Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to Teach the Bible with Confidence

Great conversation with D. A. Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper talking about teaching the Bible confidently.  Worth watching!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Read the Whole Bible in 30 Days

Teach the Whole Bible?

I received an interesting question recently by email: "Mr. Glenn do you teach the whole bible? I was always taught  that I should live what I wanted to teach first, is that a factor in teach to change lives?"

Here was my response:

Thanks for your question!

A few things I think we can agree on:
1. The whole Bible is the Word of God, and is for us individually and the Church
2. God can speak through even a verse or one story to transform a person
3. It's part of discipleship to study the whole Bible over a period of years
4. Teachers teach more effectively out of personal understanding and experience

Are teachers limited to teaching only what they've lived or personally
experienced?  I don't think so.  I've never been to Israel, but use
mapbooks and commentary descriptions to help my students understand
the geography and history of the land and peoples who lived there.  I
myself don't struggle with every sin, but struggle with some and can
speak to the transforming power of Christ's love to overcome any sin.

I believe that God puts some things on our hearts because He does want
us to teach those. That can certainly be a factor in your decision
about what to teach.  My counsel is to prayerfully ask, "Lord, what
does this class need to learn from You and Your Word?"  That's better
than settling first for what I prefer to teach.

Hope this helps.

Teach to change lives,


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One Secret to Teaching The Same Material Repeatedly

I recently watched a vendor give a presentation, and was very impressed with his delivery style and energy.  It was clear that he’d given this presentation many times, but it seemed fresh.  Afterwards I asked him how he was able to present the same information over and over again.  “It’s not about the material,” he said.  “I focus on the fact that I have a new audience.” 

If you’re teaching something that you’ve taught before – even many times – there’s a tremendous insight there for you: focus on the new group of people.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

The 3650 Challenge -- Not Your Ordinary "Read the Bible in a Year" plan

I commend this challenge to you -- a wonderful opportunity to step up your Bible reading!   From Tim Challies:

" or listen to 3,650 chapters of the Bible in 2012. .... I plan to use Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System to read the Bible. This system calls for 10 chapters per day, with each chapter being drawn from a different part of the Bible. This means that over the course of 2012 anyone who uses the plan will go through all the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters 4-5 times each, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, all the Psalms at least twice, all the Proverbs as well as Acts a dozen times, and all the way through the Old Testament History and Prophetic books about 1.5 times."

Go for it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do You Have a Folder Like This?

Need a short devotional?  Kevin DeYoung's commentary on the name of Jesus would fit the bill nicely!  Great content, easily adaptable to different settings.  

Don't need it right now?  Print off a copy and file it in a folder named something like "Source Ideas for Devotionals"  A few minutes work can put you on a path to having a rich library of ideas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Add This To Your Library: Better Beginnings

This is a terrific book that I recommend you add to your library: Better Beginnings.  

One of the four best ways to improve your Bible teaching is to strengthen your opening, the hook.  I've been studying presentation techniques and strategies for several years now and have never found anything better than this book on the opening.  

This book is focused exclusively on better beginnings to speeches and presentations.  Intense, practical, imaginative.  I read through it quickly once, then turned right around to read it more slowly the next time.  I liked it so much I scheduled it for a third read later this month when I have some time off from work.  

Though the author is writing to all kinds of presenters, not just "church" people or "religious" settings, nearly everything here will apply whether you're giving sermons, teaching in formal settings, or in a small group study.  

There are only two negatives I want to point out.  First, it's not a cheap paperback.  It's an extremely high-quality hardback, thick paper, gorgeous photos and graphics.  Second, it's hard to find.  As I write this, it's not available on Amazon.  But if you can get your hands on a copy, get it!  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Be Bold!

Here's my challenge for you today:

Be bold in your teaching!

You are teaching from the authoritative Word of the Lord of the Universe (and more).  When you read Scripture you read God-breathed truth, not fanciful stories and collected opinions of idiots.  Re-set your confidence in Christ, and teach boldly, forcefully, passionately!  Let your choice of words, your tone and inflection, your body language accurately reflect the amazing Bible and our beautiful Lord Jesus Christ!

No more mealy-mouthed mumblings that go nowhere.  Speak directly into their eyes and hearts, dear teacher.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some Practical Advice About Eating Before You Teach

Food and drink are fuel for your body, so be mindful about what you eat in the time leading up to your teaching.  We want to be as sharp as possible mentally, and physiologically, so we can give this our best!  

Here are some my recommendations and guidelines. 
  • Drink clear liquids.  Drink plenty of water to be hydrated. Stay clear of milk in the hour before you teach; milk leaves your throat feeling "coated" and does affect your speaking voice.  
  • Eat in moderation.  Too much, you'll feel lethargic.  (It takes a lot of energy to digest food.)  Too little, you might be hungry enough to be distracted.  And stomach growls while you're teaching are pretty embarrassing!
  • Watch out for the blood sugar "crash" -- this is particularly a problem for people with normally low blood sugar levels like me.  You eat something sugary, or high in carbs before you teach, like that tempting muffin snack Mrs. Smith brought to church.  Yum!  But in about 35-45 minutes, your blood sugar drops down again, and oh my.  If that "crash" happens before you're done teaching, you just made it more difficult to end well.
  • Understand how caffeine affects you.  Most teachers are little nervous teaching.  For many people, caffeine can make that nervousness worse.  If you are used to caffeine, but concerned about it, try consuming half of what you usually do.  
  • Test out warm and cold liquids to see how they affect your speaking voice.  There's a lot of variation in how people respond.  Understand your situation and you'll know what to avoid.
  • Try to avoid eating something you've never eaten before in the 24 hours leading up to your teaching time.  This is particularly important if you're traveling.  The majority of food-related "blah" and "yuck" problems are with unfamiliar foods.  
These are my recommendations.  Pay attention to what works for you.

Keep on teaching to change lives!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Did Jesus Have Bad PR?

