Eternity Bible College 2012
Jon Marshall

TEACHERS AND TEACHING IN THE BIBLE ............................................................................... 2
PREPARING FOR A TEACHING SESSION .................................................................................. 5
SCRIPTURE IN TEACHING ....................................................................................................... 7
THE KEY TO CLARITY: WRITING A BIG IDEA STATEMENT ........................................................ 9
WRITING A SERMON/LECTURE/MONOLOGUE-TYPE LESSON ............................................... 13
CLARITY, INTEREST, AND IMPACT ........................................................................................ 16
SERMON/MONOLOGUE/LECTURE: REVIEW ......................................................................... 23
ENVIRONMENT ................................................................................................................... 24
WRITING QUESTIONS .......................................................................................................... 30
TECHNOLOGY ...................................................................................................................... 35
ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL ..................................................................................................... 37
ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL: REVIEW ....................................................................................... 40
SERMON-BASED SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION ...................................................................... 41
SERMON DISCUSSION GROUP: REVIEW ............................................................................... 44
SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION ................................................................................................. 45
BIBLE INSTITUTE/COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY CLASS .................................................................... 48

We begin by asking what a teacher is because that’ll tell us what a teacher does and how to
evaluate whether a teacher is good or not.

1. What is a teacher? 2. How does a teacher prepare? 3. What makes for a good teacher?

1. What is a teacher and what is teaching (according to the Bible)?
A. Biblical teaching is a little different than other types of teaching.
    i. The main way it’s different is that the teacher is required to believe and live the
    content of his/her instruction.
    ii. Its two main goals are praise and obedience. (These aren’t usually main goals of other
    types of teaching.)
    iii. It is similar to other kinds of teaching because you are trying to communicate truth
    and differentiate it from error.

B. According to the Bible God is the ultimate teacher.
Psalm 25:4-5 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your
truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
John 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has
heard and learned from the Father comes to me-

C. Jesus is the ultimate teacher.
Matthew 23:8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all
Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying,
"What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they
obey him."

D. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher.
John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach
you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

E. Ultimately there’s no teacher other than God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

•If God is the ultimate teacher, what does this mean for our teaching? How will this
influence the way we prepare and teach?

F. There are many types of teaching in the Bible.
Training children to fear God by following his law in casual and formal settings (Deut 4:10;
6:7; 11:19; Psalm 34:11; 78:5; Proverbs 3:1; 4:2). Exhorting Jews to follow God’s law (Deut
4:14; 5:31; 6:1; 33:10; 2 Chron 6:27). Teaching songs and the story of the people through

songs (Deut 31:19). Deciphering the difference between right and wrong (Ezek 44:23).
Giving direction on what to do in a specific life situation (Judges 13:8). Rebuking a person
for wrongs that have been done (Job 6:24; Ps 51:13; Prov 6:23). Mother’s train their
children how to live (Prov 1:8; 6:20; Song of Sol 8:2). Providing wisdom for life (Prov 9:9;
13:14; 31:26). Teaching younger women how to love their husbands (Titus 2:3). Teaching
with questions or with answers (Mark 8:27-30; 11:27-33; 12:35-37). Reading the word and
explaining it (Ezra 7:10, 25). Explaining the Bible to people, to exhort, rebuke, and train in
righteousness so they can be fully equipped for life (2 Tim 3:10-4:5).

•What’s a biblical way to teach? There are many. So, how will you teach? What best fits

2. How does a teacher prepare?
A. Teachers prepare by…
    i. Praying regularly.
    Acts 6:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
    ii. Reading the Bible consistently.
    Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach
    his statutes and rules in Israel.
    iii. Obeying God devotedly. John 15:4-7; 8:31; Luke 6:39-42; 1 Tim 3:1-8; 4:6-16
    iv. Learning to listen to God through Scripture and prayer. Psalm 51:6; 86:11;
    Psalm 86:11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to
    fear your name.

B. A teacher prepares by reading other books about God and his word.

C. A teacher prepares by sharing their learning with others in normal life.

People say that you can’t take someone somewhere you’ve never been. If you don’t
consistently pray, read, and obey you’ll never be able to take someone into unity with God.

3. What makes for a good teacher?
A. The world has criteria for what makes a good teacher; we agree with some but not all.
    Informed, knowledgeable, responsible. Excited, energized, enthusiastic. Concerned,
    caring, comforting. Interesting, intriguing, funny. Clear, understandable, articulate. Fair,
    respectful, courteous. Objective, neutral, dispassionate (not emotionally involved).
    Iconoclastic (breaks tradition), radical, and un-tethered (not tied down; open-minded).
    Some of the world’s criteria are commendable and some are wrong.

B. The Bible also has criteria for what makes for a good teacher.
    i. Someone who loves God and follows him. Jeremiah 22:11-17; John 14:20-28
    ii. Someone who cares about understanding the truth in their personal life. Ps 119:99
    iii. Someone who consistently applies the truth they learn into their own life.

   Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit
   has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own
   iv. Someone who cares about communicating truth clearly to others. Ezek 34:17-24
   v. Someone who prays for the group regularly, knowing that God will change them. John
   17:9, 21-24; Rom 10:1; 2 Cor 13:7-9; Eph 1:15-23; Phil 1:3-4, 9, 19; Col 1:3-9; 1 Thes 1:2
   vi. Someone who loves the group and wants to see their growth. 2 Cor 10:4 -6; Eph 4:11-
   14; Col 1:28; 4:12; Hebrews 6:1

So what’s the point of all this? What does the Bible teach about teaching and teachers?
What is their purpose and goal? What qualifies them for the job? What do they do? Why do
they do it?
If God is the ultimate teacher then we must be taught by him and invite him to teach
through us. That means we must pray, meditate on scripture, and seek his blessing. The key
thing that makes a great teacher is personal holiness. You simply cannot change lives unless
God has changed yours and is working through you consistently when you teach.

These notes describe a general approach to getting ready to teach. They describe a pretty
intense preparation process. Don’t be overwhelmed. Take what you can right now and return
to these notes in a few months to see what the next step might look like in your life.

Being a teacher is very serious business, that’s why preparing to teach is so intense.

   “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach
   will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

1. Begin with prayer.
       A. Preparation may differ depending on your subject or setting, but prayer is the
       foundation for any lesson you prepare.
       B. Remind God that you want to please him and help his people.
       C. Ask God to inform and inspire you on the subject.
       D. Present your needs and the needs of the people to God and ask him for his help.

2. Prepare yourself spiritually by consistently following God in your normal life.
        A. Integrity (not perfection, but consistency) is a prerequisite for fruitful teaching.
        B. Enrich your own spiritual life by reading the Bible (and other godly books), praying,
        and obeying God as you prepare.
*A sin before a lesson doesn't ruin your ability to teach; God’s always ready for repentance.

3. Get familiar with your subject.
       A. Often people don't have a lot of time to learn new subjects, that's one reason it's
       important to always be reading/studying (you'll hopefully have studied the topic in the
       B. Read the passage, book, or curriculum you'll be teaching on.
       C. Try to read the entire work (book of the Bible, book, or curriculum) ahead of time.
               This will answer some questions and give you a broader view of the subject.
               You'll also end up knowing stuff that people will inevitably ask about.
       D. Ask other teachers, pastors, and informed Christians to talk with you about the
       subject and perhaps recommend other reading to supplement your study.
       E. Reread your specific section (and the sections before and after your section) several
       times to be sure you understand its main points.

4. Take notes as God puts things on your heart.
       A. Notes should always be written in complete sentences.
              Some people think that they are not “good with words”, “strong speakers”, or

              “articulate”; it’s especially important for them to write complete sentences so
              they'll have the words plainly before them. It will also help to develop your
              ability with language if you consistently and regularly practice writing out your
       B. Write a sentence summary of stories/anecdotes, illustrations, examples, life
       applications, theological points, and questions as they come to mind.
       C. Write them out immediately; don't assume you'll remember once you’re through

5. Sift and prioritize.
       A. After teaching a few times you'll realize that you know, and have a heart to share,
       way more than is possible in the time you have.
       B. Sift through the stuff you know by focusing in on the main point of your lesson. If you
       could only say one thing, what would it be? Focus on that and incorporate into your talk
       only things that support that one topic.
       C. Prioritize the things you want to get across. I think it's best to focus on one point and
       make that point clear. I drop anything that doesn't point toward that one point.
       D. There are many great and godly things to say, but only so much time. Be discerning.
       E. Have faith that God can get all that information you know to his people when he

6. Study your audience
       A. Every group has different needs, desires, growth areas, strength areas, experiences,
       circumstances, and abilities.
       B. Try to factor these differences into your preparation.
               What do they need? What do they want out of life? Where have they grown and
               where do they need to grow? What experiences shape their perspective? How
               much can they handle?
       C. After studying your audience you can re-sift through your studying and try to gather
       those things which will most directly and helpfully speak to this specific audience.

For example: I study archaeology all the time, and now know lots of interesting little tidbits. But
if I'm teaching 6-8 year olds I will probably withhold information about pharaoh
Hotepsekhemwy or Nakhtnebtepnefer Intef III (real Egyptian pharaohs). However, I might show
a picture of rivers in China being plugged up after an earthquake to prove that God's miracle of
plugging up the Jordan (Joshua 3) could actually happen.

7. Pray again.
       A. After all the general preparation you should pray for the people again. You've thought
       about the subject and the subjects so now you can pray more intentionally.
       B. Ask God to lead you toward a specific plan of attack.
       C. Ask God to prepare their and your hearts to learn and grow.

It is absolutely essential that the Bible is the grounds for everything you say and feel as you
teach. It should not be an add-on or non-issue. At the same time the Bible is very foreign to
most people, so you have to work hard to help them understand.

1. Prepare people for hearing the word of God.
We live in a culture that knows nothing about the Bible. Imagine your confusion if someone
stood up and read half a page, two-thirds of the way through the story of the fifteenth
Pharoah’s war with the king of Cush and how “relevant” this was to your life.

