Friday, April 29, 2011

It's Not Enough to Ask the Lord What to Do

(This is from a short devotion I led recently for a small group of men. -- Glenn)

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
 49 When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

 51 But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.

 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour-when darkness reigns." 
Luke 22:47-53

This event is told in all four gospel accounts; Peter is named as the sword-swinger in John, but not the others.  It would have been an emotionally-charged, memorable event!  Situation difficult: Outnumbered, inferior weapons ("two swords" which were probably more like kitchen knives), at night, hampered terrain. 

Detail in the Luke account: the disciples ask what to do! (v49)  Then Peter charges ahead, going after (probably) the least threatening man in sight - a servant.  Of course, Peter wasn't aiming at the man's ear!  

Jesus' response is not only to Peter, but to the group.  This suggests the other disciples were going to attack as well.  Certainly the temple guards would be prepared for violence (clubs and swords v.52) It's a natural response to defend your rabbi and yourselves.  

Key application for leaders:  How often do we ask the Lord for instruction and guidance - and then move ahead with the assumption that our idea is correct?  Let's be leaders who listen carefully to God. 

Power of Words

This video is an excellent illustration of the power of words.  Teachers, it's not just what you say but how it's said.  Be willing to work hard at finding alternative ways to communicating the same truth. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So You've Got a Blind Person in your Church

(This is a guest post from my friend Marda, who shares her experiences teaching the Bible to people with physical and intellectual difficulties.  We have much to learn! -- Glenn)

So You've Got a Blind Person in your Church

What to do?  Blindness!  It's always one of those disabilities that rank
high on the list of what non-disabled people think would be the worst
disability to happen to them.  That's probably because so much of what
sighted people do, from academic pursuits to transportation and many other
things,  rely upon sight, sometimes to the exclusion of other senses.  So
first, let me put a different spin on things.

 Good Things About being Blind

1. You can go to parties and never have to be the designated driver.

2. When the power goes out, you have the power!

3.  Any time, light or dark, you can read provided there is enough Braille

4.  Your husband doesn't care if you don't put makeup on, assuming he is
also blind which isn't always the case.

5.  You get to know the person before worrying about the outward

6. If you happen to slip up and go out with a pair of unmatched shoes on,
you can just say they're all the rage and you have another pair just like
them at home.

7. If you have a guide dog, you can get away with going around all of the
people and cutting to the front of the line because that's where your dog is
leading you and most people will just let you pass.

8. You never have to be responsible for whatever responsibilities  the
people in those exit rows in airplanes have to do.

9. If you can't read the hymnal, nobody worries if you don't know all of the

10.  Generally, you're not called on to read Scripture in Bible study.

All right.  That's the humor for this time.  Now let's get to the serious
stuff.  How can you help a blind person who comes to your church or Sunday
school class?

1. Greet the person (by name if you know it) with a smile.  It shows in your
voice.  Identify yourself even if you have spoken to the person before.  It
takes a while for someone to recognize your voice and that varies with each
person.  When they've got it, they'll start answering you back by name.

2.  If a person appears to be wandering around unsure of their way, walk up
and ask if they need help.  Some will be too proud if you ask that way so
sometimes the more tactful approach would be to say something like, "I'm
going into the sanctuary.  May I show you to a seat?"

3.  If the person accepts your offer of help, do not grab him/her by the
elbow, belt loop, underarm or shoulder.  Some tall people (like my husband)
prefer to be guided with a hand on the shoulder.  The conventional way is to
use something simple called "sighted guide technique".  This form of
guidance is probably the safest and most dignified in many respects.  The
way to do it is to offer your arm, (which one depends on whether the person
is using a dog or cane) and walk half a step in front of the person while
they lightly hold your arm.  This way, they can follow your body movements
and know when you change direction, go up or down stairs and so on.  If you
know the person is newly blind, give more verbal direction, like "step down"
or "we're turning right" but the person walking with you will quickly tell
you if you are giving too much verbal information for them.

4.  Never, ever do the following:
A. Grab the other end of the person's cane and drag him/her around by it.
B. Grab any part of a guide dog, especially the harness, and attempt to lead
that way.  If the person has a guide dog, ask if it is best for the dog to
follow or for the person to drop the harness handle and hold the leash in
one hand while you do sighted guide with the other.

5.  When doing sighted guide and showing someone to a seat, it is a
considerate thing to put the person's hand on the back or seat of the chair
so it can be more easily located.

6.  When you have been talking to a blind person or group of blind people
and leave them for any reason, let them know you're leaving even if it's
just to run across the room to speak to someone else.  Believe me, it's no
fun talking to the air!

