Tuesday Teaching Tip: Never Stop Learning

Tuesdays are for teaching tips here on the blog, and today’s tip is about a habit all great teachers share: they are lifelong learners.

My brother-in-law Mark and his wife Brenda are public school teachers and are required to have 10 days of training per year to maintain their teaching certification. The lady who cuts my hair also has to have a certain number of hours of training in order to maintain her license. My father, who worked as a real estate broker, had to take many hours of classes a year to keep his broker’s license active. In almost every industry, the workers must go through ongoing training every year. No training, no job. No kidding.

How are you getting the training you need?

  • The church provides it regularly – this is optimal
  • Read a book on teaching
  • Watch a video or video series about becoming a better teacher
  • Seek out a more experienced teacher and ask them to mentor you
  • Watch another teacher and observe things they do or don’t do as they teach
  • Ask a professional teacher (surely you have one or two in your church!) because they are the experts in their field and they often have great wisdom as to how to teach subject matter

Great teachers never feel like they have “arrived.” They know there is still much to learn about the teaching responsibilities they have. How will you get training in 2018?

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Where’s your Sunday School?

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Allan Taylor

Today’s blog post is a guest post by friend and colleague Allan Taylor. Allan is the director of church education ministry at LifeWay, and led the Sunday School of Woodstock Baptist Church to grow into the thousands. Allan asks us the question, “Where is your Sunday School?” Here are Allan’s thoughts:

It may be an unusual question, but an important one nonetheless. Where your Sunday School is determines How it is doing. Let me explain. Like the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, your Sunday School is in one of three places.

  1. Your Sunday School is enslaved in Egypt.

Like Israel, some Sunday Schools have been enslaved by the devil for 430 years! Sunday School is burdensome, a continual toil. There is no joy. There is no victory.

  1. Your Sunday School is wandering in the wilderness.

Some Sunday Schools have wandered around in the wilderness going from place to place but have needed land. They have tried this, and they have tried that. They fuss about this, and they complain about that. These Sunday Schools have lost their way.

  1. Your Sunday School is in the Promised Land.

Now this is the place to be! Right where God meant for you to be and wanted you to be!

NEEDED: A modern day Moses! A catalyst who will say, “No more.” No more enslavement and no more wandering. A catalyst who will take the bull by the horns and lead his people to be trained. Moses led them away from Egypt and to the Promised Land and he trained them in the Word of God. Where is Moses in your Sunday School? Get your Sunday School in the Promised Land!

So how do you move your Sunday School into the Promised Land? Well, Where are you on-track-ss-poster-1_5March 17-18? Let me encourage you to be at LifeWay’s On Track Sunday School Conference at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, TN. We will have great instructors from Preschool through Sr. Adults. You can register on-line at www.lifeway.com/ontrack.

Remember: Where your Sunday School is determines How it is doing! Be There…and see the results in your Sunday School as it moves toward the Promised Land with equipped leaders.

Registration is $55 per person through Feb. 17 and goes to $70 per person on Feb. 18.

I (Ken) will be teaching at this event, and I encourage you to consider investing in this special two-day event. See you in the Nashville area March 17!

Transform Your Teaching and Change Lives

Would you like to have every teacher in your church equipped to teach God’s Word in such a way as to bring about spiritual transformation in their class members’ lives?  Of course you would!  If you are a church staff leader, one of your primary goals is to practically implement Ephesians 4:11ff and “prepare the saints for works of service.”  What’s your plan for training your leaders in 2012?

May I suggest that you take a look at LifeWay’s “Transform” events that will be held in strategic locations around the country this year?  In 2011 the Transform events were packed with teachers and church leaders who sought to learn how to do more than just teach a lesson each week.  They received top-shelf training in the art of teaching learners so they live out the biblical truths they learn each week…it’s not about giving learners an “information dump” each week…it’s about helping them interact with the biblical text in ways that cause their lives to be changed in very practical ways.

Training for every age group will take place in Phoenix, AZ  (March 24), Louisville, KY (April 28), Raytown, MO (August 25), and Atlanta, GA (Sept. 22).  LifeWay has made these events affordable for people from all types of churches by offering the training at just $29 per person.

Specialized tracks are offered for the following leaders:

  • Small church pastors (100 or less in attendance)
  • Pastors
  • Ministers of Education
  • Sunday School Directors
  • Discipleship Directors
  • Babies-2 year old
  • 3-Kindergarten
  • Kindergarten
  • 1st and 2nd grade
  • 3rd and 4th grade
  • Pre-teen
  • Middle school students
  • High school students
  • Young adults
  • Median adults
  • Senior adults
  • Special needs
  • Leading the Sunday School in the Hispanic Church
  • Leading the Sunday School in the Black Church/Urban Church
  • Small groups and home groups

Click here to go to the Transform site to learn more about these special training events and to register yourself or your group

Minister of Education Roundtable is 7 Days Away

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has sponsored what has become known as the M.E. Roundtable for the past 4 years.  This year’s event is scheduled for Monday, November 14.