Back in 2006 I gave a Christmas devotion for the seniors group at our church. I tried to help people think about the terrible public relations job around the birth of the Messiah. From a human perspective, this was a PR disaster! Listen to it here:

Friday, December 09, 2011

About Those Gates of Hell

Heard any great sermons on this verse?

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matt 16:18, NASB)

I have, several times, inspiring ones!  I love the verse.  I love the image of the church marching against hell and crushing it.  

So I eagerly read Kevin DeYoung's short article about this verse.  First I got mad.  Then I read it again, and took a more sober view.  This was a very helpful exercise for me in re-thinking my critical Bible analysis approach.  

I recommend the article to you, dear teachers, for the same reasons -- let's be careful in our interpretation of Scripture and use Scripture as our primary guide to interpreting Scripture.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

When To Be A "Tour Guide" Bible Teacher

If you’re teaching on a narrative passage of Scripture, think about the “tour guide” approach:
  • Tour guides want people to understand and experience the place, something from history, the personal stories, etc.
  • Tour guides are excited about the history, and want people to “get it” and enjoy it. 
  • Tour guides tell stories with drama, point out the little details, helping people understand connections and timing.
  • Tour guides don’t bore people with long, tedious chronological history in a monotone.  They hit the highlights.  They give framework for understanding.
  • Tour guides are good at asking questions to engage the audience.  Tour guides are good at answering questions, and weaving in even more information than the original question might have asked about.

Think about how to be a tour guide for your students as you study the passage together.  

Monday, December 05, 2011

This Is Not Romper Room!

My sister and I loved Romper Room when we were kids (1960s!), and we waited eagerly to hear the nice lady "see us" in her magic mirror and say our names.  [I learned years later that my mom wrote in to the TV station regularly to get "Glenn" mentioned, but to no avail!]

You're teaching real people with souls, dear Bible teacher.  There's no "magic mirror" involved, but I daresay your students are hoping for personal interaction.  They want to know that you know they are there, and that they are cared for.  So work at understanding your class members or small group members!  Learn not only their names but their stories. That's teaching the Jesus way -- and part of teaching to change lives.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Discouraged About Sunday School? Read This

I receive messages every month from people who are despairing about Sunday School and are ready to give up.  Let me encourage you, reminding you of the powerful influence that Sunday School can have in the lives of children and their families -- read this story (which I heard via Josh Hunt):

Elmer Towns: How Sunday School changed my life

My first introduction to Sunday School came from Jimmy Breland. He was a Sunday School teacher from the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia, who made a living from being a door-to-door salesman for Jewel Tea and Coffee. It was the end of the Depression-the late 1930s-when Jimmy came to our home and spread out his wares on the living-room floor. As he began to sell the coffee and tea items to my mother, I entered the room.
"Where do you go to Sunday School?" asked the salesman.
"What is Sunday School?" I replied.
Jimmy explained that Sunday School was a place where they told stories, sang songs, colored pictures and played on a sand table.
"What's a sand table?" I asked innocently. Jimmy could see my interest in the sand table. I was like a fish on the line, so he reeled me in slowly.
"If you come to my Sunday School, we'll make a sand mountain and show you how Jesus walked across the mountains."
That was the first time I remember hearing the name Jesus. Then he said, "We'll put a mirror in the sand and it will become a lake; I'll show you how Jesus walked on water."
"Like walking across Savannah River," I said with wild enthusiasm. Then I told my mother I wanted to go to Sunday School.
"Not so fast," mother quipped. She and my father spent their time in taverns, drinking and dancing. They were trying to get away from God and the Church. My mother thought the enthusiastic tea and coffee salesman might represent a cult, so she asked him, "What church?"
Jimmy replied, "Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church."
My mother had been married in a small Presbyterian church in South Carolina, so she found it hard to object. Then she said, "Where is it located?" When Jimmy explained that the church was about five miles away, she said, "He's too little to walk that far; he'd get lost."
Jimmy Breland turned to me and said, "See that big black truck out the front screen door?" I could see large gold letters on the shiny black panel truck, JEWEL TEA AND COFFEE. "Want to ride in my truck to Sunday School?"
"Yeah," was all I could say.
Jimmy's church was located in a neighborhood that had gone bankrupt during the Depression. My mother protested that many of
the homes remained unfinished shells with deep ditches in and around the yards and she was concerned for my safety. Then she said, "Wait till he goes to the first grade. Then you can take him to Sunday School."
A few months later, September 1938, I entered the first grade. The following Sunday morning I was waiting on the front porch. I wore starched white short pants and my hair was greased down with oil. There was a misty rain falling, and soon Jimmy Breland came driving down the street in his truck, splashing through the mud puddles. He took me to Sunday School and I never missed one Sunday during the next 14 years.
Jimmy Breland was more than my Sunday School taxi driver. He was my shepherd, and he taught me the Bible and Christian values. He became my counselor, mentor and, because my father was an alcoholic, he became my substitute role model of a father. He was always teaching me and making me think about my life. Once when he happened to drive by the schoolyard, he saved me from getting beaten up in a fight. While he drove me home, he asked, "What would Jesus do?"
Jimmy Breland, with only an eighth-grade education, never became an officer in the church and never owned a home; nor did he ever own a car. He always got a job driving a truck, because money was tight. So I went to Sunday School in a Jewel Tea and Coffee truck, an Atlantic Richfield truck and a linoleum truck.
I was not the only one influenced by Jimmy Breland-19 boys in my class of 25 went into some form of full-time Christian service. When I told the story of Jimmy Breland at the National Children's Workers' Conference in San Diego, California, a lady hurried down the aisle to tell me she and others in her class were also influenced by Jimmy Breland-eight years after I was in his class.
Without a lot of education, church officer experience or public recognition, Jimmy Breland made a difference in my life and in the lives of many others. You can do the same. You can influence a life for Christ.
-- What Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know (Elmer L. Towns)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

How to Speak With Others

How do we respond to people in dealing with challenges -- including sin issues -- in the community?  We live in a world hypersensitized to 'politically correct' speech. Our choice of words can get us into serious trouble, but failing to speak appropriately is failure of leadership and in the end unloving. A word spoken well is a treasure (see Proverbs 25:11).