A. Guide people to the location.
Refer to the Table of Contents often. Remind them that the Bible is a collection of short
books. Tell them your specific passage slowly. Repeat the location several times, especially
the numbers. Clarify that the big numbers mark chapters and the small numbers mark
verses. Wait for them to get there.

B. Summarize the situation up to this point in the book.
Tell people a little about the whole book (author, circumstances, story or main point).
Explain what’s happened in the book so far.

C. Identify key elements they’ll find in the current section.
Set people up to understand what you plan to read. If there are tricky words, ideas, or logic
consider whether you need to explain them beforehand or afterward. At least tell them the
main idea of the section.

2. Point people to the word of God.
Show them that scripture matters to you by reading it, referring to it, and building your
teaching from it.

A. Put your finger on the words you are referring to.
People will look down to check it out for themselves. By literally putting your finger on the
words of scripture you show people where your thoughts come from. You also send the
message that you really care what the Bible says.

B. Throughout your teaching refer back to specific words and phrases of scripture.
Each time you refer to scripture, put your finger on the Bible, or put your head down to
read, you reinforce that scripture matters to you and you are promoting its ideas not your

3. Explain the word of God.
Don’t assume that anyone knows what any verse means. Bible teachers spend so much time
studying they tend to forget that most people don’t study or understand scripture.

A. Read scripture aloud intentionally and with inflection.
The first explanation is your public reading. Read a story like a good story. Read a letter as a
letter. Read proverbs or songs like proverbs or songs. Use your voice and body to explain
the text.

B. Give insight into the text throughout your teaching.
Answer the five main investigative questions: who, what, where, when, why. Often the first
four are interpretation questions and the last moves toward application.

C. Consistently connect today’s teaching with other scripture and Christian theology.
Over time show the people how scripture flows and reinforces itself. Show people how it
contributes to a Christian way of looking at the world.

4. Empower people by the word of God.
The word of God is alive and powerful. It does things you can’t explain. Expect this and
watch for it.

A. Show through stories, testimonies, and personal examples how the word of God changes
People need to hear that God’s word still works in this world, and once they hear it God
often does a new work in their life. So bring real people into your teaching as examples.

B. Pray like crazy that God would keep his promise to change lives through his word.
God says his word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and that it “does not return empty”
(Isaiah 55:10-11). Hold him to that and pray that he’d make it a reality once again.

C. Assume that God is faithful to his promise and lives will change.
God does what he says he’ll do, so pray with expectation that he’ll change people.

Summary: Prepare people for the word of God, so they can receive it. Point people to the
word of God, so they can appreciate it. Explain the word of God, so they can understand
it. Empower people by the word of God, so they can live it.

One key to clarity for any lesson is writing a Big Idea statement. I’ve found this to be the single
most helpful practice for bringing clarity to my teaching no matter what setting I’m in.

The Big Idea statement is the central point of your lesson which you can say in one
sentence and is easy to memorize.
       A. The Big Idea includes the content and purpose of your talk.
       B. Writing a Big Idea statement will get you focused. It'll help you to articulate your main
       point clearly so you aren't wandering around the subject for several hours.

1. The Big Idea should be written in a single complete sentence.
       A. A lot of times people will simply think “my topic is ‘Jesus’”, but this is so vague that
       it’s not helpful.
       B. A complete sentence clarifies your specific content and what you're trying to
       accomplish (purpose).

Examples of Big Idea statements for Mark 4:35-41:
Bad examples: Jesus. Jesus’ authority. Jesus’ authority over demons.
Better Examples:
“Jesus expressed his authority over the spiritual world by exorcising demons, and continues to
express his authority over spiritual things as he transforms us and conquers Satan.”
“Jesus showed his authority over the spiritual world when he calmed the storm, and we can
trust him through scary, even demonic, situations.”
“Jesus demonstrated that he is greater than Satan by resisting his temptations, and as he does
this we can see him being a faithful second Adam.”

*Notice how your Bible has subject headings for major sections that are just a word or group of
words (not sentences). This works well for a Bible but very poorly as a Big Idea statement. It's
good for a Bible because it tells you the topic addressed, but doesn't interpret the passage for
you. It allows you to interpret what's in the passage. In a talk you have done the interpretation
so you want to move beyond a simple group of words toward a sentence which interprets the

2. The Big Idea statement should be easy to memorize or recite.
        A. An example of a Big Idea statement that’s too complicated:
“Jesus’ exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, in the context of other healings and miracles,
demonstrates the spiritual authority of Jesus in Gentile lands, though other passages have
shown his authority in Jewish contexts, and instructs his followers about his authority over
spiritual things so that they might follow him, though there are other ways in which their
allegiance to him can be demonstrated.”

This example is bad for three reasons: 1) It is too long. 2) Its vocabulary and grammar are too
complex. 3) It doesn’t focus on the one main point.

       B. A nice, clear example of a Big Idea statement:
“Jesus has ultimate authority in the spiritual world, so we don’t have to be scared.”

3. Be able to say your big idea in multiple ways (with all different terms).
For example:
“Christians have a reputation for being judgmental, but Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness should
radically change this.”
“The church is known for its quick criticisms of others and unwillingness to forgive, but Jesus
challenges us to be slow critics and generous forgivers.”
“People think of us as faultfinders who only reluctantly let things go, but Jesus’ parable of the
unforgiving servant lets us see God’s deep forgiveness and compels us to imitate him.”

Even if you don't ever say your Big Idea statement during your teaching time you should be able
to. It should be rolling around in your head throughout your preparation and teaching time to
keep you focused and clear on what you’re trying to communicate.

4. To come up with a Big Idea read the passage/chapter repeatedly and continually
ask two questions: “What is this about?” (topic) and “Why was it written?”
For example: (Each time you ask the question get more specific)
Topic—Mark 4 is about Jesus. Mark 4 is about Jesus and demons. Mark 4 is about Jesus’
authority over demons. Mark 4 is about Jesus’ authority over demonic activity in a crazy storm.
Predicate—Mark 4 tells me that Jesus has authority. Mark 4 tells me that Jesus has authority
over a demonic storm. Mark 4 tells me that people were scared of Jesus because he was
stronger than a demonic storm and had power over nature. Mark 4 tells me that Jesus is
capable of protecting me because he is stronger than any evil power.
Big Idea Statement—Jesus’ authority over the demonic storm proves he has power over any
evil power.

The big idea statement is absolutely essential to making sure you’re clear about what
you plan to say. If you can’t write out the main point or purpose of your lesson in a single
sentence then you probably won’t be able to make it any clearer in thirty minutes of

Most people in the United States don’t communicate clearly. The main reason is that they don’t
use complete thoughts or logic. That’s why listeners don’t understand what they’re saying.

They don’t think, speak, or write in complete sentences. We text, we abbreviate, ramble. For
that reason communication is often blurry. To improve clarity and your ability to communicate
you should work hard to learn how to write a complete sentence.

It’s an even bigger deal when you can employ logic into your teaching by writing out
transitional statements. A transitional statement logically connects one thought to another.

1. Write complete sentences so you know, and your audience will know, what you
       A. Often we abbreviate, use phrases, or put down one word in our notes assuming that
       the full idea will come to us when we teach. It won’t.
       B. Write the full idea including the content, the purpose, and the reason for saying it.

For example, imagine you saw this on your notes:
“Such a good point” “Holiness, holiness, holiness” “Ralph on Thursday”
What would happen when you got up to teach? You’d have no idea what to say. You don’t
remember what struck you so deeply, what the word holiness means, or specifically what Ralph
said or did or didn’t do on Thursday.

       C. You must use complete sentences or you’ll be just as confused as the people you

“Paul’s comment that ‘God’s kindness leads us to repentance’ (Rom 2:4) really hits me because
I’ve recently repented of gluttony after God kindly gave me a great meal to enjoy without killing
“Life is all about the holiness of God. Holiness means to be distinct or different. God is different
and that’s why he alone is worthy of worship.”
“On Thursday Ralph told me about his brother going to India for a missions trip and how we all
need to pray for him. This is a great application for my talk on praying for people.”

2. Write transition statements between points, stories, illustrations and Bible
       A. Transition statements connect two thoughts and help move the conversation from
       the first thought to the second. They explain the connection between both thoughts.

       B. Writing out transition statements is always necessary between major points. This
       helps you to understand how your lesson progresses from one point to the next.

Point 1: God loves people even when they are his enemies.
Transition Statement (TS): Throughout the Bible God commands his people to imitate him.
We’re supposed to act like God acts.
Point 2: We should love people even when they make us mad.

         C. Transitions are also helpful when introducing scripture. Often we write our main
         point and then put a verse next to it without making clear how our point and the verse
         are related. This leads to confusion on the part of the speaker and on the part of the
         audience. We need to use transition statements.
Bad Example: Kindness to others might compel them to repent. Romans 12:20.
Good Example: Kindness to others might compel them to repent. (TS) This is graphically
illustrated by Paul in Romans 12:20 where the image of coals burning on a head symbolizes
repentance (not them being judged by God). Read Romans 12:20.

*It is really obvious, if you pay attention, when people don’t write complete sentences or
transition statements. They bumble and ramble for a few seconds until it clicks in their mind
what they wanted to say. Sometimes it doesn’t click and they move to another point without
ever really saying the first one. Without transition statements, out of nowhere they jump from
one subject to another. You feel jolted and disoriented as a listener. Transition statements
ease and direct us toward the next point.

These notes describe how you can prepare for a sermon-type of teaching. I’m talking about a
lecture-style or monologue approach. Most people rarely have opportunities like this because
most teaching is interactive and dialogue focused. But for those of you who preach or stand in
front of fairly large audiences, I’ll explain a good process for writing up a lesson.

Writing a sermon-type lesson doesn’t have to be super-complicated. There are a few keys to it
that will help you move from being confused as a teacher to having a sense of clarity.

