Nine Helps for Teaching

round stones for meditation on blurred backgroundIt’s summer. Families are traveling and the youth who do make it to Sunday school and small groups are drowsy, but the following nine guidelines will help boost your meaningful teaching.

(1) Give youth opportunities to participate in the learning experience. Passive learning does not grow learners effectively. Active learning allows all who are present to learn from one another. Youth learners enjoy talking with one another and learning from one another. Youth learn best when they are involved in the teaching/learning event.

(2) Give youth opportunities to apply lesson truths to their individual lives. Youth learners today are conditioned to instant feedback. They expect to be “graded” on their learning. To keep learner motivation high, provide immediate feedback and affirmation. Tell youth when their ideas are on track. Help them see and understand where they may be misunderstanding something. Guide them as they form their own spiritual lives. Relevant and practical experiences, for all age groups, will make a difference in their interest and consistent attendance.

(3) Give youth opportunities to understand the big picture of Scripture. Too often we emphasize short segments of Scripture. We spotlight Bible stories or Bible truths but fail to show how these fit into the bigger story of redemption. We even encourage memorization of Bible verses with little or no application. From time to time, remind learners how these “small pieces” relate to the total picture of God’s redemptive love. Jesus summed up the whole of God’s work in these two paraphrased commandments: “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, with all of your being, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” Occasionally, we need to remind learners how the little parts fit together.

(4) Give youth priority attention in the classroom. Be “learner-oriented” and “teacher-flexible.” The teaching/learning process begins when the first young person arrives. The teacher should always arrive first and be ready. Teach with youth in mind. Sometimes your ideas may be great adult ideas; if so, try to relate the idea to a youth orientation. Teach to keep the learning environment open, involving, and exciting.

(5) Give youth opportunities to share in a climate of honesty and safety. Youth need to know first that they won’t get laughed at our ridiculed. They absolutely will not share until they feel safe. Building trust takes time. Ask lighthearted questions as class begins and go deeper as trust grows.

Innovative Sunday school classes allow for times of laughter and tears. Exciting Bible teaching allows for fun and for serious interaction. Use positive examples of humor, use honest life illustrations, and be open to the leadership of God’s spirit in the growth, maturity, and intimacy of your class.

(6) Check your ego at the door. An ineffective teacher can ruin an exciting learning experience. An ego-driven teacher can squelch interaction and relational learning. A controlling teacher can stifle relationship building and spiritual growth. You are not the judge of these young learners; you are their guide. If you come across too heavy-handed, they will turn you off. You are not the coolest person in the room; you are not their pal. If you come across too “youth-oriented,” they will not trust you.

Trust your prayer life to guide you toward the truths that will directly impact your class. Don’t be afraid to say to your class, “I don’t know…but I will find out!” Openness and honesty go far in building a loving and accepting Sunday school class.

(7) Be creative as a teacher. Be prepared and caring. Be flexible. These actions will go far to help you grow as you lead youth. We all want to be challenged with the excitement of biblical truths. Youth, especially, want to build a strong faith foundation that will serve them well as they grow. In our teenage years, most of us begin to understand what being a follower of Christ means. What you teach and how you teach will impact your youth learners for the rest of their lives!

(8) Be confident in the power of Christ. Enter every teaching opportunity filled with confidence that you have done your best each week to open yourself to the loving power of God. Teach with confidence and sensitivity. Leave the results to God! You are the messenger; God is the message. As you teach with attentiveness both to the Holy Spirit and to the youth learners, you can be assured that blessings and miracles will abound.

(9) Have fun! Too often we forget that learning is fun. Your youth like to be active, interactive, and sometimes silly. If learning isn’t fun and meaningful, youth will turn you off and tune you out. Laugh out loud from time to time.

help_youthssThis post originally appeared in Help! I Teach Youth Sunday School by Brian Foreman, Bo Prosser, and David Woody.

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