Jesus must be our model.  Sometimes he spoke boldy, even harshly. Other times he was gentle and warm. Consider these examples:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33)  [Glenn's comment -- read the whole chapter.This is not an isolated verse out of context as Jesus rails against the teachers of the law.  You won't soften this one.]

“I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” (Mark 1:41)

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:9-11)

Jesus advocated simple speech in His Sermon on the Mount:

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)

Sometimes Jesus didn’t speak at all:
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long
time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. (Luke 23:8-9)

(This may be the most gracious experience Herod could have received from the Lord of the Universe standing in front of him!)

Jesus helps us understand that what comes out of our mouths is really from our hearts:

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)

We see Paul's counsel to the Colossians (and by extension, to us today):

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-7)

Jesus' harsh words were less frequent than his warm counsel, and directed at the hard-hearted, legalistic, and proud (but I repeat myself).  I don't know of examples where he spoke harshly to a hurting person who understood that they needed mercy.

A few take-away points:
  • ·         Jesus knew what was in each individual, discerning the heart, and spoke accordingly.  How we speak (or not) with people is based on what helps them, helps the Church mature, and glorifies God.
  •    We will sometimes need to speak hard truths in a hard way.

·         Our conversation must be plain, not duplicitous or deceiving.
·         Our conversation must be grace-full, an expression of the new heart we have from "Christ in us, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
·         The way to improving our speech is to ask God to transform our hearts.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Observed Time Rhythms, vs. Revealed Time Rhythms

Teachers, you need a rhythm of work that includes rest.

These time periods are observed from the astronomical rhythms (which, of course, are God's design):
The day
The month
The year

But the concept of a week is a revelation from God.  There is nothing astronomical about a week.  While your body has a daily need for sleep, there is nothing 'natural' about needing a rest day each week.  These are revealed to us by God as good for us.  The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Incorporate a day of rest in your teaching ministry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011


God used Charles Spurgeon, again and again. Check out his sermons online. (Sermon collections like this area  great --and free! -- resource if you're looking for ideas on how to present key ideas from a passage.)

How is God working through you today? It's not a question of if He is working in you and through you, but how.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Helps for Interpreting Leviticus

I don't think I've ever heard a Bible teacher say, "Wow, I can't wait to teach Leviticus to my class!  They'll love it!"  (Kidding.)  Leviticus is an important book to study for understanding holiness, the cost of sin, and the magnitude of God's love for us in Christ.  Here is a good framework for interpreting the rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies.  And once you've applied yourself in this study -- you'll actually find new ways to bring this into your teaching!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How To Pray For Missionaries

As a teacher you will often be in position to lead in prayer.  Here's some excellent advice about praying for missionaries from David Sitton's book,"Reckless Abandon":

"When people ask me how to pray for missionaries, I tell them they need to be remembered daily, because these kinds of stresses are everyday realities. Pray for the big things: that the gospel will advance through their efforts; that they will be sustained through loneliness; that the Lord will provide financial partnerships; and that He will protect them from illness and those who would do them harm. But also remember to pray for the everyday things: transportation to the market, strength to do tasks such as washing clothes and making meals, finding correct boundaries in relation to possessions and privacy, and enduring the stress of long periods of separation. Pray for the Lord to sustain their relationship with Him and with one another. And, particularly, pray for their children."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Speaking the Word

There is power in hearing the Word.  Here is a pastor who memorized Hebrews and spoke it as his sermon.  Wonderful, expressive, passionate!  Listen to the Word, and work at reading it aloud in ways that engage your students.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's a Good Question? -- Recommended Approaches

Print off Fred Sanders' short article "What's A Good Question?" and review it a few times.  I have a reputation for asking good questions and I had two "aha!" moments studying this article:

1. I need to keep pushing myself to ask a wide range of types of questions.  It's not just "open-ended" vs. "definite answer."

2. I need to incorporate some questions to help the conversation move amongst my students, without me always being at the center of the conversation.

And how does Sanders define a good question? "A good question evokes curiosity by exhibiting curiosity." Love it!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Prayer for Teaching

Kiely Young has a helpful article on prayer for teaching at the Sunday School Leader blog (you should subscribe if you're involved in adult Sunday School).

You must be praying for your students!  This is one of the most critical ways we teachers minister to people in our sphere of influence.

Monday, November 07, 2011

That Others May Live

I greatly admire the creed of the US Air Force Pararescue unit:

It is my duty as a Pararescueman to save life and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, that others may live.

 Notice the angel arms on their patch:

These men train for years and commit themselves to both medicine and physical capability -- at a much higher level than other airmen -- to be able to go into any situation and save lives.  

What a terrific model for we Bible teachers!  

Handouts, Yes or No? How Valuable Are They?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Sin = Cosmic Treason

At times I've struggled to clearly present the biblical truths of sin to largely post-modern audiences.  So I'm generally on the watch for good material that will help me teach effectively.

This R.C. Sproul article is worth studying and putting in your reference files: "Sin is Cosmic Treason."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Hook Your Audience!

Martin Luther's Counsel to Proud Teachers

Working on the craft of Bible teaching always includes efforts against our pride.  Always. Martin Luther's counsel to proud teachers is quite appropriate!

"If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it—if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears.
Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, “See, see! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.” That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels."

HT: Timothy George

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Break...With a Purpose...Request Your Prayers

October is my month to focus on writing.  I have several books to finish editing and publish.  To create the time and space for this work I will fast from

Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Netflix, YouTube, TV, following my favorite blogs, etc.

Since I am an info-junkie and crave input, please pray for me!  I'm eager to accomplish a greater objective in October.

I plan to be back to blogging regularly in November.  Until then, keep on teaching to change lives!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quote the Text!

