The Value of Collaboration & Team Teaching

PBL2013-classHave you ever co-taught with someone? Five years ago the Spiritual Growth Workshop director asked Donny Dillon, Eric Brown and me to teach a class on outreach to young adults. It was one of my first big tastes of collaboration and I really enjoyed it. Beyond just being an enjoyable experience, I grew a lot from that experience. Since that presentation I have been blessed to use that format on several occasions (like this picture from presenting on reaching and discipling young adults at the Pepperdine Lectures with Charles Kiser & Eric Brown last May) and each time it reminds me of the value of collaboration and sharing multiple perspectives.

When preparation and presentation are done in community it makes things a lot higher quality. You are able to filter out the things that don’t need to be in there and sharpen each other’s thoughts by running it by people with a wider variety of experiences than just one person before it is ever presented. When it is presented, each person sparks thoughts from the other that just happen naturally that wouldn’t take place otherwise. There is great value in hearing a few people who have experience in something publicly talk shop together about a relevant issue.

The reality is, most of our teaching isn’t done in lectureships. It is done on the local/congregational level. With co-teaching and collaborative preparation having the potential to be so effective it makes me wonder why we tend to only use this model when teaching children and rarely use it in adult education. There are mediums of teaching that are highly effective but often avoided often either due to tradition or just lack of considering alternative possibilities. I could see using this approach in a Sunday school education program. It would give teachers a little less prep time as they share the teaching responsibility and improve the quality of teaching as they are able to give each other feedback on past lessons and dialog with each other each week at different points in the lesson.

Last, have you ever thought about how collaborative the work and ministry was in the New Testament? There were a few lone rangers but you don’t run across them very often. I think there is a reason for that. There is power in collaboration in ministry. It makes me wonder even more why we don’t do more team ministry and collaboration in the church. At Northwest we have gone more toward pairs of deacons than stand alone deacons over various areas. When you do that the quality of the work goes up as accountability and support increases and the work load is able to be spread across more people.

Have any of you co-taught or use collaboration in sermon or class preparation? If so, I would love to hear about your experience.


Highly Recommend Houston Heflin’s Teacher Equipping Workshop

This past Saturday we had Dr. Houston Heflin come and share some very practical thoughts about teaching with our teachers and small group leaders. He was engaging, informative and practiced what he preached. What I mean by that last part is that Houston actually incorporated the techniques he was teaching into the format of the workshop. I love that. He wasn’t jut telling us. He was showing us and helping us engage in the learning process rather than just listening to him lecture about why we shouldn’t always lecture. Good stuff Houston!

If you want to sharpen up your education program and Bible class teachers I recommend having him come and share some time with your congregation. Thanks Houston for a great event and for the ways God has equipped you to teach others how to teach more effectively! If any of you want to have him come you can get more of his credentials and his contact information at the ACU Bible Faculty page.

You can also subscribe to his podcast called The Weekend Teacher where he shares thoughts about how to teach more effectively. There you will find 31 free podcasts that would be helpful for your teachers and small group leaders to listen to.

Changing Educational Paradigms – Ken Robinson

Missy showed me this video yesterday and I thought it was powerful in helping us recognize some of the limitations of how we have educated in the past and how we might improve the way we engage people with information and utilize their creativity to help them grow. While I have just a couple of reservations on his broad brushing of ADD/ADHD he makes some excellent points that can really change the way we think about how we are educating people today. It really fell right in line with some of the thoughts I shared in the last post on raising up people who are able to teach. Do you agree? What impact would this have on Christian education and the methods we use to train people and teach the Bible?

I also noticed that he has a few books on this subject that may be worth looking into:
Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

Ten Principles for Grooming Future Teachers

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

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

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

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