By Dr. Rick Jordan
Dear Leslie, Sarah, Paul, and Will,
I’m sure there is concern among some Bible study leaders when some of their “brightest and best” are recruited away to become leaders for another class. I want to, first of all, confess that I am one of those Bible study leaders. I can normally count on one or both couples will be present, that you will participate with thoughtful responses, and that there will probably be a good laugh before the class session ends. And, I really appreciate and love each of you. So, of course, I will miss you.
On the other hand, any concerns that I have about those of us “left behind” in Adult Four is overwhelmed by the excitement I have for those who will have the opportunity to learn from you all in the new class you will be leading. I am happy for the class members as they will have awesome leadership. And, I am happy for you, because becoming a teacher can lead to more spiritual growth than you might anticipate as you develop a regular pattern of study and discernment.
I wanted to give you some unsolicited advice. I could write a book on this (and have), but I will put this advice in brief bullet points. Feel free to call on me for any elaboration. I hope this is helpful, but if it is not, you may tell that to me, too. Kindly.
- Be Biblical – After all, you are leading a Bible study. So, let God speak to you through the Biblical text first. Then, go to the commentaries, curriculum, etc.
- Make a plan – I have a certain flow that I’m sure you have recognized (Fellowship Question, Information, Transformational Exercise = FIT). You don’t have to follow that plan. I designed it to address the three needs I hope to speak to each week. You might find a different flow that works better for you. The sooner you do, the more confident you will be as you prepare for the next lesson.
- Be flexible – That wonderful plan I just mentioned may need to be scrapped. Emergencies, family crises, national crises, etc. may happen and these may need to override what you had planned.
- Be spiritual – Right? But, really – do pray, pray, pray. Pray for the members. Pray for the prospects. Pray as you prepare the lesson plan. Pray before the class session begins. Pray as you are teaching. (That one should probably be a silent prayer.)
- Be creative – Creativity is the first glimpse of the image of God we have in Genesis 1-2. Invite class members to be creative by doing at least one different method each week, whether it is art, music, a quiz, using their imagination, etc.
- Be structured – This may seem to be the opposite of “be creative,” but it is not. Actually, creativity blossoms when there are some boundaries. Songs need verses, paintings need frames. For example, there are two methods I use every week: Mini-lecture, to explain something that may not be known by most members and Discussion, to invite others to top my brilliant insights. Class members can expect that they will experience those two methods/structures every week. And, I mentioned the structure/flow of FIT that I use every week. So, have some structure, then be creative within that structure.
- Be honest – Say what you know, acknowledge what you don’t.
- Be humble – None of us know all there is to know about God or about other people. “All I know of God is not all there is to know of God.” So, be open to others’ opinions and thoughts. Good Christians may disagree on theology, Biblical interpretation, and ethics. Be comfortable living with paradoxes. Know that there are questions that people have been struggling with forever, most of which we still have no satisfactory, sealed-tight answers for. “You/they may be right” and “I may be wrong.” Practice saying those phrases regularly.
- Be a model – You are willing to become teachers of adults because you’ve had a fairly good model. I think we all can agree on that. But, seriously, have that in mind as you teach. Some of your class members could be – and should be – teachers someday. Model the best practices so they will do the same for others down the road. Celebrate when they do.
- Be your role – Since there are several of you in leadership roles, do your best to define who is going to be responsible for what. When I decided to become your teacher, I got some good advice from my teacher. “Rick, be their teacher, not their social director, not their pastor, not their outreach leader. Let others have those roles. If you don’t, this will burn you out.” I’ve followed that advice. I do not plan parties or make hospital visits or do marketing for our class. Others (in the class, on the church staff, deacons, etc.) have had those roles – which all need to be done. Clearly define who will do what.
- Love them – When I was a young person, our pastor ended his weekly newsletters, cards, and letters with the phrase, “Love you like you are, Aubrey.” And he did. When I became a youth minister, I began to use the same ending (only, with my name). The point is not the phrase, of course, but the attitude. Love your class members as they are. They are dealing with weekly struggles that you cannot imagine. Their calendars are crammed full. They have committed sins they feel guilty about and sins they are proud of. Yet, here they come. They carve time out to be with you and other imperfect followers of Jesus. Love them as they are.
- Be your role, part two – Loving the class members as they are does not mean you hope they remain as they are. You want them to grow to be more like Jesus Christ who was “full of grace and truth.” You, however, are not responsible to make that happen. You are the guide and the companion. God is the transformer. I attended a church that had a vision statement that says it well: “To bring people into the presence of Christ, so that they may be made into His likeness.” Bring them to Jesus and let him take it from there.
Enough of my advice – Here’s some advice found in the Good Book itself. I’ve italicized some phrases that I think are good for a teacher to ponder.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
These thoughts above are from Dr. Rick Jordan, our partner based out of Lewisville, North Carolina. He has been in various roles from a local church level to state and national leadership roles. For more information on how he can help you, contact him at here.