Ken Braddy

Guiding, encouraging, and equipping Sunday School teachers and small group leaders

Tuesday Teaching Tip: Evaluate your teaching experience

One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Howard Hendricks, used to say, “Experience doesn’t tend to make you a better teacher – unless it is evaluated experience.” What a great insight into the complicated world of teaching!

If you regularly teach the Bible, a great discipline is to keep a journal of the experiences you have as you teach. Reflect on your entries often. Keep the journal handy as you prepare your new lesson plans.

Some things to pay attention to and journal include:

  • The activities that your group members enjoyed
  • The activities that did not appeal to your group
  • The length of time it takes your group to accomplish certain teaching procedures
  • The kinds of teaching procedures you used in a session (over time, you’ll see a pattern); this allows you to intentionally vary your teaching methods
  • The things you wold do differently if you could teach the study again
  • Questions your group members asked that may need more follow-up at a later time

Remember, experience is not always a good teacher. Evaluated experience, however, is.

Are closed groups bad?

Today’s blog post is taken from the book Great Expectations. In the selection I’ve chosen, the author goes into some detail about the great-expectationsdifferences between open and closed groups, and whether or not closed groups are “bad” groups.

Closed groups are not bad. They’re just closed! Closed groups are, in fact, superior to open groups for helping people go deeper in discipleship or relationships…Whereas open groups are ongoing, closed groups are typically short-term, meeting for a prescribed number of sessions. Whereas open groups employ a curriculum plan ensuring that each individual lesson or session provides a complete and satisfying study of a Bible passage, closed groups typically use a curriculum plan that is sequential: each lesson or session builds on the previous ones. While members of an open group may be encouraged to prepare ahead of time for the session, there is limited accountability for actually doing so. In a closed group, however, members are typically expected to prepare for the session to participate fully in it. Personal accountability is also typically higher in a closed group. Members of a closed group are more likely to get involved in one another’s lives.

Due to the nature of a closed group, it does not expect new people to attend and does not make any intentional effort to remain open, especially several weeks into an in-depth study. These principles of closed groups are the primary reason a church should not employ a closed-group strategy in an open-group Sunday School format. Using a closed-group philosophy or using closed-group resources would violate the psychology and sociology of invitation that are crucial for keeping a group open.


10 Things Guests Wished We Knew (Part 2)

The last blog post dealt with 5 of 10 things guests wished we knew about them. Today’s post completes guestbadgethat list of ten things. In no particular order, here are 5 more things that guests wished we knew about them:

  1. We are influenced by our kids’ experiences at church. Your church service and the Bible study we attended were really good. In fact, it was a good day. At this point we’re really hopeful that this might be the place we land. But before we can make a decision about all that, I need to know how you treated my kids. So the first question I’m going to ask my children is, “Did you like it?” I’m not going to start with “What did you learn in Sunday School?” or some other more appropriate question. If my kids had a bad experience, I’m not going to force them to come back. If my kids had a great experience, though, and I didn’t, I’m highly likely to tolerate that since my kids are happy.
  2. We are taking up to 18 months to join a church. We are not in a hurry to join your church. In fact, we aren’t really “joiners” in the first place. We’re going to attend your church because the preaching’s really great. But we are going to go to small groups at the church down the street because they learned our names and were very welcoming. There’s even another church that has great worship, and we love the concerts they occasionally do for the members and the community. We’re in no rush. We’re just going to take our time and see what happens. If you want to keep me interested in your church, you’re going to have to do continual follow-up for a long time.
  3. Our first impression of the church is hard to overcome if it’s negative. The first seven minutes we are on your church campus are really critical in helping me decide if this is the right place or not. You’ve heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It may be overused, but it’s true.
  4. Our last impression of the church is hard to overcome if it’s negative. I don’t want to put any pressure on you, but even if we’ve had a really good morning at your church, it can be ruined by the last thing we experience. I know that’s not fair, but it’s just the way it is. Ignore me after the church service, or head off to lunch without being neighborly and inviting me to attend as well. You can do everything just right and still trip up at the finish line. You’ve got to pay attention to me all morning long.
  5. The church doesn’t get bonus points for being friendlyGuess what? I’m glad that you think you have a friendly church. Perhaps you do. But you don’t get any extra points for that because you are a church! You’re supposed to be friendly! Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard, alright?

Today’s list plus yesterday’s list spell out 10 different things guests wish we knew about them. I hope there are at least a few of these that you can improve upon in your quest to reach new members.

10 Things Guests Wished We Knew (Part 1)

Today’s post is part 1 of a two-part series on things guests wish we knew about them. It’s tough being the guestbadgeoutsider looking to connect to a new church and a new Bible study group (many of you have done just that). It’s not easy. In fact, if you’ve been a member of a church and/or a Bible study group for a few years, you’ve most likely forgotten how hard it is to find a church home and a Bible study group to belong to.

