Would You Be Interested in a Bible Class Archive?

Many of us prepare Bible classes on a regular basis. Once they are taught they sit on our computers for years with the majority never to be viewed again. Why not make those resources available to Christians all over the world and benefit many more people in the process. A typical Bible class may impact 30 people. Why not let it live on and potentially effect hundreds more by posting it online? For instance, I post the majority of LIFE group/Small group lessons I produce totally free of charge. Those lessons impact people here in the congregation I attend but since they have been posted online as well they have been downloaded over 10,000 times. What a difference! Those could have sat dormant on my computer for years never to see the light of day. Instead they continue to make a difference all over the world. I periodically get emails from people saying thank you for these materials. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

Here is where you come in. I am considering adding a page to the blog where you can submit your completed Bible class curriculum so that it can be posted in an organized and accessible manner. But first I want to see if any of you would be interested in taking part in this as it depends on people sending their material for this to be worthwhile. You would get credit by including whatever information you like in a footnote at the bottom of each page (name, email, url, congregation, etc – whatever you choose). Everything would be converted to pdf to be uploaded.

Please comment below if you would be interested in participating.

Living Out Application In Bible Class

Last night we had the best men’s class that I can remember. I don’t know if it is a coincidence but it was also the men’s class that I did the least talking! Maybe I can learn something from that. We had Tom Hagan from Mt. Dora Christian Home and Bible School stop by and encourage us as well as inform us about what is going on at Mt. Dora. We also had been discussing Romans 16 the previous week and how Paul was giving honor and encouragement to people in the church. It is such a different kind of chapter to teach because on first glance it seems to just be a list of names. So we put it into practice, live. We went around the room and offered encouraging words of honor and praise to the different men in the class. After an hour we had only covered half the men in the class so we will continue this next week too.

There were a couple of unexpected lessons that came out of this experience. We learned things about people from what others said about them that we would have never known otherwise. It was also mentioned that it raised awareness that we don’t know everyone in our class and that made them want to get to know each other even better. Even if you weren’t the one receiving praise and encouragement, it really made you feel good to be there and hear all those kind words.

It was a great change of pace because we did more than discuss a text or share thoughts and opinions on a particular subject or verse. Something happened. Something happened in that room that has never happened before in our class. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the best I can sum it up is that application was lived out. It wasn’t talked about. We didn’t have a bunch of “How does this verse change your life this week?” type questions. Application actually happened right before our eyes. I can tell you that I want some more of that!

Wouldn’t it be something if we actually encouraged each other more than just read verses that tell us that is what we are supposed to be doing?

What if…

What if we dropped Sunday morning Bible class for a week or even a month and asked people to pray for the full hour before coming to the worship service? I wonder if we might rely a little more on God and a little less on self. How do you think people would react?

10 Tips for Getting More Out of Church Bible Classes

People who come an hour before worship generally are motivated to get something out of Bible class. Here are a few things they can try to get more out of their Bible class experience:

1 – Take notes. This is a no-brainer but I can’t tell you how low a % of people in the classes I have taught at church take notes. Here is why this is so important. Answer this question – “What was the subject of the Sunday morning Bible class you were in 5 Sunday’s ago?” You probably don’t remember specifically unless you are working through a book chapter by chapter and can figure that out through subtracting 5 from the chapter you will study next week. You may find it helpful at the end of your notes each class to write down a couple of action/application items that you could do to put the take home points of the lesson into practice.

2 – Be prepared. Reading ahead is probably the most obvious way to do this. Whether it is a chapter in the Bible or a chapter in a study guide/book. Be prepared. You will get so much more out of class if you know what people are talking about and can contribute as at least a pseudo-expert. You will have much more to contribute and understand more of what others say if you read ahead.

3 – Live Christianly. Bible class makes more sense if you are actually trying to live a life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. You will be more open to hearing what God wants you to hear if you are in step with the Spirit.

4 – Don’t say every comment that pops in your head. This allows other people time to talk. This also makes you more selective of what you do say and in doing so increases the quality of your comments. It also means you will say fewer things you will regret later. It is hard as a teacher to continue going back to the same raised hand over and over again too. Some people just need to learn discipline and to be humble enough to realize that while their thoughts and opinions are important that not everything has to be said out loud to the whole class. Other people matter as well.

5 – Do a rabbit trail check. Ask yourself – does my comment add to the conversation and take us further down the path the teacher is trying to keep us on or does it take us down a HUGE rabbit trail and get the whole class off track on a minute issue that may or may not be very relevant for other members in the class.