1. Begin by establishing your big idea statement (watch that video if you haven’t
Where do you plan to take these people? What do you think God wants to do with them?
That’s what you establish in the Big Idea statement. This video explains how to move from one
simple statement to a sermon that moves people toward receiving that statement.

2. After the Big Idea statement write an easy map with two to four simple
       A. A map is different than an outline. A map progresses from one place to another,
       while an outline just marks random points. You are taking people on a journey (from
       ignorance to enlightenment, from rebellion to submission, from apathy to joy, from
       themselves to God).
       B. There are many ways to write a map, but the common theme is that people begin in
       one place and need to get to a different place.

For example:
Big Idea—
Jesus has authority in the spiritual world, so we don’t have to be scared. Mark 4:35-41

i. Everyone encounters some sort of spiritual darkness or evil in life. (People begin here)
ii. Most people don’t know what to do when spiritual darkness greets them.
(Transition: But God tells us in his word how to handle spiritual darkness when it comes.)
iii. Jesus demonstrates his absolute authority over all spiritual darkness and evil. Mark 4:35-41
iv. When darkness comes into your life, you may choose to fight alone, or be smart and let
Jesus fight for you. (People need to end up here)

3. Turn each of your simple sentences into paragraphs which include illustrations
and stories.
       A. In the paragraph you should restate and rephrase the simple sentence.

       B. Use a story or illustration to bring the sentence into clarity.
       C. Restate or rephrase the simple sentence.

For example:
(Simple sentence) Most people don’t know what to do when spiritual darkness greets them.
       (Illustration) I started up a conversation with a checker at the grocery store. She told me
       she hadn’t slept the night before because demons attacked her and her roommate all
       night. I asked her what she did and she said, “Nothing. I didn’t know what to do.”
(Rephrased point) People get confronted by darkness, but haven’t learned how to handle it.

4. Most people are more visual than verbal, so stories, illustrations, anecdotes, and
images will help them understand better.
       A. It’s good to try to have a story or illustration for each major point.
       B. Write out the story in complete sentences.
       C. Be sure to include a quick summary of the content of the story and how it supports
       your main point.

Here’s a bad and good example of how to write down a story you plan to tell:
Bad example: Rotten peaches in my backpack story
Good example: The time that the peaches rotted, fermented, and soiled my backpack illustrates
how the fruit of the Spirit can get ruined if we hide it and forget about it.
*Can you see what I plan to say in the bad example? Can you in the good example?

5. Use complete sentences in everything you write down.
       A. Don’t just jot down phrases, key terms, or ideas.
       B. You’ll have no idea what the phrase, term, or idea was intended to mean in the talk.
       Instead write a sentence.
       C. Complete sentences will give you direction and help you to make your points clear.

Again, here are some bad and good ways of taking notes about something you plan to say:
Bad Examples: “Story about Grandma”; “Love”; “Hunger for God.”
Good Examples: “The story of Grandma patiently praying for my salvation through my entire
life shows how persistence in prayer is effective.” “Love can be defined in many ways, but in the
Bible love refers to giving of oneself for the benefit of another person.” “We use different
figures of speech to describe our relationship to God; hungering for God is like being hungry for
food since you have a sense of need and awareness that the need can only be satisfied by one

6. Write transition statements between points, stories, illustrations and Bible
       A. Transition statements connect two thoughts and help move the conversation from
       the first thought to the second. They explain the connection between both thoughts.

       B. Writing out transition statements is always necessary between major points. This
       helps you to understand how your lesson progresses from one point to the next.

Point 1: God loves people even when they are his enemies.
Transition Statement (TS): Throughout the Bible God commands his people to imitate him.
We’re supposed to act like God acts.
Point 2: We should love people even when they make us mad.

         C. Transitions are also helpful when introducing scripture. Often we write our main
         point and then put a verse next to it without making clear how our point and the verse
         are related. This leads to confusion on the part of the speaker and on the part of the
         audience. We need to use transition statements.
Bad Example: Kindness to others might compel them to repent. Romans 12:20.
Good Example: Kindness to others might compel them to repent. (TS) This is graphically
illustrated by Paul in Romans 12:20 where the image of coals burning on a head symbolizes
repentance (not them being judged by God). Read Romans 12:20.

*It is really obvious, if you pay attention, when people don’t write out transitional statements
because out of nowhere they jump from one subject to another. You feel jolted and disoriented
as a listener. Transition statements ease and direct us toward the next point.

Communicating for a Change by Lane Jones and Andy Stanley describes a very usable
method of writing a sermon. I recommend it.

We have three major topics as we discuss making the teaching understandable and

1) Clarity, 2) Interest, and 3) Impact.

Big Idea: Studying your audience is the most important component for achieving clarity,
interest, and impact. If you know them you can connect with them and let the Bible do its

1. Clarity: How do the people speak that you are speaking to?
A. For each main point, write out (in complete sentences) three ways to say the same thing.
        This ensures both that you know what you’re saying and that your audience will.
        Read good writing because this helps to ingrain clarity in your own thinking.
        Think about the language, grammar, and pace used by your audience and adjust to

       Some generalizations:
       Older adults may not understand idk, lol, brb, or omg, but 12 year old girls do.
       Older people can follow a few more steps of logic than younger people.
       Proper grammar may sound “stuffy” to a high schooler but not to a senior adult.
       Younger people tend to talk faster, use more slang, and use incomplete sentences.

B. Teaching is interpretation.
       You interpret the Bible to make it understandable to your audience.
       Figure out how to say the same thing using terms and grammar they understand.
       Think of yourself as a translator from the Bible’s culture to the culture you’re in.

C. Teachers tend to forget that they need to think about clarity when reading Scripture, too.
       Here are some tips for making Scripture reading clear:

(When introducing public reading of scripture)
      1. Give a context for when and where this passage was spoken.
      2. Prepare the audience for the contents by summarizing what they’ll hear.
      3. Pose a question that is clear and direct and will help them to think about the text.
      4. Anticipate potential questions that may arise while you read and prepare the

(After publicly reading a passage)
        1. Remind the audience of what they have heard in a brief explanatory sentence.

       2. Point out certain words or phrases that draw out the meaning you led them
       3. Mention synonymous words found in other translations used by your audience.
An example of a bad public reading of scripture: God is jealous. Read Numbers 25:1 -10.
Since God is jealous we should imitate Phineas in our own lives.

A good example of public reading of scripture: “God is jealous which means he wants what
rightfully belongs to him. He wants the devotion of his people because it’s his. You see this
in Numbers 25. God had distinguished his people from the Egyptians and told them they’re
special. He then led them out of Egypt and provided for them, to show them they’re special.
And he said, Don’t split allegiances with the gods of other people because you’re my
people. Well in Numbers 25 they didn’t listen. They started marrying Moabite women and
having sex with them was a type of worship. One guy named Phineas recognized what was
going on. He stepped in. Read Numbers 25:1-10. God’s jealousy isn’t like an ex-girlfriend
who wants you back just because you’re with someone else now. God is like a husband
whose wife is cheating on him and he’s mad because she belongs to him. Your Bible might
say “zealous” (which tells you he’s passionate), but it won’t use envy. Envy’s differen t from
jealousy because you envy that which isn’t yours, you’re jealous for things that are yours.
God is jealous and he wants his people to be jealous for him.”

2. Interest: What interests the people you are speaking to?
A. Everyone is interested in something but not everyone is interested in the same things.
       Figure out which things interest your audience.
       This doesn’t mean you’ll affirm what interests them but you can use it as an entry

For example: Kids love violent video games. You could refer to those video games and some
redeemable aspect of them, but then challenge them to consider what it does to them

B. Really think about your audience and identify things that interest them.
       Each facet of your audience’s life and experience is a potential point of interest.
       Consider age, gender, stage in life, schooling, ethnicity, socio-economic background,
       church affiliation, family dynamics, sports, hobbies, jobs, etc.
       Think of problems, joys, struggles, unnoticed problems, encouragements, good
       practices (successes), and questions which are common among the various groups
       you’ll address.
       Use reference to these as points of interest in the lesson or discussion.
       Include not only things people realize they need but also things they don't realize
       they need. Create an itch they’ll want to scratch (knowing God, knowing the Bible,
       *These points of interest will also direct you toward life application.

C. Integrate these points of interest into your talk or discussion.
        Open with a question which is common among this age group.
        Tell a story that these people would love to hear.
        Use an illustration that speaks directly into their lives.
        Identify a problem they probably have and how you’ll address it.
        Identify something they do well and encourage them to continue in it.
        *Make sure you actually resolve questions or issues you promise to resolve.
        Sometimes teachers use questions as bait to get people interested but leave them
        hanging by not resolving them.

3. Impact: How will people remember this truth, be struck by it, and be changed by
A. Impact refers to the lasting effect of your teaching.
       Teaching has impact if it compels people to think about life in a new way.
       Teaching has impact if people can see what you are saying and feel its importance.
       Teaching has impact if it changes lives in big and small ways.

B. The following three topics (stories, illustrations, application) assist in making a deeper
impact because they help people see life in new ways, feel the importance of truth, and see
how truth should change their lives.

1. Stories: What kinds of stories do these people tell (or like to hear)?

       a. Stories are great. They let people relax, engage, and learn (without knowing it).
       b. Stories impact people because they can feel them and remember them.
       c. Here are some guidelines for stories:
               i. Be sure that the story actually supports your main point.
               (There are lots of funny, gripping, insightful, or romantic stories we could tell,
               but not all of them actually support the main point of the talk. This can be a
               little trickier than it sounds so be careful.)
               ii. Be sure that the story doesn’t have something that will snag your audience
               and lead them in a different direction, doubt your point, or question your
For example:
Talking about God’s love for people and desire for them to be saved you tell a story about
predestination and election. Now everyone’s wondering what you think of those topics.
Wanting to illustrate sin you refer to an R-rated movie you watched, but people in your
audience are strongly opposed to rated R movies. Now they question you as a teacher.

              iv. Write out stories in complete sentences because we often assume
              (wrongly) that we’ll remember the important details when talking but we
              usually don’t.
              v. Introduce stories with a single sentence that gives the point of the story.

              vi. End the story by repeating and rephrasing the main point.
              vii. People love to hear about your personal experiences, but you need to
              balance stories where you succeed and where you fail (an overabundance of
              either can be problematic).
              viii. Select stories that speak to your audience. (Study your audience.)

