Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teach as a Shepherd

I'm not down on school teachers. There's a lot to learn from school teachers.

But teaching an adult sunday school class, or youth, or children, or a small group Bible study is very different than teaching in a school setting.

You're teaching as a shepherd.

Consider what Paul said, "we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children" (1 Thessalonians 2:7) and, "For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

Why do I bring this to your attention? Because how you see yourself and your role dramatically affects the way you teach!

If you see yourself as a spouter of facts and information and opinions, that's how you'll teach. If you see yourself as a the smart, knowledgeable one in the room, that's how you teach. If you see yourself as distant and elevated from your students, that's how you'll teach. Shepherds don't teach in any of these ways.

Meditate on how shepherds care for the flock. Then teach out of that spirit of boldness, fearlessness, and gentleness.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finding Your Voice

"I wish I could teach like _______."

I hear this fairly often (or see it in emails sent to me).

God has wired you to teach like you. You can imitate others if you want, but it will take that much longer to find your teaching style of voice.

This conversation between preachers covers this topic very well, and I encourage you to review it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Best Books Lately?

What books do you recommend to other Bible teachers? I'm curious and would love to see your suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Law, Life, and Death

It's critically important that your students understand the biblical truth about law, life in Christ, and death. And they will be more likely to understand these truths when you understand them.

So I heartily recommend you review this terrific "interview" with the Apostle Paul on the topics. This actually would make a very nice lesson.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Asking "How Would You Like to Be Taught?"

If you're struggling to figure out how to present some material, here's a useful tip:

Ask yourself, "How would I like be taught this information? What discussion points would I want to cover? What questions would I have?"

In short, teach others as you'd like to be taught. (Maybe that's a teacher's 'golden rule'?)

We always must strive to teach what's needful for our listeners and learners, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes that means teaching in a way that's not our comfort zone. But most often if you teach the way you'd like to be taught, you'll find that you have energy, enthusiasm, and joy that spills over and makes it easy for others to learn.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

BWCA experience

I generally don't share about my family. But you might be interested in a blog post for dads about our recent experience in the Boundary Waters.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Defeating Pride, One Comment at a Time

You may have heard the story about the ancient king of
Greece who had a servant follow him around and whisper to
him several times each day, "You are only a man, and

If you are teaching using the principles and practices
that I've given you in Teach the Bible to Change Lives and
all the additional writing, then you will be
successful enough that people are going to say positive
things to you, and about you.

This is dangerous territory, friend.

You're vulnerable to pride.

The word "pride" occurs 46 times in the Bible. The word
"proud" occurs 47 times. In *every* case it's negative.
(Also, it's telling that the Father says of His Son, "This
is my son, in whom I am well pleased." He does not say,
"I'm proud of you, Son!")

That should tell us something about how our heavenly
Father views pride, and how deadly it is to our teaching

So how can you respond when people say nice things to you
about your classes or lessons? How do you reply when
people commend and praise you?

It's important to learn how to handle this. In fact, I
recommend you *practice* saying these things aloud, so it
comes easier when the moment comes.

Try saying these things as replies:

"I'm glad that God used me to refresh you and build you up."
"Praise the Lord for His work!"
"I'm sure God is pleased to see that you are growing in
"God is good."

Let's keep a sober view of ourselves. Check off your sins
against the 10 Commandments. How are you doing loving God
with your whole life? Your neighbor as yourself? How are
you doing controlling your tongue?

Part of keeping a sober view of ourselves is to find great
joy that our passionate, loving Lord is choosing to use us -
- terribly weak things -- for His glory.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Don't Make This Mistake

Today I'd like to tell you about a mistake that I make far too often, so you can avoid it.

I often record my teaching and then listen to it the next day. (It's painful, but the best way I know to be in improvement mode.)

Here's the mistake I noticed I made several times in the past few months:

I asked one question right after another, and didn't leave any time to ponder and answer. I stacked up two, three, sometimes four question, bang, bang, bang, kapow! And these weren't rhetorical questions, either.

After you ask a question, give your class or group time to respond.

Let me say that again (to myself!).

After you ask a question, give your class or group time to respond.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Four Prayer Request for Teachers

Though writing about preaching, I think these four key prayer requests from Joe McKeever are ideal for Bible teachers who want to see changed lives:

1) I never want to stand up to preach again without a good grasp of the Scripture. I'm tired of not being clear about the text in front of me.

2) I want the message from God to have a firm grasp on me, to grip my heart. I want to preach with genuine passion.

