Teacher: creating conversational community

Teacher, creating conversationalIf you do not have a hard copy booklet, find it free online at:

Teacher:  creating conversational community

Chapter ONE:  Conversational Community

Before discussing chapter 1, let’s go back to the page before entitled Teacher.  Don’t miss this point:  In addition to Jesus being called Teacher, He was known as One who used “visual aids and object lessons” from the world around Him, like flowers, birds, vines, branches, bread, cups, basins, towels, kids, coins, mountains, and much more.  (p.4)

QUESTIONS:  When was the last time you used a visual aid/object lesson in class?  Would you tell us what you used?

Now, let’s dig into chapter 1…

I’ve heard the title, teacher, referred to as leader, facilitator, under-shepherd, equipper, and I think even rabbi!  But there’s no getting around the fact that when you participate in a small group in which you lead the way, you are the TEACHER.  You might even consider yourself “a lead learner creating conversational community” (p. 5).  That sounds to me like a good definition of teacher.

You are also one who will help people transform.  That’s Biblical, of course:  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.  (Romans 12:2a)

Transformation is likely to occur when three things happen in the same place at the same time (p. 7):

  • Godly leadership
  • Biblical truth
  • Humble posture

Spiritual transformation will NOT occur unless the Bible is taught.  If the Holy Scriptures are not the centerpiece, “You might have a great discussion, but nobody’s going to walk away transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit” (p. 7).  This is why we insist that the Bible serve as the preeminent resource.  Remember the TEACHER’S COVENANT?  One section reads:  Prepare theologically sound lessons using the Old and New Testaments as the sole authority in the discovery and application of the truth of Holy Scripture (Psalm 119:16; I Corinthians 4:1-2).

QUESTIONS:  Think about your lesson coming up this Sunday.  From what Scripture passage are you teaching?  What transforming TRUTH are you seeking to explore with your class?

To help people transform, let me encourage you to intimately know the mindset of each class member, and to share your teaching platform by engaging in conversation.  Know and share.  (p.8)

Chapter ONE:  Conversational Community

Page 10 presents a table of four voices of a conversational community.  These are:

  1. The Bible
  2. The Holy Spirit
  3. The Learners (or, group members)
  4. The Teacher

QUESTION:  Look at the table on page 10.  How is each “voice” used and embraced in your class or small group?

I like what the authors state on page 12:  The Bible is central to …  conversational community.  It doesn’t matter what we say until we are clear about what the Bible has to say.  That is the beginning of preparing to teach.

Similarly, learners cannot be expected to answer questions like, “What does this verse mean to you?” unless they are taught that “every single text was originally written to a specific group of people at a specific time for a specific occasion.”  The authors remind us that unless learners are taught the Biblical-historical context, “we can’t rightly help people understand what the text truly says.”  (p. 12)

QUESTION:  What are some good questions to ask when studying the Bible?

I often tell my learners, young and old, that every time we open the Bible, we become theologians.  Theology is not limited to PhD’s or Bible geeks (I’m the latter!).  The church embraces and teaches theology because we are people of the Book.

Remind your class this week that there are no greater issues in the universe than what they will be discussing during Bible study as you open God’s Word together.

Chapter ONE:  Conversational Community, continued…

Last week, I highlighted a few things about the Voice of the Bible, the first of four “voices” the authors remind us that are essential to conversational community in every class.  For me, the one statement that stood out most was:  There are no greater issues in the universe than what we discuss in Bible study.  (p. 13)

This week, let’s look at the second of four voices of conversation within our groups:  THE VOICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Two comments stand out on page 14:

  1. First, When you and I stand in front of a group as teacher, the Teacher stands with us.  This is the assurance that Jesus spoke to His disciples, and it is the same assurance we have as well-prepared teachers of the Word.
  2. And second, The Holy Spirit … can guide you in preparation as much as He can guide you during actual group time.  In fact, we should depend on this.

When we rely upon the Holy Spirit to lead our Bible study, we should expect the Holy Spirit to cause learners, as well as leaders, to make comments and ask questions that will promote spiritual growth and Bible learning in our classes.

