Tools for Teaching (Part 2)
Last week I spent time moving my family from Alabama to Georgia. After 3.5 months of being away from them I am glad to have my wife and daughters with me. So now that we have all the Branams in the same place; back to the blog and our discussion of teaching in the church.
When it comes to teaching in the church, we cannot continue as we are. Teachers are the tongues of the church. Even though they comprise a small part of the congregation, relative to the number of students, what they say and teach carries a great deal of weight within the congregation. So how do we improve our teaching? The answer is time, tools, and training. In my previous post I mentioned the importance of using tools to help us rightly divide the Word of God. What are those tools?
If we are to answer the question of “what are the tools?” we must ask another question, just what is it we are trying to do? The task determines the tool.
I am not a craftsman nor am I a repairman. As for tools, I own a drill, a screwdriver (phillips and flat), a hammer, and a wrench. I try to beat, twist, and pry every repair into submission. I destroy a lot of things. Along with my destruction of things comes a great deal of frustration because it takes too long to do what appears to be otherwise easy stuff. I am usually left beating things with the end of a screwdriver, trying to drive screws with a hammer, and tighten everything with a wrench. When the dust settles all that is before me are bent nails and a wide variety of bolts and screws that have been grossly stripped beyond their usefulness. My biggest problem in repair is that because I don’t quite know what must be done, I have no clue that they make the tools necessary to make the task much easier.
The right tool applied to the right task makes all the difference.
Most teachers are given some sort of curriculum to teach, but have never really been advised as to what it is that they are trying to do. The end result is that they approach Scripture like I approach repairs - we hammer the screws, twist the nails, and strip the bolts. The lesson is exegetically unfaithful and our students are no closer to Christ than they were when we began.
So what is it we are trying to do in teaching? The simple answer is that we are trying to say to our students what the Bible says to them. In this way, God speaks and lives are changed. So the tools we are to employ help us to do simply this; they are to help the teacher understand what the Bible is saying.
Curriculum is only a tool. Yet I believe it is probably the most misused tool in the local church. Here is where most teachers go awry with curriculum:
- We endeavor only to say what the curriculum writer is saying. Many teachers caught in this trap would simply read a lesson to their students. Other teachers may not read the lesson to their students, but they may only regurgitate to their students what the writer says. There is no fresh experience of the teacher with the Biblical text. As the word “regurgitate” may insinuate, the end result is a lesson no one really enjoys because the material is far from fresh!
- We allow the curriculum to become the class. Teachers must do more than accomplish lessons, they must teach the Bible. The point of curriculum is to help you become a better teacher, it is not to replace you as the teacher. Curriculum should help guide us, it is not there to remove us. Curriculum gives us suggestions on how a well prepared and managed class could go, it is not giving us a mandate on how a class must go. Teachers who fall into this trap may be robotic, detached from their students. The teacher may also find himself or herself constantly frustrated because there is not enough time allowed for the class to accomplish all that is outlined in the curriculum. In trying to accomplish a pre-planned agenda they distance themselves from discussion, the real needs of the students, or the student’s learning styles. Remember, curriculum writers may know the Bible, but they don’t know you or your students.
A well prepared teacher who uses curriculum rightly is able to discern what is best from the curriculum for their students (I will address this as I continue to post on this topic). They are selective and are able to use the curriculum to enhance their teaching rather than dictate their teaching. Remember, you are not teaching curriculum, you are teaching the Bible!
- We study curriculum rather than study the Bible. I often see teachers in the church come to class with a quarterly in hand, ready to teach, but with no Bible. The sight of this grieves me. It tells me first of all that the curriculum has been on their study table while their Bible has remained on the shelf. If one’s Bible is not brought from home, one’s Bible is probably not used at home. The sight of the Bible-less teacher also tells me that that teacher is prepared only to cover the lesson rather than to really teach the Bible from the overflow of their own personal interaction with the Word of God (I will address this idea in later posts as well). Again, curriculum should not take over, it is a guide not a replacement.
I know I said previously that it is important to read and study what God has said to other people, but if I stood in the pulpit week to week and simply read or quoted other preacher’s sermons, they may be Scripturally faithful, they may make good points, but they would not be fresh because they are not mine. I have said only what God has said to another person, but I have not said what God has said to me, nor have I said what God is saying to the people He has entrusted me to teach.
Curriculum is a great tool, but if it is misused it bends, twists, and drills the life out of the Bible rather than exposes the life that is in the Bible. If we are to rightly apply curriculum to our teaching, we must understand it for what it is. It is a guide, a suggestion, another writer’s experience with the text. It is to enhance our teaching, not to replace it. So how do we properly use curriculum as a teaching tool? We must:
- Understand what a curriculum/writer is saying?
- Understand how a curriculum/writer arrived at what they are saying?
- Understand why a curriculum/writer would say what they have said?
More to come . . .