I can still remember my wife giving me a few tips when I was preparing my very first sermon. She said, “Pray much, study hard and don’t use me for a sermon illustration.” Those were helpful tips and I have generally followed two out of three! No matter how long you have taught, it doesn’t hurt to get a few friendly teaching tips. Recently, I was able to spend a few hours with David Apple, a conference leader for LifeWay. He shared several tips I’d like to develop for you today.
There are three basic parts for a good teaching session. The first is to create interest. This helps to draw the learners in, so they will participate in the lesson. This is where we use a catchy story, a meaningful illustration, a fun activity, etc. that will create interest for the pupils and allow them to get engaged in the lesson. A wise teacher understands that boredom is every teacher’s enemy. If a learner is bored from the start of the lesson, you will likely never gain her attention.
The second part of a lesson is to discover and apply the Word of God. The word “discover” is key. We tend to retain and apply what we have discovered, while we tend to be indifferent and forget what we have merely been told. Jesus was the Master at asking provoking questions to help people discover the truth. The word “apply” is also vital—the Pharisees knew what the Bible said, but they often missed the life-change and attitude-change that learning the Bible requires.
The third basic part of a teaching session is to bring closure to the lesson. Here we summarize, fit the lesson into the bigger picture of God’s redemptive plan and challenge the learners to deeper personal study after class. The closing of the lesson is likely to be the most memorable part of the lesson. If we are not careful, we can be like the athlete who competes well but stops short of the finish line. Or, imagine a farmer who does a great job planting and cultivating, but never brings in the harvest. All three of these basic parts are essential for a strong lesson.
There are three basic questions to ask while preparing a Bible lesson. The first question is “What am I teaching?” This means understanding the context of the passage you are teaching as well as the content. It means having a grasp on the word meanings and how these ideas are handled in other parts of the Bible. This anticipates what the learners may need to understand to better comprehend the passage you are teaching.
The second question is, “Who am I teaching?” What are your students going through, what struggles are they experiencing, where are they in their walk with Christ? We will often need to adapt our teaching style to the learning level and the receptivity of the pupil. Children learn well in the context of play. Teens are going to be responsive to cool technology or more social activities. Some adults may enjoy a conference-style lecture, while others want more discussion in the class. All learners are responsive to genuine love and encouragement.
The final question is, “How am I teaching?” Most every teacher needs to learn to use a variety of teaching styles. Someone has said, “The worst way to teach is the way you teach all the time.” An illustrated lecture may work well, but maybe not every week. Following a question and answer approach may be a nice change for your class members. If you use a discussion approach to your class on a regular basis, it might be good to mix it up with more activity or role-playing. Mixing up how you teach keeps people curious and every teacher knows that when a student is curious, he is much more teachable.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.