Three guests will serve on the panel this year:  Allan Taylor (FBC Woodstock), Jeff Young (Prestonwood Baptist Church), and Bill Taylor (long-time champion for Ministers of Education).

The livestream will be located on a friend’s blog that afternoon (www.bobmayfield.com) and there will be a link on Bob Mayfield’s blog that will direct participants to the livestream.

The Roundtable will tackle issues relevant to ME ministry today, and also the future work of the minister of education, and what we can do as MEs to be more effective in the 21st century.

The livestream will be in two parts:  Part 1 (2:00-2:45) and Part 2 (4:00-4:45), CST.  There is no charge for participating in the event, so please promote this opportunity in your network!  You don’t have to be a minister of education to participate!  Pastors, teachers, and Sunday School directors would all benefit by listening in on the discussion at this year’s event.

New Stats Confirm That Training Teachers Does Matter

“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” said Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  She looked up and realized her surroundings had changed.  I’ve had a similar moment in recent days with what I perceive is the decline of training in our churches…especially training provided for Sunday School teachers.  I don’t want to live in the past, but “back in the day” (just a few short years ago, it seems) this was a primary focus of my ministry in the local church…and it worked…and it payed big dividends for the teachers and those they taught.  What’s happened?!  I can think of several reasons why training isn’t being provided in many churches today:

  1. Lost vision – church staff must have a conviction that training and equipping people for ministry is one of their primary roles.  It’s pretty clear from Scripture that this is a primary focus of their leadership (or it should be).  Ephesians 4:11-12 makes it clear that pastors are to “prepare God’s people for works of service.”  In the original language it literally could read, “make ready.”  We should make people ready for service, and for the battle for people’s souls.
  2. Lost time – we’ve let too many other things crowd out the time we should be spending reading and learning so that we can impart wisdom to those we lead.  We often “major on the minors” in our ministry, feeling important and busy as we scurry around, but failing to focus on the one thing that our people need the most…our leadership expressed through training.  It’s funny that in a day with more tools available to us to help track our time and plan our days, we still don’t get it.  If Sunday School teachers are going to rise up once again and lead the way in evangelism and the effective teaching of God’s Word, they desperately need church staff, Sunday School Directors, and Pastors to set aside time each week in order to prepare to lead ongoing training.  It’s not something you can throw together at the last minute and expect workers to attend with any enthusiasm.
  3. Lost staff – while attending a Sunday School training event at Ridgecrest Conference Center a short while ago, I met with state Sunday School leaders who were very concerned about a new (probably ongoing) trend they are seeing in churches:  the fading of the role of the Minister of Education.  What a shame.  In a day when that’s exactly what the church doesn’t need, it’s the choice many churches are making.  Some may make the decision to cut the position because of financial difficulties; others may do so because they don’t perceive value from that role (maybe some M.E.s haven’t made themselves invaluable to their congregations).  But if preschool, children, student, and adult staff leaders are left to their own end, there won’t be any appreciable level of coordination of training.  It will create a situation like the one found in the last line of the book of Judges:  “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” (HCSB)
  4. Lost work ethic – ouch…that one may hit too close to home for some of you.  Training teachers is hard work.  It’s thankless work.  It’s difficult work.  But it’s some of the very best work you’ll do if you lead the education ministry in your church.  I’m not trying to step on too many toes out there, but maybe I can step on your shoes and not mess up your shine.  If you haven’t been giving the training your teachers need and want, then meditate on Ecclesiastes 9:10 that says, “Whatever your hands find to do, do with all your strength…” (HCSB).  Renew your efforts and realize the importance of your work in equipping teachers.

Now, as the blog title stated, there are some stats that should convince you to reboot your teacher training!  Dr. Steve Parr in his book Sunday School That Really Works, reports that in a state-wide survey conducted in Georgia, churches that provided quarterly or monthly training for teachers grew almost 14% in the past three years (p.98).  What happened in churches that had not provided ANY training in the past year?  Glad you asked!  The same survey revealed that those churches tended to be in decline, and actually experienced a negative cumulative growth of -2.1%.  Training does matter!  On a final sad note, in the survey conducted in Georgia, 40% of the churches did not provide any training for their Sunday School leaders…and we wonder why the church is in trouble these days.  It’s not rocket science, folks.

3 quick suggestions to get you and your church back on track in the area of teacher training:

1)  Attend a local training conference this fall.  Many area associations sponsor training events at low cost or no cost to Sunday School leaders.  Do a little research and find one, promote it to your leaders, attend it together, and let it be a catalyst for a new era of training in your church.

2)  Read a book on Sunday School and teach it to your Sunday School teachers.  Use a book like Transformational Class (by David Francis), Sunday School That Works (Dr. Steve Parr), or Great Expectations (David Francis).

3)  Set an appointment with a local church staff member who’s doing training and learn from them.  Other churches in your area already do some type of ongoing training…go check with them to see what’s working and what’s not working.  They’ll be happy to share their insights, and you might just find some inspiration!

No, we’re not in Kansas anymore.  We’re not going back to Kansas, either…(oops, spoiler alert!).  Times have changed, but the need for training teachers hasn’t.

