Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How to Handle "Lesson Hijackers"

Would you like to learn how to handle a "lesson hijacker" -- the person who take over your class when you're trying to teach?

You can listen to a free excerpt that explains how. Check out:

"Ministering Effectively with 'Tougher to Love' People"The Biblical Approach and Practical Strategies To Work Successfully with Talkers, Critics, Know-it-alls, Therapy-Seekers, Lesson-Hijackers, and Non-Responders -- Turn Your Frustration Into a Blessing!

(The audio link is towards the bottom of the page, near the testimonials from other teachers like yourself who have been helped by this audio lesson.)

If you haven't encountered a lesson hijacker before, learn how to handle the situation before it comes up, with biblically sound advice that's been field-tested and proven.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Don't Be a Distraction

How much of your Bible lesson did your students miss because they were distracted? And how much of that distraction is really your fault, dear teacher?

If you want to improve the quality and effectiveness of your teaching -- so that you are teaching to change lives! -- then stop being a distraction or creating them. You can't stop every possible distraction in the room, but you can make sure YOU are not the distraction.

Let me give you two ways that you can be a huge distraction to your students.

First, get rid of anything that "amplifys" your nervous tics.

True story: One Sunday morning, I was really zinging this lesson out, totally "on," and full of zeal. My lesson points were sharp and the life application was perfect for this class.
It was c-o-o-l to see how God had brought all this together!

After I dismissed the class, one nice lady came up and complimented me on my car keys. I was horrified to learn that she and others had hardly heard what I said, because I had been playing with my keys in my pocket and distracting EVERYONE.

Take everything that makes noise out of your pockets before you teach. Keys, coins, pens, trinkets. And don't click ballpoint pens or pop on and off whiteboard marker caps, either. Give your students every reason to focus on the Word of God and you.

Second, don't make your students juggle. What am I talking about?

Many times our teaching environment gives a student achair to sit on, and not much else. If they are trying tojuggle your handout sheets, a Bible, maybe something to drink and eat, a pen or pencil, well -- it's a recipe for distraction.

(Now if your teaching situation includes a table, keepreading, because it's as much about juggling *attention* asit is physical items.)

You want the people in your class to be paying attentionto the Word of God and the class discussion. So don'tintentionally give them eight items to juggle. Keep the handout simple, and preferably one page. (Or skip the handout if you believe the class can go without it and still get the key points. After all, Jesus never used handouts :-)

Also, if you can work it out so that there is a little bit of space between chairs, that helps a lot, too! People don't learn well (at any age) when they're jammed together.Many Americans, in particular, have a deep dislike to be touched by others, even accidental shoulder brushing. So space the chairs out a little bit, and it will help them to keep their attention on the lesson.
Great Bible teachers pay attention to the learning environment. What's causing distractions in your class? See if you can cut them out, and watch the learning improve.

Heavenly Rewards

Big News Story: The Academy Awards. Oscar turns 80! Red Carpet Fashion Show! Glamour! Glitz! Badda-bing, badda-boom! Over 800 million fans watching!

I can't help but wonder about God's rewards (awards?). What will His reward be for giving a cup of water (see Matthew 10:41-42) Though winning an Oscar can make you famous for a time, it cannot compare to the Crown we are looking forward to. Consider these verses, and be encouraged today:

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! Philippians 4:1-3

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:18-20

Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:4-6

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-9

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:11-13

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.1 Peter 5:3-5

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

I don't know how many or whom will be watching when you receive the crown of life from our Lord and Master, Savior, Teacher, and Friend -- but it only matters that He will be there.

A Census Look At Your Community

Check this very slick interface to census data:

You type in a zip code and get access to demographic information. Very interesting way to check out the communities that you are ministering to!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

How Much Time and Detail Should Go Into an Illustration?

I'm sure you've occasionally heard a teacher or pastor use an illustration, and thought, "That was too long," or "I need more detail to understand that." And when an illustration works well for the learner, those thoughts don't come to mind. In other words, the teacher has matched the amount of detail and the length of the description well, so it "feels" right to us.