Bad example: Using a snippet from Gone With the Wind to illustrate true love when
speaking to a group of Junior Highers. Using lyrics from Eminem (the rapper) to illustrate
true love when speaking to seniors.
Good example: A personal story from the Vietnam War about courage and honor would
probably impact both Junior Highers and senior adults.

              ix. You can gather stories from life experience, movies/TV, or reading.
              x. Spend time exposing yourself to different stories and if you plan to teach a
              lot you might consider writing some of these stories down for future use.
              xi. Be careful that your story doesn’t become the main focus of the lesson.

*God and Jesus love to tell stories. Stories teach, encourage, and challenge without
sounding preachy. Jesus liked to tell stories where his audience thought they were the hero
in the story but at the end they’d realize they were not. Change your ways and you’ll be a

2. Illustrations: what pictures would these people understand? How can i help th em see it?
         a. Most people are more visual than verbal which means you have to help them
         “see” your point.
         b. Pictures and images impact people because they are easy to remember and say a
         lot without saying anything (a picture’s worth a thousand words).
         c. There are different ways to help people see.
                 i. Pictures, maps, and drawings can be very helpful.
For example:
When describing Israel’s return from exile I could say they walked home from Babylon into
ancient Palestine (boring, where’s Babylon anyway?), or I could show a map and some
pictures of the hot and sticky desert while describing the joy these people would have that
they were coming home.

               ii. Acting out stories by visibly changing characters, facial expressions, voices,
               tones, helps people to get into the conversation.
For example: When teaching on Malachi you should get into the tone of God questioning his
people and them responding with surprise. Look at Mal 1:6-8. God explains his relationship
to Israel then asks, “Where is my honor?” The people respond, “How have we dishonored
you?” God responds “By polluting my altar.” The people respond, “How have we polluted
your altar?” God responds, “By offering sacrifices that don’t cost you anything. Would a
human ruler accept that as a sacrifice? Of course not, so why do you expect me to accept

              iii. Sometimes a graph or chart will help people place things in context and
For example: The timeline of the Old Testament is hard to remember, but a line chart helps.

                    Ruth              1-2 Kings
       Genesis      1-2 Samuel        1-2 Chronicles
       ExodusPsalms            Ezra
       Leviticus    Proverbs          Nehemiah
       Numbers      Ecclesiastes      Esther                        All New Testament
Job    Deuteronomy Song of Songs      All Prophets                      Writings

2000 B.C. 1500 B.C.     1000 B.C.         800-400 B.C.            5 B.C.     50-100 A.D.
Job       Moses         David             Prophets                           New

              iv. Once again, know your audience and use illustrations which are
              appropriate for them. Kids may not be able to handle the Old Testament
              outline above, but a montage of 30 pop culture pictures which graphically
              make a point about the corrupting power of drugs can be gulped down in one
              swallow with big impact.

         d. Warnings about illustrations:
i. Be sure that the illustration helps people to see more clearly and doesn’t just confuse
For example: Some graphs and charts are helpful but as they grow in complexity people lose
the ability to interpret them (some people can’t interpret any graph because they never
learned how). If you don’t immediately feel its message, your audience will probably never
feel it.

ii. Be sure that the illustration isn’t morally objectionable or will cause people grief.
For example: I’ve thought of many movie clips and images that would graphically illustrate
sin in a classroom, but would also induce sin among many of the young men (a young lady
in one of my classes didn’t think about this and caused quite a stir).

iii. Using images, graphs, and illustrations changes the “feel” of the teaching session. Be
sure that the illustration lines up with the overall feel you are trying to achieve.

For example: I would not normally put the Old Testament timeline on Power Point when
preaching on a Sunday morning because the feel should be “encounter with God” more
than “instruction about the Bible.” It may work, but usually not.

iv. Be sure that the illustration doesn’t “steal the show” away from God.
For example: The college pastor of a church I attended got a tattoo on stage (as his entire
sermon for the night) to illustrate something (I can’t remember what). It was supposed to
be powerful, now I just remember it as being ridiculous.

3. Application: How does this truth apply to this specific audience?

       a. People have a really hard time taking biblical truth and putting it into specific
       parts of their lives. As teachers we need to train people how to make this transfer
       and also need to transfer for them.
       b. Applications of truth should be both general and specific.
                i. General applications are much easier to come up with.
                (They paint a broad picture of how the Bible applies, but people usually won’t
                bring them into specific situations.)
For example: Love your neighbors (but their dog keeps barking, they don’t pull their trash
cans back inside for days, they leave a rusty old car out front, they take up all the parking
spots with their RV). Nurture your wife (I try to be quiet when I watch TV what else does
she expect?). Discipline your children (I’ll just spank them when I’m mad from work and
that will help them to always keep in line around me).
                ii. We still need to give the general application because it helps people to see
                the big idea, but afterward we need to bring it specifically into their lives.
                iii. Specific applications identify small points of people’s lives and speak truth
                into them.
                Normal conversations, everyday experiences, common problems, typical
                issues, and regular fears fit nicely into this category.
                Think through a normal day in the life of your audience, identify the words
                and phrases they use in life to describe joys and concerns, and bring these
                words into your message.
                Recreate conversations, experiences, problems, issues, and fears and then
                refashion them in light of the truth you are now discussing.

For example:
God assures his people that he loves them and will take care of them. But just yesterday
you were fired before you could earn a full pension. You worry about the last 20 years of
your life, but God will take care of you and he doesn’t need a pension to support him.

               iv. The more specific you get the easier it is for people to see how the truth
               applies to life.
               v. Once you’ve hit a few good specifics you can expand back to general
               applications to help people creatively apply the text on their own.

For example: Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. Christ sacrificed for the
benefit of his church, so you should sacrifice for your wife’s benefit. When she can’t pick
the kids up from school, you can sacrifice watching part of the game to pick them up. When
she needs you to clean the toilet, you can sacrifice a little couch time. We need to sacrifice
for the benefit of our wives. What things does God call you to sacrifice for her benefit?

       c. Application is one of the hardest parts of teaching, but very necessary.
               Spend time thinking and praying about how to apply the truth.
               Write out applications in complete sentences, don’t expect to “wing it.”
       d. In my opinion specific application of the Bible is one of the most necessary things
       of our time. We have forgotten how to live as Christians in daily life; we need a

Big Idea: Study your audience. If you truly know them then you’ll be able to clearly speak
their language, interest them with things they think about, help them to see the truth in
ways that impact them, and help them to apply the truth in ways that they can take home.

God is the ultimate teacher which means that we must pray and obey, we can trust him to
teach, and our job is not complete until he is worshiped and obeyed.

Prepare by pursuing personal holiness. Study God’s word and other resources, but be
diligent to obey and grow in Christ.

Clarity comes with complete sentences. Identify one main point (a “big idea”) which is easy
to memorize. Write a map to lead us toward that point. Write each main point in the
journey and transitions between those points in complete sentences.

Study your audience for clarity, interest, and impact. If you know your audience you’ll know
how to communicate clearly, how to interest them in your topic, and impact their lives for

The stage sends a message. Be very careful to keep your non-verbal communication,
setting, amenities, and technology in line with the truth you convey.

Some people don’t think at all about the environment in which they teach, but it is actually
much more important than we realize. Consider, for example, teaching on suffering for
Christ while at a country club, county jail, or city slum. Does the setting alter

We need to be mindful of the type of setting we are in as we teach or intentional about
creating the setting which will most enhance the message we want to communicate.

1. Seating arrangements influence the expectations and reception of the message
       A. Seating arrangements can set a mood.
       B. They may remind us of a school lecture, counseling session, brainstorming session,
       board meeting, movie, dinner conversation, or tea-time chat.
       C. Expectations about the message and the reception of the message change slightly
       in each arrangement.

For example, consider these scenarios:

       Rows—What mood do rows of chairs set? What other places in life use rows?
       Rows of chairs are used in schools, lectures, and movies.
       When sitting in rows facing front what do you expect as a listener? Teacher instructs
       or leader entertains, but in both situations I should be silent.
       What persona do you adopt as a teacher? You may function as an authority at a
       distance who gives a monologue. You may think of yourself as an entertainer.

       Circle—What mood does a circle create? Where else do we sit in circles?
       We sit in circles around campfires, in dinner conversation, at AA meetings, and in
       group counseling sessions.
       Circles can create a mood of intimacy, togetherness, community, equality, or
       perhaps vulnerability.
       When sitting in a circle what do you expect as a listener? I expect to be involved as a
       participant. I expect to share something or give insight. Although one person may
       know more, I’m allowed to disagree or express myself in different ways. I may be
       guided but I won’t be forced to a conclusion.
       What persona do you adopt as a teacher in a circle? I become a facilitator, a
       question asker, a guide through problems, a mediator, and someone who tries to
       draw out information or insight from others.

       Tables and Rows—What mood do tables/rows create? Where else do we sit like this?

      We sit in tables and rows at educational conferences, in medium sized lecture halls,
      and at time share presentations.
      Tables and rows can create a mood of intensive instruction (I need to write on
      something) with a definite instructor telling us things. I don’t plan to participate
      other than to ask for clarification or repetition of the information.
      What do I expect as a listener? The teacher knows a lot and I plan to learn. I’ll need
      to write because this stuff is important. We’ll be here for a little longer time, so I’ve
      got a place to put my books and coffee.
      What do I expect as a teacher? I’ll be teaching and don’t expect too much feedback.
      People will ask questions and I’ll provide the answers.

