Instead of thinking of yourself as a teacher, think of yourself as a learning session designer.
The objective of any Bible study, lesson, or devotional time is to help people grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here are six questions that will help you think about how to design the opportunity to maximize the potential to learn:
* How do you set up the room?
* What questions generate more learning?
* How can you use illustrations to give people something tangible or memorable, and increase retention?
* What kind of handout materials will improve interaction and sustain attention?
* How can you set up the timing of the parts of the lesson or study so people don’t get distracted or bored or overwhelmed?
* How can you inspire them to do pre- or post- work to learn more on their own?
Why do I recommend you work through these questions? Because often when we think about ourselves as the teacher we get too focused on — you guessed it — ourselves. Thinking about how to best to design a learning session puts our focus where it needs to be — on the students.
Now for the seventh question:
All of us who are humbling studying and praying to put together lessons tailored for our students at this time have to wrestle with the question: “How much do I try to cover in this lesson?”
There’s no hard and fast answer, because it depends enormously on the students and the setting. If you are working with a group of mature Christians who are accustomed to good group discussion for 2 hours and have prepared for the class — you can probably pack a lot in. If you have a 10 minute devotion opportunity with Jr. High students during the half-time of the SuperBowl, you’d best keep it simple and relevant.
There is a principle, however, that I think all Bible teachers should keep in mind: Keep ’em hungry for more.
Prepare for less content, with such quality and clarity, that leaves them feeling that you could have shared more with the class. Their retention will be much higher, and they will look forward to future classes. You can invite them to dive deeper on a topic on their own (and give them a starter to do this outside of class — put suggested reading or questions to consider on your handout). During the class time, leave space and time for the Holy Spirit to work.
Mark Twain famously wrote a long letter to an acquaintance, closing with comments like this: “I’m sorry I have written you such a long letter. I did not have time to compose a shorter one.” It takes some effort, dear teachers, to pare down your lessons to the best stuff. This means that you can’t share every great insight the Lord has given you, or show off the depth of your knowledge about this Bible passage.
But this isn’t about you, it’s about your students, and glorifying God. Teaching to change lives means giving your students content set up to maximize their retention and comprehension.
Your answers to these seven questions will really help you, and your students will praise God!