Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Would Help You Get Better?

I'm curious: what would help you get better as a Bible teacher?

Is it more information?  Strategies?  More time?  More prayer?  Encouragement?  Something else?

Comment below to let me know, or email me at   Thanks!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Don't End with Q&A

Common mistake for many teachers: ending a lesson with question/answer.  You can't predict what comes up.  You don't know the last question you'll receive.  Therefore you lose control over your close, and miss the opportunity to close powerfully.

Here's the best approach:
1. Go through your intro (hook) and main lesson.  Interact, discuss, ask and answer questions.
2. Soft-close by saying something like "I'll wind this up in a few moments, but are there other questions or insights you'd like to share?" Work through those.
3. Finish strong with a planned summary of the key points and application(s) you want them to take away.  Try to do this 90 seconds or less.

This approach lets you include Q&A time without letting it control your ending -- which is the launch point to get your students back into loving God and loving others.

Read the Bible in 30 Days (Yes, Really)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Learning and the Brain

My friend Dale Hill recommended this nice article, "Learning and the Brain." Recommended.

(Note: if you're really interested in this topic, check out Teach the Jesus Way -- I have a whole section of that course on "Mind Matters" which goes into detail about the neurobiology and psychology of how people learn, from a Bible teacher's perspective.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ministering in Friendship With People Who Have Intellectual Disabilities

Note: This is a guest post from my friend Marda. -- Glenn

When I was a young child, I had developmental delays due in part to my extremely  premature birth.  This caused social workers and doctors to recommend to my family that I be institutionalized in a school for the mentally retarded.  These days that would not be as likely to happen.  In addition, the label "mentally retarded", which has carried such a stigma, is no longer used.  The current term is "people with intellectual disabilities".  Sometimes the term "cognitive impairments" is also used.
I want to share a valuable resource for ministering to this population.  It is an organization called Friendship Ministries.
Their mission statement is: "To share God's love with people who have intellectual disabilities and to enable them to become an active part of God's family."
While the group does have Bible study materials available, its primary focus is in helping Christians of any denomination to minister with those who have intellectual disabilities.  Their website is a rich resource for finding out ideas about the Friendship Model, ways to get a group started and so on.  This model isn't all that difficult to implement and there is room for flexibility.  I have used their materials but prefer to plan my own lessons and when I was in a church that required us to have a curriculum I used the materials for ideas but did not follow them strictly.  That is the way the model is designed.  The thing I like about Friendship Ministries is that the people at the organization are accessible, personable and friendly and they really do care about your ministry.
Another thing I like about them is their attitude.  They call their group members "friends" rather than "students".  This seems like a small thing but for many intellectually disabled adults it's huge.  It acknowledges them as adults and as equals in God's family and recognizes that while we are teaching them the Bible they have a great deal to teach us about life and they all have some kind of gift to share.
The website also has material on ministry with autistic children and adults including a couple of good recorded webinars.  There is a listing of resources and a suggested reading list, both of which are updated periodically.
If you have people with developmental, cognitive or intellectual disabilities in your church or you know of some who could be potential church members, Friendship Ministries offers a lot of good ideas to get started and many resources are free.  They are not the only producer of Bible study materials for those with intellectual disabilities, the Lutherans and Southern Baptists have curriculum for special needs ministry and I like some things about those too.  But Friendship is so much more than the curriculum.  If you're looking for curriculum in Spanish, they have that too.  It's called "Amistad", the Spanish word for friendship.
In a future article I will share more about ministering to this population.  For now, if you feel called to this kind of ministry or are interested at all, give a look.
May God continue to bless you in your ministry.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ministering to the Deaf

Note: This is another guest post from my friend Marda. May our Lord grant you opportunities to minister to the deaf!  Everyone needs to hear God's Word. -- Glenn

