GD Teaching Advice

I was recently called to what will be my fourth tour of duty teaching Gospel Doctrine class.

After I left BYU, that seemed to be my set in stone calling. I held it in three different wards. And I love the calling; for my taste it’s the best one in the Church. I’ve taught literally hundreds of GD lessons. But it has been a long time since I was the full-time teacher.

I’ve thought a lot about GD pedagogy. I wish I could say I’ve got it all figured out, but I don’t. I experiment with different things, and some just kill, but others not so much.

So as I embark on this latest iteration, I thought I would take advantage of your collective wisdom and solicit your advice. What have your experiences been? What works, what doesn’t? As a student, what do you like and what drives you batty?

I don’t want to just go through the motions; i want to be the best teacher I can be. So give a brother a little help and share your thoughts with me.

Comments

  1. I hear you brother! I’ve been home from my mission ~7 years and about 3 of those years I have been the gospel doctrine teacher across two different wards. Not to mention the dozens of gospel doctrine classes I was asked to sub in on as a missionary. :)

    What I really enjoy is telling really cool faith promoting stories from throughout church history that are applicable. It seems like people really relate to stories and we always had some pretty lively discussions.

    There’s one thing you can say about our church: we have amazing stories to tell! :)

  2. Never been a gospel doctrine teacher; though I’ve subbed a couple of times. I like it when the teachers bring in the context for the text. I also like reading the actual text and seeing what it says instead of mining it for the digestible nugget. But I concede that this very well may not be what others want.

    Excellent timing with balance of this year and next year with the New Testament. If I were your bishop, I’d so have given you this calling.

  3. I’m enjoying reading Tom Wayment’s book “To Teach as Jesus Taught. 11 Attributes of a Master Teacher.” I’m enjoying it for it’s insights about Jesus, even though it is about teaching.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    J., I like those things, too, and on the theory of the Golden Rule I do tend to go in that direction.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Make it a real class — make it difficult with student demands, tests, and real achievement. In other words, teach a class, not Sunday School.

    Dunno if that would actually work or be a massive failure. But it would be totally interesting.

  6. I like it when the teacher uses the manual — NO, WAIT, HEAR ME OUT! — to the extent of using some portion of the designated scripture *and* some recognizable version of the stated purpose of the lesson.

    That’s what I want, no matter how how far afield the teacher goes to make the lesson interesting and relevant. I like to be able to read and think about the scripture beforehand, which I can’t do when a teacher goes his own way and you never know what to expect. I also like the lesson NOT to be about the teacher and how brilliant he is and how bored he is with the manual and how clever he is with coming up with his own topics and purposes.

  7. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Ditto what Ardis said on being at least semi-predictable enough to allow a prepared attendee the benefit of following along outside of class.

    Also, particularly for the NT and OT years, a few minutes of context setting really compounds the value of the time spent in the verses themselves. I guess that goes for all scripture, but we seem more familiar on average with the JS period and the historical arc of the BoM.

    I often use the canoe trip approach with my seminary class. I’m kind of in charge of where to put in and when to get out, and that there will be some roughly designated targets for a meal and a response to nature’s call. The value of the trip will largely be independently determined by each paddler though, and how engaged they are with the surroundings, how far they choose to observe, which bank they follow, ect. Make sure to stay close enough to bail them out if they swamp though.

  8. Natalie B. says:

    My current GD teachers are fantastic. Last week they had us all practice reading dramatically: We underlined words we thought were important and then stood up and read with feeling. I loved it.

  9. Brother Barney: From what I gather, your testimony may be a little different from others in your ward. Although I have a long ways to go in my gospel scholarship in comparison to you, I struggled a little bit the last time I was GD teacher being true to myself and saying what people wanted to hear from an RM. Do you understand what I’m saying? Granted I was in a young BYU ward, but my lesson in D+C on blacks and the priesthood was one of the worst church days of my life. I was just called to teach Sunday school to the youth in my new ward and I was wondering if you or anyone else could give tips on deflecting questions or answers you don’t agree with. How about just some advice on dealing with subjects that are troubling? I’m scared to death some kid is going to ask me my opinion about Prop. 8. I’m no Richard Bushman and can’t word things all fancy…I just want people to feel the spirit, not be turned off by me, and learn something new about the gospel. To be honest I love studying church history and the scriptures but my somewhat closeted unconventional outlook makes me want to skip being a teacher and hide behind a piano. Thanks in advance.