John Piper does something consistently in his sermons that every teacher should do: he quote the biblical text. He repeats the specific part of the verse that he is referring to. He does not say, “As Jesus said in John…” but says, “Look at John 17:7.” “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.” Then he explains his points.

Quote the text directly, and out loud. Do your learners a tremendous favor and quote specifically. Don’t leave them scratching their heads wondering which verse you got that idea from. You want to them to be able to put their fingers right on the text.

It’s ok and appropriate to repeat key texts two or three times. The Word is meant to be heard.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My First Kindle Book -- Can You Help?

I would really like your help! 

I just published my first Kindle book, “What Fathers ShouldTeach Their Sons” on Amazon.  Woo-hoo!

It’s selling for $0.99 and all the profits ($0.38 per copy) will go to support a missionary project in SE Asia.  It’s a closed country situation, so I can’t be more specific. 

This is a very short book, focusing on the mindsets, relationships with others, and specific skills and experiences that I believe fathers best instill in sons.  Many fathers have told me how valuable this information has been for them.  

Here is the description:
Boys can learn from almost anyone, but there are some things which fathers teach best to sons. There is a generational call of fathers to help boys become men. Our boys are staying boys too long. We aren't giving them the kinds of training that produces both toughness and tenderness. We've abdicated far too much training to school teachers and youth pastors and sports coaches. One unexpected consequence: sons think less of their fathers because their fathers aren't the ones guiding them. This book outlines the important mindsets, relationships with others, and specific skills and experiences that boys need to become men. Some things might take only a few minutes for a boy to master. For others, mastery requires practice over several years. Some may be "caught" from our modeling rather than specifically "taught." All are important.

There are three ways you can help:
 Buy a copy!  (If not for you, gift a copy to a father you know.)  
Write a review and post it on Amazon.  Be candid, please.
Pass this information along to others who might be interested.



Last Adam - nice model for lesson

Great Bible teachers are always on the lookout for good material, well-structured, that could be the basis for a lesson or devotion.  There is a generous community of pastors and teachers worldwide who publish sermons, articles, and blogs that you can adapt.

The Last Adam is just such an example.  You can easily adapt this blog post about Adam, Christ, and a detailed framework of Romans 5:12-21 into a shorter or longer lesson.  It would be good discussion material to review in breakout groups of 3-6 in a larger class.  It would be fun to work up some possible applications.

Don't need this right now?  Perhaps you want to print off a copy and file it for future reference.  Or just tuck away in some dim corner of memory that a Google search on "last Adam" will likely find it again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eye Contact That Changes Lives

I've written about eye contact several times, but continue to emphasize it because good eye contact practices will help you teach to change lives. You open the flow of communication and convey interest, enthusiasm, authenticity.

Specific tips:
  • Talk to your students, not your Bible, your notes, the whiteboard, or the ceiling.
  • Good eye contact does not mean staring or gazing. Those are likely to make a person uncomfortable and lose their concentration -- and less likely to understand the material or participate in discussion.
  • Good eye contact is three to five seconds on a person if they are not speaking to you, and full attention when they are. (If they're making a comment to the group, you may not have to keep eye contact on them all the time.)
  • Don't flit your eyes around and try to hit everyone for 0.2 seconds. That's not meaningful and only reinforces any nervousness you already have!
  • Watch your students as well as listen to them. Look for signs of being bored or being lost.
  • Avoid focusing only on your "best" and "worst" students.
If you work at appropriate eye contact, you will find participation increases and your job as a teacher is easier.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Do We Need More Bible Study Guides?

(Note: I originally published this in February 2005 -- and still give the same answer! -- Glenn)

Do We Need More Bible Study Guides?

My answer is yes -- LOTS more -- but not the printed kind.

I counted eight (eight!) different study guides for Ephesians at a local Christian bookstore. The store has a whole section devoted to these materials, with cases and cases in the back room. There are booklets, books, videos, DVDs, workbooks, and laminated summary sheets. The sales clerk excitedly pointed out their growing collection of Spanish-language translations from the bigger publishing groups.

I'm grateful that the Lord has gifted those who created these and those who can mass-produce them.

But we need Bible study guides of a different kind -- qualified teachers capable and willing to teach the Word of God. My dream is to see the Lord raise up a new generation of teachers who will wrestle with the Word directly -- no outward props -- and bring teaching that meets the precise needs of a class at a particular time. Teachers need to bathe their study in prayer and ask the Lord of Heaven to move hearts and minds to greater understanding and application of the truth.

All these study guides will sit on shelves useless unless people step forward and use them effectively. All these outward props can go away.

Yes, we need lots more Bible study guides, but of the redeemed people kind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Underused Tool: Nave's Topical Bible

Nave's Topical Bible is an under-used tool, by my estimation. This is a gem for studying related verses that won't show up in a simple keyword search.

I still prefer the old-fashioned book form -- I can scan faster, and see more than I expected to see. And you can take notes in it! It's fun to date the topics as you search through them. Over time you see how God has been leading your curiosity into His Word.

A good online source (free!) for Nave's is The big problem with the online version is that you have to have some familiarity with the way topics are named. Look at the "Select from Alphabetical List" area to develop a feel for this.

Good teachers use this tool.

Monday, September 19, 2011

One Way to Solve Discipline Problems with Boys in Sunday School

via Josh Hunt:

I pastored a little congregation near Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station in Hawaii. I always had a large supply of muscular recruits.
The young, mostly single marines had great hearts but not much tact. When out of uniform and away from their sergeant, they just stood around waiting for someone to tell them what to do.
At a Sunday school leaders' meeting, several women teachers described their discipline problems with young boys. They couldn't control the boys for the hour-long Bible lesson. They had tried everything and were ready to quit.
I grabbed a couple of marines and told them to go into the Sunday school rooms and put a couple of boys under each arm. "Rough them up and sit on them," I said.
The women were horrified, thinking the strategy bordered on child abuse, but the little boys loved it. Our discipline problems were solved by placing one marine per room to hold unruly boys while the teacher taught the lesson. In one Sunday I came to realize how every pastor needs a "few good men"!
--Robert Hicks, in Men of Integrity (July/August 2000)

Pray for more men teaching in our elementary age and youth Sunday School programs!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reciting the Gospel of Mark -- What You Can Learn

This is amazing, fascinating!  Max McClean recites (dramatically, with some graphics and lighting effects) the entire Gospel of Mark.

