A Helping Hand for
ADULT SCHOOL OF ISRAEL TEACHERS
Foundational Teachings of the Bible
All true Christians long to fill their minds and lives with Scripture. We desire to be transformed by its message. Foundational Teachings of the Bible have been designed by the Apostolate to be an exciting, thought-provoking and challenging way to do just that. Their goal -- and your goal as a teacher -- is to help investigators and members of the New Covenant Church of God build their lives on God's Word.
Foundational Teachings of the Bible have a number of distinctive features. Perhaps the most important is that they are inductive rather than deductive. In other words, they have been designed to lead students to discover what the Bible says rather than simply telling them what it says.
As a teacher, your responsibility is to go beyond the questions by building on the general structure. In other words, you must have your own personal input that goes beyond what is actually in the Study Guides. It is not enough to just answer the questions yourself and then go through the Guide question by question as though it had never been studied by the group before. This means that you must invest a considerable amount of time in Biblical research and prayer. Your own detailed written notes are essential, containing your personal insights and discoveries. The class should want to add to their own notes after listening to their teacher.
The teacher must expose the group to the promises, assurances, exhortations and challenges of God's Word in such a way that the saints' minds will be renewed after a scripture study period. The purpose of Foundational Studies is not just to teach theology -- it is to empower the group members to live the Christian faith better.
Each Bible Study period should take between 45 minutes and 1 hour. If a group is getting tired then either the meeting has gone on too long or your teaching is not empowered by the Holy Spirit. Never teach without the Holy Spirit. This means that you must be spiritually prepared beforehand. The spirit you bring to the group as its teacher will quickly become the collective spirit of the whole group. Your task is to, amongst other things, infuse the meeting with life -- and that usually means your life-- your enthusiasm, your energy, etc.. It is no good expecting the others to "lead" -- you are the leader, and must give of yourself. No leader can expect his/her students to give more than he/she is personally giving.
Sabbath School teaching is every bit as important as preaching in a worship service. It should never be regarded as a "secondary activity" or a "help" to the work of the Pastor (if the teacher is not the Pastor himself). Teaching is complementary to preaching. And, indeed, spiritually-speaking, there is little to distinguish true preaching from true teaching. They are both manifestations of the same Spirit and overlap to a very great extent.
Once you, as teacher, have been through the Study Guide and have answered all the questions as the members of your class will have done, your work has just begun! A teacher should expect to invest three to four times as much in preparation as a student, otherwise he will never be able to teach properly. It is his "acceptable sacrifice" and act of love. Like a pastor, a teacher must be prepared to sacrifice for his group.
A little bit of study each and every day is a hundred times better than a last minute rush to prepare a lesson the day before church. True, spiritual preparation requires an investment of prayer. Prayer is essential if a teacher is to understand -- it is no good just learning the answer to questions parrot-fashion; a teacher must know the passages he is studying inside-out. He needs to know their context relative to the chapter the passage is found in. He needs to know the historical background of the text. He needs to know alternative references that amplify, or, as required, simplify. In short, he needs to become a Biblical scholar, or scriptorian. And most scriptorians are made out of Bible teachers. Teaching is one of the most blessed callings in the Church if it is done correctly.
You, as teacher, are also the most important student. A teacher is teaching himself as much as he is teaching the group. And he will, if he is carrying out his calling diligently, get far more out of these studies than the average member of the Group. The experience of leading a study stimulates a person to be a better participant in the discussion led by others too. It is for this reason that teachers are often rotated each year so that all may thus be blessed.
One of the greatest weaknesses of modern man is his inability to listen. The Christian who by reason of spiritual maturity and wider knowledge of the Bible is equipped to be a spiritual leader in a class is set free to listen to everyone in the class in a way that is not possible when leading the discussion. So it doesn't matter whether you, as the teacher, feel you have less theological or pastoral knowledge than others in the group -- leaders must learn to listen and to participate in a group of equals too, learning to respect others' understandings as they mature in the Gospel. The typical school classroom situation is not, therefore, always an acceptable model for teacher-pupil relations in Church.