Let’s think like a guest. Here are 5 things that guests wished we knew about them and their search for a church home. In my next blog post, I’ll finish this list with 5 more things guests wished we knew about them. If guests could be totally honest, they’d want to say:

1.We are anxiousVisiting a new church can be a harrowing experience. It’s hard to know how to dress (do I dress up or down?), where to park, and which door to enter. Chances are I won’t know your songs of worship, nor will I be as familiar with the Bible as you are. And it seems like everyone in your Bible study group is a Bible expert compared to me.

2.We evaluate everythingThe moment we come onto your church campus, we are in “evaluation mode.” Nothing escapes our scrutiny, because little things tell us a lot about you and your congregation. Was there a directional sign pointing me to guest parking? Did a parking lot greeter help me out of the car and into the right building? Was the bathroom clean? Are the preschool classrooms equipped with proper toys and learning aids? Were there enough volunteers? Did things seem chaotic or did the church’s lay leaders know what they were doing? Was there dust on the leaves of that ficus tree in the corner?

3.We feel like outsidersAs friendly as you try to be to me, I’m still the outsider. You have your friendships – it’s apparent because you talk with your friends  much more than you do me. I wish I knew your inside jokes – I’d laugh along, too (but for now I’ll just have to listen in). It’s been three minutes since I’ve sat down in the classroom, and so far no one’s introduced themselves. You’re studying what? I don’t have one of those books that your group members seem to have. Ooops – I dressed up and it looks like you’re a pretty casual church. Great.

4.We are hopefulThe reason I’m visiting your church is because I want to connect with you. I need friends. I want a place where I can belong. I even believe I have some gifts and abilities that God might want to use at your church – I hope there’s a place for me to serve. I really want to like your pastor, your people, and your programs.

5.We don’t want to be identifiedThe one thing you will do to make me feel really uncomfortable is to make me identify myself before I’m ready. Don’t ask me to stand, and don’t ask your congregation to stand while I remain seated – that’s nice, but it’s just awkward. I want to let you know who I am at my own pace. It may take me weeks of visiting your church before I’m ready to give you any of my personal contact information.

7 ways to liven up lectures

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from the book The 3D Sunday School by David Francis. In this outtake, I 3d-sunday-schoolfocused on a section of the book in which David gave some great counsel to teachers whose primary method of teaching is lecture. He’s got some great suggestions on how to liven things up. Here is what David had to say:

The lecture method is an effective teaching method when used appropriately. Despite years of encouraging teachers to use a variety of teaching methods, however, teachers often rely on just this teaching approach. Is the lecture a bad teaching method? Of course not! Many people are verbal learners who prefer lectures to other teaching methods.

If the lecture is your preferred teaching approach, here are some ideas for adding life and energy to the experience.

  1. Make an assignment to a class member to research a particular word or place and give a brief report in class.
  2. Use visuals such as maps, posters, and teaching pictures.
  3. Participate by asking questions, allowing learners to provide responses.
  4. Use appropriate humor.

What can learners do to liven up lectures?

  1. Ask questions!
  2. Accept assignments from the teacher when asked.
  3. Read the lesson before class, marking it up for areas of interest or discussion.


Hot Links – Friday Oct. 14, 2016

A big shout-out to my new friends from Falls Creek, Oklahoma! I met with 40+ Sunday School Directors Hot links 3last weekend and had a great response to the invitation for you to sign up to receive my blog posts! Welcome aboard.

Here are some links to articles and podcasts from around the web. These are trusted sites and personalities, and I hope this provides you with some reading material for the weekend!

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken Braddy


Blog posts you might like:

Podcasts you might like:

3 times you should drop a person from your group’s role

As you lead your Bible study group, you’ll face what others have in the past: swelling numbers of people on your group’s role. You may even consider dropping inactive people from your role. Please don’t.

You might ask, “Is it ever OK to drop a person from my group’s role?” The answer is yes. There are three times when you should drop a person from your group’s role:

  1. Drop a person when they die. It’s safe to say they won’t be coming back to your group meeting. When a person dies, remove them from your role. They’re on a new role book somewhere.
  2. Drop a person when they ask you to. On occasion, people make a decision to leave a Bible study group and they want no further contact from the teacher or group members. If someone requests they be removed from your role, do it. You can let them know how sorry you are they are leaving, but don’t keep them on the role when they’ve asked to be removed.
  3. Drop a person when they become a member of another church. When one of your group members becomes a member of another church, it’s time to remove them from your role. Your mission is accomplished! You became their shepherd-teacher at some point in the past, and now they have a new church and a new group to belong to. They are now another group leader’s responsibility.

The one reason you should never drop a person from your group role is because of their low attendance. Over the years, well-meaning group leaders asked me to drop people from their roles because of inactivity. My response: never! Instead of dropping people because they aren’t coming, we should see that as a reason to reach out to them, check on them, and invite them back into the group.