7.  Be specific in your directions.  "There's a seat over there," is not
helpful.  "There's an empty chair two chairs to your right." is more precise
and less likely to create confusion.

8.  If you are at a social event which involves eating, like a church supper
or picnic, ask the person whether he/she would like to go through the line
or if they would prefer you to bring a plate to them.  Many people want to
go through the line and make sure they find out about every dish and get
what they want.  Some, however, feel uncomfortable doing that and would
rather have you tell them what the food is and not have to try to balance a
plate, cup, silverware or other such things with a cane or dog and still go
sighted guide.  When you sit down to eat, ask if the person would like to be
shown where the food is on the plate.  A common practice is to treat the
plate like the face of a clock.  So it would go something like, "Your meat
is at twelve, mashed potatoes at three, carrots at six, salad at nine etc.
Some people, especially at pot luck suppers where there are a lot of
different dishes and sampling anything you like is the order of the day,
will use more than just the main four points of the clock.  I've known
people who will say, "There's some sort of rice casserole at eight-thirty,
three bean salad is at eleven etc.  You may not need to do this at all or
the person might like just a general idea of where the food is on the plate.

9.  If you are directing the person to a rest room and you tell them where
things like the sink and toilet are inside, don't forget the toilet paper!
I'm not kidding.  That stuff is the hardest thing to find in a restroom.
Sometimes it's on the left.  Sometimes it's on the right.  Sometimes it's
straight across from the throne and sometimes it's not even on a holder at
all but is perched on the back of the toilet tank!
Some other things you may want to point out are things like whether there is
a blow dryer for the hands or paper towels above (the middle, left or right)
sink, if there is a "handicapped" stall (helpful if the person has a large
guide dog) and which stall it is.

10.  Overwhelmed yet?  Please don't be.  It's not as hard as it looks.  You
don't have to tackle every situation at once.  There will be others to help
and often those to whom you are ministering will give you the cues.  Treat
them with the respect with which you'd like to be treated.  Don't talk about
a blind person as if they're not there.  Chances are they're not deaf.  If
you make a mistake telling someone left instead of right (which is easy to
do if you're facing a person) well, you're human.

Though I have tried to keep this article in a humorous tone, there really
are some things that will turn a blind person off the minute you say them.
One is something like "Oh, you're so lucky to be blind.  You don't have to
see all of the evil in the world."  Believe me, I've known plenty of evil in
this world.  Also, don't assume that just because someone is blind, that
person will automatically have deep spiritual insight.  We're people just
like you and insight varies and has little to do with whether or not a
person is blind.

I hope the foregoing information has been helpful in giving you some
specific ideas about interacting with blind and visually impaired people.
There will be more issues addressed in future articles about ministering to
this population as well as to those with other disabilities. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It Only Takes One: Jenny and Helen's Story

(This is a guest post from my friend Marda, who shares her experiences teaching the Bible to people with physical and intellectual difficulties.  We have much to learn! -- Glenn)

It Only Takes One: Jenny and Helen's Story

Helen had arrived early at church that morning.  Since there was time before
her Bible study class, she headed for the church library to check out some
books for the week.  Helen loved to read and it was one of the few pleasures
left to her at age eighty-seven.  She smiled and greeted several people as
she walked slowly toward the library.

The incongruous sound of a television blaring cartoons caught her ear.  She
knew her hearing wasn't as acute as it had been but this was unmistakable.
Why, she wondered, would a video of cartoons be playing in the church

Intrigued, she looked into the room.  One young woman sat alone in front of
the TV.  Helen went in and greeted the young woman.

"Hi.  I'm Helen.  Are you waiting for Sunday school to start?  It's almost

"I am in Sunday school," the girl replied in a matter-of-fact and somewhat
distracted tone.  "They always let me watch cartoons in Sunday school and
church time."

Helen was stunned.  What was going on here?

"Enjoy your cartoons," she said, waving a goodbye as she left the room.

Helen went on to the library and to her Sunday school class and church.  But
she couldn't get the image of the girl in front of the TV out of her mind.
When the girl was there again the next week Helen resolved to find out more.
Maybe she was being a busybody but something just didn't seem right.

She began with the Christian Education Director.

"I'm not trying to pry," she said when they sat down together.  "But I
couldn't help noticing this young woman in front of the TV during Sunday
school time.  Do you know what that's all about?"

"Oh, that's Jenny," the director said in a tired voice.  "She just doesn't
fit in any of the Sunday school departments.  She has the mind of a child
but if we put her in a class with the kids or teens, she gets teased and
bored and then acts out.  If we put her with adults, she can't follow what's
going on and gets bored, paces the room and finally leaves to wander the
halls.  We just don't know what to do with her.  We don't want to discourage
her family from coming to the church so we keep Jenny busy, she stays out of
the way and enjoys herself."