What power is in the Word of God, and the story of Jesus!

I refer you to this for several reasons:

First, you and I can learn a lot about how to read Scripture aloud to the people we're teaching.  Notice how engaging this presentation is -- don't you dare bore people with your reading of God's Word!

Second, note how effective even a little drama and maps are to help people understand what's going on.

Third, it might be very helpful for your class or a small group to get this DVD and watch it together.

Fourth, note how much more helpful it is to get all 16 chapters together, as a long story, than give people nearly random excerpts of passages and verses.  Help your students understand the story and how the different elements of the God's Word fit together.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Evaluating Your Lesson Afterwards

Every great Bible teacher learns from past performance, without being trapped in the past.  I think Brian Croft's advice "How Does a Pastor Evaluate His Sermon One Hour After Preaching It" is spot-on for Bible teachers.

I talk more about this topic in my training program, "Teach the Bible to Change Lives."  It's an important process for making progress, but staying humble.  It's part of how we advance in the craft of Bible teaching!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Example Hook

Here's an example 'hook' I used to start a class recently.  The lesson was the 1st in a series on Elijah.  I wanted this group (which was a class of older adults whom I knew were very concerned about the state of the US) to identify with the time period, so they would be receptive to studying the Word and seeing how God related to people just like them.

I started this way:

"The country is divided, with enormous political and economic uncertainty.  There are several countries in the Middle East seething with unrest and jockeying for power.  Ungodly, unrighteous practices are promoted by leading politicians.  Fewer and fewer people look to God or His Word for guidance.  It's been more than 50 years since "the greatest generation," when they led by character, sacrifice, and industry.  The cultural strengths of the land are fading.  Can I get an Amen?

"But I'm not talking about the United States in 2011.  I'm talking about the northern kingdom of Israel in 874 BC, 57 years after the death of King Solomon.  There are many parallels to our current day, so let's look together at how God sent the prophet Elijah into the mix."

Now, isn't that stronger than "Open your Bibles to 1 Kings chapter 16" ? 

It's worth some effort to find ways to engage your students right at the start.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Decline is a Choice...and Your Choices Affect Your Family

Note: this is a cross-post from my blog for husbands and fathers.  The same principles are true for you as you teach the Bible to change lives. -- Glenn

"Daddy, I don't know why you read the newspaper, it just makes you mad."  This was my sweet daughter's observation at age 8, and it's became a running joke for years.

On this, the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I want to encourage you as husbands and fathers, to be men of conviction, to be strong, to believe in bright futures.

I am concerned about the trajectory of the US as a nation.  There are many worrying trends.  We can point a lot of fingers at government leaders, failures of institutions, poor decisions by others, sin and foolishness abounding.  I could write for a long time about the need for we men to step up and lead well in these days.  But today I want to focus on another important truth.

It's been said that worry is temporary athiesm.

For the sake of your families, and for the future of all our countries, as Christian citizens, I implore you: be wide-eyed about reality, but not despairing. Work for justice and righteousness in governments and institutions, but do not forget that it is the Lord our God who provides for us.  Help others in need, reflecting the generosity of our Heavenly Father.  Make choices -- whatever your sphere of influence -- that build others up, taking personal responsibility and reaping self-respect.

Do not allow your family to see you express concerns, fears, anxiousness -- but not follow-through with confidence in Christ and the sovereign grace of God which frees us from all fear.  Notice how many Psalms begin with fears and even anger, but finish with praise.  This is the model, men.  Make sure your family learns confidence in the face of the real world.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Do I Recommend Josh Hunt's Materials?

I'm occasionally asked what I think of Josh Hunt's books and materials, and if we're in 'competition.'

I think Josh Hunt's books, questions vault, and many articles are terrific.  I absolutely recommend them.  I haven't met Josh but hope to some day, just to say thank you and keep up the good work!

We're not in competition. I hope he would feel that we're both doing everything we can to build up teachers and churches in the spheres of influence God has granted us.

Check out Josh's website -- there's a goldmine of materials there.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Room/Seating Arrangements

Many people checking this blog teach in the same place routinely, with the same seating arrangements.  Everybody is comfortable.

Here's a challenge: think creatively -- is there another seating arrangement you could try?  What can you do to shake up the room layout?

Change up the room, and you trigger your students' brains to be more expectant.  (This does wear off, but works for a while).

Or skip the usual place altogether and meet somewhere new.  Maybe in a foyer, or a local coffee shop, or someone's living room, or a church building if you usually meet in a home.

Don't be afraid to try something new, and experiment.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Teach to the Whites of Their Eyes!

Review your past few lessons -- are you using very general, wishy-washy examples in your illustrations and applications?  (They sound like this:  "In case you, you know, might have a neighbor guy who complains, you know, well, just keep lovin' him.")

This advice is probably only going to resonate with a subset of my readers, but will be very important for those teachers.  

Use specific, detailed illustrations.  Call for specific behaviors -- described well! -- in your applications.  Don't generalize all the time.  What struggles and challenges and fears do your students have at this time? As you pray for them, what burns in your heart that they need to hear in order to grow?  

It's been said that great golfers don't just look at the ball as they swing; great golfers focus on 1 dimple on that ball.  Great baseball batters watch the seams on the ball as it is hurled at them.  

