Training Teachers: The Ministry of “Change”

by Dr. Jason W. Snyder

American educator John Milton Gregory is quoted as saying, “Many teachers go to their work either partly prepared or wholly unprepared. They are like messengers without a message. They lack entirely the power and enthusiasm necessary to produce the fruits which we have a right to look for from their efforts.”

Training Bible teachers is an effort paramount to the responsibility pastors have in shepherding their congregational flock. The pastor must not operate as if he is the only one authorized to teach the Word (2 Timothy 2:2). The teachers I’m referencing can be found in various ministries around your church: LifeGroup, Small Group, Bible Fellowship, or Sunday School teachers; Men’s and Women’s Bible Study leaders; Children’s and Student ministries volunteers; and perhaps even some para-church leaders who are strongly connected to your church family. Teaching people the Scriptures is so much more than just opening the book, reading a passage, and giving your personal commentary – it is certainly more than opening the book and regurgitating someone else’s thoughts. When you or a Bible teacher in your congregation stands to teach the Word, that person is stepping into the sacred and anointed space where they are under the profound weight of responsibility to handle two of God’s most precious possessions: His Word and His people.

So, ask yourself, what do I define teaching as? Often, when I ask prospective teachers this question, I receive answers such as, “learning more,” “gaining knowledge,” or “interaction with facts and historical details.” Yet, teaching for knowledge acquisition falls far short of the biblical mandate for teachers.

The mandate we have to teach the Scripture and the principles of God therein, has wide biblical support. My mind immediately thinks of Moses’ command to the Israelite faithful to teach the commands of God diligently and often – seeking never to forget the goodness of God, His promises and His provision.

As New Testament believers, our mandate is given in Matthew 28:18–20. In this notable passage, the Church is commanded to make disciples – and how to make them … by baptizing them (seeing them converted and brought into the family of God), and by teaching them to observe all of God’s commands. The word in Matthew 28:20 that is translated observe (Gr: tāréō) carries with it the idea of “persisting in obedience,” “to keep, observe, or pay close attention to,” and “to obey by applying with vigilance.”

So, let’s ask the question again … what do I define teaching as? It is certainly not just knowledge acquisition – it is far more than that. From a biblical standpoint, we teach the Scriptures to enact CHANGE!

I encourage you to take a look at Paul’s introduction in his letter to Titus. Paul composes his letter “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” (1:1–2). Note the link in Paul’s writing between the knowledge and its according with godliness. In other words, knowing the Word, gaining understanding, and becoming more proficient with the promises and precepts of God, must lead to godliness. In a word – it leads to CHANGE!

As you develop teacher training materials, or if you plan to adopt someone else’s plan, I urge you to spend time helping your teachers understand that their job is not to impart facts, nor to coach up smarter sinners – it is to train, to develop, to correct, to confront, to encourage, and to model the Christian faith in such a way as to enact CHANGE.

A key passage that captures this concept so well is Colossians 1:28. Paul writes, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” What a challenge, what a directive – it seems impossible. And to be honest, it is impossible! We cannot accomplish verse 28 without verse 29. Paul continues, “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” The Spirit comes to our aid as we teach and as the learners enact change!

When biblically trained and equipped, the Bible teachers in our churches can be a powerful catalyst for change. Don’t miss the opportunity and don’t forsake your responsibility to train and equip them for this important ministry.

Topics Essential to Your Teacher Training

  1. A Teacher’s Heart – It is important to ensure our teachers are spiritually healthy. Take time in your training sessions to address the need for spiritual health, personal spiritual formation, accountability, and an active, growing relationship with Christ. Just as the Dead Sea kills all around it, a spiritually defeated teacher can do great damage. However, just as a flowing creek brings life wherever it flows, a spiritually thriving teacher can embolden the learner in phenomenal ways.
  2. A Teacher’s Method – Many teachers tend to gravitate to a particular teaching method (often it is a lecture). At Prestonwood, we tell our teachers that the worst method you can use is the one you use every week. In other words, variation is key. Effective teachers take into account their learners and their learning styles and as a result, they adjust their teaching method to be as inclusive as possible. The best way to accomplish this is to be creative and shake things up from time to time. Here’s an interesting statistic: 70 percent of learning happens by doing, 20 percent by interaction and coaching, and 10 percent by listening. For far too long in church ministry philosophy, we’ve primarily offered listening environments for learning. Instead, we need to encourage our teachers to have group discussions, utilize handouts, use fill-in-the-blank study guides, have the learners get up and move their chairs into a circle, act out the lesson, utilize visual aids, employ buzz groups, etc. Why? Because actions (doing) connect with the truth (learning) so that people will align with God’s Word (CHANGE).
  3. A Teacher’s Skill – As you can imagine from #2, I don’t think the teacher should be the only person talking during the lesson. He or she should invite questions, comments and participation. Therein lies the importance of asking good questions. In all honesty, this is the most difficult part of writing a Bible lesson – designing questions that spark discussion, highlight key facts, enhance learning, clarify the truth, and prompt application. This skill is of the greatest importance for teachers – ensure you spend time here.
  4. A Teacher’s Preparation – I once heard a teacher call his lesson a “Saturday Night Special.” To be honest that made me cringe because I know what he was saying … he wrote the lesson the night before, probably after a rough week at work, dealing with the normal drama of life, and during the commercials of his favorite sports game. Our learners deserve more than that and our God deserves more than that. So, help your teachers prepare. Set the tone, give examples, cite failure, and encourage with wins. At the end of the day, the teacher is the lesson. Therefore, preparation is essential. For teachers to be most effective, they should allow the Word of God to simmer in their life throughout the week so that when they stand before their group, they’ve started to experience the CHANGE they’re hoping for in their learners. Look back at the quote at the top of this article. Milton’s words are powerful. When we come to teach with little, or worse yet, no preparation, we lack the enthusiasm to produce the fruit we’re called to produce.

Dr. Jason W. Snyder serves as Minister to Adults at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Connect with him on Twitter @jasonwsnyder.

Comments

  1. Great read!! Thank you

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