The Method of Teaching
The Method of Teaching
This lesson will help you to evaluate your people’s needs, plan to meet these needs, and prepare and teach Bible lessons. What you learn in this lesson will be of practical help in your teaching ministry. You will learn how to gather and arrange material to prepare Bible lessons, and how to use teaching
techniques to enhance the learning experience.
The Holy Spirit is your helper and teacher. He inspired the Word you teach. Jesus said that the Spirit would teach you, lead you into all truth, and bring to your remembrance the things He said (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). You can claim these provisions for your own when you teach. And you can expect to see results as He makes truth real, personal, and appropriate in the lives of the people to whom you minister.
Determine the Goals
Perhaps you have heard of the leader of whom it was said, “He started off not knowing where he was going. He didn’t know where he was while he journeyed. And finally, he arrived not knowing where he had been.” Of course we are impressed with the humor of such a statement; nevertheless, behind the humor is the revelation of a person who is sadly lacking in organization, vision, and objectives. Without goals for our service to the Lord, we most certainly will fail to accomplish the tasks He has assigned to us. We will fail to reach the goal and win the prize for which God has called us heavenward (Philippians 3:14).
A goal is what you hope to accomplish by your effort. In terms of your ministry to others, clearly defined goals are essential to effective teaching. A good goal is characterized by three things: 1) brief enough to be remembered, 2) clear enough to be written, and 3) specific enough to be reached. Without clear teaching goals you tend to wander and deal with nonessentials.
Consider these things when you are setting goals: 1) the Bible material to be taught, and 2) the needs of the audience. The two can be related. Try to relate the Bible material to the needs of the students or audience. Most material can be presented to meet the general and long-term needs of a Bible class.
There are three kinds of goals to take into account for teaching. Notice how important they are to your overall purpose.
1. General, long-range goals. Two general goals of Christian teachers are 1) helping students become mature Christians, and 2) training them to win the unsaved to the Lord. Teaching your students to study the Bible and leading them into some phase of Christian service are also worthy goals of a general nature. You will want to achieve these broad goals over a period of months or longer. To reach these goals you might include a study of major
doctrines, the study of a book of the Bible, or a Bible character’s life. You might give three months (one session a week) to a great chapter of the Bible (Hebrews 11, 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 8). You could allow one year to study a book of the Bible, such as the Gospel of Matthew. The means you choose will help to inform your people concerning the responsibilities of Christian maturity: consistent Christian living, selfless service, and the desire to witness.
2. Individual and class goals. You must determine individual and class goals with careful thought and prayer. Consider class needs and individual needs as you know them. Meeting each of these needs is a goal. Perhaps there is a need for basic Bible training. Maybe the greatest need is for understanding Bible principles that relate to Christian living. Quite frequently truths that are known need to be applied, practiced in everyday life. You can determine goals with these needs in mind. You can prepare and teach lessons to achieve the goal of helping students in the way they need most.
3. Individual lesson goals. Each lesson should have one major goal: to inform, to explain, to prove, or to alter attitude and behavior. You may give information, explain and apply truth, all in one lesson. However, all of these should contribute to reaching the main goal you have predetermined for the lesson. It is better to have one goal and reach it than to have two goals and miss both. It is difficult to reach more than one goal in each lesson. As each lesson goal is reached, the long-term and general goals will be achieved. Determine your goals. Then achieve them by your teaching.
Gather the Material
What Does the Bible Teach?
Having determined your goals, it is essential that you turn to the Word of God to see what the Scriptures say about the content you have chosen to meet your people’s needs. The Bible is the Christian teacher’s textbook. It is the foundation of all Christian teaching and it should be the basis and substance of each lesson. Other materials are only supplementary. Nevertheless, when good, planned series of Bible lessons are available, you may use them with confidence as additional resource material. These materials will generally give breadth, depth, and focus to your studies and they can reduce significantly the amount of time you spend in lesson preparation.
Bible truths can be spoken with full authority because they are the Word of God. For this reason, the first question to ask on any matter of faith and practice is, What does the Bible say?
For example, say that you detect in your people an attitude of uncertainty about Christians’ accountability for the time, talents, and position God has given them. You need to motivate your people concerning their responsibility. Among a number of excellent Scripture verses that deal with this theme we note Jesus’ words concerning faithful stewardship in Luke 12:35–48 (especially note v. 48). Paul also deals with Christian accountability in his letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:10–15; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and to the Romans (Romans 14:9–12). Moreover, James’ comments concerning faith that expresses itself in actions lets us know that the vital Christian experience is an out flowing of practical love to God and our fellowman that does what needs to be done (James 2:14–26).