So how does a teacher figure this out?

Peter Mead provides an excellent framework for categorizing illustrations, which then helps you as a teacher understand how much time and detail to provide.

Level 1 illustrations come from the experience of both the speaker and listeners. (The least time and detail will be required.)

Level 2 illustrations come from the experience of the listeners, but the speaker has to learn about them since they have not personally experienced the same. (You as a teacher have to study more to accurate communicate, but it may not require a lot of detail for the listeners.)

Level 3 illustrations come from the experience of the speaker, but must be learned by the listeners. (You need to provide enough texture and detail to the listener, because they have to learn about something before the illustration is useful.)

Level 4 illustrations lie outside the experience of both speaker and listener. (Requires the most work for both teacher and listener -- in most cases I would recommend another level of illustration!)

Review the past few illustrations you've used that worked well, and maybe some that didn't work well, and see how they line up in the framework. This exercise will help you think about how much detail and time to provide in your next illustrations.

Also, this framework helps explain why an illustration from one of those "5 Thousand Illustrations for Speakers" collections may require editing (more or less details) before you can use it effectively with your listeners.

John Calvin Did What???!!

John Calvin receives an amazing amount of criticism, and usually (I find) from men and women who have not read very much of his actual writings. He's learned, but his reputation for being cold, heartless, and distant is unwarranted. Here is a nice article giving evidence of John Calvin's passion for planting churches and evangelism overseas.

John Calvin did what???!! Trained church planters and missionaries? Pastored them via many letters from Geneva? Yes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Role of Video in Teaching

A few people have recently lamented to me that everything is "going video."

One man wrote, "my class keeps asking for video lessons because they think they'll learn more."Maybe they will, there are many factors involved. But do not make the assumption that video is more powerful than audio. Here's some information about the power of sound.

You can prove to yourself how important sound is by doing a quick experiment with your TV.

Watch a few minutes of a news program with the sound turned off. Now compare how much you information get by turning the sound up and walking into the next room where you can hear but not see the TV. Which way gave you more information?

The brain wiring is quite interesting. The eyes may be the "window to the soul" as Shakespeare put it, but the ears have a shorter and more direct connection to the brain. When you sleep the sense that your hippocampus is monitoring most closely is hearing. That's why sounds wake you faster than smells or sight. When you're starting to nod off in a classroom (or a sermon :-), you can still hear the speaker for a while, right?

There is good evidence that as people die hearing is the last sense they retain. Vision, taste, smell, and touch fail before hearing. Psychological tests demonstrate that humans can track multiple conversations by hearing (many people can monitorup to 4 conversations readily, and some can monitor 7!), but only two video inputs. You have no problem driving, working on bills, or cookingwhile you listen to the radio or music, right? How much can you multitask while you're watching TV? (I mean watching, not just glancing at it while you listen.)

Is vision a powerful stimulation? Absolutely. Just look at the effectiveness of TV ads. Movies have a powerful effect on us -- but don't forget that the audio trackhas a big influence. Don't get discouraged about teaching without videos. It is hearing the Word of God that is the most powerful means of grace -- by God's design.

Now should you avoid video altogether? No! But use video to draw attention to the Word of God, and support it. My concern is when people substitute video for teaching, instead of making it a tool to help people learn and understand.

My friend Tom Clark wrote me with an insight about hearing vs. seeing:

"[C]onstrasting the importance of our physical sight and our physical hearing, sight is often (not always) connected with doubt or temptation. Faith seems more connected to hearing and also to not seeing. Add to this that God is spirit and invisible, and you have an interesting perspective on the value of hearing over seeing. Second was to contrast God's way at looking at things with man's. .... Advertisers use visuals to get us to listen, and hopefully trust, them and their products. Bible teachers are wise to do the same!"

And then adds Hebrews 5:14 (NASB): "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."

So let's make sure we're helping our students train all their senses.

