This is a video I’ll show to my students because I want to prepare them for success not only in having a thriving relationship with God, but also to have a long view of life; this includes how they use money. If they can learn to use their money well, they will be free to serve others for God and also be able to be financially generous for building the Kingdom of God. I don’t want them hampered by a pile of debt.
Last night while I was teaching my life group, I asked my boys a question and got absolutely no response. It was a pretty basic question. No response.
The section of the lesson was about reaching out to people around us when they’re having a bad day. I asked them, “What’s a good approach to reach out to them? Is it better to ask them about themselves or to tell them a story about yourself?” We had been talking about how Jesus reached out to the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. Jesus started by asking him what his name was.
There wasn’t a word of response to my no-brainer question.
I took a different approach that changed everything. I asked, “Has anybody ever asked you how you’re doing? As you’re telling them, they interrupt you to talk about themselves?” That changed everything! They could have talked for hours. The lifeless group of 20 freshman boys had come alive. They were angry because they were all thinking about a time that happened. They suddenly understood the point I was trying to teach. Jesus was able to reach people because he asked hurting people about themselves, and then listened to their responses. He was being the model of how he wants us to care for others.
This radical difference in the life of my students last night reminded me of an important teaching principle: Help students internalize the lesson by relating it to their personal experiences. In other words, make it about them. When they feel an emotion connected to what I’m teaching, the lesson will stick with them long after the night is over.
Don’t you love it when you see the lights go on inside their heads? Let there be light – lots and lots of light.
Last week I saw a post on Facebook that jarred me pretty good. A friend of mine posted a photo of a bald tire with a caption about his dad. The caption read something like, “5 years ago today my dad was killed in a car wreck on a rainy day. The collision was caused by the other car having bald tires. Please look at your tires. If they’re balding, please get them replaced.”
I never wanted to rush out and get new tires so much. I didn’t even need new tires.
If he said instead, “According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s 2014 report of highway fatality statistics, 1 in every 125 highway accidents was caused by balding tires. Of those 125 accidents, 23 caused at least 1 death”, that would not have nearly as much impact on me. (I made up those statistics in this paragraph – just making a point)
This illustrates perfectly that our stories, shared with a caring heart, trump outside data. When we teach out of our own pain or experience, our lessons become memorable. When our students feel the emotion attached to our illustrations (humor, fear, anticipation, sadness, etc.), they will be more even more likely to remember the illustration. This prolongs the impact of the lessons we teach.
Tonight’s lesson for Life Group is pretty simple. The curriculum wants students to discuss the importance of serving using a couple of examples in scripture that show Jesus serving.
I could teach this lesson with both hands tied behind my back… but that would be silly and odd.
I have 2 goals with tonight’s lesson:
1. I want the lesson to stick with them long after the night is over
2. I want students to actively engage with the lesson
I will meet both goal with one simple idea: I will pass my teaching notes out and have them take turns reading the verses and asking the questions. This is such a simple idea that many teachers would never consider because it makes them useless. I disagree. It shows they are wisely training students to be leaders while helping them catch the points of the lesson and making sure they are invested in the success of the group.
I rarely do this, but it’s one of many teaching styles I use to engage my students in learning God’s word and putting it into practice.
My Life Group students all graduated last year. This year I’m back to teaching Freshmen. This week we went to the park for our lesson. Afterward, they ran around the field pushing each other over and being very rough. All of it was in fun, but I’m so not used to that anymore. Kind of took me by surprise. I’m also finding that I need to learn how to teach to this age group again.
I love how each age has unique needs that require me as a leader to grow or relearn skills I haven’t used for a long time. It keeps me fresh and requires me to rethink strategies. As youth workers, we can become like old wine skins that can break with changes like this. I find myself reminding myself I need to be renewed, rather than expecting students to adjust to my “get off my lawn” stage of life and what I’m used to having with my seniors from last year.