In my Sunday school class I have a deaf individual.  He comes to class regularly and seems to enjoy being with people.  Some of the people in class, including myself, know simple signing.  I took a course in religious sign at a Christian retreat center and know the very basics.  But this young man needs more than the basics.  How, I wondered, could I reach out to this deaf man?  Here is what I have done so far.
I put out a call to see if there was anyone in church who was fluent in sign (ASL) and found that we were fortunate to have someone.  I have broached the subject to her of coming to our class to interpret for Jimmy.  I'm not sure yet if she can do it because she has worship team practice during part of the Sunday school time.  Ideally, I am hoping to get sign language interpretation both for his Sunday school class and for the church services.  If no one else comes forward from the congregation, I will put out the word to some interpreters I know and to ASL departments at local colleges and universities to see if any of their faculty or advanced students would like interpreting experience.  Who knows?  That might turn into a ministry both to Jimmy and to the interpreter(s) and could lead interpreters to Christ.
If I come up blank on that, I will start contacting ministries to the deaf.  There are some who will come and do ASL classes at churches or retreat centers.  A couple of summers ago I went to such a class and it was helpful to several churches in their outreaches to the deaf.
What about those in the church who have some hearing but have difficulty hearing in the services?  Chances are that you'll have a lot more people in your congregation that fall into that category just as you will probably have more who have visual impairment but some useful vision more than totally blind people.  So what do you do for these members of God's family?  Most churches already have sound systems.  There are things called assisted listening devices which can aid those who are hard of hearing in understanding things like the sermons.  These are handheld receivers that are connected to an earphone and they are wireless.  They amplify sound and they have volume controls so that people can adjust volume and sometimes tone to optimize the performance for their specific kind of hearing loss.  I strongly encourage church groups to look into the purchase of such devices.
There are some simple things you can do right now to welcome hearing impaired individuals into your church or Bible study group.
First, make sure you are looking at the person when you are speaking to them.  Some deaf people are good lipreaders and can get a lot from that.  You don't have to speak any differently, like trying to make your sounds more clear.  In fact, any exaggeration of lip movement to try to more clearly articulate is likely to confuse a person who is used to lipreading typical speech.
Use nonverbal cues as much as possible.  When it is time to greet people, whether at the door or during the service, offer your hand, smile and make eye contact.  Any greeting gestures will most likely be appreciated.
When ushering the person to a seat, make sure they are in full view of any projector where song lyrics, sermon outlines and the like are put up during the service.  Our pastor also has his sermon outline in the bulletin, including the Bible verses, so that hearing impaired individuals who have good reading and writing skills can follow along.
Make sure as well that there is an unobstructed view of the preacher, worship team and others who are participating up in front of the church.
Point out the contact information card that is usually available and encourage the person to fill it out.  Many deaf people can use the phone via something called a relay service.  I believe every state has such a relay.  The way it works is that you call a special number, then the operator calls the number of the person you are trying to reach.  That person has things set up so that all communication is displayed in writing on their system.  When you speak, the operator will type what is spoken and will speak back the responses that your caller has typed.  When a deaf person calls you through relay, the operator makes contact and tells you the name of the person that is calling and asks if you want to accept the call.  Then the process is reversed.  You speak, the operator types, the other person types, the operator speaks it back to you.  It is somewhat cumbersome but many people use it successfully.  As with court reporters and others who take down information, everything is typed exactly as spoken (and spoken as typed) with no comments from the relay operator.  It is designed to be confidential communication.  While not ideal, it is better than nothing and I wouldn't be surprised if the gospel didn't get presented to relay operators in the course of conversations as well.
Follow up with written communication.  Before or after the service, point out any information about your church, tracts or other materials that are available in the lobby.  Offer the information to the person.  After the service, have the pastor, deacon or other visitor follow up with written communication and offer to contact the person using relay.  There are also times when you may want to write notes to a person who has good literacy skills.
Deaf people want to be included too.  Feel free to sit in a pew with them as you would with any other person.  You can cue them to what is happening (how communion works etc.) and the fact that you are reaching out and communicating in any way will generally be appreciated.
In future articles, I will be compiling a list of resources for ministering to people with various disabilities.  For now, I hope this gives you some good ideas as to how to start.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Small Groups and Bible Study Classes/Groups using Social Media?

Looking for your stories, folks!  How are you using social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), blogs, etc. as a group or class?  I've heard a lot about use of email over the past few years, but I'm curious to hear about groups using other tools.

Comment below, or email me at  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review Yourself

One of the hardest -- and most helpful -- things you can do is to record your lessons and listen to yourself.