  10. Pedro A. Olavarria says:

    My advice:

    1)Keep it simple.
    2)Keep it applicable.

    But most importantly, ask Father what He thinks you’re class should be about, and prepare your class with you and The Spirit working together in teaching what Father wants His sons and daughters to know:)

    ps. I know that this might be misinterpreted by some as snarky or naive.

  11. gargle.

  12. Do what you do best, Kevin. People really do want to know the scriptures. And it’s a worthwhile enterprise.

  13. cantinflas says:

    I’m interested in the answer to #9. I’ve been the GD teacher every other week for just over a year now and find it to be a very rewarding calling.

  14. I love a Gospel Doctrine lesson where the teacher points to the actual words of the Prophet – Isaiah or whomever. I hate the likening as if we were so stupid not to be able to liken on our own through the prophet’s message. As if those messages aren’t universal. I also love a bit of history – what’s happening in the political world surrounding the covenant people etc. events for which the prophet is usually addressing. Why are the people worshiping Marduk, Assur, Baal? I wish I were in your class.

  15. My best GD lessons have all been the ones where I prepared the best questions. I think there are at least two answers to what the scriptures mean. First, what did the person who wrote them mean when he wrote them–what do the words mean, what is the context they were written in, etc. Second, with that first answer in mind, what do they mean to *me*? I think you are well qualified to discuss both of those meanings.

  16. Throw most of the above advice out.

    First, don’t keep it simple, keep it accurate. The scriptures actually convey specific meanings most of the time and often those conflict with “What I think this means is…”

    Second, don’t keep it applicable, keep it contextual. An example: What can we learn and use in our daily lives by Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo? Nothing. But we can understand that the defeat ended Napoleon’s career and gave Europe 50 years of peace beginning in the late 1790s.

    At a recent GD class, the instructor asked “So what thing can we do to replenish ourselves?” the room was silent. Then people started saying “read the scriptures” and “accept our callings” and “pray” and the instructor jokingly said “good answers. No need to write them down, we’ll go over them again next week.” Everyone chuckled.

    Unfortunately he was right though. How much learning can people do-in a class no less-if they just get fed the same simple mantras over and over again?

  17. Lauren Kay says:

    When you ask a question and no one raises one’s hand, don’t shrink under the silence. Hold your ground. Silence gets people’s attention and people will start to respond. A few lessons with this tactic in play, and class members will begin to participate heartily in the discussion.

  18. Giving advice to someone whose shoe latches I am unworthy to unloose is a strange thing. So I’m going to mention general ideas I’ve got about teaching GD (and a little therapeutic venting about it as well):

    1. Make it interesting, and don’t worry about getting through the material. We’ll have the same lesson every four years until we die, leave or the curriculum changes again. Anything that’s left over can be studied on our own time, and we’re more apt to do that if we found something interesting in the lesson to make it worth looking back at.

    2. Never ask if we read the lesson. Teach with the assumption we did, and we’re more likely to next time.

    3. If somebody makes a comment that you strongly disagree with, don’t just shout them down and go on and on about why they’re wrong and you’re right without giving them a fair chance to explain what they were saying and otherwise respond to what you’re saying. Make GD a room that has room for more than one opinion.

    4. Help expand your classes mental horizons and understandings so they will be as ready to deal with difficult points of doctrine or history as the supposedly fragile new members are.

  19. namakemono says:

    How about a chance for those of us not so well versed in the scriptures to be able to ask questions about what is going on? The GD teachers we have at the moment just tend to plow ahead with what they have prepared and don`t seem to notice that some of us are totally lost!

  20. My advice isn’t about teaching skills or techniques (since I think any suggestions I may have made have already been covered!) but rather about some of the “administrative” aspects of teaching Gospel Doctrine. I’ve seen otherwise wonderfully prepared, deeply spiritual classes marred by a lack of attention to simple administrative things. (Wow, I just realized this is sounding so much more serious than I meant it to!)