So, familiarise yourself with the Study Guide questions until you can rephrase them in your own words if necessary to make you comfortable using them in the discussion. If you are familiar with questions in the Guide, you will be able to skip questions already answered by the group from discussion raised by another question. Try to get the overall movement of thought in the Study Guide theme and strongly resist going off on tangents into other topics not really relevant to the Guide material. Avoid "Gospel hobbies" -- get a balance. If the class have come well-prepared, each Study Guide will usually only require one Sabbath School session. One or two of them are a bit longer and you should advise the group beforehand if you mean to split it up into two parts.
Pray for the ability to guide the discussion with love and understanding. Pray for the members of your group during the week or month preceding the study you are to lead.
How to Lead a Study
1. Begin with a short prayer asking God's help in the study. You may ask another member of the class to pray if you have asked him/her ahead of time.
2. Have important Bible passages read aloud. Assigning members of the class scriptures to read out in advance, perhaps on small slips of paper, is helpful. Try to get as many different people to read out aloud or for each to read an equal amount. This is necessary whether people volunteer to read or not so as not to allow one or two people to dominate readings. It is important that everyone feels equally important.
3. Guide the group to discover what each passage says by asking relevant discussion questions. Avoid going woodenly through the study using each and every question. If you cannot discern the meaning of a question, don't use it; you should seek advice from maturer members in advance. Or else say to the class that you don't understand the question but they might. If they find it difficult, leave it and try simply to find the main point of the theme being studied.
4. Encourage everyone in the group to be honest in self-appraisal. If you are honest in your response to personal questions in the Study Guide, others will tend to be honest too.
5. Bring the discussion to a close at the end of the time allotted. Close in a prayer relevant to what has been discussed. Never spend more than two sessions on one Study Guide especially if meetings are infrequent.
How To Encourage Everyone to Participate
1. Encourage discussion by asking several people to contribute answers to a question. "What do the rest of you think?" or "Is there anything else which could be added?" are ways of encouraging discussion.
2. Be flexible and skip any questions which do not fit into the discussion in progress.
3. Deal with irrelevant issues by suggesting that the purpose of your study is to discover what is in the main theme. Suggest that tangential or controversial issues be discussed informally after the regular study is dismissed.
4. Receive all contributions warmly. Never bluntly reject what anyone says, even if you think the answer is incorrect. Instead ask in a friendly manner, "Where did you find that?" or "Is that actually what it says?" or "What do some of the rest of you think?" Allow the group to handle problems together.
5. If a question arises in the discussion for which there seem to be two or three possible answers in the passage, state these answers as the group finds them and then let the matter drop unless the matter has been settled by the Apostolate. There are some issues which have not been settled through hundreds of years of Church history and your discussion group will not settle them in an hour. It is not always necessary to settle one final answer to a question, particularly if it is deep and belongs to matters usually dealt with by the Holy Order. Some questions are "thought questions" (they are usually unnumbered) and do not always have a single answer.
6. Be sure you don't talk too much as the leader. If possible, redirect those questions that are asked you. A discussion should move back and forth between members of the group, not just between the leader and the group. The leader is to act as a moderator and guide, only resolving issues that the group cannot solve itself. So give them time to work things out!
7. Don't be afraid of pauses and silences. People need time to think about questions sometimes. Try not to answer your own question -- either use an alternative question or move on to another area for discussion. After the group has given their answers to a question you may add your comments if they don't duplicate what has already been said. Avoid repetition -- it is very boring -- except as short summaries.
8. Watch hesitant members for an indication by facial expression or body posture that they have something to say, and then give them an encouraging nod or speak their names.
9. Discourage too talkative members from monopolising the discussion by specifically directing questions to others. If necessarily, speak privately to the over-talkative one about the need for discussion rather than a lecture in the group, and enlist his aid in encouraging all to participate.
10. Silence unruly members. A wise teacher will not often have to do this.
Scripture memorisation is important. You will find a scripture to memorise at the end of each lesson. In Psalm 119:9 we read: "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word." Then in v.11 the psalmist says to Yahweh: "I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You." God's Word gives us answers to everyday problems. So you, as a teacher, are challenged to hide His Word in your heart -- to memorise it -- to become stronger in your Christian life....and to challenge your pupils to do the same.
May Yahweh bless you in your sacred calling as a teacher this year so that you can spiritually elevate your class. Amen.
This page was created on 28 December 1997
Updated on 23 February 1998
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