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.