    1. Start on time! Sunday School officially starts at 20 minutes after the hour. (Of course, if Sacrament Meeting goes over, you might have to adjust your start time.)
    2. End on time! Sunday School officially ends at five minutes past the hour. (This seems to be the best-kept secret in Mormondom!)
    3. Don’t create awkward, time-wasting moments asking for prayer volunteers! (Really, pretty much everyone in the room is willing to say the prayer – so just ask someone to say it! If you’re afraid of embarrassing someone, just quietly ask people before class starts.)
    4. Don’t let the same three or four people volunteer to read all the scripture verses/handouts/quotes/etc. (If you notice that only the same few people raise their hands to volunteer for reading, start assigning people so that more people can participate.)

  21. For the record, I think there are a lot of personal lessons to be learned from Waterloo (1815 btw). Abba can’t be entirely wrong, can they?

  22. Help me acquire a spatial and temporal sensibility about the scriptures.

    –Show me maps frequently, possibly every week. Remind me of where things are relative to each other. In some cases, indicate distances quantitatively.

    –Remind me of the time frequently, possibly every week. In what calendar year do the events take place? How long after key events was that? Which trip is this?

    –Point out climate and topographical features such as temperature, relative humidity, elevation, aridity, type and degree of foliage, type and degree of hilliness. As possible, note the time of year and likely ambient temperatures. When there is travel, note features likely to strike the travelers upon arrival.

    I think spending a few extra seconds weekly helping me understand the physical environment of the scriptures could enhance my daily private study. It also might help the class by providing some visual and tactile components.

  23. -Provide context for scriptures read
    -Spend the bulk of the lesson actually in the scriptures
    -Create an environment that allows for divergent opinions and respectful debate
    -Do what you can to de-prooftext the manual
    -Throw out all of those horrible leading questions from the manual and ask questions that require some thought

    and most importantly…

    -Post your outlines here!

  24. You are teaching people, not lessons.

  25. I am a long term youth sunday school teacher (currently on my 5th time) but I did get to teach the adult class one year. I found that bringing in cookies occasionally like I do for the teens works really well for adults because they don’t expect it anymore.

    FWIW, this is the same reason I still put a crisp one dollar bill in my parents birthday cards even though they are in their late 60′s.

  26. liamorean says:

    I’m not sure I can fully convey what it is I mean to say here, but I sometimes wish GD lessons (this goes for EQ as well) could be more about good questions than good answers. It often seems the entire class is so focused on giving the “right” answer, that opportunities for really good questions from both teacher and students are missed. I just don’t see much merit in always asking questions we all already know the answer to and then competing over who can answer best. I like it when someone, especially the teacher, asks a question about something they don’t know themselves.

  27. One dollar? Really?

  28. - I wish I could recall who said something like this in conference: Your job is to help the students learn themselves, not teach them. They learn most when they read in advance and think about, then share, their thoughts. In my view, the best GD classes are mostly — one Institute teacher told me they’d been instructed to strive for 90% — comments from the class rather than the teacher.

    - Yest, to have students’ comments be really meaningful, they have to read in advance (and not just rely on reading the same passage when they were in seminary or at BYU, at some other stage of life). But unless you teach in a way that demands and reward (or at least presupposes) preparation, most students simply won’t prepare.

    - Comments need to come from everyone, not just those who raise their hands. The best way to stratch beyond volunteers is to ask particular people in advance to think and about and be prepared to comment on a passage or concept. Call them up and ask! In fact, you could have enough “rare or never” participaters prepared that there’s not time for the the frequent volunteers to speak up — usually a good thing.

    - Like all Sunday School teachers, your calling is to teach all the members of the class, not just those who normally attend. The use of advance assignments is key to increasing attendance by those you don’t usually see.

  29. I love teaching GD but have struggled to be an interested class member at times… I’ve found that it really helps if your SS president is on the ball, can stand up and conduct the welcome, have already asked people to pray–sets a nice tone for the class. One thing that’s tricky with our current teacher is he calls out a half-dozen scriptures to look up at once, assigning them all over the room and the quad, and it’s hard to follow or know where to turn.

    By the way re #20, it’s not advisable to call on people to pray, since there may be worthiness issues you’re unaware of, so that’s why it’s preferable to ask for volunteers or ask privately in advance (I’m in the RS presidency and this has been a recent issue there).