Here are Paul’s words to Timothy: “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). The content of the Bible is important because it makes clear the will of God for people. Begin your search in it; build your lesson on it; and apply its truths to yourself and those who hear you. In doing this you will motivate your people and set the stage for the Holy Spirit to appropriate the truths to their spiritual life.
What Have I Learned?
Part of the process of gathering material to teach is to think yourself empty. This means that you recall anything and everything you have read, heard, or seen that relates to the lesson at hand. Remember what you have been taught. Recall personal experiences that might help explain or apply the lesson. Think of current events: radio, television, and newspaper reports that could be helpful. As you meditate, write. In short, consider everything you have learned that applies to the lesson. Assemble and use from all these sources only the very best and most appropriate material. As we said earlier, your insights, discoveries, and experiences, as well as the stories and illustrations of others, have a way of personalizing the lesson content. If you will use these human elements with discretion, you will enhance the learning experience of your hearers. Of course you will include appropriate material you have gathered and filed also. A helpful tip is to keep a blank piece of paper on the desk. And as jobs you must do at a later date pop into your mind, write them on the blank sheet (pick up the laundry, change the oil in your car, call that visitor, etc). As you write them, it will clear your mind for study so you are not distracted by other tasks that need to be done.
Arrange the Material
Plan a Series
A series consists of a number of successive lessons that have a similar subject. For example, a series of lessons commends itself to teaching on doctrine, books of the Bible, themes of Christian life, that is, things that require more than a lesson or two to develop. A series of lessons may extend from a few weeks to several months, or even a year. Some who minister have taken several years to teach and preach systematically through the Bible. The key to this kind of teaching, however, is effective planning, setting realistic goals, and preparing adequately. Given these factors, Christian believers will undoubtedly grow in the faith and give evidence of spiritual maturity.
A series of lessons will give opportunity for in-depth study. You can give specific assignments for study and involve the students more effectively with this approach. As they become involved in the learning process, your people will gain insights into spiritual truth that will produce spiritual growth. These responses will thrill you and make you realize that as the Holy Spirit enlightens people and makes truth real, they will be progressively conformed to the image of Christ.
When you are planning a series of lessons, determine well in advance what materials you will cover and how long the lessons will continue. Announce these plans, work toward them, and honor them. People will not tire of series teaching if it is well planned, meaningful to them, and has a specific terminal point.
Arrange in Orderly Fashion
Let us consider an appropriate lesson plan for a simple Bible lesson. This plan will help you impart facts, give explanation, and make application of the scriptural truths you present.
The preliminary parts of a lesson plan include: the lesson topic, the Scripture passage the central truth, and the lesson goal. The lesson topic is the title of the lesson, the subject to be taught. The Scripture passage should be selected carefully. If it is part of a series it follows chronologically, of course. Select a complete thought from a paragraph or more that expresses the content of the lesson. Remember, the Scripture passage is the foundation of the lesson. All other materials should be based on it and used to explain, illustrate, prove, or apply its truth.
The central truth is the major truth of the Scripture passage. You should reduce it to one or two brief sentences and write it as part of the lesson plan. Then write the lesson goal and keep it before you as you prepare and teach the lesson. It will help you achieve the lesson goal as you teach. Later you can use it to see if you reached the goal for the lesson.
After the preliminary parts of the lesson plan, there are three major divisions: the approach, the body, and the conclusion.
1. The Introduction. The purpose of the introduction of the lesson is to gain the attention of the class to create readiness for learning, and to introduce the subject of the lesson. The introduction may consist of review, a question to be answered by the lesson, an illustration, or the context. The important thing to remember is that whatever you use should relate closely to the body of the lesson. The first two minutes of your lesson are all important as they capture the attention of people and tell them why this lesson is essential for them.
2. The Body. The body of the lesson consists of the facts, explanations, and application of the Bible passage. The Scripture passage should be outlined. The outline provides the main divisions of the lesson body. Illustrations, notes on interaction, teaching methods, and visual aids are included in the body of the lesson outline. All of these should contribute to the overall aim of the lesson and help to reach the lesson goal.
3. The Conclusion. The conclusion usually consists of an application of the central truth of the lesson. “What now?” is the question to answer in the conclusion. The strong appeal to action is made in the conclusion. The lesson may end with a practical application growing out of the lesson, preview of the next lesson, or assignments to prepare for the next meeting.
Communicate the Message
Follow the Plan
Follow your lesson plan when you teach. When you follow the lesson plan, your teaching is not left to the inspiration of the moment. Nevertheless, a good lesson plan will not bind or limit legitimate creativity which is consistent with the lesson objective. In fact, a good plan includes freedom to lead, explain, and involve the class in learning when the alert teacher deems it appropriate. Moreover, the lesson plan helps you to move with confidence toward the lesson goal.