In this same spirit, dear teachers, focus on the precise needs of your students.  Aim your illustrations and applications not at the amorphous crowd, but the whites of the eyes of individuals.  Speak not into the air around them but into their very chests!  Teach passionately, specifically, boldly -- this is teaching the Bible to change lives.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Great Bible Teachers Bear This Responsibility

From Steve Parr's excellent book, Sunday School That Really Works: A Strategy for Connecting Congregations and Communities (emphasis mine) : 

"Lives will be changed. God's Word is powerful, and people are transformed as they are exposed to it. The problem that many Sunday school classes encounter is not the power of God's Word but the anemic presentation of unprepared or passionless teachers. The teachers I am describing love God and love their church. However, they may not have been equipped and are often not motivated to prepare and present the lesson with effectiveness. It certainly cannot help their attitude if the pastor or other leaders are talking down the value of Sunday school. Additionally, many are unaware that they are ineffective. They have concluded that the purpose of Sunday school is to study the Bible, and that is what they are doing. Therefore, they see themselves as successful. James 1:22 says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves:" A Bible study in a Sunday school class or a small group of any kind is not intended to be an academic exercise. It is intended to be an encounter with God that affects the participants' lives day in and day out. An encounter with God's Word should lead to personal spiritual growth that in turn leads to life change. The teacher of the class bears the responsibility of confronting the class members with the truth of God's Word with the aim of personal application"

Thursday, September 01, 2011

How Not to Start Your Lesson

If you want to engage your audience, don't use either of these two common "opening" approaches:

1. Introducing yourself or sharing a story about what happened "on the way here" that isn't relevant to your main teaching points.

2. Telling them what you're going to tell them before you tell them.  (This comes from the famous preaching paradigm of (a) telling 'em what you're gonna tell 'em (b) telling 'em, and (c) telling what you done told 'em. )

Let me be clear -- you should use both approaches but not as your initial opening.  Get rolling with a powerful start by diving right in, and grabbing their attention.  Introduce yourself later on, not at the very beginning. You can outline where you're going with your lesson, but that's not the best use of your first sentences.

Instead, you need to dive right in and hook a nerve.  In fact, I recommend you not think of "open" but "hook" when you craft your opening.

Get my free report on crafting a hook that will help you teach to change lives.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Solomon's Giving Pattern

9 [The queen of Sheba] gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. There had never been such spices as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon ….  12 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country. (2 Chron 9:9,12)

22 King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. 23 All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. 24 Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, and robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules. (2 Chron 9:22-24)

King Solomon was fabulously wealthy with goods and wisdom.  I’ve highlighted two parts of 2 Chronicles 9 to make a few points.

1.       The queen of Sheba gave him tons of gold and more – but Solomon gave the queen more than she brought to him!  This is the model set by God for us in all our relationships.  Our Creator God gives us infinitely more than we bring to him.  Parents give their children more than they give to them.  We should give our brothers and sisters in Christ, and not-yet believers more than they bring to us. 

Test yourself to see if you are following this pattern of giving.

And what did Solomon give the queen of Sheba?  Gold?  Horses?  I suspect not.

2.       In verse 23 we see that wisdom is what people considered most precious of all.  Even in our affluent cultures today [and we enjoy many things which even King Solomon did not have!], wisdom is the prized possession that people seek.  And where does wisdom come from?  God. 

Are you seeking wisdom above all else?  Do you recognize its True Source?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Women in the Roman World, and Early Church

Lynn Cohick gives some terrific information about women in the Roman world, and in the early church.  I recommend these to you for some good background that will enrich your teaching. Women were not sequestered, but active in social life, and did a lot together with men.  They held significant positions (think Proverbs 31 and more).  It's insightful that Jesus interacted frequently with women.

Watch these three short videos and learn.  Might be a good thing for a small group to watch together and discuss, too.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Are You Following These 10 Commandments for Bible Teachers?

Please print off this article by Sinclair Fergusen, "A Preacher's Decalogue" and study it -- it applies very well to Bible teachers like you!  He outlines 10 commandments to help preachers/teachers minister well:

  1. Know your Bible better.
  2. Be a man of prayer.
  3. Do not lose sight of Christ.
  4. Be deeply trinitarian.
  5. Use your imagination.
  6. Speak much of sin and grace.
  7. Use the “plain style.”
  8. Find your own voice.
  9. Learn how to transition.
  10. Love your people.

Outstanding!  Read and study this.

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How are Galilean and Judeans like Texans and New Yorkers?

I found this short article very helpful: "7 Differences Between Galilee and Judea In the Time of Jesus."  This definitely helps you understand the narratives of Matthew and Mark much better!

"even an impeccably Jewish Galilean in first-century Jerusalem was not among his own people; he was as much a foreigner as an Irishman in London or a Texan in New York"

Recommended for you teachers -- and an easy recommendation for you to make to your students.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Insert Silences -- Here's Why and How

It's an old family joke that I'm a babbling Brooke.  I've got a lot of words when I teach!  I have so many ideas!  I have so much I want to share!  I'm able to fill every split-second of silence!

For years I've been working hard at teaching less material, and teaching it well.

More recently I've begun working on intentionally inserting moments of silence around key points.  I want people to have space and time to allow important truths to sink in.  I want to give people time to chew and swallow.

(How am I doing?  Terribly, if you must know.  But I'm working at it, and I am confident God can help me get better at this.)

How can you do this?

The first step is to pray that you would operate under the power of the Holy Spirit.  ("Apart from me, you can do nothing.")

I plan ahead to where my key points are -- where I want to insert some silence.  Then I plan for two breaths, which works out to be about 10-12 seconds.  It feels about right.  I try to make eye contact with a few people across the room.

Very important: know what you're going to say next before you have the silent moment.  It's not nearly as effective if you're staring at your notes or shuffling pages in your Bible or handouts.  You want to be still and silent yourself.

I've noticed that my students are quick to jump into silent spaces with their own words.  It helps if you gesture as a signal for silence (perhaps holding up a finger or your hand -- this will vary across cultures) and say, "Think about that for a moment."

Try this -- you'll see the power of God at work.  Let me know if you have other tactics to help make this silence effective.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Strong Advice, Not Followed Nearly Enough

My friend Matt Perman pointed pastors to Jonathan Edwards counsel: "Ministers, in order to be burning and shining lights, should walk closely with God, and keep near to Christ; that they may ever be enlightened and enkindled by him. And they should be much in seeking God, and conversing with him by prayer, who is the fountain of light and love."