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    Wow, lots of great ideas and advice! This is very helplful; thank you all. A few quick reactions:

    1. I generally follow the reading schedule. I always read the manual lesson in advance and use what I can, but frankly I don’t use much of it. The typical manual style is too catechistic in my view. For me the scriptures themselves are the “manual.”

    2. Dramatic reading idea–interesting!

    3. I encourage people to comment or ask a question at any time. But while I value class participation, I have a personal policy never to put anyone on the spot. This isn’t law school and I’m not Professor Kingsfield. I’ve known too many people who for whatever reason are deathly afraid of being called on and will sit in the foyer if that is a risk. I want everyone to feel safe in my classroom, even those who weren’t raised Mormon and don’t feel comfortable speaking publicly. Thoughts?

    4. I agree that a push to “get through the lesson” is a bad rookie mistake. Trying to do that will drive you insane.

    5. Good reminders about the “administrative aspects.”

    6. Yeah, I too am pretty big on maps. As I said above, I think it’s critical to establish context.

    7. Occasional cookies–good idea! I remember bringing sugar wafers once to represent manna, and another time I brought olives when that was relevant to the lesson.

    8. I like asking genuine thought questions, not leading, catechistic ones. And I’ll ask questions I don’t personally know the answer to. I trust the class in that regard.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 9 Laura, I blogged once on my experience teaching youth:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/04/03/teaching-our-youth/

    For me that was very difficult, and much more challenging than teaching adults.

    I would have been happy if the kids had asked me difficult questions. My particular problem was that they were completely unengaged, and I was having a devil of a time generating any interest in them about anything at all.

    But my one basic piece of advice to you is to be genuine and true to yourself. Kids can smell insincereity a mile away. Challenging, I know, but I don’t think there’s really another option.

  32. Advice? You’ve gotten most of what I would give. But FWIW:

    1. Teach the scriptures, not the manual (my old seminary supervisor regularly taught us, “We teach the scriptures; we do not teach about the scriptures.”)

    2. Ask questions

    3. Except for a little background setting (esp. important in OT), very little lecturing

    #9 — I was an awful smartaleck when I was 14. I was just thinking the other day about how bad I felt about trying to find ways to embarrass my SS teacher when I was that age (perhaps because I have a son that age who, I fear, is doing the same thing to his teacher). My response: love your class. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll talk to some people and get back to you.” But seriously, love your class. Get to know them. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of class having them tell you about their week or what’s going on or the best thing they heard in sacrament meeting or something. When they know you love them, at least some of them are likely to be kinder.

    In the case of a youth sunday school class more than anywhere else, I’d say those kids are more important than whatever planned material you have for the day.

  33. Kevin:

    I mostly take the approach of Ardis (#6). I concentrate on small quotations from the manual, and then try to develop them. Also, I encourage as much discussion from others. I try to avoid the “sage on the stage” mentality. When it comes to religion (especially the Mormon religion), I try to respect alternate views. Our religion has much more diversity than others recognize. The fundamentals are not up for debate, but there are not that many fundamentals.

  34. One of the challenges is trying to get lessons that are created separate from one another to tie in together. What is the key link this week to last/next week’s lesson?

    Putting the lesson in context with the times is also important. We focus so much on how things apply to us today, that we ignore how the ancient Hebrews and Christians viewed what they wrote.

    Challenge them a little bit. Don’t need to have discussions on evolution or the curse of Cain, but you can stretch their minds by helping them see and discuss things on a deeper level. A GD lesson on tithing does not mean telling them it is one out of ten pennies. It does mean asking them how it applies to the atonement of Christ, or to the law of consecration.

    And do you want to trade your calling for my new one as high counselor? :-)

  35. The thing that drives me nuts more than anything else is when a teacher asks a question like, “What sort of threats are there to our way of life?”. Cue five minutes of class participants ranting about a political party, or gay marriage, or the United Nations. People then walk away from the class satisfied in the knowledge that their worldview has been affirmed.

    Rather, I prefer questions that make people examine themselves and consider what they can do differently to be better, more Christlike people.

