Ten Principles for Grooming Future Teachers

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The pool of people who are capable of teaching a Bible class with a high degree of skill is getting smaller and smaller. I am not saying that in reflection of those who teach at Northwest. Our teachers do a great job. But the number of people who are interested in teaching and skilled enough to do it well is getting smaller and it is getting harder to fill all of our classes with people who can get the job done.

I have often told our men at Northwest that leaders in the congregation aren’t formed on accident. It takes years of time, attention, experience, and personal spiritual growth for leaders to be formed. Circumstances can find a way to form a leader faster than that but typically that is the case. The same is true with teachers. Not everyone who comes to Bible class was born a teacher. Not everyone should teach (James 3:1). There are some people who have the gift and passion to teach. Others just know how to fill one hour with something or taking something exciting and break it down into minutia. Still others are somewhere between those two extremes. It is important that we get intentional about training people to teach. When I say that I am not just talking about teaching a formal Bible class on Sunday, Wednesday, or in small groups. We need people who know how to teach others about God one-on-one as well.

So what do we do about that? Here are ten principles for grooming future teachers:

  1. Train people – We are fortunate here at Northwest to have the staff to spend time training people. I am seriously considering spending one quarter each year teaching people who to teach. Not every church will have someone on staff to do that. So what then? Start with what you have and the people you have and go from there using some of the following principles.
  2. Inspire people with God’s Word – I hesitate to put someone super boring up to teach a Bible class. I am not saying every teacher needs to be Mr. Enthusiasm but we do want people to see that the Bible can be exciting, relevant, and life changing. That also means even in sermons the text needs to be brought to life in ways that are inspiring, motivating, and life changing.
  3. Teach to make people hungry – We want our Bible classes to make people hungry for God’s Word. When they are they will equip themselves and grow into mature Christians. If we want people to be motivated to teach they have to learn to love the Scriptures.
  4. Avoid default mode – Too often I think we fall into default mode where we know we have four or six or ten classes on Sunday to fill and so we fill them with whoever teaching whatever. Then we wonder why no one wants to teach.
  5. Don’t overwork your teachers – My experience is we also overuse people and don’t let them know there will ever be a break. The best teaching comes from a heart and a mind that is full and rich. When people teach every week for years and years they often experience emptiness places and teach from there. The result of that can be less than inspiring.
  6. Teach for transformation – The best classes are those that challenge you to grow. We don’t just want the text to be taught and people to learn facts, details, lists and genealogies. We want people to grow closer to God and when they can tell that they are they will grow. What is more they also may be inspired to teach.
  7. Line up teachers a year in advance – We often end up filling a class with someone just because the time frame before the class starts is weeks away. Then you get in there whoever will say yes. That is not always a good thing. Schedule teachers a year in advance. Then every three months (or however often you rotate classes) schedule the next quarter a year out. People are also more likely to commit if they have time.
  8. Include your young adults – We have purposefully sent some of our 20s & 30s into the college and youth classes to teach from time to time. They form relationships with those people that makes it easier for them to transition up to the next “level” in ministry. It also gives our young adults a chance to teach and grow in that area without putting them front and center in the auditorium class day 1.
  9. Use two teachers – Using two teachers is a great way to have good teaching and alleviate the concern of some that they may have to be out of town a week or two or three in the quarter but still have coherent teaching taking place. You can also use two to have a dialog over a particular issue or to bounce things around. It can be far more engaging to have two teachers in one class at the same time than to have one guy teaching the whole time. It leaves you wondering what is going to happen next.
  10. Avoid using elders or small group leaders as your Bible class teachers whenever possible – I think we often overwhelm people and have too few people doing too many things. Often things get done half way. Let them do one thing and do it very, very well.

0 Responses

  1. great list, matt. i especially like the idea of having two teachers. i’d suggest we do this even if one of the individuals isn’t a “teacher.” actually, i’d say we do it specifically for that reason. in my opinion, there’s hardly ever a situation in which someone in a leadership (we’ll use that word for lack of a better one) role shouldn’t have someone else at his / her side learning from him / her. preachers, pastors, deacons, teachers, elders, and the like (some of these are redundant, i know) spend far too much time doing their jobs alone.

    place a college student (who may grow in ability to teach) in a class with an experienced (and gifted) teacher. call him a co-teacher, or an assistant, or a page, or whatever. have the teacher meet with him for breakfast one morning a week and talk about preparation for that week, etc. we have too few mentors — too few disciplers — in a religion in which Jesus described his followers not as Christians or believers, but as learners and students.

  2. also, i’d add to the list that we ought to specialize in the socratic method. too often we give information and answers, rather than encouraging students to think through ideas for themselves. not only is a socratic type of teaching better (and more like Jesus’ own style), but it eliminates a lot of the problems involved in locating teachers with all the answers — or training teachers to have them.

    i’d argue that a teacher who asks the right questions is more productive and useful than one who knows all the answers. at least when it comes to the bible, which we constantly make more complicated than it is. i’m not against knowing greek or studying hebrew culture in new testament times (i have two degrees in bible from one of our church of Christ universities) — but we church leaders are great at perpetuating the belief that one has to be an “expert” in order to be a good teacher. this is simply not true.

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