This is every bit true for teachers as well, my friends.  

Stay close to Christ, and teach to change lives!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quick Answers to Frequently Questions

I get some questions frequently, so I recorded short answers to a few of them.  Do you have one of these questions?

"How can I really know if my students are growing from the teaching they are getting when I teach?"    Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"Due to a policy that a Sunday School teacher must be a member of our church for one year before they [are allowed] to teach, I am sitting on the sidelines until October.  What are some things I can do over the summer to make sure I'm ready come fall?" Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"What do you do when called on to teach impromptu or last minute and your mind just seems to be blank of subject matter.  You may have been studying something personally, but that is not appropriate for the time. Am I right in assuming you should just always have something in your spirit that you could teach if called upon?"    Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"I'm a new Christian, 4 years, and I'm teaching a class of older Christian ladies who have been church members many years.  I feel they know of every possible lesson that I can teach.  How do I make the lesson as exciting for them as it is for me?" Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"How do I become very good at quoting Scripture, even without looking at the Bible?"  Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"People seem to get bored and ready to leave toward the end of my lessons...what should I do?"Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"What Study Bible should I use?" Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"What do I think about [baptism, baptism of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, the unforgivable sin, etc.]?"   Listen to Glenn's Answer here

"Do you know why I'm not teaching good lessons now? Because that other teacher has all the advantages, that's why my teaching isn't as good as his!"  Listen to Glenn's Answer here

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Julian Treasure -- Improve Your Listening

Conscious listening skills will greatly improve your ability to teach to change lives. You'll be better at hearing from God's Word and His creation, at observing people, at understanding the questions (spoken and unspoken) that your students have. This 7.5 min talk by Julian Treasure provides some terrific tips and simple exercises to improve your listening.

Listen well to teach well!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Free Training Videos for Small Groups

I know many of my blog readers are leading small groups and neighborhood Bible studies.  Here's an excellent (and free) resource: 27 training videos for small group leaders.  

Friday, August 05, 2011

Short blogging break

I'm taking a short blogging break, be back soon.

Teach Authentically -- "All Your Krazy Kats!"

I have friends and family who hope I never dress up like this again! This was the most entertaining way I could make my point that you need to teach from who you are, not imitate others.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Why I Don't Publish My Lessons

I'm asked almost every week questions that start with "Do you have a lesson on _____ that I can use?"  Sometimes I do. But I don't share my lessons with others to use for their classes.  (It's not what I'm called to do.  I'm not opposed to others publishing sermons and lessons.) I want you to do the harder -- and BETTER work of preparing lessons that are tailored for your students at this time. This video explains why.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Shake Up Your Lessons!

Are your lessons "samey-samey," perhaps predictable?  Are you looking for a way to shake up the group a bit?

This interesting Psychology Today article outlines the SCAMPER strategy to shuffle your content and presentation.  (Don't let this call you to teach false doctrine!)

The basic idea is look for ways to:

S = Substitute?
C = Combine?
A = Adapt?
M = Magnify? = Modify?
P = Put to other uses?
E = Eliminate?
R = Rearrange? = Reverse? 

Read the whole article to get some ideas.  Your students will thank you!

HT: David Murray

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Relationship Between Love and Commandments

Looking for a medium-length lesson or devotional?  This article would be a great starting point: The Relationship Between 'Love' and 'Commandments' in the Writings of John.

I recommend you develop the habit of evaluating materials like this and thinking, "How could I use that for a lesson or devotional?"  You'll be amazed at how much information God puts within your reach!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Recommended Bible Study Tools

In this video I quickly outline my thoughts about Bible study tools you should have -- and which is the only one that's absolutely essential!

You can also get a free reports on these tools on our website.

What study tools do you use and recommend?  Comments welcomed!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bible Teachers Shouldn't Juggle

You might be surprised to learn that I can juggle!  (Yes, I've juggled machetes and torches, but no, I've never juggled chainsaws.)

But I don't think Bible teachers should be juggling a bunch of stuff when they teach -- it's a horrible distraction to your students.  I explain more in the video.

By the way, be sure to watch the whole video and catch some "bloopers" at the end.  (Smile)

Monday, July 25, 2011

You Should Get to Know Gödel

Probably very, very few of you know Gödel's incompleteness theorems, or why they're so important.  Please put aside any fear of math and logic you might have, and read this short article by Perry Marshall, "Mathematics Needs God."   

Perry's article is an extremely readable and understandable account of the theorems will greatly strengthen your faith, your ability to minister effectively with post-moderns and relativists, and your insights in how to logically address all the goofy nonsense that's spouted about faith vs. reason and faith vs. science. 

I half-suspect the reason why Gödel's theorems aren't taught systematically in high schools and colleges today is because they're irrefutable and threaten the "comfortable" preferred worldview of so many "smart" people.  

It may seem like odd advice to be asking Bible teachers to learn math theorems, but trust me, this will be worth the effort.  This article is the easiest way to get started. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ministering to Those Who Have Serious Mental Illness

(This is another guest post from my friend Marda. -- Glenn)

