This is the start of Thanksgiving week, and I am reminded of a teaching tip courtesy of Robert Pazmino. In his book Basics of Teaching for Christians, he told the story of his son, David, who was studying to become a chef. His son announced that he wanted to prepare the family’s Thanksgiving meal, complete with printed menu and a list of ingredients. At the top of the list was one of Robert Pazmino’s least favorite foods: Brussels sprouts.
Pazmino and other family members were not thrilled about having a bitter vegetable like Brussels sprouts on the Thanksgiving table. When diplomatic attempts to dissuade his son from preparing them failed, Pazmino agreed to help his son prepare the meal, including “Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta.” Here is the lesson Pazmino learned about Brussels sprouts and the importance of proper preparation. He took this lesson and applied it to the ministry of disciplemaking through teaching:
I was able to observe the preparation of the Brussels sprouts firsthand. Part of the preparation called for me to use a melon scoop to remove the bitter center from each sprout and to carefully separate each of the leaves. My son explained that coring the sprouts removed the bitter portion. I was beginning to learn!…To our great surprise, the first dish to disappear was the Brussels sprouts…When I turned back to my Christian education classes, which earlier had been informed about the upcoming menu for our Thanksgiving meal, the students asked how the Brussels sprouts had fared. I was delighted to report the results and what I had learned from my son. The preparation made all the difference in that dish. This example points us to the need for careful preparation – not only in the arena of the culinary arts, but also in the teaching arts, which require a commitment of time and energy prior to the actual presentation of any lesson. – Basics of Teaching for Christians, pp.19-21
As you can see from Pazmino’s story, preparation of the Brussels sprouts was paramount. The same principle applies every time you and I teach God’s Word. Thorough preparation gives you confidence and an excitement to guide your group members in a study of God’s Word. Inadequate preparation can leave a bitter taste in the mouths and minds of your group members. My friend and former colleague at Lifeway, Allan Taylor, said the following in his book, The Six Core Values of Sunday School:
“Every Sunday School teacher wants to teach good lessons, but every Sunday School teacher is not committed to do what it takes to have good lessons. The have not put any hay in the barn during the week, so the loft is empty on Sunday morning. If you are committed to preparation, you will be a great Sunday School teacher.” (p.96)
Pazmino said something else that was quite profound about preparation – he called it “an act of worship” to the Lord. Quite honestly, I’d never thought of my preparation in that way before reading his thoughts. As a group leader in my church, I prepare diligently to guide my group members through the next session I lead, but I hadn’t thought of it as an act of love for my group members, or for the Lord, for that matter. Pazmino helped me think of preparation differently when he said:
Preparation can be an expression of loving care for the ministry of teaching to which one is called by God. The second of the two great commandments, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, can be associated with the care of preparation for one’s students, for the context in which the teaching is planned to occur, and for the content of the teaching itself
Don’t be “that person” who tries to prepare a day in advance of a Bible study (unfortunately, “Saturday Night Specials” aren’t so special in the long-run. Last-minute preparation will not lead to excellence in teaching, and if we are not excelling there, it will be hard to carry out the Great Commission’s imperative to “make disciples.” Preparation makes all the difference; group leaders must set aside as much time as they need to do a thorough job of preparing a Bible study experience. Preparation doesn’t mean that you and I continue to study up to the last minute, seeking more content from which we do an “information dump” on our group members! Good preparation takes into account the “three C’s” that Pazmino mentioned in the quote above: care, context, and content. We must think of every influence we have on our group members, and that includes moving beyond the “content” one – most of us do a good enough job there! We must prepare our studies with our group members in mind, and with a view to use the place we meet to maximize every Bible study experience (room arrangement, visual aids, etc). You can’t do all of this if your preparation begins late in the week, or worse, on Saturday.
If there are Brussels sprouts on your Thanksgiving table later this week, enjoy! Know that the preparation of those bitter vegetables made all the difference in your enjoyment of them, and remember that your preparation as a group leader makes all the difference in whether or not your group members enjoy and benefit from the next Bible study you guide them through!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!