Benchmarks for Excellence in Sunday School Teaching, Part 1

Saturday 1st November, 2008

Revolutionary Sunday School teachers desire more than to do a good job. Like Olympic athletes, they want to give their best! They know that God deserves no less. And the people for whom God sent His Son to die with whom He has made us shepherd-stewards deserve no less. Even with that realization, revolutionary teachers are not equally as stong in every aspect of teaching, but they continually strive to address the weaker areas.

What are your weaker areas? Where could you be more effective? The first step is to identify the areas that should be compared or measured. What are the benchmarks or standards for excellence for your teaching? I like a list developed by Matt Capps in blog post entitled Ten Principles for Effective Teaching in the Church. Since there are ten of them and I want to comment on each of them, they will be shared in a three-part series. In Part 1, I will share the first three in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL WORK THROUGH YOUR TEACHING (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10). You are never teaching alone. This is so reassuring! The Spirit is intimately involved in the lives of believers and thus in the teaching-learning process. Capps lists many great biblical passages: The Holy Spirit (1) "works through the teacher (1 Cor. 12:4-11; 1 Pet. 4:10);" (2) illuminates the learner (1 Cor. 2:1-16; Eph. 1:17-19);" (3) indwells the learner (John 14:17; Rom. 5:5, 8:9; Eph. 1:13-14);" (4) instructs the learner (John 14:26-27, 16:7-15);" and (5) "draws [learners] to Himself through teaching (2 Cor. 4:1-6)." The Holy Spirit guides in the preparation process, in relationships, in teaching, in learning, and in applying the Word. It is vital that the teacher be sensitive to the work of the Spirit in his/her personal encounter with God in His Word and in serving as guide for learners to do the same.
  • THE GOAL OF TEACHING IS ALWAYS LIFE CHANGE (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10). The goal is not merely the act of teaching/communicating. It is not content delivery. It is not learning knowledge. Instead, it is to lead learners to encounter God in His Word which leads them to realize their need to adjust their lives to Him. It is about transformation. It is about becoming more like Jesus. It is growing in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations "baptizing" and "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Obedience is our goal in teaching--not knowledge. That impacts our methods, our involvement of learners, and our expectations (and theirs). What does God expect as a result of meeting Him in Bible study? How does He expect you to respond? This requires the teacher to know learners' needs in order to best lead them to consider the truth of God's Word, apply it to their lives, and put it into practice. I found it interesting that Capps points out that "the teacher is not a lecturer but a tour guide." Check out one of my previous posts that also makes that point: Small Group Leader as Sightseeing Guide. The revolutionary teacher works with the Holy Spirit and learners to reach for life change.
  • EFFECTIVE TEACHING IS TRANSFERABLE (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10). Capps made me think here. There are so many ways to say what he said, and his was fresh. We want learners to be captivated by God, His Word, the truth, and the need to live it. We want learners to retain what they learned or else they will never follow through to life change. One way Capps restated this point was that the "teacher has not done [his/her] job un less the learners can walk away with the 'big idea' of the lesson." In other words, what is the point? What is the one point you, as teacher, trying to make? What do you believe is God's desire for learners as a result of encountering Him in this passage of scripture? I like a quote Capps shared about this concept from Andy Stanley, "Dig until you find it. Build everything around it. Make it stick." Capps said the concept is that teachers need "to reduce your 'big idea' down to a take home level." Great way of expressing it! If learners cannot remember the lesson in an hour, how can we expect them to live differently next week? If, at lesson's end, they cannot express the main truth and how they need to respond as a result, they did not get it. Focus your teaching to make your teaching transferable to learners.

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 (from poor to excellent) for each of these three areas of teaching effectiveness. How did you score on each of these? Where do you need to invest more time and energy in order to give your best? What is your first step? In Part 2, we will examine three more areas of effective teaching which (4) involves the learners, (5) utilizes the learning environment, and (6) assesses the needs of learners. Be aware of the Spirit's work. Work toward life change. Lead them to get it! Be revolutionary!

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