There’s no group question this week, just my encouragement to you, the teacher, to prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit every time you lead your class in Bible study.  Because this seminar is about conversation, ASK the Holy Spirit to create conversational community in your group, young or old.

Chapter ONE:  Conversational Community, continued…

This week, our seminar looks at the third voice, THE VOICE OF THE LEARNERS (pages 15-20 in the booklet).  As promised, let’s cover these pages in fill in the blank style (answers are at the end of this session).

From page 15:

If you teach only how you like to _____, those who _____ differently may not get what you teach.

God _____ everyone to learn in a different way.

From page 16:

Which of these eight learning approaches is your personal “GO TO” when you teach (read the chart on page 16 for the specific features of each):

  • Relational
  • Verbal
  • Visual
  • Reflective
  • Logical
  • Physical
  • Musical
  • Natural

From page 17:

People want to do something more than just _____  ___ for class.

The most important factor of developmental spiritual growth is regular reading of the _____ and other _____  _____.

From page 18:

It is more crucial than ever in today’s changing environment that we:

  • _____ on the key indicator of spiritual growth, that is reading the Bible.
  • Provide Bible study material is part of a “___” for discipleship.
  • Expect members to prepare for group _____.
  • Equip _____ to have conversations with their kids about their Bible study and group _____.

From pages 19 & 20:
There are some good suggestions on the pages, especially for Children and Youth teachers.  What sounds like a good idea for you (share in the comment box below if you’d like)?  What are the last THREE italicized words on that page:  _____  _____  _____.

(Fill in the blank answers, in order:  learn; learn; show up; Bible and other Christian literature; Focus; map; conversation; parents; experience; multiple touch points)

Chapter ONE:  Last session in the chapter:

THE VOICE OF THE  TEACHER is the fourth voice of conversational community in every Bible study/Sunday School class (pages 21-23 in the booklet).

The authors state that “the teacher is the most important lesson” (p. 21).

ASSIGNMENT:  Outline the character profiles of a teacher (presented in the first paragraph on page 21).  Be sure to identify each trait as holy, humble, or hungry.  Do this AFTER you have read pages 21-23!  I will give an example at the end of this session, below.

There’s a good technique reminder, or rather, warning, on page 22:  If teachers use just one way to communicate God’s Word, two-thirds of the group members will not engage in learning to the degree they could.  BOREDOM WILL SET IN.   This is especially true for kids (children AND youth).  A general rule of thumb that we observe in our Children’s Ministry is that kids have an attention span in minutes that is longer than their age in years (i.e., an 8 year old has an attention span of 8 minutes; a 16 year old has an attention span of 16 minutes – I don’t know the attention span of a 50 year old!  …50 minutes?).

I once heard a Christian speaker say, It is a sin to bore kids with the Bible.”
And all God’s people said, AMEN!

Change things up in your Bible study group – not just in children and youth classes, but in adults classes as well.  This helps makes learning dynamic, especially when done intentionally.

In future sessions, we will look at the authors’ assessment of the teaching methodology they call SAY/ASK/DO, as well as learn how to evaluate good curriculum.  I hope these sessions will be helpful as we all seek the best Bible study experiences for our class participants at First Baptist.

ASSIGNMENT REMINDER:  Outline the character profiles of a teacher (presented in the first paragraph of page 21).  Be sure to identify each trait as holy, humble, or hungry.  Here is an example to get you started:

  • A teacher has a love for the Word of God (hungry).
  • A teacher loves Jesus (is that holy, humble, or hungry?).
  • Etc.

