Benchmarks for Excellence in Sunday School Teaching, Part 3

Monday 3rd November, 2008

In Part 1 of this three-part series, I mentioned that revolutionary Sunday School teachers desire more than to do a good job. Like Olympic athletes, they want to give their best! God and the people we teach/serve deserve no less. In order to give our best, the first step is to identify benchmarks (standards of excellence) for your teaching. Previously I shared a list developed by Matt Capps in blog post entitled Ten Principles for Effective Teaching in the Church. In Part 1, I shared his first three principles. In Part 2, I shared his next three principles. In Part 3, I will share his final four principles in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • EFFECTIVE TEACHERS CONSIDER HOW EACH LEARNER LEARNS (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10). I talked about this in Part 2 in reference to "effective teaching involves learners." Notice the word "each" in this principle. An effective teacher desires that every attender learn and apply the truth every week. In that effort, the teacher will spend time getting to know the learner individually. While learning style assessments may be administered to the entire class, the teacher observes each learner and how he/she interacts during teaching methods designed to address those learning styles. That is because no two learners are alike. Some learners are introverts while others are extroverts. Some are inner thinkers while others are outer thinkers. Some are thinkers while others are feelers. The worst teaching method is the one used all the time. The best is the one that addresses the truth of scripture in the best possible way with this group of learners at this point in time. For more ideas, check out these blog entries: Learning Styles in Adult Sunday School, Wisely Choosing Sunday School Teaching Methods, Part 1, and Could Too Much Participation Be an Obstacle for Revolutionary Adult Classes?. Excellence in teaching requires focus on the way learners learn.
  • EFFECTIVE TEACHERS KNOW THE MATERIAL (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10). An ideal guide has spent time in the area where the tour will be given. He/she gets as much out of the way as possible so "tourists" can best understand and enjoy the scenery. That is true of a teacher of God's Word. He/she spends time encountering God in His Word before leading others on the journey through the landscape of the passage. The plan is to lead learners to encounter the words and context of the text on the way toward encountering the Author of the text. Thus, the teacher invests unrushed time in preparation until he/she is comfortable and confident about knowing the passage. Frequently this means that the teacher can teach with a few notes or maybe an outline. This enables the teacher to move about the learning space and to focus more on the learners and their responses. For more information, check out The Best Adult Sunday School Teachers Are Guides, Small Group Leader as Sightseeing Guide, Preparation for an Adult Sunday School Class with Impact, and Expensive, Exhausting Preparation Produces Beautiful, Rewarding Results for Sunday School. Excellence in teaching requires that teachers spend time getting to know the passage well.
  • EFFECTIVE TEACHERS ARE STUDENTS OF TEACHING (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10). Revolutionary teachers never stop learning. They learn about God, His Word, the biblical context and customs, biblical language, and more. But they also learn about teaching and learning. They are willing to try new things. They attend conferences. They observe the way others teach. They take advantage of teachable moments in life. These teachers are also unafraid to ask others to observe their teaching and offer suggestions. Why? Because they want to improve. They want to teach as effectively as possible.  This may take some humility, but the benefit is well worth honest feedback. Check out Adult Sunday School Teacher Evaluation, Part 1, Adult Sunday School Teacher Evaluation, Part 2, Overcoming Hesitancy to Seek Evaluation as a Sunday School Leader, and Improve Yourself, Improve Your Teaching. Excellence in teaching requires that teachers never stop learning about teaching.
  • EFFECTIVE BIBLICAL TEACHING IS TEXT DRIVEN (1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10). The Sunday School hour can be spent in many ways. Fellowship, prayer, and announcements are each important. But learners need life-change. It is God in His Word who has the power to change lives. Allow an appropriate amount of time for class business, but save a consistent amount of time for examining God's Word and leading learners to encounter Him. Throughout the learning experience, continue to steer learners back to the text (away from personal agendas and rabbit trails). Get out of the way and let God speak. Capps offers five helpful questions: "What does this text say? What does this text mean? What is the big idea? What difference does it make? What must we change." Excellence in teaching requires that all efforts stay true to and focused on the text.
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? Look back over Part 1 and Part 2. Which of these ten principles needs to become a priority? In order to improve, focus is required. Where will you bring attention in the next month or quarter. Take steps now to give God and the sheep in your care your best! Be revolutionary!

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