6 – Be aware of visitors in the class. It is easy before and after class to talk with friends and often visitors get excluded from conversations and it results in them not feeling welcome. This is just as simple as an awareness issue and will result in a Bible class that is more likely to grow. It is also important that class members be aware of visitors in the comments they make. Sometimes we air our dirty laundry in front of people who really don’t need to hear it and people have a bad experience. This does not mean we aren’t free to talk about those things (double negatives can work out well, can’t they?). We just have to be wise and discuss them at the appropriate time, location, and with the right audience.

7 – Appreciate your teacher. Teachers normally put a lot of hours into each Bible class and it is important that they feel edified by the class. Write them a note or let them know in person how much you appreciate their teaching and preparation each week.

8 – Utilize your church library for additional resources. Depending on how well your church library is maintained this one may be a winner or may be a flop but it is worth a look. The commentaries that would probably be most helpful to you would include these three series: NIV Application Commentaries, Interpretation Series, or N.T. Wright’s “For Everyone” Series. If you don’t see these in your church library find out who does the purchasing and see if they are open to suggestions. You would be amazed how many churches have a library budget but no one is purchasing anything. If your library is lacking utilize web-based resources like the ones found above on this blog on the “Learnin” tab.

9 – Be early. It can be a real distraction if the teacher has a dozen people file in 20 minutes late. It amazes me how sometimes people will show up for class 40 or 50 minutes late. Being early is respectful of the class, the teacher, and the material that everyone is trying to learn from and apply to their lives.

10 – Be respectful. This runs through many of the above points. In all we do we need to treat people with love and respect. Disagreements can be alright from time to time if they are done in love and respect for the other person and that the whole class understands that the two parties are alright with the fact that they never will agree on everything. Disagreements can be a powerful part of a class if they are handled well and don’t turn into something less than Christian.

The Joys of Teaching Children

Kym, one of our Sunday school teachers, sent me this story today of what happened to her in Sunday school class this past Sunday. I thought it was pretty special.

Sunday morning I arrived at church to lead the 4’s-K class in this week’s study. Things started out a little crazy, children bouncing around, spilling water. Class started out with five grew to nine. I’m feeling like I’m crazy for trying to use water color paints and then scissors with this group. What was I thinking? Then I started thinking only a couple more weeks left, what a relief. Someone else should be teaching this class. I’m no good at this. Should I even try to tell the story about Tabitha? None of them are listening. My daughter is vying for my attention but, I go forward and tell the story from Acts 9. I know some are listening but are they hearing or learning?

Then it happens. One of the little boys in the class asks if he can see one of the Bibles. He asks how to find Acts. He asks to see the word Tabitha. He asks the other teacher to read him the story from the Bible (with all kinds of commotion still going on). He asks me if he can borrow the Bible to take home. Now I know why I’m in this class. The stress of the morning is gone and I have gotten the message. It’s about the hearts you touch and the seeds you help plant.

The story continues and in church the little boy turns around from the pew in front of me with a big grin and points to the Bible.

I know you both have stories like this. I’m thankful that God opened my eyes and heart so that I could get it.


Five Characteristics of a Good Teacher

When people talk about churches one of the things they typically remember most are the people who made the subject come to life for them in a Bible class. They made it real and relevant and like it was the most important thing they could have been doing at the moment. There are a couple of things that I believe make a teacher exceptional:

1 – They make the complex understandable: There are people who can take the most simple things and somehow make it complex and incomprehensible. That is not a good quality in a teacher. The best teachers are able to take the most complex things and break them down and present them in a way that is on the level of the audience. That takes skill but it also takes a knowledge of the audience and what they can and cannot handle.

2 – They know their class: A good teacher is able to weave the comments and questions of the class together into a coherent whole that accomplishes the purpose of the class, covers the materials, and helps the class members to feel a part of the learning process. A good teacher knows how to point back to what members of the class have said in the past and give them credit for the ideas helping that student to take ownership of the information and be a productive part of the ongoing conversation in weeks to come.

3 – They have a passion for the material: You can tell when a teacher thinks the material is boring or if they believe it is interesting and relevant. How can you make something applicable that you yourself do not believe is relevant? This comes across through tone/inflection – it is hard to drone on and on about something you are passionate about. It also comes across through generating energy that is passed on to the class members.