Chapter TWO:  Say (part 1)

The authors provide this opening statement about learning/listening and teaching/talking:

“If learning is more than listening, then teaching is more than talking.”  (p. 24)

There’s a good outline on the different methods used to teach the truths of the Bible.  Let’s break these down into each author’s main practice:

  1. David likes to examine the broader context (context is key, remember!), look at small “hunks” of the passage, then bring it all back under one idea.  David and his wife teach preschool in their church and this method seems to work best for SAYING the lesson to the children.  He says, “Deciding what not to say is as important for a teacher as deciding what to say.”  (p. 26).
  2. Ken studies the lesson inductively, starting as soon as he can.  So he can SAY the right things to his group, he uses an inductive approach to study methodology:  1) Read; 2) Observe; 3) Interpret (a closer examine at the context!); and 4) Apply.  (p. 27)
  3. Michael crafts a “short, memorable phrase that summarizes what your message is about” (p. 27).  Doing so, he accomplishes two things:  1) isolates the core truth of the message; 2) safeguards the learning environment.  This helps to stop the rabbit chases!  (p. 28)

As a team of authors, they offer this advice:  “Don’t feel like you must tell everything you’ve discovered.  Don’t believe you have to use every suggestion in your Leader Guide.”  (p. 28)

Chapter TWO:  Say (part 2)

“When we tell stories well, we are cooperating with how God wired the human brain.”  (p. 30)

Stories are found throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  Jesus and Paul especially used storytelling in communicating to their listeners and readers.

QUESTIONWhat is your favorite Bible story?

Stories do not have to be long, even if just a sentence or two.  The authors suggest that stories can be shared from your own life.  And YOUR story IS important.  Greg Laurie, in his book, Tell Someone, states that “Every testimony (story) is valid because there is someone out there a lot like you.”

Illustrations are also a way to connect with learners (p. 30).  By this, the authors mean telling a vivid story that illustrates your point or the Biblical lesson.

On page 31, the authors provide a very concise outline of how to tell a story:

  1. Don’t tell a story without practice.
  2. Don’t make it a sermon.
  3. Keep it vivid.  Use words that paint mental pictures.
  4. Avoid too many details.
  5. Resist asking for feedback.  Let the story simmer in your listeners’ minds.
  6. Conclude it (this point added by me!).

Be humble in your storytelling, be authentic, and be transparent.  Make it something that your learners will come to anxiously expect from time to time.

QUESTION:  Who chaired the convention of the American Sunday School Union in 1834 (which launched the monumental effort that planted 5000 Sunday Schools in America’s western frontier)?  ANSWER:  _____  _____  _____ (p. 32)

(Answer:  Francis Scott Key)

Chapter THREE:  Ask, part one (pgs. 35-39)

“One of the most effective ways to help members engage in group Bible study is to ask compelling questions.”  (p. 35)

The authors suggest using silence (that is, waiting longer than usual for an answer and not answering it yourself) to elicit answers to well-crafted questions.  Let members process your question.  Wait as long as 20+ seconds.  (p. 36)

LISTEN, a lot.  Not just in children’s classes but in adult classes as well.

On page 38, the authors provide a checklist to help teachers compose well-crafted questions:

  1. Does your question move learners from general implications to specific personal application?  (NOTE:  Every lesson should include application.)
  2. Does your question create further dialogue and involve all group members?
  3. Is your question open-ended rather than having a one-word answer?
  4. Does your question invite everyone to talk and answer?

EXERCISE:  Match each word below with the way it functions as either a COMPREHENSIVE question (CO), an APPLICATION question (AP), an ANALYSIS question (AN), a SYNTHESIS question (SY), or an EVALUATION question (EV).
See page 39.  The first and last ones are done for you!

analyze – AN
solve – AP

(Matching answers, first to last, in order:  AN, EV, AP, AP, AN, SY, EV, EV, CO, SY, AN, AP, CO, AN, EV, SY, AN, SY, SY, CO, AP)

Chapter THREE:  Ask, part two (pgs. 40-45)

“Conversational community can only happen if everyone in the group gets to talk.”  (p. 40)

The authors offer some helpful advice on how to deal with a “talker” in your group:

  1. Call on specific people to answer questions (but not visitors!).
  2. Enlist the “talker” to answer specific questions prior to the Bible study session.
  3. Interrupt the “talker.”
  4. Invite the “talker” for some coffee and confrontation.  (p. 40)

To prompt discussion, use questions provided in curriculum.  Usually, no more than five questions are needed.  (p. 41)

On page 43, you’ll see the strong advice to not put guests on the spot.