      Around Circular Tables—What mood does sitting around tables create? Where else
      do we do this?
      We sit around tables in board meetings and during brainstorming sessions.
      It sets a mood of intensive collaborative learning. We’ll be intensely studying
      something together, so we’ll have to write and everyone will be involved.
      What do I expect as a listener? This is serious stuff and I need to be on my toes
      because I’m expected to participate. There’s no main leader but we’ve got to figure
      out something that matters.
      What do I expect as a teacher? I need to draw out of them some very important
      things and I need to get everyone involved. Learning happens as everyone
      participates. I need to come prepared with good information and good questions.

2. The location influences the expectations and reception of the message:
      Inside a Home: Who gathers in a home and what goes on?
      Family and friends gather in homes to talk about life and learn to love each other.
      There may be times of instruction from an informed member, but conversations flow
      freely and everyone’s opinion matters.
      What types of topics fit into this setting? What topics might not fit in this setting?
      Topics will be more personal, real life, and simplistic. No note-taking probably.

      Outside on a lawn or beach: Who gathers here and what goes on?
      Friends and family gather for fun and to enjoy nature. Conversations are casual and
      usually not intense because of the distractions of nature.
      Times of instruction tend to play off of the surroundings (isn’t the God who made
      this ocean amazing?) and aren’t particularly long-winded or complex.
      What types of topics fit into this setting? What topics might not fit in this setting?

      In a classroom: Who gathers here and what goes on?
      Friends and strangers gather to learn about something from someone else and
      sometimes to get to know new people.

       Times of instruction are more formal and can be more complex. Unspoken rules
       about school and class allow the teacher to teach for longer stretches of time
       without people’s innate tendency to rush through life being assaulted.
       What types of topics fit into this setting? What topics might not fit in this setting?

       In a worship hall or sanctuary: Who gathers here and what goes on?
       Friends, family, and strangers gather to encounter God by singing and learning.
       Times of instruction must encourage and excite people to worship. There’s a definite
       time frame which most people are aware of. Instruction that labors on and on is out
       of place and instruction that doesn’t inspire the emotions is also odd.
       What types of topics fit into this setting? What topics might not fit in this setting?

3. Amenities influence the expectations and reception of the message.
Different amenities create a different feel and can create different expectations.

       Food can make for a community feel or it can make for a conference feel depending
       on the type of food and how it is presented.
       Food can help people to relax and enjoy company.
       It may lower tensions associated with participating in a group. “I’ll start by
       commenting on how good the rolls are then I’ll say something about the Bible.”
       Food can also be a distraction if it smells really good or is difficult to eat (like fondu).
       What topics would be good times to include food? What topics might not be good
       times for food?

       Background music creates different kinds of feelings depending on the music.
       If you want a casual, excited, or worshipful atmosphere choose different music.
       Music can be good in the beginning and end of a time together as it either prepares
       people to think about God or transitions them from a study into worship.
       Music can also distract people if it is too loud or isn’t appropriate for the setting.
       What topics would be good for including music? What topics might not be good
       times for music?

       Lighting (candles, dimmed or bright lights)
       Lighting can create reflective, studious, intensive, or worshipful moods.
       Changing the lighting can help people change their perceptions and mood.
       Candles tend to help people reflect and get into a thoughtful mood, but they aren’t
       conducive to help people read and study in an intensive learning session.
       *Notice how important lighting is in movies, it dramatically alters the way you
       perceive the contents of the show. That’s just part of human nature.

   How would you change the lighting for each of the following topics? Predestination/free will;
   call to repentance; loving our neighbors; family of God. Can you think of other topics that
   might require a change of lighting?

These are just generalizations. Sometimes you’ll have to break them. Sometimes you can’t
change the seating arrangement or setting, but the topic requires you to overcome the
subtle message which seating/setting give. Be bold, break free!

As far as you are able, get the environment to support and supplement the message you
want to communicate.

Most people fear discussions, questions, and interactions. They have fear because they don’t
want to look foolish or dumb or say something wrong. But your fears can be overcome.

Preparation for discussion can be done in the long term and the short term. I give many ideas
below. Don’t be overwhelmed, but instead start implementing some into your preparation.
Plan to grow steadily over time by implementing more and more into your preparation.

1. In the long term you prepare for discussion and interaction by studying and
teaching over the years.
       A. Read regularly in the Bible and in outside sources. Be a learner.
       B. Watch Q & A sessions of Bible conferences on the internet to see what questions
       typically come up and how educated teachers respond.
       C. Be always in conversation about Christ, Scripture, the Christian life, and the world
       around you and you’ll gather the materials you need.
       D. Converse with different types of people, especially non-Christians, so that you can
       discover the questions and ideas various people have.
       E. You’ll have experiences of answering the same questions repeatedly.
       F. You learn which questions matter, which detract from the conversation, and which
       need to be clarified.

2. In the short term you can prepare with some of the following tips:
       A. Read more on your topic than you plan to discuss in the lesson.
       B. Read the whole book or curriculum or read another book on the topic.
       C. Be prepared with synonyms (other ways of saying the same thing) of the major topics,
       this will help as people get close to the right idea and you need to lead them along.
       D. Think through common questions people have on a topic. Be ready to answer or just
       to bring them up for discussion.
                What questions did you have as you prepared this lesson? Write those down.
               What questions do you think might come into other’s minds? Include theological,
               practical, philosophical, and “just plain curious” ones.
       E. Be ok with silence. Silence means people are thinking. Give them time to think.
       F. Try to encourage each response even if you disagree. This encourages
       more responses.
             Identify a good point. If it’s not on target you can affirm its worth and then tell the
             audience where that comment fits in Christianity.
       G. Draw out answers from people by asking short follow ups, ask for clarification or
       expansion, encourage people to guess if they’ve got no clue.
       H. Don’t be afraid to look silly. If you don’t know the answer, say so. People appreciate
      vulnerability. Tell them you’ll find out for next time and then do it.

3. Deal with your fears through prayer, study, and humility
      A. It is God’s job to teach, so ask him to teach through the conversation, through his
      word, through his Spirit, and through you. Be humble and pray.
      B. It is God’s job to prepare you, so ask him to lead you to the best information, the
      things you’ll need to know, and the questions people will have. Be humble and pray.
      C. It is God’s job to train people, so if you don’t know something simply say, “I don’t
      know, we’ll have to talk about that next time.” God will train them when he’s ready.
      Be humble.

The key to leading discussion is to be humble. “I don’t know, so I better study.” “I
don’t know, so I better pray.” “I don’t know, God help me.” “I don’t know the answer
to your question, but I’m willing to find out.”

Writing good questions is absolutely essential to having a good conversation and being a good
teacher. Most people fail as discussion leaders not because they don’t have good things to say
but because they don’t spend enough time thinking about the questions they want to ask.

1. Preparing good questions can be hard, sometimes harder than writing the rest of
the talk.
       A. Part of the reason it can be hard is that we often don’t write the questions out; we
       just assume they’ll “come to us when we’re up there.” (They won’t.)
       B. Part of the reason our questions aren’t understood is that we’re so engrossed in our
       topic that we assume too much of our audience, expecting them to enter our brains and
       see all that we’re thinking about as we ask a simple question. (They can’t.)
       C. Part of the reason it’s hard is that we don’t have a clear idea what we’re asking in the
       first place. (If it’s cloudy in the pulpit, there’s a thunderstorm in the pews.)

2. Write questions out in full sentence form.
For example, imagine you’ve just taught for five minutes on God’s love and want to engage in a
conversation with people so you ask a question. On your notes you look down and see:
“Examples? Evidence? Application?”

Only the smartest crowd will track with you and answer these questions. It would be better for
you if you saw: “What examples of God’s love have you seen in your life recently? What
evidence is there in the Bible that God loves people? How does God’s love change the way we

3. Be able to ask the same question in multiple ways.
       A. People often don’t understand the question because they don’t know one of the
       words or don’t understand the logic of the question.
       B. Write the question out in multiple ways with completely different words/terms.

For example: What is the relationship between God’s sovereignty and evangelism? If God is in
control of everything including people getting saved, why would we share the gospel? Is it a
waste of time to tell people about Jesus if God can save them by himself?

4. Be able to provide at least two answers to the question yourself (to help people
see what you're looking for).
       A. Often people will hear the question but it flies over their head. Giving an example
       answer helps bring it to earth.
       B. Because people haven’t been studying the topic in preparation to lead a discussion

       they can’t think quickly enough to provide a good answer. You’ve studied, so you know
       what to look for. Help them out a little.

5. Create questions that are specific and open-ended.
       A. Don’t use pronouns or generic terms in questions; instead use specific nouns and
       terms. We often confuse people by being too vague in our questions.

For example, imagine that you’ve just read the story of Moses and Aaron talking to God before
the exodus. When you finish you say, “What do you think he meant by that?” Your audience
looks confused. Why? Because “he” could refer to God, Moses, or Aaron but they don’t know
who you have in mind. “That” could refer to Moses’ role, Aaron’s role, some comment God
made about himself, or the coming exodus, but the audience doesn’t know what you’re

Bad words to use in questions: he, it, that, they, etc.
Good replacements for those words: Abraham, God's sovereignty, the relationship between
sovereignty and evangelism, Mormon scholars, etc.

Bad words to use in questions: our topic, the idea, thing, stuff, etc.
Good replacements for those words: sovereignty and evangelism, the idea that God loves all
people in the same way, the archaeological artifact, manna, etc.

       B. Keep questions open-ended so the conversation can flow smoothly. Often we shut a
       conversation down by asking for one-word answers or an impossible question to

Bad: “Should he have killed his brother?” “How many years did Noah stay in the ark?” “How
many commandments did God give Moses?” You’ll have no dialogue on these, just an answer.
Good: “Why did Cain want to kill his brother?” “What do you think Noah did with his family on
the ark that whole time?” “Which commandments speak most powerfully to you?”