Helen had had no previous experience teaching people with disabilities.  She
wasn't a teacher by profession.  She had been a hairdresser all her life and
even after retirement she volunteered to do hair at nursing homes.  But
standing on her feet was getting to be too much and she had recently stopped
doing that.  She needed fulfillment in her life and wanted to minister.  She
had taught children in Sunday school in the past.  Still, she hesitated.
She knew this woman needed to hear about the love of Christ.  But should she
get involved?  Or should she?

"How would it be," she began slowly, "if I started teaching her about Jesus?
I'm not sure how; I've had no experience.  But I can't get her out of my
mind.  It would sure beat the Roadrunner," she laughed gently.  "I could use
that room with the TV that she's familiar with.  I was always a good
storyteller to my kids and grandkids.  I'd be willing to try to teach her."

"She might not have the attention span," the director was doubtful.  "But
maybe one on one . . . You could try.  She may be resistant to giving up her
cartoons though.

"Nonsense!  She can watch cartoons at home.  She probably does.  Let me give
her some special time.  I've been praying about it and I really do feel that
it's what God would like me to do."

Arrangements were made and Helen began teaching Jenny the next week.  Using
an illustrated "Good News for Modern Man" Bible, she began to talk about the
love of Jesus.  It was slow going.  But after a year, Jenny had understood
enough that she knew she was a sinner in need of Jesus and she had accepted
him.  In addition, she had asked two of her friends from the goodwill store
where she worked to come to the class as well and they were attending on a
regular basis.  In church, she learned to sing some of the songs and
actually had a nice singing voice.  She began reaching out to others,
spontaneously greeting them on Sundays.  Helen convinced church staff that
she would make a good greeter so she began passing out bulletins at the
church door.  It became clear that Jenny was starting to pray as she often
prayed for requests in her small Sunday school class.  And Helen?  She had a
new lease on life.

Do you have a Jenny or a John in your church who may be in a similar
situation?  Is there someone who has an intellectual disability who just
doesn't seem to fit anywhere?  If an eighty-seven-year-old woman could reach
out and start such a ministry, could you accept the challenge?  If not,
could you pray for someone who would?

(Marda's next article will be published tomorrow.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Teaching Those with Physical and Intellectual Difficulties

(This is a guest post from my friend Marda, who is herself blind and has had an effective ministry teaching the Bible to those with physical and intellectual difficulties of many types.-- Glenn)

Reaching and Teaching the World for Christ?
 Can you think of any population groups in your church or community that
may be under-served or not ministered to at all?

My name is Marda and my calling is to minister to and teach people of all
walks of life and classes who happen to have special needs.  These needs may
range from one-on-one mentoring during Sunday school and church services to
providing help to a person with medical needs to providing materials in
accessible format for visually impaired, blind or learning disabled students
to having a special class or group for those with intellectual disabilities,
to providing transportation for those who can't get to church  or to finding
various ways to welcome those who have serious mental illness.

In this series of articles, drawn from my years in disability ministry in
various settings, I plan to share some ideas which I hope will inspire you
to reach out to those who are often forgotten, people with disabilities.

Who am I?  I am a middle-aged woman, a special ed. teacher and music
therapist by profession and have been a Christian for over thirty years.
I've got the letters after my name and the diplomas to show my education
but, while it was a good one, most of what I am going to share comes from
life experience.  Within the Christian community I have worked in a wide
variety of capacities from starting Sunday school departments for adults who
have intellectual disabilities to teaching children and adults with a
diverse array of learning differences to working with families, caregivers
and other church members in helping to make the church experience a little
easier for those whom the world sees  as disabled.  I currently work with a
special ed. ministry in a church and with a Bible study for blind
participants.  In addition, I am working to develop a ministry resource that
can be used for increasing outreach to those who have special physical,
emotional and learning needs.  We all have these basic needs and most
importantly, everyone, no matter how disabled they seem, deserves to have
the chance to know the love of Christ and of His church.

What can you do, even as one person, to reach out to this special
population?  You can begin with those already in your church who seem
different and who often seem lonely.  I have a blind friend whose pet peeve
is that he sits in an empty pew every Sunday.  He feels frustrated because
he feels that he can't simply ask to sit with a group of people.  He doesn't
want to impose.  But he's a wonderful, fun, intelligent articulate person.
Maybe there is someone in your church like that.  But how would you know
unless you engaged that person?  Start with a smile and a greeting.  But
don't just stop there.  If someone is sitting alone, ask if they'd like to
join your group in the pew or sit beside you in Bible study class.  The
worst someone can do is say no and at least you know you've tried.