Chances are good that you have at least a few people in your church who have been affected by mental illness to some degree, either suffering with it themselves or dealing with family members who have it.  Major depression and various anxiety disorders are fairly common.  Anxiety disorders can include social anxiety disorder, which might make a person seem shy and standoffish, panic disorder, where a person may go into a panic attack during the service and feel trapped, unable to escape, generalized anxiety disorder, which is a constant level of anxiety and worry, to PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) which is well-known to be related to some veterans who, as a result of outside stimuli such as a car backfiring, interpret that as the sound of a gun and re-experience what it is like to be in battle, but which is also seen in survivors of trauma, either a one-time event such as an accident or a natural disaster or something which has occurred over years such as prolonged abuse.  In PTSD a person may experience flashbacks, thinking they are back in the traumatic situation.  These can be scary, both for the PTSD sufferer and for those around him/her but they are manageable with a few simple techniques.
The other major class of mental illnesses that you might find are psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder and bipolar disorder I with psychotic features.  In these conditions, people may see or hear things that aren't there, may have some delusions of grandeur or may be paranoid, afraid that someone or everyone is out to get them.  There are other illnesses, such as personality disorders, but they may not be as easily recognized in a church setting and they are dealt with differently.
The important thing to know about all of these illnesses is that the brain of the person has been affected.  These people, if they really have the mental illness, are not malingerers or attention seekers.  They are often on medications to reduce their symptoms but psychiatry is still not an exact science so sometimes the medications won't be working, they need a new medication or they think they're better and they go off the meds and then things can quickly deteriorate.  But these people need to be treated with compassion and love, not stigmatized for being different.
Before I go on to the practical ways that we can help this group of people to become Christians or to have a more meaningful church experience and relationship with God, it is important to address several kinds of erroneous thinking about the mentally ill.
First, the media is fond of promulgating the myth that mentally ill people are generally violent.  Some are.  But the percentage is small and you are not likely to run into a more violent person in your church.  In general, people with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are not violent.  Their thoughts are sometimes disordered and they may seem to be disconnected from what's going on at times but that can be dealt with gently and patiently.  Mentally ill people are often misunderstood but they are God's children too and need to know they are loved by God and His people.
If you feel drawn to mentally ill people in your church and want to help, here are a few suggestions.
1.  Anxiety and panic attacks can be terrifying experiences.  If someone is having a panic attack, they may be sweating, trembling, hyperventilating, having heart palpitations, and feeling utter confusion and fear.  Often, they are afraid they are in a situation from which they can't escape or they may feel like they're dying.  Speak to them in a quiet, calm,, reassuring voice.  Offer to go with them out of the church or Sunday school class situation if they feel they need to leave the room to get themselves together.  Try to get them to slow their breathing and to take deep breaths.  Do not have them breathe into a paper bag.  That is not medically helpful and can be harmful.  Offer to stay with the person and talk them through the attack.  Generally, a panic attack will peak within about ten minutes and then the person may be tired and drained but will be able to manage on their own.  They may then choose to go back into church, stay outside in the lobby or go home.  Make it clear that you will be happy if they stay but that you'll understand if they have to leave.  Ask them what they need, if they need any help, then act accordingly.  If they want you to sit with them for the rest of the service, offer to do that.  Sometimes knowing there is a "safe" person, one who will accept them where they are and help them to deal with such attacks can make the situation more tolerable and, when they feel more safe, panic attacks can decrease.
Don't tell them to "get over it", to get off medication, or that if they just prayed enough and had enough faith they would be healed of their condition.  Any healing is done by God and in His own way and time.  Think of yourself as walking alongside the person as they go on their healing journey.  Don't assume that the panic attacks will go away overnight.  Often, such attacks seemingly come out of nowhere and are physiologically based.  Often, if panic attacks have occurred before, the person is worried that they will again and that can aggravate the condition.  But saying things that would result in the person experiencing further guilt and shame will not be helpful.  Telling someone that you will stay with them through the attack and that it will end can be helpful.
2.  Post traumatic stress disorder:
While this condition has many manifestations, one of the most common and sometimes problematic is the flashback.  This is where something, sometimes known to the person and sometimes not, triggers the person to think they are back in the situation that produced the trauma.  If this happens in church or Bible study class, have someone go and speak quietly to the person.  Sometimes it is helpful to get the person into another room away from the group of people.  You can then start having the person do grounding exercises.  This involves asking the person to look around the room and tell you what they see.  Grounding techniques use all possible senses.  So have the person put their feet on the ground and feel them there.  Remind them that they are in church and this is (date, month, year) and that they are safe.  Some people find that holding a piece of ice or snapping a rubber band on their wrists can bring them out of a flashback.  Others find that a certain scent will help.  Some people with anxiety disorders carry a "comfort bag" which contains all sorts of things that can be helpful to them during an episode.  Using a comfort bag can also help ground the person.
Flashbacks vary in their length of time.  The sooner into the flashback you can get to the person the better, before it escalates and the person goes further and further into it.  Stay with the person and continue to remind them that they are safe now, the situation they think is happening is in the past, and then continue to help the person to become grounded.  After the flashback ends, the person may or may not want to talk about it.  Don't shrink away from it if they do want to talk but it is important to keep reminding the person that the incident is not happening now and that they are safe at this very moment.  As with panic attacks, flashbacks don't just go away overnight.  As the person gets treatment and heals they may lessen in intensity or frequency. But this will be different for every person.
3.  If a person is suffering from psychotic symptoms those are dealt with differently.  Generally, if a person is delusional, you can't break the delusion with words.  If they are seeing or hearing hallucinations, telling them that you're not seeing or hearing those things can sometimes help but often makes the person feel worse or act defensively.  You can encourage the person to talk back to the voices and sometimes that can help the voices to be quieter.  Sometimes, if the person is being disruptive, offer to get to another room and talk or just tell them they need to be quiet and let other group members share.
The key to ministering to the mentally ill is to treat them with acceptance and kindness.  They need to be treated as people with worth and dignity like everyone else.  Chances are they've gone through a lot and faced a lot of stigma and people who don't take time to understand them.  If you pray and ask God to give you compassion and a willingness to work with them, if you educate yourself about their condition and how to handle it, that can go a long way toward helping them.  Sometimes, if they are not getting treatment, you may want to encourage them to do so and help them find appropriate means of addressing their issues.  But if you do that, continue to be supportive when their conditions manifest around you.  Pray for discernment as to what you need to do and how involved you need to be.  You can't minister to everyone and sometimes boundaries need to be set.  But these people often have few means of support and the church can be very helpful in that area in a wide variety of ways.
I pray that this information has been helpful and that it will make the whole idea of mental illness less frightening and that it will help you to reach out to these often lonely people.