Monday, November 27, 2017

Christian Education - 12 Keys of Effective Teaching

While there are many forms of teaching in the Christian education arena, there are a few basic tenets that are applicable across the board. We will focus on these tenets as they apply to "formal" teaching (classroom, discussion, lecture, discipling relationships), but they are just as important in informal settings.
1. Set goals. This is probably the biggest omission for teachers. We know and want to communicate a lot of "stuff," but we haven't clearly defined our goal and purpose. Without a goal and purpose, our teaching wanders and we won't see the fulfillment the Lord intends in our ministries.
It may be helpful to choose a verse or passage to be a guide for your teaching. Then, as you prepare a lesson or a series of lessons, ask yourself questions to see if you are meeting your goals. For example, if we were looking at Ephesians 4:11-16, we might ask ourselves:
  • How am I equipping people to serve through this lesson?
  • How am I building up the body of Christ?
  • How am I succeeding as an example of Christ-like character? How am I failing?
  • What doctrines am I teaching on? How can I better communicate them?
  • What practical application will my hearers draw from my lesson?
  • What sin or error am I confronting?
  • What spiritual disciplines am I promoting? Am I demonstrating them in my own life?
  • How am I encouraging intimacy with God?
  • How am I exhorting people to love?
  • Is Christ the beginning, ending, and focus of my teaching?
Specific lessons and series of lessons will, of course, have additional specific goals particular to the topic at hand. These goals should be clearly delineated before teaching begins, and regular evaluations should take place to be certain that goals are being achieved.
2. Put forth effort. Give your preparation - and your delivery - the best of yourself. Don't expect fulfillment in ministry if you consistently "cobble something together" at the last minute, are rushing around the house to get out on time, and are tired when it's time to teach. You and your hearers will get the most out of your teaching if you put forth solid, concentrated effort into preparation time, and are rested and enthusiastic when it's time to speak.
3. Be orderly. Build a lesson as you would build a house. Lay a foundation and develop your points thoroughly and completely to a conclusion. You want your hearers to walk away with several things: facts, understanding, and application.
4. Avoid tangents. Whether they come from you or from one of your hearers, nip tangents in the bud (unless there is a distinct reason and the Spirit's leading to follow them and expand on them). Lessons should be tight, allowing no room for wandering or drifting. You will not accomplish your goals unless you stay focused.
5. Combine orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Each lesson should contain both right teaching (orthodoxy) and instruction on right practice (orthopraxy). Doctrine in a vacuum will not be remembered or be seen as applicable. Guidance on right practice will not become ingrained unless the reasons and doctrines behind it are understood. Instruction on the Word of God and the walk of God should go hand-in-hand whenever we teach.
6. Make it practical. Every lesson should be a "rubber-meets-the-road" lesson. If it's not practical, it won't be remembered. If it doesn't apply to life today, to my life today, then it's a waste of my time. Draw lessons from life today, and show how to apply lessons to life today.
7. Be dynamic. Whatever your teaching style, make it dynamic. Dynamic comes from the Greek word "dunamis," or power. Whether you lecture or lead discussions, whether you enjoy acting your lessons in front of a crowd or prefer quiet times in a circle, your teaching style should be power-filled through the Spirit. Be creative. Be compelling. Be challenging. Be excited. Be intense. However you speak, grab your hearers and hold them - only then will they hear what you're saying.
8. Encourage interaction. In almost all cases, people will learn more from a class that they participate in. Ask questions. Encourage responses and discussion. Be sure people are understanding what you're saying. Welcome input. Even a class that is predominantly lecture has room for learner participation. Frequently a question and answer time will serve to bring home the doctrines and lessons taught.
9. Repeat and review. You only remember a fraction of what you hear - so be sure your listeners hear what's most important many times. Review the key points of past lessons. Review points made earlier in a given lesson. Repeat truth until it becomes ingrained in your hearers.
10. Handouts and homework. Don't be afraid to ask your listeners to put forth effort on their own part. Give handouts with fill-ins and room for notes at each class - it encourages people to write down key points, therefore aiding the learning process (the more senses you engage in learning, the better you will remember). Give homework. Ask people to read and think and prepare for the next class, or to follow up on the one just given. Remind your hearers that Christian education does not happen for one hour on a Sunday - it must be a part of daily life.
11. Expect excellence. People will rise to your expectations of them. Never patronize or act condescendingly toward people. Don't give shallow or fluff-filled lessons. Dig deep into the truth and your listeners will fall in love with the truth, too.
12. Pray. Pray for yourself and your hearers. Pray for your preparation time, your sanctification, and your delivery. Pray for their attentiveness, understanding, and commitment to walk with the Lord. Pray for discernment, insight, and wisdom. Your ministry will only succeed if it is bathed in and founded on prayer.

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