Follow the planned introduction to the lesson. Get on course immediately. Establish contact with the class, arrest attention, stimulate interest, and move to the main body of material. Do all this by the predetermined plan for your introduction.
Use the teaching methods, aids, and interaction the lesson plan calls for. Encourage participation. Lead in the learning by actively involving your hearers. Impart facts; help the class to reach conclusions and make applications of the lesson. Keep the lesson goal in mind and work toward reaching it. Remember that the lesson plan is to the lesson what banks are to a river. It is a channel through which the lesson material passes on its way to the objective. The channel provides structure that helps to keep the lesson “on course” so that the lesson goal is reached.
It is important for you to finish each lesson and bring it all to a conclusion. If you do not have time to present all you have prepared, omit some of the body. Do not omit or abbreviate the conclusion. Take the time your lesson plan allots for it. When you conclude, make an application of the lesson and appeal for action. Remember that the Holy Spirit is present to help you. He enables believers both to will and to do God’s purpose for their lives (Philippians 2:13). Lean heavily upon Him!
Be Clear and Relevant
The five senses are gateways to the mind. These senses (hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling) are five separate ways impressions are transmitted to human consciousness. By means of these senses we communicate. Moreover, specialists in teaching have learned that where material is presented in more than one way, more is retained.
This is why visuals can help make the abstract content of a lesson more concrete and learnable. Visualization and imagery, whether in pictures or words, will help learners retain lessons.
Have you ever considered Jesus’ teaching method? He talked about things people could see: a sower, a wedding, a temple, a little child, a penny, birds, lilies, wind, a widow’s mite, grapes, fishermen, oxen, gates, and harvest. Every teaching situation suggests something you can use to illustrate the truth. Plan to use power-points, dramas, illustrated lessons, pictures, charts, maps, models, posters, and objects of every kind to enhance your presentation. Use audio-visual materials, also, if they are available. Can you imagine how effective a lesson is when a pupil can hear, see, and touch things that teach a single truth?
Use language that is easy to understand. Language is the bridge between your knowledge and the student’s need. Use simple words. Reduce complex and difficult ideas to simple explanation. Describe new words by illustration. Begin with things that are known and familiar and lead to things unknown and unfamiliar. Consider how clear water sparkles and glistens as the light shines through it. Sometimes however, water is clouded with suspended particles so that it loses its clarity. When this occurs, the water must be run through a filter. In a similar way you need to filter ideas and concepts through your mind until they become crystal clear in your thinking and speech. Then your language is clear and you communicate effectively.
Jesus’ language was clear, simple, and straightforward. The Golden Rule is an example: “‘Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets’” (Matthew 7:12). When asked “‘Who is my neighbor?’” Jesus told a story that clearly illustrated the answer (Luke 10:25–37). Jesus talked to people at their level of understanding. He used human birth to teach about spiritual birth. He asked for a drink at Jacob’s well and talked about living water. Birds and lilies spoke of God’s providential care. A whitened harvest field pictured needy people, waiting for the good news (John 4:35). He used pictorial language freely: parables (Matthew 13:34), similes (Matthew 23:37), metaphors (Luke 13:32), and allegories (John 15:1–10). His language was not vague and general. Rather, He spoke to the point, asking specific questions (Matthew 22:41–46) and giving exact answers (Matthew 22:34–40). He gave precise promises (Matthew 24:2) and made pointed demands (Matthew 10:37–39).
Inform and Interact
Perhaps you have sat under the ministry of a masterful teacher. In the course of his teaching, you were undoubtedly impressed by the various means he used to communicate his lesson and the way people responded to his methods. Be encouraged, for you too can use a variety of teaching methods that will enhance your ability to teach effectively. Consider a few of these teaching methods.
1. The lecture method. The teacher using the lecture method simply tells, explains, and applies the lesson and the students listen. This method is used widely. It is an effective way of introducing new information and covering much subject matter in a short time. However, it takes diligent preparation and great skill to lecture at length and maintain a learning situation. For best results, the lecture method should be used in conjunction with a variety of other methods. With good supporting visual aids and occasional times of student interaction, this method can achieve good results.
2. Story-telling. What happens to you when someone says, “That reminds me of a story”? Story-telling is an effective method of communication. Stories grab attention, stir curiosity, and appeal to the emotions. Stories can be used for introduction, illustration, or application of truth. When you tell a story, be sure you know it well, see it clearly, and feel it thoroughly. Used properly, this technique can be a very effective method of communication.
