If you’re like me, you want to create an environment in the classroom where people feel they can open up and share their thoughts and feelings about the lesson and about their lives. It sure beats having the same superficial conversations in class week after week.
H-O-T stands for Honest, Open, and Transparent. Every teacher I’ve known has wanted to have a H-O-T Sunday School class, but they may have unintentionally done things that prevented the class members from becoming more honest, open and transparent. Here are 10 sure-fire ways that a teacher might accidentally take the H-O-T right out of their classroom:
1. Dominate the teaching time with lecture, rather than creating interaction between the group members. It’s all about you anyway, right? Your classroom, your lectern, your study, and the things you want to pour into your learners. Don’t give them a chance to share much among themselves…after all, you’ve got a lot of important things to say.
2. Never share your personal struggles with the group members…keep up the appearance of having it all-together. After all, you’re the leader, the expert, and the person who is closest to God since you’re the teacher. Don’t show a chink in your armor, or they may actually see that you’re just like them.
3. Talk about the comments made, the hurts mentioned, and the struggles shared by members outside of the classroom. Who wouldn’t like to see an intimate need, prayer request, or struggle posted on Facebook or sent around on Twitter after class?
4. Don’t show the learners how to connect the lesson to real life…just settle for teaching solid biblical content…they’ll figure it out eventually. God’s Word is powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, and it doesn’t return void. But that’s no reason not to help learners connect the dots and see how to use the stories and doctrine found in the pages of Scripture in their family and workplace relationships. Show them how practical the Bible is, and how its wisdom can help them make excellent, God-honoring decisions every day.
5. Ignore the fact that people learn in different ways…just teach in the manner you’re most comfortable with – all the time. How many teachers “stick with what works” Sunday after Sunday? Their lessons are predictable and boring, and every moment of the class period can be anticipated by the group members. Change things up, try a new style of teaching, and get out of your comfort zone, teacher! Not everyone will appreciate your PowerPoint show week after week, or your overhead cells, or your detailed outline. There are 8 learning styles, so get comfortable using different ones each week. People will become more engaged in the lesson, and they’ll have a sense of anticipation each week.
6. Teach points instead of principles. Principle-centered teaching is a powerful way to lead people through a lesson. A point-driven outline is often very predictable and quickly loses the attention of the learners. Principles are applicable in any place, any time, and apply to everyone. If you think you found a principle to teach, but you couldn’t teach it in a third world country, then you didn’t find a principle…go back to the drawing board! People love talking about how a principle applies to them…get them in groups, let them talk, and watch the level of H-O-T start to rise.
7. Pray big, sweeping, general prayers. Rather than listing prayer requests on the marker board, then praying the “Dear Lord, bless these prayer requests” prayer, place people in triads or quads and allow them to pray for each others’ needs. They will develop a new level of trust and relationship with the people in their group. Let them get H-O-T during this kind of prayer time. When you list a long string of requests on the board, does anyone really pay attention? Can anyone really remember who needs what prayed for during the week? I think not.
8. Keep up the appearance of having a great grasp of biblical truth. “Never let them see you sweat” was a tagline used in a deodorant commercial some years back – you wouldn’t want anyone else to know you are nervous and don’t have it all together. In a Sunday School class, it’s o.k. for the teacher to admit that they are sweating it out, trying to understand a doctrine, story, or some other aspect of Scripture. If you want the people to be HOT, you have to be HOT first and admit that you don’t always have the answer, and that you are on journey to understand the Scriptures, too. If you feel like you’ve arrived, that’s a clear indicator that you haven’t. Be honest about your struggles, and they will be honest, too.
9. Win every theological battle. Take the HOT right out of your group by beating down the learners who express an understanding of the biblical text different from your understanding. After all, you’re the teacher and you’ve got all the answers! Teachers who want to create a HOT environment will allow people to openly express their thoughts about a verse or passage of Scripture without fear of looking stupid in front of their peers. You’re not going to let heresy be taught in your classroom, but you can give people the freedom to express their current understanding while gently leading them into the truth. Don’t exercise “the nuclear option” when someone in the classroom challenges something you’ve said or shares a differing viewpoint! Lead them back to God’s Word and gently correct their thinking.
10. Don’t organize the class into a Care Group system. After all, they know you care, right?? Good teachers know that people want to belong and feel cared for, so they lead their classes to establish a system so that class members care for one another. Guests can more quickly be assimilated into the life of a class if they are assigned to a Care Group, and members use their time and spiritual gifting to show Christ’s love in practical ways. When the class members and guests gather together on Sunday morning for the class time, they are with a group of people with whom they are sharing life. Talk about opening up the opportunities for a HOT small group environment to exist!
As you think about these 10 ways teachers often take the H-O-T out of their Sunday School classes, what has been your experience? Have you seen these things in operation? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!