TEACHING TO CHANGE LIVES
Too often, we imagined that we�ve achieved our teaching aim when students listened, had a good time, and wanted to return next week. But the true test of success is the long term fruit of our messages. How can we teach messages that not only penetrate minds, but also touch hearts and change their lives?
Make sure your purpose statement includes application.
And as you prepare your lesson, keep going back to this purpose statement, asking, >"Are my illustrations merely illuminating truths? Or, do some go further and motivate them to live it out?" "When I sum up each point, do my students have a crystal clear idea of what their lives would look like if they applied this truth?" "Does my conclusion give them a way to concretely apply this message?" "Should one of my activities give them the opportunity to reflect on personal application?"
Some teachers break their purpose statement into:
KNOW: What do I want my students to know? (e.g., "I have a spiritual gift.")
FEEL: What do I want my students to feel? ("I want to get involved in using my gift!")
DO: What do I want my students to do? ("I�m signing up for a ministry and starting this week.")
Try applying "Know, Feel, Do" for a couple of lessons to see if it helps you better clarify your goals. You may want to do this permanently.
Make your applications specific.
Concluding with, "So, let�s be more loving this week" won�t do. Your students knew they should be more loving before they ever came to your meeting. And they have the uncanny ability to leave your message fired up to love the world, but on the way out of the building to snub that poorly dressed "loser", never imagining any connection with your message.
I like leaving a space for Action Points in my student handout. Toward the beginning of your message, mention the space for action points at the end of their outline. Say, "When a Scripture or illustration speaks to you, put a star beside it. At the end of the message, I�ll give you a moment to transfer these insights to your Action Points." Occasionally, you might ask a few to share their action points with the rest of the group. This would not only stimulate new applications, but shock the slackers into realizing that some peers really are taking this stuff seriously.
Make your applications relevant.
A good model: Luke 3:10-14. John the Baptist didn�t stop with a vague "Repent." I can hear a Pharisee thinking, "I did that 10 years ago at youth camp." Instead, he gives an application for each group.
For the well-off: "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none�." For Tax Collectors: "Don�t collect any more than you are required to." For Soldiers: "Don�t extort money and don�t accuse people falsely�be content with your pay." Now that�s specific! What do you think he would have said to your youth group?
Do you know the needs and temptations your youth face? Reflect on these as you prepare your message and write down specific action points.
Read surveys of youth.
You will find that cheating is a major problem. Many are lonely and very self conscious. Some are neglected at home. Know youth culture, and you can apply truth to where they are.
Do your own anonymous surveys.
Ask how many have personal quiet times. "What are your greatest temptations? Your greatest needs? Your greatest strengths?"
Hang out with youth.
Take some out for lunch. Have them over for volleyball or soccer. Find out their passions, what they do, how they get along with their teachers and parents.
The better you know your youth, the more specific you can make your applications. Imagine you�re concluding a message on "envy." "Band members, don�t envy that first chair player who seems to get all the breaks. Football players, don�t envy that first string player who got where he is because his father coaches." How could you apply your current message to specific members of your group?
Give an assignment that you can follow up on next week.
After a lesson on spiritual gifts: >"During this week, think about an area or two you would like to serve in. Next week, we�ll share our ideas."
Include "how to" information.
Your lesson convinces your students that they should forgive those who have wronged them. Yet some are thinking, "But how? I know I should forgive my father for forsaking our family. I can even say the words, �I forgive you.� But in my heart, I still hate him for what he did to me and mom. How, practically, can I get over this hurdle?" Until you answer her question, she leaves the session feeling more frustrated and guilty than when she came.
Use personal illustrations showing your excitement about applying the truth.
" I remember as a Freshman in high school hating this bully named Larry. Man! I hated guy. It was like my blood would boil when I got near him. But one day God convicted me that I needed to love Larry. What I did helped to set me free from the cycle of hate..."
Apply the truth to your own life before trying to teach it to others. As Howard Hendricks puts it, "�the more thoroughly I know the concept�the more deeply I feel it�and the more consistently I practice it�the greater my potential as a communicator." (Teaching to Change Lives, p. 100)
The apostle Paul could say, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me�put it into practice." (Phil. 4:9) Now we�re not perfect. James reminds us that "We all stumble in many ways." (Jms. 3:2) But we should be hot on the trail of becoming more like Christ.
When a teacher ends with, "Well, I suppose we all snub the lowly. And I�m as bad as anybody. Let�s just pray that God will help us to do better," I come away rather indifferent. I think, "If my teacher can�t deal with it, then my batting average on the subject is probably decent." It�s okay to admit weakness and failure. Your transparency helps students identify with you. But if you�re still living inconsistently with the truth you are teaching, let students know you are incensed with your own failure, are hot on the trail of a solution, and would appreciate their keeping you accountable to improve.