Improving the Effectiveness of our Adult Bible Class Teaching
A teacher of God's word, no matter the level or scope is one of the most important and influential roles in congregations. It is so important that it was among the final words of our Lord as He was preparing to ascend back into heaven:
"…teach them to observe all that I have commanded you…"
- Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
We place a great deal of emphasis on the part of this passage on making disciples and baptizing them but sometimes overlook or deemphasize the next, and critical part of continuing to teach them. This is not meant as criticism, but as a reminder of the criticality of the teaching function. All parts of this passage are about teaching. In the first part, making disciples and baptizing inherently involves teaching then the teaching continues through to growing as disciples and increasing in faithfulness (spiritual maturity, becoming Christlike).
Another passage of scripture that drives home the importance of this role is found in James 3:1,
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (ESV)
This passage is not intended to discourage us from teaching but rather to remind us of the deep responsibility we have as teachers of God's word to ensure we are truthful to His word. Teachers exercise a great deal of influence over learners thus the potential for greater strictness in judgment.
One more passage to consider is found in Paul's first letter to Timothy. In this passage Paul provides instruction on selecting our congregational leaders. In chapter 3:2 he states that elders or overseers are to be "able to teach" (ESV) or "apt to teach" (KJV). I prefer the use of the word "apt." When we are apt to teach, we are not only ready and able but compelled to do so. We are apt to behave in a certain way or engage in certain activities if we recognize these as beneficial and important to us or to those we are committed to. If an elder is not apt or able to teach, then he is not experiencing and exercising the full potential of his sacred office.
Teaching, especially of God's word, should never be approached haphazardly. Given the importance of it to the teacher's as well as the learner's eternal destination, we must do everything we can to prepare as thoroughly as possible and utilize the best methodologies in our efforts. Some engage in "just-in-time" preparation. This should be the exception rather than the normal way of preparing. Even in situations where we are experienced and knowledgeable in a topic, we must refrain from any form of weak preparation if for no other reason than the knowledge that we are in an influential position and will be accountable for our teaching.
Teaching is about assisting learners to learn. Learning is described as a relatively permanent and observable change of knowledge, behavior, and attitude. Relatively permanent means simply if we don't use it, we lose it or weakening what we've learned. Observable means it must be demonstrated in such a way that the change can be seen. If it is not seen, then how do we know learning has occurred? Lastly, we understand the focus on knowledge and behaviors, but don't forget the attitudinal aspect. Attitude is critical in motivating learning and motivating continued learning. We must include information that creates in learners the motivation to study more and deeper. A good way to do this is to include why this information is important to the person and the benefits of it in their lives. It may be general information, or specific information to help relieve or resolve issues in one's life.