3) I want a good rapport with the congregation. I'm tired of that " glazed-over " look on the people's faces. I want to make contact with them, to communicate effectively.

4) I want to see lives changed. If the point of preaching is for the Word of God to make a difference in people, then it must be in order to ask the Father to give me success in doing it.

May each of us strive for a solid grasp on Scripture, an irrepressible grip of God on our hearts, growing skill as communicators, and for God to unleash his power in changing the lives of men, women, boys, and girls. Amen!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Patient Instruction

I've received several notes recently from teachers struggling to remain patient with students who don't learn quickly, or seem interested in learning.

"1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."(Ephesians 4:1-6)

Did you catch the counsel there for teachers? "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

When this kind of frustration happens to us, our irritation and anger is surging because of some dimension of our pride. Yes, it may be true that your students are slow to learn. They may be resistant to incorporating the clear lessons from Scripture into their lives. They may seem dull of hearing, or bored, or desiring more entertainment rather than solid food. But the Lord may well have used these circumstances to expose your pride for what it is.

Our response must be the same as God's response to us: patient instruction, faithful perserverance, humility that we, too, need God's great mercy. We continue to love and bear with one another, acknowledging that living in community is hard at times. We wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts (and in our hearts!).

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Aging Populations Around the World

Church leaders (in my opinion) should understand demographic trends. This is an excellent interactive tool to look at the aging populations in different countries, forecasted over time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Praying Hard and Working Hard

Epaphras is an outstanding model of lay leadership. Listen as his mentor, Paul, describes him:

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” -- Colossians 4:12-13

Three things characterize Epaphras here:

1. He is one of you and a servant of Jesus
2. He is always wrestling in prayer
3. He is working hard

Epaphras is identified with the Colossians, and is a servant of Jesus. There is much to think about here, but I will save that for another time.

Epaphras prays hard. “Wrestling” in prayer is active, and aggressive. It’s not a milquetoast, wimpy attitude of prayer.

I encourage you to use this model prayer for the people around you:

That each would stand firm (not sit weakly) in all (not just some of) the will of God (nothing self-centered)
That each would be mature – solid in the faith, actively growing, using gifts well, discerning between good and evil
That each would be fully assured (in Christ and truth He has revealed, and in His wonderful promises of provision, care, protection, purpose)

Please consider the positive feedback loop: We grow in assurance, and then we become better able to stand firm in all the will of God as mature disciples -- which strengthens our assurance in Christ!

None of us are as yet mature as God means for us to be. And many among us are not yet standing firm, obedient, or fully assured. There is work to be done, progress to be made, and it begins with dedicated prayer for God to transform lives.

Epaphras is working hard (in addition to praying hard) for not only the Colossians, his local congregation, but for two churches in other cities in that region. Leaders must both pray hard and work hard. And the hard work should not only be directed to our immediate family, but should serve the larger work in the kingdom of God. I believe God intends for his people to have disproportionately large impacts for the world.

Let me ask you a few questions:

* How old is Epaphras?
* What was his theological training?
* What was his occupation? Did he get good grades in school?
* Did he have godly parents in a good home? Is he married? Does he have children?
* What did he look like, and sound like?
* How much free time did he have from other responsibilities?

We aren’t told any of these things, because they aren’t relevant. Prayer and hard work are not spiritual gifts – they are for all of us!

If Epaphras had a headstone or grave marker, did they write on it, “He wrestled in prayer and worked hard for us”? Let’s recommit to prayer and work, and leave a wonderful legacy.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Pray DURING Your Lesson

You probably pray before and after your teaching time. That's important, because Great Bible Teaching must be saturated with prayer. Unless God is at work, your teaching is in vain.

How much do you pray *during* your teaching time? Paul commanded us to pray continually (1 Thess 5:17), right?

The reality is that you may be really pumped as you teach.Your brain is going 400 mph. Your adrenals are zooming,the sweat is going. "Pray now, are you kidding me?"

Or perhaps you're really enjoying the discussion, and happy people are getting involved, almost tripping over one another in their excitement to add to the conversation.

Honestly, most teachers don't think about praying very much during the lesson time, because we're thinking about a lot of other things.

What I recommend you do is create reminders to pray silent, short, "arrow" prayers at multiple times as you teach. You can do this (really, you can) even while youare speaking or listening to someone else speak. Our Lord engineered us to be able to operate on multiple levels simultaneously.