In future articles I plan to offer information about various special needs
groups and how you can reach out to and teach those who are already in your
church or reach out into the wider community to welcome them in.  I pray
that reading this will be the beginning of a wonderful journey as you get to
know some of your brothers and sisters that you may not have thought to try
to get to know in the past.  I pray that God will put that desire into your

(Marda's next article will be published tomorrow)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Story of the King James Bible

I heartily recommend to you to this DVD which tells the story of the King James Bible.  Wonderfully done, with outstanding presentation by John Rhys-Davies (who doesn't love this man's voice?).  This would be fun for a small group to watch and discuss.  You'll see the Providence of God at work.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Communication is What the Listener Does"

The guys at Manager Tools have a saying: "Communication is what the listener does." 

Sidebar: if you're in business, or manage people, you need to listen to Manager Tools -- free podcasts, outstanding content! 

There's truth here for Bible teachers.  You may think all the communication rests on you, but the key part rests with the people you are teaching.  No learning happens without their engagement.  Let me say that again, clearly: No learning happens without their engagement.

Therefore you want to make it easy for them to learn from you, by keeping them engaged.  Make it easy and enjoyable for them to listen (even if the message is sometimes hard).  Don't overload them, or it will all drain out the ears without getting in any deeper. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week Timeline

This visualization of the Holy Week timeline is amazing, well-worth your time. It's exactly the sort of presentation that can help your students understand the sequence and placement of events.

Simple Small Group Curriculum

You can do a lot worse than this small group curriculum!   Read a passage together and answer these questions:

1. What did you like about the passage?

2. What did you NOT like about the passage?

3. What did you not understand in the passage?

4. What did you learn about God in the passage?

5. What are you going to do with what you learned?

Teachers, remember that your task is to facilitate learning and application.  Don't underestimate the power of this simple approach!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Good overview of Biblical History

Here are two excellent outlines of Biblical history by Goldsworthy:

Outline of Biblical History
Main Chapters in the Biblical Storyline

Here is a corresponding 15 page chronological Bible reading plan (PDF file)

I recommend these because as a Bible teacher one of our more challenging tasks is helping our students understand the big picture of the Bible.  Too many of us are stuck down in the verses and not fitting those verses into the overall story!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Want to Be Wiser? Read This Book

If you want to be wiser working with people and situations, there is one book that will help you more than any other: Proverbs

Proverbs frames the world in the fundamental differences between wise people and fools.  It's your success manual for practical wisdom in dealing with people. 

Now you read the 31 chapters in an hour, and then lay it aside.  But that's not my recommendation.  Instead, read a chapter a day.  There are 31 chapters, so simply read the chapter that corresponds to the day of the month.  Takes 5-10 minutes.  Trust me, a verse or two will "pop out" for you to reflect on more. 

You'll find that new insights come as you read this way, over a period of years, and encounter new people and situations.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Be a Book Reader, Not Just a Book Buyer

From Tim Challies:

"Alexander Whyte loved books, and he read them to his dying day. The Puritans in general and Thomas Goodwin in particular were his main diet. But he also thrived on the mystics and the princes of the Scottish church, such as Samuel Rutherford. Whyte constantly ordered books for himself and his friends in the ministry. However, he cautioned young pastors against becoming book-buyers instead of book-readers. “Don’t hunger for books,” he wrote a minister friend. “Get a few of the very best, such as you already have, and read them and your own heart continually.” Whyte often contrasted two kinds of reading—“reading on a sofa and reading with a pencil in hand.” He urged students to keep notebooks and to make entries in an interleaved Bible for future reference. “No day without its line” was his motto. He wrote to Hubert Simpson: “for more than forty years, I think I can say, never a week, scarcely a day, has passed, that I have not entered some note or notes into my Bible: and, then, I never read a book without taking notes for preservation one way or another.” "

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Key Question to Ask

We read something critically important for teachers in Romans 15:4:

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Therefore, here is a key question you should ask when you prepare to teach from a passage:

Why is this in the Bible, and what are we to learn from this?

Prayerful explore answers to that question, and you'll be teaching to change lives.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

If/Then in John 1

This would make the foundation for a wonderful lesson or series of devotions! 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Getting Feedback

Open question today: How do you get feedback on your teaching, so you can improve?  Comment away. 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

What Bible Study Tools You Need

I'm often asked which Bible study tools teachers need, or I recommend.  I wrote a whole report on this (it's free) where I cover what I think is essential, what you should have, and what you should consider adding. It's less than you might think.  Enjoy the free report.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Communicating For a Change

Teaching is centered on communicating for change -- and the one of the best books written on this subject is from Andy Stanley:

Communicating for a Change