Theology, When Taught Well, Is Practical

Peter Mead points out that we need to preach [and I would say, "teach"] to demonstrate the consistent links between the biblical/theological and the pastoral/practical. "People need to understand that the most theological or doctrinal passages in their Bible have real-life relevance to them. People need to recognize that instruction purporting to be practical and relevant but lacking a solid biblical grounding is inherently weak."

Amen! God's crummy enemies would certainly encourage disconnects between theology and behavior, but they specialize in lies.

Peter continues to crank out many delightful and insightful blog posts, so I encourage you to monitor his Biblical Preaching blog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nave's Topical Bible online

Nave's Topical Bible is a great resource to find related Bible passages that don't have the same keywords. I still like the physical book version (it just feels good to have this massive tome in your hands!), but there is a free online version available here:

Hint: you can copy/paste the information from the online version, which is handy for your personal note files, handouts, etc.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Email Subscription or RSS feed

Please note that over on the right side there is a form to make it easy to sign up for email notification whenever I post new information here, and a widget that makes it really easy to add this blog to your RSS feedreader.

Get the information when you want it, without having to visit here to see if there is no information available!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Justification and Sanctification

Check out this excellent summary of the commonalities and differences between justification and sanctification, by J.C. Ryle.

This would make a nice start for a Bible study. By giving your students a solid grounding, you'll be encouraging and building them up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prepare a Lesson with Specific Individuals in Mind

I routinely see teachers preparing for an "abstract"audience of fake people. May I be blunt here? This leads to babbling, not life change.

(And I'm a Brooke, so I know about babbling :-)

If you prepare a lesson to a generic audience, it's going to be much weaker than a lesson you've prepared with specific people in mind.

Each person in this group needs to feel that you are speaking with them alone. That this lesson is exactly whatthey needed this week.

How do you do this? Well (to be blunt) YOU don't -- but the LORD can!

Ask the Lord to give you a small number of people and help you understand how this Bible topic or passage will meettheir needs. Not everyone in the group, just pick a small number. Pick at least 2, even if your group is only 5. You want to have more than person.

Picture them vividly in your mind. Imagine them listeningto the lesson, answering questions, receiving the Word gladly, getting life-changing insights and ideas, and experiencing conviction from God about what they need to do differently this week.

This process helps you sharpen up your lesson content.

Now you're not just making a speech to a bland group, but giving life-changing gems to real people with real needs and real situations they need to face off.

As you practice this way, you will be able to recognize what doesn't belong in your lesson, what needs to be saidor asked a different way. It's powerful. Use this approach, and you'll be teaching the Bible to change lives.

A Picture That Communicates the Gospel

Gene Veith shows a picture of lightning striking the status of Jesus Christ in Rio -- and points out that it's a great picture of the Gospel.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What It Takes for Adults to Learn

Daryl Wilson points us to the characteristics of an effective learning environment for adults. These are really about a small group setting, but would apply to many teaching situations. I encourage you to check out this short article and think about your opportunities to foster better learning.

How Many Bibles Do You Have?

Christian Resource International reports that the average American Christian owns nine Bibles, is actively in the market for more, but rarely use the ones they have...

That's a powerful picture of the American church today.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

See Prayer As Something Your Regenerated Heart Wants To Do

Lee Irons gives us some excellent suggestions about prayer:

"The great danger is to turn the duty of prayer into a law that leaves you feeling guilty for your lack of prayer. The paradox of law-based motivations to godliness is that the more guilty you feel, the less you will do what you know you ought to do. And the more you fail, the more guilty you feel. It is the never-ending spiral of law-sin-guilt from which one cannot be extricated apart from the gospel. So try something new. Follow Dabney’s encouragement and think of prayer as something that you already do without realizing it. Or, perhaps more accurately, as something that your regenerate heart wants to do, if only you would capitalize on those irrepressible promptings from the Spirit and turn them into conscious prayers. Instead of thinking of prayer as something arduous and requiring tremendous amounts of discipline and effort, see it as something easy. As soon as the thought, “I should pray about this,” pops into your heard, do it right then and there. Just talk to the Lord, even if for the briefest moment, even for a second or two (what I call “arrow prayers”).Even when you have sunk into a pit of spiritual emptiness, where even the thought of trying to crawl out makes you feel exhausted and hopeless, the irrepressible promptings of the Spirit are there, perhaps nothing more than the simple, abject cry, “Lord, help me!” It is not really the case that we are prayerless. It is just that we have such an exalted conception of prayer that we have overlooked the many prayers that we have despised as unworthy of the name of prayer. "

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Power of the Word of God

Gene Veith gives us a good reminder about the power of God's word. Recommended.