6. Knowing your audience is key to asking good questions.
       A. Be aware of your audience. How much do they know? How educated? How old? Etc.
       B. For less informed audiences:
               Carefully choose words in your questions to lead them toward the answer.
               Interject clarifications and explanations between phrasings of the question.
               Mix up short and long questions on the same topic.
       C. For more informed audiences:
               You still need to lead them through the line of questioning, but not so strongly.
               Questions can move from simple information regurgitation toward synthesis (e.g.
               drawing together our topic with other theology) into evaluation (e.g. Do you buy
               this interpretation? Which arguments favor this view? Which contradict it?)

Summary: Write questions down in full sentences. Be able to phrase each in multiple ways.
Jot down an answer or two. Create specific and open ended questions. Study your audience.

Whether we realize it or not a lot of teaching is caught rather than taught. People see and
receive an unspoken message from factors other than the words we say.

1. The tone of your voice can communicate belief, unbelief, obligation rather than
joy to address an issue, boredom, joy, uncertainty, wonder, passion, apathy, etc.
A. It is important that your tone reinforces your message rather than detracting from it.

Bad: (Monotone, limp body, bored face) The love of God is the most exciting thing in the
world to know and feel. Unspoken message: I’m forced to talk about God’s love.
Good: (Excited tone, lifted arms, and joyful face) The love of God is the most exciting thing
in the world to know and feel. Unspoken message: I actually believe this.
Bad: (Smiling, laughing, joking and light feel) Sadly, those who don’t follow Jesus are
destined to an eternity of punishment by God. I don’t really care about the lost.
Good: (Sad face with somber tone and truly grieving attitude) Sadly, those who don’t follow
Jesus are destined to an eternity of punishment by God. I want to help them.

B. In asking questions you can make statements or ask questions by changing tone of voice.

Making statement: (with condescending or incredulous tone) Is it possible to be a Christian
and a gossip at the same time? Implied message, stop gossiping or question your salvation
Asking question: (with an inquisitive tone) Is it possible to be a Christian and a gossip at the
same time? Implied answer, maybe if you’re struggling and slowly overcoming it.

2. An unspoken message is also transmitted by body language.
A. Hands lifted and stretched express excitement while limp shoulders and arms express
uncertainty and boredom.

B. Frowns and smiles obviously tell your audience the emotion you connect to your
For example: Bosses often tell secretaries to smile when they answer the phone. It seems
silly but it actually changes the message the person hears. They can “hear” the smile.

C. Scowls unfortunately come pretty naturally when teaching on certain subjects and you
should consider if you need to wipe the scowl off for this particular talk.
For example: When talking about discipline from the Lord a scowl on your face may
communicate disapproval, but after too long it may communicate disappointment and then
perhaps “You can never make me happy.” At some point in the talk your face may need to
shift from scowl to hopeful expression and joyful acceptance of a repenter.
3. Your general posture can also communicate a message.
A. Sitting while teaching may say, “I’m here to facilitate a discussion” or “I’m one of you
let’s learn together,” or “Let’s brainstorm and search together.”
B. Standing while teaching may say, “I’ve got something to inform you about” or “I know a
little more on this subject than you, let me guide you.”

C. Switching between standing and sitting may say, “Although I know a little more I want to
help you up to my level” or “I’ve taught you something now let’s get practical and
brainstorm about how this looks in our lives.”

   You may be surprised to learn that in Jesus’ day the authority sat while everyone else stood.
   Sitting was a position of teaching authority. Times have changed. Imagine standing for 3
   hours while your teacher sits and talks. His legs aren’t getting tired, does he know how tired
   I am?

4. Feeling the Truth is More Valuable than Techniques.
If you do not “feel” your message, all the work in the world on “non-verbal” communication
will do you no good. If love isn’t in your heart, a smile won’t change that.

I have found that the best way to actually feel my message and be moved by it is to
meditate thoroughly on the Scripture and subject I’ll be teaching. I have to let it soak in.
When I meditate thoroughly, I do not have to be (as) conscious of what my body does
because it’s more than likely doing the right thing.

Technology is so common that we rarely think it makes a difference. But many people have
come to the conclusion that, “The medium is the message.” What they mean is that the way
you communicate really changes the content of your message.

A good example that you’ll hate me for bringing up is Sesame Street. As soon as it got
popular, it changed education from being about societal improvement, personal
development, or preparation for the future. Education is now simply entertainment. It’s a
funny, quirky, bright and sparkly TV show.

As a teacher of scripture and eternal truth you’ll need to be aware of how technology
shapes the content, expectations, and impact of your teaching.

1. Technology has a message all its own.
      A. Think about the difference between receiving mail and email, a phone call and
      someone stopping by, getting news through the radio, TV, or the internet.
      B. In Paul’s day people proclaimed (preached) a message but nowadays people write
      blogs which are open to critique from anonymous people thousands of miles away.
      What changes between those two means of communication?

2. Technology’s message may be subtle but it is present.
      In a smaller setting consider the difference between someone speaking normally and
      speaking from a microphone. What changes? How do you think differently about the
      message and the messenger and your role as an audience member? With a
      microphone in a small room you immediately assume there are questions given and
      answers returned but discussion limited. One person is important (but not me ).

3. It is important to consider the impact of technology on your topic.
      A. Just because you can use technology doesn’t mean you should use it.
      B. PowerPoint is a great example. It is relatively easy to use, but what message does
      it send when you use it? Here are some thoughts:
              1) Christianity is a bunch of bullet points.
              2) This topic is neat and tidy (little or no nuances).
              3) What the teacher says is not as important as what is on the screen.
              4) What’s on the screen is more important than what’s in the Bible.
              5) Wow, isn’t that cool how those words waved back and forth, I wonder
                 how he did that, is that a new program, I wonder if it’s free, maybe I’ll ask
                 him about his PowerPoint software, did he take a class on PowerPoint, I
                 need a new computer.

             6) Christianity is detached from reality like a computer detaches me from the
                real world.

4. God changes lives through his Spirit and his word coming through his people.
      A. Sometimes people spend twice as much time putting together a PowerPoint
      presentation as they do writing the lesson and praying for the people. This is awful.
      B. Sometimes people get mesmerized by the cool things your program or tool does
      that they don’t give full attention to the truth of the message.
      C. Be prayerful and mindful about using technology so that God’s power comes
      through clearly and unhindered.

Technology can help, but it may subtly change the message or take the focus off God
and his word. Be thoughtful and careful about using technology. Work hard to make
sure that the technology you use enhances the message you want to communicate.

Sunday schools for adults have four main purposes: fellowship, teaching, care, outreach.
These four purposes shape how a teacher prepares and proceeds during his time.

Above all is prayer. God is the true teacher. If he doesn’t teach then nothing happens. All
Christian teaching is covered with lots of prayer. Ask God to teach.

1. Fellowship: Instead of preparing a lecture, draw people into a discussion.
a. People will hear a sermon today; right now they want to engage in the discussion.

b. Prepare notes to talk for fifteen minutes; write up questions for an hour’s worth of

c. Ideally, your part should be less than half of all that is said during the mornin g.
        Picture everyone in the room holding five one-dollar bills. Each time they ask a
question or make a comment they give a dollar to the “pot.” You also have five dollars. At
the end of the session each person should have three or fewer dollars and you sh ould have
zero. If everyone’s holding all their dollars, you haven’t done your job.

*At the end of your teaching time we should know one another better, not simply what’s in
the Bible.

2. Teaching: Be clear about the one point you plan to make and lead them there.
a. Discussion doesn’t mean “free for all.” You’ve studied and prepared, so take us where we
need to go. I have found the key to leading a big group discussion is for me to be clear
about the one main point I hope for us to draw out of the time.

b. Write out your main point in a single complete sentence.
       The main point should be specific and simple to understand.
       After each round of questions, repeat your main point.
       When the conversation goes off track, repeat the main point.

c. Write out your questions as complete sentences. Questions should be specific and open -
       Bad: (After reading the passage) “What did you think of that?” “Thoughts?” “Wow,
       that’s really convicting isn’t it?”
       Good: “What are some of the main ideas and words in this paragraph?” “When you
       hear ‘predestination’ in a paragraph like this, what thoughts come to mind?” “How
       do you feel when a biblical author talks about money as an idol?”

d. Keep the conversation alive with follow-up questions more often than your own
       When someone gives a one word answer say, “Could you describe what you mean?
       Or, “Expand on that thought a little please.”
       When someone is wrong say, “Many people have been confused on that point, the
       verse is actually saying…” Or, “I struggled to figure that out too, here’s what I

You have one point to make; don’t cram five more points into the last five minutes. Worse
yet, don’t drown us with a flood of points and information without letting us get in a peep.

3. Care: Create an atmosphere where honest questions and real-life issues come
out freely.
a. Remember that you have had a week or more to work through questions, difficulties, and
confusion, but they’re hearing this for the first time.

b. Be patient and give people time to come to the right conclusion.
       You’ve had a week, at least allow them five minutes!
       Ask follow up questions which will lead them to discover the right answer.
       Redirect attention to the text and say, “Let’s read this again. What words or phrases
       would lead you to that conclusion?” Then help them understand the true meaning.

c. Listen! People want to be heard, not run over by a train.
Often we get so anxious, nervous, or over-eager to share our insights as a teacher that we
start talking the moment they end. Create an open environment by leaving space after each
person contributes.

d. Invite other people in by leaving room for them to talk. Once someone has made a
comment allow several seconds of silence in case someone else would like to add to that

e. Ask questions which focus on feelings, convictions, life situations, or practical difficulties.
       Your research and your “main point” answer the question of interpretation, “What
       does the text mean in its original context?”
       Our discussion should address the question, “How does this apply to my life?”
Bad: What are the names of the twelve apostles? How long did Noah really stay in the boat?
Good: “How does Jesus’ example of praying before picking apostles speak into our specific
stage of life? What big decisions do you have to make?” “Have you ever been in a situation
where God’s solution took a long time? What doubts, temptations, or false beliefs come up
when God takes longer than we expect?”

*If someone expresses a difficult situation, empathize and feel free to pray for them right
then. If someone cries, don’t make them feel awkward. Respect their difficulty by allowing
some silence.