There are some wonderful, inexpensive digital voice recorders available now. I use an Olympus unit with an external mic. Easy to use and completely unobtrusive; I just turn it on and slip it into my pocket, with the mic position on my shirt for good audio pick-up. I transfer the audio file to my PC via the built-in USB connection.

I recommend you wait at least a day, to improve your objectivity. Also, prepare to be surprised that it sounds different occasionally than what you thought you said!

(Note that you'll need to arrange a different means to assess how you came across visually.)

Realistically assess your hook, questions, interaction, application, and lauch phases. It's been said that "feedback is the breakfast of champions." Dig into your Wheaties!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Gospels are Eyewitness Accounts

This video (yes, it's long) will be helpful if you're working with people who can only see the Gospel accounts as legends, not eyewitness accounts.  When I read the New Testament as a young adult, I was astounded at the Gospel stories in particular.  I realized that made-up stories are not like these.  The disciples would have made themselves look a LOT smarter, for example, if they made up the tale.  This insight was part of what God used to convict me of the Truth and reliability of Scripture.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Does Difficulty Mean We're "Outside" God's Will?

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 3:16-4:1

After reading Carl Medearis’ new book (Speaking of Jesus), I’ve committed myself to investing in the four Gospel books this summer.  I need to be re-immersed in the stories of Jesus, and the stories Jesus tells.

There’s an important insight here that helps us understand God’s design for ministry. 

Jesus is baptized by his cousin John, then receives a special baptism of the Holy Spirit at the start of his three-year public ministry which will result in salvation for us.  (We don’t have time to go into it here, but we must think carefully about this baptism – the Holy Spirit was always with Jesus.  Here is a special recognition service of Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will, not some evidence of a 2nd baptism as some would say.) 

The Father says “I love Jesus and with him I am well pleased.”  He’s pleased with His son!  And what does He do?

The Father who is pleased with His Son sends Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted!  Right here at the start of the public ministry is a huge challenge, which could threaten the whole effort. 

We could talk more about fasting – which is how Jesus successfully prepares for the temptations that come at the end of 40 days – but today I just want you to see that the loving Father sends Jesus into a terrible struggle at the start of ministry.

Many great ministry efforts in history have started the same way. In retrospect we see how God was pleased with His servants, and then launched them with temptations and challenges.  The fact that we face ministry struggles may have nothing to do with God’s displeasure with us!  Early adversity does not mean that we’ve failed to follow God’s direction or made a mistake (the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness).  Difficulty and adversity does not necessarily mean we’re outside God’s will – which should encourage us!

One of our most important roles as leaders is to encourage and teach others about this truth.  They can persevere in the strength of Christ!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Updates to My Favorite Bible Site: BibleGateway

I use BibleGateway almost every day.  It's fast, reliable, easy (and free).  Check out the updated look at this valuable site!  There some new features, too -- see the video on the main page for an overview.  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Jesus is the Best Teacher Ever

Who would be the best teacher ever?  Jesus.  And if anyone would
understand how to get a message across, how to help people
recognize God, how to engage people and help them learn, it would
be Jesus!   He created us, right?  He knows how we're wired,
what we need, how to connect with us.

So I spent about two months studying the Gospels, looking for
clues about how Jesus taught.  I believe the Holy Spirit helped
me see it clearly, how to teach like Jesus.

Here's the big idea: Jesus Taught Using Questions, Story, and
Dialogue Because These Are the Most Effective Ways to Help People
Learn - Really Learn.

Many "traditional" methods of teaching have limited
effectiveness.  One friend of mine calls it the "line 'em up,
spray 'em down with gobs of information, and pray some of it
sticks" approach to Bible teaching.

You and I both know that isn't good enough!

If you examine Jesus' teaching approach you'll see that:

* He didn't host opinion-fests; He taught with a purpose

* His approach was effective for all ages, and for all
theological backgrounds

* He asked questions, told stories, helped people understand
things through dialogue.  He was truly present with people,
engaging them in deep dialogue (No "how's the weather?" conversations)

* His teaching was strictly oral - but so effective because he
painted pictures in people's minds through imagery and use of
visual illustrations.