Bible Study Tool Lens You Should Check Out

I'm not sure whom has created this, but it's a very nice Squidoo lens on Bible Study Tools (and has many devotions as well). Check it out:

Your Biggest Challenge in Ministry

What's your biggest challenge in ministry?

I agree with Peter Mead, that Dr. Joseph Stowell has the right answer: "Me."

Me, myself, and I. Me squared.

Pride is ever the opponent. "He [Jesus] must increase, and I must decrease."

Monday, February 04, 2008

This Won't Be For Everyone

I've got a free audio presentation for those who might be interested, but it won' t be for everyone.

Before I tell you what it is, I also want to tell you that I'm raising some support money for friends who are missionaries in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It's the start of Mardi Gras there, so it's a season of spiritual darkness and little-to-no restraint on public sin. What you see on TV is just what censors would allow to be shown. There is everything from animal sacrifice, worshiping idols, to public sex orgies in the streets.

And my friends are ministering to the lost and hurting right in the middle of this, shining lights for Jesus in a dismal and frightening place. They need some additional financial support because the US dollar has fallen about 20% to the Brazilian currency. In case you're wondering, I'm not giving the names of the missionaries for their protection.

So I'm offering a free audio -- and inviting people to donate to support these missionaries. (Yes, the audio is free if you want it without charge.)

OK, so what's the audio lesson? And why will it not be for everyone?

The audio is about the opportunities and realities of creating your own online Christian ministry. Each month I get questions from people who would like to do something like what I do. They have sermons, book ideas, devotion collections, and Bible lessons that they'd like to publish. Or they want to start blogging or posting videosof Bible teaching online.

And for many, the idea comes in that they could generate some income in the process.

Traditional book and magazine publishing is pretty tough to get into. So there is some appeal to publishing digitally via the Internet.

There is also amazing potential to reach people worldwide and build up workers in the Kingdom of our Lord! There is a strong need for quality Christian materials. It's possibleto reach thousands and tens of thousands of people this way. It's never been easier to publish and distributeinformation.

So how do you get started? What do you need to think about? And how do you sort out the hype from useful advice thatyou might find online? (I'm sure you've seen headlines like "Make Millions Working Two Hours a Week From YourBeach Home." -- uhm, ri-i-i-g-g-h-h-t-t-t)

Keep reading if I have your attention.

What you need is some credible advice about online marketing and sales, and some specific information aboutthe Christian marketplace. I've been publishing information online since 1993, and selling since early 2005. I've studied online publishing and marketing, and made plenty of mistakes.

So I sat down last Friday morning and recorded over an hour of strong advice and practical counsel:

* How to define your objectives
* Some realities about the Christian marketplace (it's different than the diet market!)
* Eight tarpits and traps to avoid
* The four skills you need to develop (or find)
* My recommended approach for getting started
* The tools and services I use (I really pull back the curtain here!) and recommend

I organized the information with this question in mind: "What do I wish someone had told me when I was thinking about starting my online ministry?"

Now I'm not pitching anything in this audio presentation. I'm not going to sell you on a product or service. It's pure content.

Go here:

Again, the audio is free, but 100% of your donations will go to support my missionary friends in Brazil.

Why am I doing this? Why am I giving it away? Frankly, I'd love to see some of you start an online ministry! But I don't want you to have to make all the same mistakes and mis-steps that I've made. So let me help you get started with solid advice you can trust.

It's one of the ways that I can teach to change lives!


P.S. I'm going to take this audio lesson down on February 10th. Don't delay!