4. Outreach: Lead a discussion that first-timers and old-timers can both benefit
a. Assume that half the audience knows nothing about the Bible and are not truly
committed to Christ.

b. If you teach in such a way that only a seasoned believer will be blessed, soon you’ll only
be talking to seasoned believers (and later to no one at all). People who “don’t get it” will

c. Ask questions and make comments that will speak to people at all stages of spiritual

d. Intentionally ask questions that non-Christians might have so that the Christians in the
room will assume this is the sort of place to bring non-Christians.

**Summary: Pray often. Clarify the main point consistently. Ask good questions and
follow up questions. Leave room for everyone to be blessed and to contribute.

God is the ultimate teacher which means that we must pray and obey, we can trust him to
teach, and our job is not complete until he is worshiped and obeyed.

Prepare by pursuing personal holiness. Study God’s word and other resources, but be
diligent to obey and grow in Christ.

Remember that your goal influences your prep and delivery. You want to help create,
support, and enrich four things: fellowship, care, biblical truth, and outreach. For that
reason prepare for dialogue and not a lecture.

Clarity comes with complete sentences. Identify one main point (a “big idea”) which is easy
to memorize. Write sub-points, applications, transitions, and questions in complete
sentences. The two main things to write down, using complete sentences, are the big idea
statement and lots of questions.

Study your audience for clarity, interest, and impact. If you know your audience you’ll know
how to communicate clearly, how to interest them in your topic, and impact their lives for

The stage sends a message. Be very careful to keep your non-verbal communication,
setting, amenities, and technology in line with the truth you convey. You have been given a
certain setting to work in, ask God to show you the most appropriate messages for that

The purpose of a sermon-based small group discussion is to apply the content of the sermon
into practical life in very specific and concrete ways. We want Jesus to come alive in our lives.

Prepare beforehand for the discussion
1. Pray for your people because it is the Holy Spirit who applies scripture to our lives.

2. Pray for and think about your people and what they’re going through.
        Where have they been emotionally and spiritually this week?
        What life experiences seem to overwhelm or drive them?
        What does God want to do with them?

3. Meditate and pray through the discussion passage.
       Meditation is the process of thinking about scripture while reading it slowly. Ask God to
       “open it up” to you. Ask God to speak to you once again. Ask him to apply the text
       specifically to you.

4. Write in a single complete sentence the main point of the sermon and passage.

Set the tone for the discussion
1. As people arrive, welcome them with a smile and a conversation. Encourage others to follow
your example.

2. As you gather for the discussion, thank people for coming and let them know that you love

3. Always invite the Lord to be in the conversation by opening with prayer.

Lead the discussion
1. Welcome people. Ask them how they’re doing and if there’s anything to discuss or pray for.

2. Before getting into the discussion questions ask for general feedback from the sermon.
       What were some of the main points? (Not: “What was the main point?”)
       What did the teacher seem to be saying?

3. Conclude this general discussion with your one-sentence summary of the main point.
       “Last night, he was trying to communicate….”
       (This is particularly important for people who couldn’t listen to the sermon.)

4. Use the discussion questions as a spring-board for discussion not an assignment to complete.
        The reason we meet is to get into each other’s lives, so if a question opens up lives (but
        takes you away from the specific question) allow it to keep going.
        When the conversation seems to wander, bring people back in with the original

5. Be prepared to clarify the questions
        Often people won’t understand the question, so be prepared to rephrase it in several
        different ways using different terms and words.
        Be prepared by having a couple of example responses to each question to get the
        conversation going.

6. Be prepared to ask good follow-up questions to enrich the conversation.
        Shy people often give one word answers that they think say much more than they’re
        actually saying. Be prepared to help them by asking good follow-up questions. A good
        follow-up can be as simple as “Could you explain what you mean?” “Describe what
        you’re saying.” “Interesting, can you expand on that?”

7. Create a community feel by officiating the conversation.
       Some people talk way too much and others don’t talk at all. Imagine everyone in the
       conversation having five nickels in hand. Each time they speak or ask a question they
       spend a nickel. At the end of the discussion no one should have five nickels in hand. It’s
       your job to make this happen.
       Stop talkative people by saying, “Thanks for that insight, let’s hear from some other
       people.” “Good thoughts, does anyone else want to contribute?” “Nice, thanks, does
       anyone else want to pick up on what he’s saying?” You may even call out someone else
       by name to take the conversation.
       Encourage shy people by being patient. If you ask a question you must wait several
       seconds (20-30 at least) before a shy person will answer. Introduce the question like
       this, “Now I want to hear from some of the people who haven’t contributed yet….”

7. Take the lead in being specific about life application
       Ask specific and open-ended questions about how the sermon speaks into each life.
               Specific means that the question is not generic. E.g. Not: how does this apply to
               life? But instead: How does your union with the resurrected Christ change the
               way you view other employees at work?
               Open-ended means that many answers are possible. E.g. Not: What’s the best
               way to think about this topic? But instead: What are some godly ways that God
               could bring this truth of Christ’s forgiveness into your home life?
       If the conversation stalls, be the first to talk about how it affects your life.
               The more humble, honest, and open you are, the more freedom others will find.

Pray for God to move in our lives
1. God applies the text through his Spirit so prayer is necessary for growth in godliness.
2. Pray specifically about what you’ve been discussing.
3. Touch people that you are praying for (laying on hands, hugging, holding hands, etc.).
4. Reread the scripture as an intro to prayer and as a closing and spend several seconds
pondering it at both times.

Doing work outside the discussion to enhance the discussion
1. Talkative people need to be trained to help others by being quieter. They need to know
that their talkativeness inhibits other people from learning, contributing, and growing. I
often say, “Help lead this conversation tonight by allowing other people to talk more.”
2. Shy people need to be trained to contribute. If you think they have good things to sa y
then encourage them to speak up. Every time they contribute make a point of talking with
them afterward about how blessed you were by their comments (if it’s true of course).
Don’t applaud publicly at first because that’ll be overwhelming, but do it quietly afterward.

Pray. Meditate. Love. Lead. Pray.

God is the ultimate teacher which means that we must pray and obey, we can trust him to
teach, and our job is not complete until he is worshiped and obeyed.

Prepare by pursuing personal holiness. Study God’s word and other resources, but be
diligent to obey and grow in Christ.

Your goal is to specifically apply the truth of scripture and the sermon into practical, daily
life. Set a tone of love and joyful community. Lead the discussion by asking specific and
open-ended questions. Allow the Holy Spirit to move. Referee the conversation to make
sure everyone gets a chance to be involved.

The two main things to write down, using complete sentences, are the big idea statement
and lots of questions.

Study your audience for clarity, interest, and impact. If you know your audience you’ll know
how to communicate clearly, how to interest them in your topic, and impact their lives for

The stage sends a message. Be very careful to keep your non-verbal communication,
setting, amenities, and technology in line with the truth you convey.

Above all, make sure there is plenty of prayer and opportunity for growth in the practical
expression of Christianity in each person’s life.

Real “church” life usually happens in smaller groups. There are many varieties of groups like
these, and we couldn’t possibly address them all in one short video. So I’ll try to make some
simple comments that can be implemented in any group.

Small groups thrive when people expect to find good community and growth. Establishing
good expectations should be a top priority.

1. Create an inviting atmosphere.
        (Remember the environment video and notes.)
        A. Subconsciously, people develop expectations based on the first things they see
        and hear. If they see an open door (literally), people ready to hug, a few open chairs
        that they can sit in, they’ll feel like they’re welcome to join. If the door is locked, the
        light is off, the people are all facing each other talking, and there are no open chairs,
        they’ll know right away there’s no room at the inn.
        B. Meeting space and set up should encourage discussion. Chairs facing in, no major
        obstructions for eye contact, adequate lighting. Normal stuff (unless you’re a

2. Hosts welcome people and remind them of the reasons we get together.
        A. Everyone wants a leader to take charge because until someone leads everyone
        feels awkward. To lead all you have to do is open your mouth and explain something.
        B. Welcome people, introduce people, and make a brief(!) statement of why you

For example:
“Hey everyone, I’m so glad you came tonight. Betty and Daryoush have joined us tonight
and we’re very excited to have you here. Just to remind you all, we get together in order to
love Jesus by loving each other. We’re going to spend some time studying the Bible, praying
for each other, and singing in just a few minutes. But, for now, feel free to grab a drink and
catch up. In a couple of minutes I’ll get us all together in the living room.” (15 seconds)

3. The leader(s) should determine the main reason for the session.
        A. Does this group meet to 1) get to know new people, 2) evangelize, 3) get deep
        into scripture, or 4) care for others? Let the top two reasons direct how you plan.
        B. Identify the top two reasons for meeting and then write a statement to focus your
        attention on why you meet.
        C. Sticking to that statement, ask God to give you good ideas for how to bring that
        reason for meeting into reality.

For example:
If the purpose is to get to know people, don’t lecture for forty minutes. Instead, prepare
questions, games, or conversation pieces that will encourage people to talk.

If the purpose is to evangelize, you will probably avoid a church history video that describes
the various aspects of the early Mennonites. Instead, you might study the gospels to learn
about Jesus and prepare for questions that a typical non-Christian might have.

4. The best way to initiate a sense of community, love, and unity: pray and sing.
       A. Nearly every small group desires to create a sense of community.
       B. The early church constantly prayed and sang together and they had lots of unity.
       Paul expected his churches to pray and sing together as their weapon of choice
       against dark spiritual forces (Ephesians 5:15-21; Colossians 3:16).
       C. People feel awkward praying and singing in a small group and that’s one of the
       reasons it’s so powerful in creating community. We’re all made vulnerable together.
       D. The real reason that it creates community is that praying and singing get our
       hearts out into the open and allow us to talk about what actually matters to us.

5. The best small group discussions grow out of great questions.
       A. Ask specific and open-ended questions. (See “Writing Questions” video and notes)
       B. Ask questions that involve more than head knowledge, but go into personal life.
       C. Ask lots of follow up questions (tell me more, explain what you mean, what would
       that look like in real life).

