Over the last two months I have introduced and explained a “coaching” model for teaching that I believe has greater potential for encouraging deeper, more transformative learning. Unfortunately, not many of us are teaching in this way and we need to begin changing how we prepare our lessons and how we use our time as we teach our students. This month and next I want to share about a dozen ideas for how to begin moving from a “teaching for knowing” to a “teaching for growing” ministry. After these blogs I’ll go back and spend more time on issues of how we prepare for our teaching, how we move beyond teaching for knowing in our use of time in the group, and how to develop a longer-term approach to promoting growth through our teaching. First, how do we begin to teach more like a coach?
Moving from “Teaching for Knowing” to “Teaching for Growing”: Part I
If a “coaching” model is a better approach for teaching the Bible for genuine growth and transformation, then some things will have to change in how we use our time together as we study and teach. Some of the habits of our old “teaching for knowing” will have to change. Below are twelve things we can do to begin teaching like a coach.
1. Remember the Goal of the Game.
Every time we study God’s Word with others we need to remind ourselves of the ultimate purpose for this effort – inner transformation that results in increasing ability to follow God’s ways. We can too easily slide into a pattern of study for learning and mastering the content of the Scripture instead of allowing God to more fully master us through His Word. As teachers we need to remember the bigger purpose, and remind those we teach of why we are studying together. This perspective needs to be modeled in our own lives as we teach and lead our groups. Our own desire to play the game well, so as to win in God’s eyes, can be an encouragement to those we teach to join us in the game. As Paul explained to the church in Corinth,
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (I Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV)
2. Invest Time in the Text AND in the Team.
Coaches know not only how the game is to be played, but also the capabilities and potential of their athletes. As we prepare to teach our group, we need to be sure we are spending enough time in the text to understand what God desires us to know and to do (how to play the game), enough time getting to know our group so we can better understand how the passage relates to their life situations (their capabilities and potential), and enough time with God (our head coach) to discern how to go about the teaching process to encourage an open response to what He would have us learn. Time spent in preparing to teach is critical, but so is time with those we teach to know them better. Deeper teaching flows out of study of God’s Word, the depth of our relationship with Him, and the depth of our relationship with those we teach. We’ll spend more time on this in a blog in a couple of months.
3. Learn it Before You Teach it.
As we have described earlier, deep teaching flows out of what God is teaching us. Good coaching requires a knowledge of the game, how to play it well, where the challenges are, and how to persevere in the midst of the competition. We have to be committed to learning from God ourselves before we turn to those we would teach. Scriptural truths that we have not “tasted” ourselves are still true, and those we teach may learn them better than we do, but teaching can have deeper impact when we are committed to learning it ourselves first before attempting to teach others. We dare not study our lessons “for them,” but “for us.” This attitude and approach prepares us for the kind of role we should take as a teacher.
4. Be a Player-Coach, not a Sideline Coach.
In our teaching, we need to take the position of “lead-learner,” or “player-coach,” one who is learning from God even as we prepare to teach, and we are striving to live out what we are learning alongside those we teach. We need to be sure that as we teach we are prepared to share our own struggles of living out what the Scripture says. This calls for us to take the posture of fellow traveler, or teammate with those we teach. We are in the game together, committed to the common goal, striving to help each other succeed and willing to be open about the challenges of the game so we can learn from each other and from God. This kind of transparency of a teacher desiring to learn and grow in faith and faithfulness is contagious.
5. Less Talking, More Listening.
If we approach our teaching from a player-coach perspective, when we gather for our study we will need to spend less time in sharing all we have learned as we prepared to teach and more time listening to those in the group as we examine the implications of what we are learning together. We won’t know best how to coach them if we don’t know where they need help understanding the game and why it is important, or learning how to develop better strategies for playing it. This requires time in conversation around the truths we are learning, allowing the Holy Spirit to show us where He is already at work in our lives, and where we need to be more open to His work of teaching us His ways. For some of us, this will be hard, because we may enjoy sharing what we have learned, and the affirmation that may come from being recognized as a knowledgeable teacher.
6. Slow Down to go Deeper.
The typical curriculum materials designed for studying and teaching the Bible has aspects to help us better understand the meaning of a passage we are studying and its importance or significance for Christians today. They tend to move from understanding the content of the passage to examining principles and implications for following Christ today, to eventually encouraging possible ways to respond in obedience to what we have learned. This is all good, but to do all of this well requires more time than is often available in a group study session. For those teaching in a Sunday School context, there is typically less than an hour available to carry this out. For those teaching in home Bible study groups, there may be more time, but it still may not be enough to process and work through the material to an adequate discussion of how to respond to what we have learned. We have to slow down, not feel compelled to move on to the next lesson when we meet again, but take time to ensure that we are really dealing with what we are learning, allowing God to work it into our lives, not just into our brains.
Questions for Reflection:
These six items are enough to reflect on for this blog. How does this look to you? Here are some questions to help you think through making your own teaching more like coaching. We will finish up with six more ideas next month.
- How can you keep your focus on the ultimate purpose for studying God’s Word? In what ways does this focus get undermined in how your teaching ministry is being carried out over time? How are you modeling this ultimate purpose as a teacher for your students?
- Are you struggling to find adequate time to prepare to teach? Are you getting enough study of the Scripture in to know what God desires of you personally and of those you teach? Do you have enough time to know your people well enough to discern where the lessons of Scripture are especially relevant to them? What might have to change to allow you the time you need to do more than a surface preparation for your teaching?
- Do you find yourself teaching second-hand truths? Are you allowing God to teach and begin to transform you with His Word before you teach others? If so, that is a great starting point for real impact in teaching. If not, what do you need to begin doing to make this a priority, so your teaching flows out of what you yourself are learning?
- Related to question 3, are you approaching your teaching as a “player-coach?” Are you coming alongside those you teach as a fellow traveler and learner? Are you being transparent about your own learning and challenges? Are you letting others encourage you with what God has taught them?
- Is there enough time in your teaching setting for you to really hear from those you teach about what they are or are not understanding, and where the challenges are to apply what you are teaching? What might you do to begin gaining better insight into what God is doing in their lives with what you are teaching?
- Do you find yourself moving along too quickly in your teaching, taking up new passages each week without adequate time to process what you and your group are learning? Is it possible to slow the pace down to allow time for more reflection, discussion, and exploration of how to live out more faithfully what you are learning together? What would have to change to allow more time for this?