3. The question and answer method. Jesus frequently used the question and answer method of teaching. “Whom do you say that I am?” “What do you want?” “What do you think?” were some of the questions He asked. Questions should be clear and specific. They will usually be asked by the teacher. The class should understand and be able to answer the questions. This method involves class members in interacting with the truths presented. It makes the class session more meaningful to students when you challenge them to make conclusions on their own.
4. A discussion group. A discussion is an exchange of information, ideas, and opinions by a group. The teacher leads the discussion, helps involve as many of the class members as possible, and directs the class to a definite decision or conclusion. Class discussions are profitable because they invite free expression, allow interchange among members, and stir members to search out and express truth for themselves. However, to be successful in achieving these goals, the number of persons participating should not be more than ten or twelve. This method is used with great success by a considerable number of teachers.
5. Buzz groups. For classes that are too large for a general discussion (more than twelve), you might divide the class into buzz groups. Each buzz group should have no more than ten people. Ask one person in each group to lead the discussion. Give him the question or problem to be discussed by his group. Then move from one group to another while each discusses the question or problem assigned to it. At a preset time bring the groups together and let each leader report his group’s findings to the combined class. Often discussion on the group conclusions is very helpful and generates additional interest. You should then summarize the findings and lead the class to some conclusion.
There are, of course, other methods of teaching, including projects, field trips, recitation, handwork and written work. We have limited this discussion to some of the major methods of teaching, which have been and are being used with success. You may use these to vary your approach and employ the best, proven techniques for successful communication in your ministry of teaching.
Remember that a class session is for teaching, not preaching. The major role of a teacher is to lead the class in a learning experience. Consider yourself a learning facilitator. You are in the class to help search for knowledge. As an exploration team needs a guide as it ventures into unfamiliar surroundings, so your class members need a guide in their search for understanding. A teacher, then, is not so much an informer as an investigator, not so much a lecturer as a learner, and not so much one who gives answers as one who seeks them. As you teach, lead your students to become independent learners. As a teacher, it is the greatest gift you can give. In the words of an old saying, “Give a person a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”
Teach for the Goal
You should reach the conclusion of each lesson and appeal for the action determined by the lesson goal. Both the long range and the individual lesson goals form a backdrop for each lesson. This is true of lesson preparation and presentation. The conclusion of each lesson should bring you to the fulfillment of the lesson goal and move you closer to the long-range, general goals. Review your class session soon after it is finished to see if you reached the lesson goal.
Be practical with the application of the lesson’s truth. Relate it to life situations the class faces daily. The truth you teach liberates, enlightens minds, produces spiritual growth, challenges to deeper commitment, and develops Christlikeness. But above all, remember that the truth you teach must be applied to be effective. Jesus applied the truth to His listeners when He said that those who heard and heeded His words were like the wise man who built his house upon a rock. Those who did not apply the truth were like the foolish man who built his house on sand. Therefore, do not lead your students to the point of action and then conclude the lesson. Rather, lead them to act on the truth received so that they become doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22).
Jesus, our Example
Jesus was the master teacher. No knowledgeable person can deny this fact. Part of His greatness as a teacher was in the words He spoke. They were the words of the Law and the prophets. He spoke the words He heard of His Father. His words had authority that amazed the crowds (Matthew 7:28).
Another part of His greatness as a teacher lay in His method. He used every means and method possible to teach in plain speech the truth people hungered to hear. He was a master storyteller. His stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are unmatched in beauty, simplicity, and truth.
We conclude that His ability as a teacher is even greater when we consider those He taught. He seemed to choose almost deliberately the least likely learners for disciples. None of the original twelve disciples had more than average skill and training. They were petty, weak, and very human. But He taught them. And what they learned, they taught to others. The spark He ignited in these weak and petty men grew into a mighty spreading flame that has forever changed the world by the warmth and light of eternal love.
Each of these reasons for Jesus’ greatness as a teacher sets an example for us. God’s Word is our source of truth and authority. The effectiveness of our teaching lies in our willingness to use simple, truth-laden picture language. The success of our teaching rests in our ability to teach someone else, who will teach another.
As you determine goals, gather, arrange, and prepare materials and communicate the message with decisiveness and conviction, you will see definite results. But in the course of your preparation, remember it is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the truth to human hearts. Your method may be beautifully conceived, but until it is infused with spiritual life by the Holy Spirit, it represents only the best you can do. Above all, pray for the Spirit of God to anoint you in your ministry and to help you minister to the needs of your people. Filled with His Spirit, you will go in the strength, wisdom, and compassion of the Lord. People will respond, grow in the faith, and win others as the work of the Lord moves forward.