray afterwards, that God's crummy enemy will not steal away the Word, but it would be fruitful.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hebrew and Greek Word Studies

If you're interested in learning more about how to do basic word study in Hebrew and Greek, using free software, check out these videos. This approach is the easiest way to get started.

Find out why I don't believe everything my grandfather said about foreign languages :-)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Planning Goals

It's January, so there are scads of articles available now about setting goals and making resolutions.

Mark Batterson has a really useful recommendation: create categories first, then make goals for each category. He has categories of 1) family goals 2) travel goals 3) physical goals 4) experience goals 5) influence goals.

I encourage you to think about influence goals!

Monday, January 07, 2008


Today my goal is just to encourage you, dear teacher! Teaching ministry is rewarding, but hard work. Keep on keeping on! You're on an amazing journey of learning and discovery. Remember that our Lord is faithful and keeps all His covenant promises to you.

Teach to change lives!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Impromptu Lessons

Steve sent me a great question:

"I'm constantly being call on to speak to a group of Sunday school classes, more on the line of impromptu. I wonder if you can suggest something for me."

Here's how I answered Steve:


Thanks for your question. I'm in the habit of taking notes in my Bible in such a way that my personal study makes it easier to create mini-lessons from a verse or short passage. Using the kinds of questions I have in "52 Model Questions," I can usually teach without much preparation -- counting on good interaction and dialogue to help fill out the lesson. I will string mini-lessons together if I have more time to work with.

To get started with this, why not take what you're learning from your personal devotions, and spend 15 minutes thinking about how to make that into a lesson? Make a few notes. Bang, you're prepared. Do that a few times, and you have a small number of lessons ready.

Now if you're expected to speak beautifully, in detail, as a sermon -- this approach won't necessarily get you there. But if you want to teach from the heart, with what the Lord is sharing with you, with integrity, my approach should be helpful.

I've also seen good teachers ask a group about what they're interested in, or struggling with -- and pick something from that conversation to run with. Let's say that a group is interested in worship music styles. "Let's see what the Bible tells us about worship music." Then split the group into smaller groups and have them look in the Bible themselves for 5-8 minutes. Report back. "What do you think about that?" "Did you notice that there are no mentions of organs?" Build on the interactivity you can develop. This is a nice approach because it doesn't feed people's desire to be lazy and just be "told" something.

Hope these ideas help,



And how do you handle impromptu situations? Do you have a strategy to be ready to teach with 5 minutes notice? Or even one day's notice?

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Bible Is Meant To Be Meditated

From Mark Batterson:

"I don't think the Bible was meant to be read. I think it was meant to be meditated. Meditation is a thoughtful or prayer reading. I came up with this little mantra few years ago: reading without meditating is like eating without digesting. If you don't meditate you lose all of the nutrients."

Good insight!

Don't read for words, but for information. Don't just read for information, but meditate (the word literally comes from the term used for a cow chewing its cud) so your mind and heart are transformed.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I'm Back

Hey, I'm going to be posting here again soon. Google had suspended my publishing rights to this blog because it was profiled as a "spam blog" by their automated screening systems. It took a while over the holidays to get a human review.

More posts soon!