Create Meetings that Teachers Actually Want to Attend, Part 2

As promised in my last post, here are 5 more tips for a total of 10 tips to help you create leadership meetings that your Sunday School teachers will love attending.  Sunday School isn’t rocket science…you simply have to focus on the basics and do them really well…like blocking and tackling in football.  The Dallas Cowboys have been my favorite football team over the years (I grew up in Dallas-Ft. Worth) but last Sunday night during SNF the announcers noted that the Cowboys (with a record of 1-6) had to get back to the basics of blocking and tackling…nothing fancy, just the basics.  Here are 5 more tips that coupled with the 5 from my last post will give you 10 ways to do the basics that will lead to successful, ongoing leadership meetings at your church!

Tip #6 – Provide food.  Everybody likes to eat and drink, so budget for snacks in your Sunday School training budget.  You can be creative, and it really is less expensive than you think, but for teachers who are coming to a meeting right after a long day at work, they’ll need a little something in the tank to keep their minds focused during your meeting.  It’s perfectly fine to ask your leaders to sign up and bring snacks (maybe you can provide the drinks), but having food of some kind will definitely enhance your meeting and fellowship time together.

Tip # 7 – Don’t cancel the meetings…ever.  Consistency is the key, and if your teachers don’t think you value the meetings, they won’t either.  If you’re tired, have the meeting anyway.  If you’re not fully prepared, have the meeting anyway.

Tip #8 – Set aside an hour a day to prepare for the meeting.  If you’re going to create meetings that people look forward to attending, then you’re going to have to carve out time in your daily schedule to study, prepare, gather resources, and communicate with your leaders prior to the meeting.  You’ll never have success in crafting meaningful training experiences for your leaders if you plan the meeting a few hours before it takes place.  Once you place this hour-long prep time on your daily calendar, guard it with your life.  Say no to other meetings and requests for your time; fight to keep that time for your leaders, because they need you at your best every time you meet with them.

Tip #9 – Be on the lookout for new resources to share with your leaders.  Leaders like to learn new things, so keep your eyes peeled for resources that can be passed along to them during your meetings.  I liked to provide what I call a “microburst” message…a 5-10 minute intense leadership message that could help my leaders not only in their classrooms, but also in their workplaces.  I wanted to bring added value to them, and I frequently adapted material from books or video series I’d recently experienced; I also modified other leadership messages I’d heard online at Itunes (there are hundreds of free podcasts with all kinds of practical applications for teachers).  At other times I adapted material from books I was reading, or I simply crafted a leadership message of my own.

Tip #10 – Use a teacher covenant.  I would strongly recommend you include the expectation that all teachers will attend regular training meetings in your teacher covenant.  I’ve done this, and yes, it is risky when you implement it.  One summer a single adult Sunday School teacher refused to sign the covenant because he did not want to commit to attend regular training meetings.  I held my ground, loved him through his decision, but ultimately said goodbye to him as a leader in our adult Sunday School.  His class members weren’t happy with me, and we dropped in attendance for a time.  But the Lord brought a new teacher into the single adult ministry of our church, and in the three years he and I served together, he NEVER missed any leadership training opportunity I held.  Mike, the new teacher, became one of my all-time favorite teachers because of his commitment to training.  Mike had no problem signing the teacher covenant, and ultimately God brought me a stronger teacher and leader than the one I had.

I hope that some of the 10 tips I’ve shared may inspire you to try your hand at providing ongoing leadership meetings for your teachers.  Have the meetings weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually….just do something…because your Sunday School will benefit from anything you can do to train and equip your teachers.

If you have tips to share with the readers of this blog, be sure to post them for all to see…you may be able to expand on the things I’ve written and “put another bullet in the chamber” of the teachers who are reading this blog!

Thanks for dropping in!  Pass along this blog to a couple of friends, fellow leaders, teachers, or even your church staff.

Lifeway Providing “Top-Shelf” Training for Teachers…So Can You!

In just a few hours, Sunday School Week at the Ridgecrest Conference Center begins.  Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer are among the guest speakers who will talk about the connection between Transformational Churches and their Sunday Schools.  Hundreds of Pastors, Ministers of Education, Sunday School Directors, and Teachers will descend on the conference center for an intense weekend of training and encouragement.  Here are a just a few of the workshops being offered for conferees:

  1. Assimilation – The Most Important Closed Group
  2. Making Curriculum Fit My Church
  3. How Can I do Sunday School on a Shoestring Budget?
  4. Recruiting New Leaders:  How to Enlist Great Leaders
  5. Teach with Passion
  6. Discovering and Developing Leaders Through the Sunday School

Wow…that’s only a fraction of the workshops available to conference-goers.  Great evening worship, fellowship, and the beautiful Smokey Mountains are a great backdrop for this event! Even if you’re not a part of this year’s event, consider taking some of the workshop titles above, tweak them for your church, and host your own “Sunday School Week” – make it a special Saturday event for your teachers, and invite leaders from other churches close by.  Your state convention and local association might be able to help you launch a training event…so make a quick phone call or send them an e-mail.  I bet your teachers are just as hungry for training as the ones traveling into the Ridgecrest Conference Center right now!