'Best Practices' for Bible Teachers (Part XVII)
By Buddy Hanson The Covenant News
Taking the Temperature of Your Teaching
Research confirms that we learn best by:
Connecting new information to what we already know.
Being either physically or mentally involved in a situation we
face in everyday life.
Before beginning our discussion on how to most effectively communicate your message to your congregation, small group or family, the first thing to consider is what you are attempting to accomplish through your instruction. If your answer boils down to increasing someone's knowledge about God, you only get half credit. However, if your answer is to increase someone's understanding about how they can serve God more consistently, then you pass the exam. Some questions to ask yourself as you plan how best to present your messages are:
What is the main thing you want to accomplish? (What will learners have to do to achieve this? Which false presuppositions will they have to overcome? Outline a flow chart from the most simple objective to the most complex with a prescription of reaching each step.)
What are some sub-goals that will lead to the main goal? (What will learners have to do to achieve each of these?)
How can you get your learners involved in the information so they can demonstrate to you, and to themselves, that they understand what you are teaching? (a writing assignment, an oral presentation, role play, mock press conference, etc.)
In a press conference before a season began, University of Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban paraphrased the University's Mission Statement. In reading his comments I couldn't help substituting "Christians" for "players." Try this as you read through it, and then compare what your church's Mission Statement says. I think you will agree that by "Christianizing" the following words, a church would have a very impressive Mission Statement.
We want to create an atmosphere, an environment where our players have a chance to be successful people. That their character, their attitude, the commitment, the work ethic, the pride in performance to be the best that they can be, the choices, decisions that they make are all things that are going to help them be more successful in life for having been involved in the program.
--University of Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban
How does your Mission Statement compare with this one?
Hopefully, it also has explicit and easy to understand goals, and doesn't include words that are so general that your members aren't exactly sure of their meaning. In addition, I hope your Mission Statement is one that you can teach to. Neither sports fans, nor their coaches waste their time by hanging around hoping to be supernaturally rescued from their duties of giving their best efforts to win the conflicts with their opponents. Fans expect their team's coaches to diligently instruct the players in the fundamentals of the game so the players, in turn, can go out on the field and fulfill those duties. Therefore, the Mission Statements of sports teams are clear and explicit, and contain no weasel words. For example, the mission of the Alabama coaches includes:
1. Creating an atmosphere where our players have a chance to be
successful. 2. Have players develop a commitment to be the best that they can be. And 3. Have players make daily decisions and choices that will help
them to be more successful in life.
Whatever else your church's Mission might be, I would hope that it has these three essential elements. There is no doubt that these can be "taught to," and attained by your learners. Indeed, how successful can any small group message or sermon expect to be if it didn't address, either explicitly or implicitly, these three core principles?
As Coach Saban continued his press conference remarks, take a listen to the following comments and I believe that you will, again, see some direct correlation to Christian teaching.
I think the team chemistry is certainly something that has improved, and I think it's because the players understand what they're supposed to do, how they're supposed to do it, why it's important to do it that way, which makes them have a greater trust and respect for each other, and a confidence in what they're doing. I think it also helps them be more responsible for their own self determination because they understand the expectation. The positive attitude, and leadership that some of our older players have demonstrated has made a positive impact.
If you are thinking the italicized words should also be
"Christianized" and included in a Church Mission Statement, I agree.
Notice the reason Coach Saban gives for improved "team chemistry," is
Understand what they are supposed to do,
how they are supposed to do it, and
why it's important they do it that way.
How's the chemistry of your church? Hopefully, it doesn't need improving, but in case it does, what are you and the other church officers doing to make it happen? While "hoping" it will get better won't get the job done, carefully explaining through the various messages from you and other Bible teachers what your members have been called into God's family and Christ's Kingdom to accomplish, and explaining how they are to do it, as well as why it is important that they do it that way will put you well on your way to an improved chemistry.
As more and more of your learners know the answers to these three core communication basics, their trust in each other will grow, as will their confidence in accomplishing your mission's goals. They will be more self-governing, and require less hand-holding by you and the other church officers, because they will understand the expectation. All-in-all, this should lead to a positive attitude on the part of your mature members as they carry out their role of discipling younger members in the faith.
Next week's topic is "Nine Essential Teaching Priorities."
 Tigner, Robert B., "Putting memory research to good use: Hints from cognitive psychology." College Teaching 47 (4): 149-152, 1999, cited in Nilson, Linda B., Teaching At Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for Collede Instructors, (Anker Publishing, 2003), p.10
 Bonwell, Charles C and James A Eison, Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.1. Wasington, D.C.: School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University, 1991; Spence, Larry D., "The case against teaching." Change (November/December): 11-19, 2001, cited in Nilson, Linda B., Teaching At Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors, (Anker PUblishing, 2003), p.10
Buddy Hanson is President of the Christian Policy Network and Director of the Christian Worldview Resources Center and has written several books on the necessity of applying one's faith to everyday situations, circumstances and decision-making.