4 – They know how to ask good questions that allow the class to come up with the material they might otherwise have lectured on: A good teacher knows which parts of the material the class cannot come up with on their own. (and lectures that part) and the parts of the material the class could come up with on their own (through class readings, etc – and asks questions to generate that part of the material).

5 – They communicate to the class outside the time constraints of the classroom: We need our teachers to move our classes beyond the old come to class for an hour and come back next for another hour. Our classes can accomplish so much more and our teachers are integral in bringing in communication and a leadership structure to the class that will go beyond the walls and beyond 60 minutes into the rest of the week to really impact our communities. This takes a teacher who is dedicated to doing more than just presenting good ideas or even the Gospel – but who wants to move on to something more and bigger and have more application than just asking an application question. These teachers know how to move thoughts into action and model it from the top down and delegate responsibilities to the members of the class.

What might you add to the list of characteristics of a good teacher?

30 Tips for Teaching a Bible Class

1. Read the text as if you have never read it before.
2. Read the text multiple times looking for repeated words and phrases – may help you see broader themes.
3. Find the connection between stories (Gospels, OT narrative). There is usually a flow or connecting theme that makes sense out of the order of things. This is true of Epistles as well.
4. Form your own opinion before going to the commentaries. Commentaries can be crutches if used as first resort. Spend some time with the text first rather than time with what others have said about the text. You are teaching the scriptures and that is of primary importance. Commentaries are valuable but not as a crutch or time-saving/corner cutting device.
5. Ten minutes worth of solid, thought provoking questions can be better than an hour of lecture.
6. Never underestimate the importance of background (audience, location, author, etc) to the text you are studying.
7. Determine what information you want to cover can most likely be generated by discussion and what information cannot. That will help you determine how much to lecture and how much to get through asking effective questions.
8. Know more than you intend to teach.
9. Use illustrations but only one or two that really make the point of the class and make sure to come back to that illustration at the end and tie up loose ends.
10. Don’t belittle anyone’s comments.
11. Try to find the connection/nugget of truth in comments that aren’t quite on the mark (Why did that person say that and how did they think it connected with the question).
12. Give credit to the class. Try to remember who said what and refer back to their comment during the class rather than repeating what they said.
13. If you want more discussion, encourage it. Appreciate it when it happens. Thank people afterward for their comments.
14. The biggest way to kill discussions is by making the classroom a dangerous place to answer questions or give input. This is mainly regulated through how the teacher responds to incorrect answers.
15. Be positive. It is alright to rebuke and admonish but make sure you balance it with encouragement. People don’t want to get bashed over the head week in and week out. The Gospel is a message of hope. Let’s make sure people realize that when they leave your class.
16. Make sure you get the big picture. How does this passage fit the surrounding text? What is the context? For example, if you were doing a class on prayer you might point to Mark 11 where Jesus talks about praying in faith and a mountain being thrown into the sea. If you strip it from its context you miss the fact that Jesus is probably referring the temple mount where he had just cast the money changers out of the temple and basically proclaimed a curse on the temple (represented by the curse of the fig tree). There is more to that verse on prayer than meets the eye than if you do a simple word search on asking or faith and find that passage.
17. Be a resource for others. You won’t have all the answers but be aware of some valuable resources people can turn to if they want more information.
18. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. But let them know if you are willing to take the time to find out. Make sure you follow through on that if you say you will.
19. Be consistent.
20. Be early.
21. Be hungry.
22. Be humble.
23. Don’t fear the truth – people will ask questions and we may get out of our comfort zones from time to time but that is healthy. Never fear the truth and honest, sincere inquiry of your class.
24. Try to follow the flow of the text rather than pre-determined chapter breaks. The text doesn’t always break down as evenly as the chapters indicate. Determine what you will cover in a class by the flow of the text and what fits together and don’t assume the chapter breaks are all that helpful.
25. Different genres are not read or taught the same. Get a helpful book like Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth to understand how a psalm is different than a Gospel and how an epistle is different from apocalyptic literature. There is much to be unlocked in the text from a cursory understanding of these things.
26. Try teaching inductively rather than deductively.
27. If you haven’t studied Greek or Hebrew use it sparingly and try not to make your major points off of it. Sure a commentary may point it out but sometimes, let’s face it, commentaries don’t always get it right.
28. Use commentaries written in the last 25 years from a reputable series. Not all commentaries are created equal.
29. Use handouts effectively. It is nice to have something you can take home with you to look at later.
30. Email your class members regularly – send them your notes after class. Remind them of what chapters or topics are coming up. Keep people informed and connected.