For example:
“Paul says that Christians are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 1:15 -23). That’s
a strange concept, but Paul says it’s a very real thing for us. How do you normally feel about
your self-worth or value? What do you fear that your friends, family, or coworkers think
about you? What do you think Satan would want you to think about yourself?” Someone
responds, “I normally feel like I’m alone, worthless, and powerless.” “Wow,” you respond,
“and how has that impacted the way you live?” “Well, I haven’t had a job in three years
because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be around me or hire me.” “But what does Christ
say about you?” “He says I’m seated with him and get to share in his power.”

6. Get everyone involved by directing the conversation and inviting people into it.
       A. People want someone to lead.
       B. As the leader, imagine that everyone has five nickels. Each time they come into
       the conversation they’re spending a nickel. At the end of the session everyone
       should have fewer nickels in hand. If one person has none, but everyone else has
       five, that’s bad.

      C. Establish at the beginning of the session that you want everyone involved. “If
      someone is talking a little too much, I’m going to ask you to be patient and then
      invite others into the conversation. It’s no offense; we just want everyone in on the

7. Usually, it’s a good idea to set a limit on the time and the number of times you’ll
      A. Establish limits for the time of meeting (starting/ending) so that people have a
      reasonable expectation. (This is especially important for people with kids.)
      B. Everyone wants the leader to initiate a beginning and ending to the session. Step
      C. Put a limit on the number of sessions the group will meet. This is normally ideal
      for new people joining the group because it gives them freedom to make their own
      decision if they actually want to be there. Obligation decreases. People don’t feel

God can create groups where people feel loved, welcomed, and encouraged to share
life together. People often return to places where they come to expect love and
shared life.

If you feel called to teach at a Bible institute, college, or university, you may have no idea
how to begin the process of preparing for a class. It is quite a bit different than teaching a
single sermon or even a sermon series. The main difference is that you must know before
you begin where you plan to end. You must gear lectures, assignments, reading, evaluation,
and projects toward the ends you plan to achieve. These notes give the basic plan I follow
as I prepare for a new class.

1. Pray.
I always begin with prayer to see where God leads. I can’t neglect to mention this because
many times we neglect to do this.

2. Get familiar with your topic in the long term.
For most topics you must be studying the issues for years in order to get a big picture grasp
of what they are all about. For this reason I continually read widely and plan far in advance.

3. Meditate on the purpose and big idea of the topic/class.
       A. A class on the Bible will have its purpose in two places.
               1) The Bible will tell you its purpose and what it wants to see.
               2) Your school’s goals will tell you other purposes.
       B. Blend both of those purposes together as you think of how to articulate the
       purpose of the class. Really meditate at this point. Try to get to the heart of the

Some examples should help:
1) If you’re teaching on the Pastoral Epistles (Timothy, Titus), read and reread the texts and
try to figure out Paul’s purpose in writing them. What did he want Tim and Titus to take
from this? In light of this, what should your students take from it?
2) If you’re teaching a Worldview class, spend time thinking about what understanding
worldview means. What’s the purpose? To get students to “get” other people. So what does
that mean? It means that books won’t be sufficient, it means that didactic statements won’t
break them out of their own worldview, it means that they’ll have to feel, touch, taste,
smell other worldviews (and that probably won’t happen on campus).
3) I teach Contemporary Theological Issues. The purpose is to get students to think critically.
The purpose is for them to argue biblically (which means from the Bible and in a biblical
way). That means I need to figure out a way to generate biblical thinking/articulation skills
and biblical virtues (like honesty, humility, openness to God’s voice).

4. Write out your course purposes and objectives.
       A. This is the foundation for the entire class. Everything you do in the class flows
       from these purposes and objectives.
       B. I try to find a blend between goals that come from my subject (e.g. book of the
       Bible, theological topics) and the course description (assuming I think that
       description appropriately captures the essence of what a class on this topic should
       strive to do).
       C. Being thoughtful at this big picture level generates creativity, vision, and drive. If
       you don’t have a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish you will
       not accomplish as much.
       D. Get it clear in your head and heart where you want to go and what you want to do
       and then articulate as precisely as possible your purposes and objectives on paper.
       Keep flexibility in the beginning of articulation so that as you continue to think about
       the class you can change your purposes/objectives, but begin with something solid.

5. Think about “successful appropriation” of material for your particular topic.
       A. What would God want these students to get out of this class? How would he
       measure their success?
       B. Assessing “mastery” or “success” differs according to topics.

Two examples:
1) “Success” (in biblical terms) in a Life of Christ class will be difficult to measure because
Jesus says success happens when people worship and obey him (and I can’t just say, “Write
a percentage of worship you do”). So I need to figure out a way for the students to succeed
(by cultivating worship and obedience) and simultaneously provide some sort of graded
2) A second example, success in Contemporary Theological Issues means the development
of critical thinking and a solid understanding of our specific topics. I need to figure out a
way to assess if they are growing in critical thinking and in understanding certain specific

6. Throw out any boxes you used to think in.
Our school and our students afford us great freedom because they have a deep desire for
God and high level of integrity. This freedom enables our students to get an incredibly rich
and vibrant education. You can assign open-ended worship projects and they’ll take them
seriously; you can assign take-home tests and they won’t cheat; you can assign them tons of
work and they’ll be glad and blessed to do it. We must take advantage of the uniqueness of
our students.

7. Let the course purposes and objectives guide your setup of the class.
       A. Professors often just do what they’ve always seen done = Lecture-paper-test.
       B. Unless your purpose is information regurgitation (and be sure to write that on the
       syllabus if it is), lecture-paper-test probably won’t accomplish all your goals.

Some examples may help here more than mere statements:
1) The purpose of Theology 3 (end times, church, spiritual beings) is to understand the
church, so I set the class up in such a way that everything they do teaches them about the
church. They work in groups. They share the workload and contribute to each other’s
understanding/learning. They prioritize the success of others by taking someone else’s test.
They learn that the success of others is equal to their own success when someone else gets
them a good grade.
2) The purpose of Contemporary Theological Issues is to develop biblical thinking and
biblical virtues (in disagreements), so I set the class up so they’ll be forced to think critic ally
and develop honesty and humility. They work in groups and share workload to learn that
they don’t have all the information all the time and that they rely on others. They are given
a reading assessment helper for each thing they read to teach them how to critically
evaluate arguments. They work together to describe the doctrinal viewpoint, its bases, and
its weaknesses. They learn to articulate arguments in class as they debate (and I probe with
further questions). This forces them to push beyond what they’ve written to understand an
argument and to get inside the head of the position. They switch sides in the debate the
next week. They learn humility that both sides have an argument. They learn to think
critically when the same verses are interpreted differently. They learn honesty when their
cherished view isn’t perfect.
3) For Life of Christ the purpose is to worship and obey, so each week we open with prayer,
take time in the middle of the class to sing a hymn (or two), and end the class with 5 -10
minutes of worshiping prayer. We also had a half class dedicated to worshiping Jesus in
song, prayer, and projects. Every other week students brought in worship projects and we
tried to meditate. And the final exam was a worship experience.

8. Let your subject and course purposes influence (or dictate) your assignments.
       A. Complacency leads us to just redo all the assignments we’ve always done in
       school (multiple choice tests, reading reports, essays, etc.).
       B. In Bible College we have better subjects that deserve better assignments.
       C. Assignments should attempt to accomplish the course objectives in a realistic way.
       If you say the goal is to love God better then you’d better assign something that can
       assess that. If the point of a class on Acts is to increase boldness then you’d better
       assign things that will increase boldness.

For example, in Life of Christ we have the best subject. He can’t be “understood” in an
essay, I can’t assess someone’s grasp of him through an objective test (esp. a test that a sks
him to reiterate the chronology of the Herodian dynasty). My purpose is to generate
worship and obedience. So I give projects that are loose and open with guidelines intended
to expand the way students worship. That is to say, assuming they’ve always just read the
Bible, prayed, and sung songs to worship Jesus, I tell them to do something artistic as an

expression of worship or to write a hymn which takes them deeper than our normal
choruses. But Jesus says (Mark 4) that those who want to know more will know more, so my
graded assessment came in the form of a reading report. How much more of Jesus do you
want to know? If they read 100% of the reading then their entire grade is based on 100%,
but if they only read 90% then their entire grade is based on 90%.

9. Make biblical sacrifices.
       A. Every syllabus is a sacrifice. You have to sacrifice extra reading to give an extra
       essay; you have to sacrifice talking about one subject in order to give enough time to
       B. With biblical priorities in place and biblical purposes and objectives clearly
       outlined you are in a better position to sacrifice things which don’t fall in line.

Some examples should show you what I mean:
1) The synoptic problem is interesting and lots of Lives of Jesus books discuss it, but it
doesn’t contribute to any of my goals for the class. It’s a sacrifice for a greater purpose to
omit this. Will the students be deficient in this area? Of course. But I have to continually go
back to the purpose of the class and ask what most effectively gets me to that purpose.
2) Systematic Theologies spend a lot of time arguing the details of the end times and
developing chronologies of events. This could be very important but I want the students to
love the Bible and its approach to theology so I must sacrifice chronologies and explanation
of lots of theological terminology in order to spend sufficient time on the Bible itself.
Eschatology was written to challenge and strengthen believers for impending problems. I
need to challenge and strengthen my students.

Be ruthless in cutting things out that don’t fit squarely within your course purposes and
objectives. Don’t waste your time on things that don’t fit.

10. Refine your syllabus to get it closer to attaining your purposes.
       A. After completing a draft of the syllabus spend time going through your purposes
       B. Ask yourself if there is any tinkering that could be done to the purposes or to the
       setup of the class to better reach your purposes. Make them line up.

11. Pray continually as you do big organization of the class, think up assignments,
figure out how to assess, and prepare to teach.
These are God’s students and he plans to teach them. Ask him to teach them and to help
you do your part.


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