Children and teen teachers:  Interact with your learners’ parents.  Provide a way for mom and/or dad to follow up the lesson at home (coloring pages, devotions, sake home page, apps, etc.).  (p. 43)

EXERCISE:  Fill in the blanks below, from pages 44-45:  These statements answer the questions, “What can we learn from teaching preschoolers?” and are good teaching methods for ALL age groups.

  1. What they can _____ matters.
  2. Class starts the moment the _____  _____ arrives.
  3. Names are important.
  4. Flexibility is a must.
  5. What you think is a _____  _____ usually is the one that works best.
  6. It is about the _____.
  7. They want to participate in the process.
  8. Routines give a framework.
  9. If you let them _____, they will.

(Fill in the blank answers, in order:  see, first child, goofy idea, Bible, talk)

Chapter FOUR:  Do, part one (pgs. 46-49)

“Transformational discipleship seldom results from a passive approach to learning – or a presentation approach to teaching.”  (p. 48)

The authors provide a list of the various teaching methodologies used by Jesus (pages 46-47).  Since we are to be “Christlike,” check any of the following methods that you’ve used in class (this doesn’t mean that you have to use all of them!).  Be sure to read these two pages to view the Scripture reference for each:

__ object lesson
__ points of contact
__ aims
__ problem-solving
__ conversation
__ questions
__ answers
__ lecture
__ parables
__ Scripture
__ teachable moments
__ contrast
__ concrete and literal examples
__ symbols
__ large and small groups
__ individual teaching opportunities
__ modeling
__ motivation
__ impression and expression
__ Himself (For us, this means “Do I talk about Jesus often in my class?”)

Everyone learns differently.  As a teacher, you should recognize the various ways your learners learn and use the methods that most effectively impart the lesson.

“If we settle for only dispensing information, …people will begin to define their discipleship exclusively in terms of intellect.”  (p. 48+).

Notice on page 49 that the authors tell us that we do not have to use all the suggested learning activities in the curriculum.  It is the teacher’s responsibility to know his/her class and to choose the suggested learning activities/methodologies best suited for everyone.  Rather than be overwhelmed by the teacher’s guide, be grateful that you have a well of  resources from which to pull!

Chapter FOUR:  Do, part two (pgs. 50-58)

“Effective teaching is transformational.  It’s about leading the group to do something.”  (p. 50)

This last session will focus on transformation, a Biblical term.  Note that when a renewed mind experiences transformation, action follows:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2 ESV)

The authors suggest, rightly so in my opinion, that many disciples run the risk of being bloated on Biblical knowledge but skinny on action.  PARTICIPATION in application of what is taught is a sign of a healthy, well-taught lesson.

EXERCISE:  Fill in the blanks (from page 52, answers at the end of this session):

The real _____ of conversational community is not the pursuit of lofty _____ or intimate _____, but the pursuit of _____.

But be _____ of the word, and not _____ only, deceiving yourselves.  (James 1:22)

The authors remind us that conversation is not just about talking, it’s about a way of Christian living – walking.  (pages 53-54)

I really like how this chapter concentrates on the “irreversible change” the Gospel makes in people’s lives (p. 55).  This is a good measure of how teachers cast the Gospel to their learners.  When you see change, God is doing something!

But change, or transformation, doesn’t mean that we have DONE something.  “We don’t obey to gain our salvation, but because of it” (p. 56).  In other words, because Jesus has transformed us, we are talking and walking like Christians ought to.  We are transformed.

Finally, some of you have heard me say this before and I think this seminar reinforces it:  “In your Bible study, talk about Jesus and find your way to the Cross.  If you are not doing that, you are not studying the Bible.”

No matter the age group you teach, always bring the learners to Jesus so He can transform their lives.  Paul said it this way:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
(I Corinthians 2:2)

(Fill in the blank answers, in order:  test, thoughts, fellowship, obedience, doers, hearers)


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