Advice for the New Sunday School Teacher

Wednesday 29th August, 2007

I read a great article today written by Jan Marler who is a friend at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. The article is so relevant this time of year. The article is entitled 10 Tips for Rookie Teachers. Jan also pointed out that these 10 tips are also good reminders for the rest of us.

Check out her article. Here are her 10 tips in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. This is important. If you don't care for yourself mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and morally, no one else will do it for you. Invest as never before in your quiet time. Make an appointment with God in Bible study and prayer daily. As Hemphill and Taylor said in the book, 10 Best Practices, "The leader is the lesson." Rest well before you teach. Avoid any situations that may damage your influence.
  2. BEWARE OF EASY FIXES. Our job is to lead attenders to meet God in Bible study and as a result lead them to take steps of obedience. Pastors and teachers are "to prepare God's people for works of service" (Ephesians 4:11-12). We are to be "teaching them to obey" (Matthew 28:19-20). Our job is not to keep our students busy. It is not to entertain them. Sure we want to have fun learning together. But we must avoid shortcutting our preparation or using ineffective methods.
  3. PREPARE A LITTLE EVERY DAY. This is great advice. Just yesterday I posted an entry entitled Sunday School Lesson Preparation. In that entry I suggest actions that can be taken each day to help you to give God your best effort on Sunday. A few minutes each day will usually produce more results and better preparation than three or more hours on Saturday night. Plus, if you start late, you will not recognize the many illustrations that God was going to provide for the lesson during the week.
  4. TAKE CARE OF DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS. Pray before you act. Consider the welfare of the whole class. Do so privately in order to avoid embarrassment. Don't drag your feet in doing so. Ask the individual to help you where possible. For instance, ask the "dominator" to help you by allowing at least four other people to respond before he does the second time so you can involve more people. Also, deal with your own personal discipline problems. Rest well on Saturday night. Invest in a daily quiet time. Develop a regular routine for prepare excellent lessons. Live for Him every day. Avoid sin. Be a good example!
  5. EVALUATE YOURSELF. At the end of every lesson, ask (1) what went well and (2) what needs to go better next time. Every month, ask yourself (1) what is going well in my class leadership and (2) what needs to go better next month in my class leadership. Be honest with yourself and seek to give your class and God your best effort. Pray. Set some goals. Evaluate your personal progress.
  6. KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO TEACH. Avoid being a poor guide who has never seen the sights before showing them to someone else. Spend time with God. Spend time in His Word. Apply the truth to your own life. Then, prepare your lesson to meet the needs to those sheep God has entrusted to you. Pray. Read His Word. Pray. Prepare to teach. Be ready to lead your sheep to encounter God in His Word!
  7. BE ACCOUNTABLE. Many of the best teachers and disciples I know attribute their growth and discipline to someone holding them accountable. They have accountab ility partners who encourage, support, and challenge them to grow. In fact, such relationships can be mutually beneficial. This can be someone in the class or outside of the class. But also consider investing in others in all that you do. Train an apprentice every year. Enlist people to help you with parts of the lesson. This holds you accountable to multiple leaders. Take someone with you when you visit homes. Enlist someone to help you plan a fellowship. Assign calls or visits to attenders and check on their progress. As you get more involved, it will help them to grow while holding you accountable to get the work done.
  8. BUILD A CUSHION. Enlist a substitute and train an apprentice every year. An apprentice will fill in when you are out, and the substitute will fill in when your apprentice is not available. Have people ready to step in when there is a need. Train extra care group leaders. Ask your outreach leader to apprentice someone. Today, teachers burn out when they have difficulty getting someone to fill in when they must be away. Plan ahead. Start early! Multiply leaders. Give more attenders opportunity to serve!
  9. HAVE A JOB DESCRIPTION. Count the costs. Know your expectations and pan to exceed them. If no job description is available, write one. For suggestions, look at my blog entry entitled Job Descriptions Are Necessary in Revolutionary Sunday School. Enlist help with aspects of your job description. Make a difference for God with your class!
  10. SHOP AROUND. While I would not have worded this one that way, Jan makes a good point here. If God has not gifted or called you to serve as a teacher, find the place where He has gifted and called you! The biggest failure is not realizing you are in the wrong place as a teacher. The biggest failure is not doing something about it. As Jan put it, "find out where you should be and get there."

Teaching is a big job. But don't fear! You do not do the job alone. We have a mighty Lord who has promised to be with us as we make disciples to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). You can count on it! Pray. Follow His leadership. Give your best effort. Watch as He blesses and uses you. Be revolutionary!

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