Here are some example "arrow" prayers you might use:

"Make me a great conduit of your truth and grace, Lord."
"Help everyone hear clearly."
"Steady me, Father, so I won't get ahead of the lesson."
"Change lives, Jesus!"
"Be their real Teacher, Lord, just use me."
"Save their souls, Lord! Rescue them!"
"May the glory be yours alone."
"Glorify yourself, Lord."
"Open their minds, open their hearts."
"Come, Holy Spirit, come."
"Let your Words come through me now."
"Nothing is too hard for you, Lord."
"Feed your people, and draw them to Yourself."
"Don't let Satan blind or deafen them, Lord."

Easy, quick --and wonderfully effective!

Now, how do you remember to do this *during" the lessontime? I've got an easy solution for you to try:

Take a copy of the handout or your lesson outline, and put a special symbol by at least two or three parts. You can use a checkmark, or a little smiley, or an asterisk. Space these out through the lesson.

Each mark will be your reminder to pray. When you get to that part of the lesson, pray an arrow prayer! (If you're new to this, just pick one arrow prayer for the lesson, and pray that same prayer each time.)

Simple, easy, effective. And you're building a foundational habit.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Applications Come From Your Personal Study

(Note: This was originally published in October 2007)

I was coaching a young Bible teacher by email recently. He asked this question:

"I know I should have an application for my lesson, but I don't see one. This happens a lot."

Here was my response:

"The application will become clear as you invest time studying the Bible passages, pray for your students, and watch what God is teaching you. Our Lord nearly always works lessons in us before He teaches through us. So keep careful watch and pray."

A few days later I received this in an email from this teacher:

"Isn't there a study Bible I can get with applications already written out? I don't have a lot of time."

My response:

"You have the same amount of time as anyone, but we all have different responsibilities. There are many study Bibles claiming to make things easy for you. (It's good marketing.) And these no doubt can be helpful. But if you insist on sticking with baby food -- nothing to chew, just swallow it -- then you are missing out on nourishing meals the Lord prepares for you. Some meals require a lot of chewing. Follow as the Lord leads. I believe you will learn more if you work at a lesson, and your students will learn much more, also."

I would add this, too: the key is lead time. Start working on lessons well in advance, so you give yourself and the Lord time. Reviewing a short passage every day for a week in advance will (usually) generate more insights and understanding than 2 hours cramming it in the night before you teach.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

We cannot emphasize enough the work of prayer in selecting Biblical material to teach, studying the texts, developing useful lessons that encourage life application, delivering/presenting the material, and follow-up to make sure our students are learning.

Prayers are not bookends to tack on the front and back of work. Prayer is the work. We ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we select and study Biblical passsages. We ask God to help us tailor material for our particular class or group at this particular time (whom else will truly know their needs?). We uphold students before the throne of all Grace so that they would be open to receive what the Lord wants them to know, and take it to heart. We saturate our teaching time with prayer, and ask others to pray as well. And we continue to pray for our students as we go forward, that God's work would take root and grow in their lives.

May we never be teachers who say, "Yes, I have prayed enough, time to move on."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gift of Teaching?

Occasionally I'm asking if you need the spiritual gift of teaching to be an effective teacher.

Certainly teaching is among the spiritual gifts Paul mentions in Romans 12:4-8.

Here's my personal view: I do not think it is required, but I observe that it is unusual to find an excellent teacher who enjoys teaching who does not have the gift of teaching.

Let me explain. Consider this statement about mastery of a craft (and teaching is a craft, a practice that requires discipline over time):

"What creates someone who is a master of their craft? It's the combination of gifting, learning, and practice. The gifted person who is well practiced in their art makes it look easy." -- Terry Dean

So mastery requires gifting, how-to knowledge (or awareness), and practice over time.

The simple fact is that no one loves doing something that they aren't good at. And it's very difficult to excel at teaching if you haven't put in time and disciplined practice. You can get the job done, but you are doing just that -- without a love for the process and experience.

Many teachers feel drawn to teaching, but have not invested themselves to acquire knowledge about how to teach well. Or they lack practice. Those can be learned, acquired.

But the gift of teaching? It's not something that humanly speaking we can seek out and acquire. (That's why it's called a gift!)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Republishing Some Blog Posts

Over the next two-three weeks, I'm going to republish some helpful blog posts from 2006, 2007, and 2008. Good stuff -- if it's not new to you, it's still worth a review!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

New blog for Adult Sunday School Leaders

This new blog launched recently: SundaySchoolLeader.com

You don't need to be from any particular denomination to get value here. Recommended.

The easiest way to stay up to date with their content is simply to subscribe by email. There's a box on the right-hand side to do this. It's free, it's fast, and it's what I did.