* He didn't give people three-point outlines and lists

* He referred to Scriptures frequently, helped them understand
the meaning

* He got to the heart of issues, and the real issue behind the
apparent issue. Jesus understood a person's history, fears,
desires, and experiences -- and bridged from those to
experiencing God.

* He gave people what they needed at the moment, but not
everything at once

* His stories had enormous "sticking" power - and they were deep
enough that people continued to learn from them years later.

* He taught with authority. He never taught with arrogance, but
with compassion and grace.

* He never compromised on the Truth.

* He used words to break-through barriers and to build up, but
never as weapons.

You might be thinking right now, "But Glenn, Jesus is special,
He's God.  I couldn't teach like He did!"

How does your teaching compare to Jesus?  Ok, you and I are  not
equal to our Lord - but He made a promise to us that we should
take seriously:

"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his
master.  It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and
the servant like his master." (Matthew 10:24-25)

Did you catch it - it's enough for us to teach *like* Jesus did.

What About YOU?  Can You Teach the Jesus Way?

The answer is YES.  This is my conviction.  You need some
guidance, and can learn through practice.  This Jesus way of
teaching is "advanced" in some ways - but accessible even to newer
teachers and study leaders.  These are learnable skills!

And I'm confident that you can learn this Jesus way of teaching
using questions, story, and dialogue.

Is this the only way to teach?  No.  But didactic, linear, lists
and outlines teaching methods are more effective with a subset
of students -- people who are motivated to learn in that format.
But how many of those things do you remember years later?

Compare that to the meaningful conversations you've had with
another person.  Which has been more influential in transforming
your life?

Can you learn to teach the Jesus way if you're accustomed to
teaching other ways?  That's up to you.  I believe you have the
potential, I really do.  And I'm prepared to help you through the
learning process.

Monday, June 06, 2011

It's Summer -- Do You Know What Bible Teachers Should Be Doing?

Here in Iowa it's the end of the school year, and the weather is definitely summer. The corn is up, the grass is growing faster than I'd like, and the rabbits are fat from devouring our flowers. It's that odd time of year when families are sighing in relief that graduations are done, vacations are still ahead, and September feels blissfully far in the future. A lot of churches shift their schedules in the summer, too -- and many teachers take a break.

So let me give you my advice about how to use this between school-year season well.

First, take an intentional break. A change-up in rhythm is healthy.  In addition to weekly sabbath rests, we Bible teachers need seasons of rest and rejuvination.

Second, don't be lazy. Use time well, and intentionally -- it is a gift from our loving God!  Laziness dishonors our Lord.

My counsel: take the summer months to pray and study and meditate and prepare yourself for future teaching. Remember, that YOU are the tool God is using to present His Word to others. Tackle something completely different. Don't worry about preparing specific lessons. Take in nourishing information and experiences to strengthen you.

Let me give you examples of things I have done in previous summers:

* Studied Jewish culture in the 1st century.

* Worked my way through a systematic theology book often used in seminaries.

* Memorized Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount chapters).  [Embarrasing note: I didn't work at keeping it.]

* Interviewed long-time Bible teachers for their ideas and experiences, asking them lots of questions about what they've learned.

* Immersed myself in the Psalms, but only allowing myself to read one Psalm a day. I slowly prayed through that one Psalm.

There was a very special summer of 2007 when I did a season of study which forever revolutionized how I teach.

It finally occurred to me to study how *Jesus* taught.  He's the greatest teacher ever, right?  Jesus used questions, story, and dialogue to teach.  I don't think he taught that way because it was the tradition of the time.  I think Jesus used questions, story, and dialogue because it's the BEST way to teach people, period -- any time, any age, any status, whether they are in a relationship with God or not.

This summer I'm going to invest in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  I want to immerse myself in the stories about Jesus, and in the stories he tells.

I hope you'll think about what you might intentionally work on this summer to develop yourself as a teacher.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Where Did the Apostles Die?

Here's a map -- based on known accounts and legends -- indicating where each of the apostles died.

It's amazing how far they traveled, and the diversity of cultures they reached!  What other lessons do you observe?  How might you be able to use this in a teaching situation?