3 reasons you need a sidekick in your Bible study group

Smart Bible study leaders have an apprentice teacher by their side. A Mr. Spock to their Captain Kirk. Abatman Tonto to their Lone Ranger. A Robin to their Batman. Sidekicks are just as important in Bible study groups as they are in the world of fiction. Do you have an apprentice teacher? Is anyone by your side? If not, you might want to consider getting one. Here are 3 reasons why you need a sidekick:

  1. Apprentice teachers are future teachers. Where will future teachers come from? Some will walk into a church and join the congregation, bringing their spiritual gift of teaching with them. Most, though, are going to be “home grown.” These apprentice teachers will be part of a farm team approach to developing talent, much like the kind used by baseball teams as they plan for future seasons. Without apprentice teachers, gaps will take place in a church’s Bible study organization and groups will not have the teachers they need.
  2. Apprentice teachers add variety. Another reason to have an apprentice teacher in each Bible study group is to add a level of variety. While an apprentice may learn from the group’s primary teacher, he or she will bring their own unique backgrounds, gifts, and passions to the teaching-learning process. They won’t teach just like the primary teacher, but instead will bring something fresh and new to the group when they teach.
  3. Apprentice teachers create an expectation of division…the good kind. Maybe the best reason to have an apprentice teacher is because it signals to the group that it will “divide” at some point. The creation of a new group (call it “birthing” or “franchising” or something else) is made possible because of the apprentice teacher’s willingness to be an understudy for a time prior to launching and leading a group of his or her own.

Tuesday Teaching Tip: You don’t have to cover all the points

As Bible study teachers prepare their teaching outlines, outline(or use outlines provided by the producer of their curriculum), they often come to realize that there is a lot of material to cover. Most Bible study teachers have about 35-40 minutes to teach their group members. Normally, Bible studies have 3 or 4 points in the outline, similar to the number of points in a sermon. When teachers sense time is starting to run short, many do not adjust their teaching outline, but instead pick up the pace to make sure they cover all the points. There’s a better way to go about leading a Bible study!

Newer teachers may mistakenly believe they must cover all the points each time the group gathers for Bible study. More experienced leaders may have learned that they don’t have to feel any guilt or remorse over not covering all the points. These teachers end up delivering a better Bible study. Here’s why:

  1. Wise teachers save something for later. When a teacher is having difficulty moving through the points he wants to cover, he will wisely save the content he was going to deliver until a later time. He might cover it the next time the group meets, or he may hold it in reserve until a much later time. It won’t go to waste, though, so there’s no need to feel pressure to cover all the points.
  2. Wise teachers don’t want to teach a shallow lesson. Trying to get through all the points can feel like you’re in a race, moving quickly from point-to-point because of time constraints. A well-prepared lesson suddenly feels shallow because group members’ questions go unaddressed in an effort to get through the lesson. Things the teacher wanted to cover have to be left out. The end result? A lesson that leaves everyone feeling like they ate but are not full.
  3. Wise teachers let the Holy Spirit guide their decision. Perhaps the  biggest reason some teachers are perfectly fine not covering all the points in a lesson is because they are listening to the Holy Spirit. As group members’ needs come to the surface in a Bible study, wise teachers allow the Holy Spirit to guide them. Sometimes the group needs to camp out one or two of the points in the lesson. Those are the ones that the Holy Spirit wants to use to minister to the group.

The next time you teach a Bible study, don’t feel compelled to “get through all the points.” Your Bible study will be just as effective, perhaps even more effective, if you didn’t.


Serving the Spiritually Lost

Today’s blog post is from my friend and colleague’s latest book, Habits for our Holiness. In this Habitsparticular section of the book, Philip Nation focuses our attention on the responsibility and privilege of serving the spiritually lost. It’s a topic that I and David Francis address in a forthcoming book, Creating Commissioned Community.

Let Philip’s words about serving the lost sink in, and think about how you are accomplishing this through your Bible study group. Perhaps it will inspire, or be a wake-up call, to the need to maintain an outward focus in our Bible studies. Philip says,

Servanthood is often seen in the willingness to be interrupted. Rather than plow ahead with your personal agenda, service requires you to expend time on someone else. As you choose to minister, it becomes more than the mere declaration that you care about your friends. It is even more than the assertion that you love your friends. The time and energy spent in serving them shows them that the love you profess is real. As we do so, we may have the opportunity to tell them that your love stems from the love the Father has shown you. Our service should be shaped by that boundless attitude that no interruption is too great when someone else is in need…Through the simple tasks of changing tires or delivering food, we show esteem and value for one another. Everyone who receives the gift of service from you knows that selflessness is involved. They are not ignorant of the personal cost to you. As you serve, you build up the body of Christ because you reflect the heart of Christ.

Are you willing to be interrupted? Do you view people as an interruption or as an opportunity? How might God use the time you invest in others to bring the gospel a little closer to them? If you or your Bible study group are not regularly investing in others by serving them, consider some ways you could reach out and show the love of Christ to someone who is spiritually lost. As Philip says in his book, “Most people in your life do not need you to do something earth-shattering. You don’t always have to seek out grand designs for world change…our neighbors simply need compassion” (p.158).

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