    In a recent GD class, we discussed the opening chapters of Isaiah, and the passage about “woe to them that call good, evil, and evil, good” started one of these “the world is going to hell” binges. I raised my hand and pointed out that Isaiah wasn’t speaking to a righteous Israel that was surrounded by wickedness—he was condemning the people of Israel for their injustice, abuse of the poor and widows, and refusal to follow God’s commandments. Can we look inward and examine ourselves in that same way?

    Knowing you as I do, Kevin, I don’t think you’ll fall for the “us vs. the world” trap, though. :^)

  36. I love the comments about teaching the scriptures. I hate going to GD class and the teacher never opens the scriptures at all. seriously it happens. When I have occasion to teach, we read a lot out of the scriptures and talk about the verses themselves. I also like history a lot, so I approach the scriptures form that direction and try to convey the overall story arc of what we are covering.

    As for teaching kids, When I taught primary I always spent a minimum of 10 minutes talking to the kids about their week or whatever they had on their mind before starting the lesson. This gave me a chance to see what was on their minds and gave them an opportunity to express themselves which tempered the desire for ourbursts later on.

    teaching teenagers can be scary, humbling and instructive all at the same time. teenagers and especially preteens can be brutally honest. The first time I was critiqued in my teaching by a bunch of 10 yr olds was a rough day for me, but I decided I wasn’t the great teacher I thought I was and took some of their criticisms to heart and changed my teaching style the best I could. Those kids are all 18 year olds now, but we have a great bond from when I taught them as 10 yr olds.

  37. I’m stashing away all these comments and nuggets for my personal use.

    The other thing I’d tell you is that, for better or worse, many students will make the requisite effort based on what they perceive is the effort you’re making. If you’re a gifted instructor by nature, you’ll be a pleasant change from the status quo teacher, but after a while the effect will be numbing. So, it remains for you to show your continued investment in the class and in helping them have a spiritual experience in the scriptures.

    Going the extra mile any way you can (emails to class members throughout the week, cookies, handouts, etc.) will show your investment and will help the class reciprocate by preparing diligently as the Sunday School curriculum and mission is designed.

    Also, it’s worth refreshing yourself on what the Handbook has to say about Sunday School (you’re entitled to a copy of that section of the manual) as well as the Gospel Teaching & Leadership section. It’s always worth staying grounded in the purpose of Sunday School and gospel instruction in wards.

    Best of luck!

  38. No advice here, just jealousy. I would actually go to SS if you were my teacher, Kevin. Best wishes as you transition to this new calling.

  39. Julie M. Smith says:

    I think my better lessons involve:

    1. One short pericope–no more.

    2. Necessary background, but not background just because I think it is interesting. I cut anything that doesn’t materially impact interpretation.

    3. Innovative questions. These usually:
    a. involve comparing a passage to another passage that has the same theme, language, symbols, etc.
    b. involve trying to determine the relationship of this verse to the one before it (sounds lame, but you’d be surprised . . .)
    c. do not avoid tough questions, such as how a certain verses fits with another verse that seems to say the opposite, etc.
    d. do not involve pre-set, definite, singular answers
    e. explore symbolism
    f. consider real-life application

  40. Jim Donaldson says:

    For what it is worth:

    I always read through the manual to see what the correlation committee wants to be emphasized, and usually at least make some mention of that. After all, regardless what I think, I am on “the church’s nickel” as well as the Lord’s, and like a faithful employee, I need to do what the boss says at least to some degree.

    After that, the manual becomes the scriptural text and I pay no more attention to the manual. I usually pick one portion of the assigned text to build something more comprehensive than a drive-by mention—to provide some depth or understanding of a particular story, and some basis on which to have a more serious discussion. I think that members need this and most want it. Then I ignore the rest of the text—better one think understood, that a whole bunch of things, however worthy, just mentioned superficially.

    I teach the scriptures all as stories. I believe the Lord gave us 10,000 narratives, not 30,000 (or however many) verses. The individual narratives need to be taught as complete stories, with their own context and view point. I think the way the church (by way of its manuals, at all levels) treat individual verses as proof-texting lego blocks (one verse from here, one from there) defeats real understanding and I refuse to do it. I rarely leave the page the selected text is from.

    I ask many questions, but never ask leading questions, and try very hard to avoid asking what I call “questions too stupid to answer” where everybody in the room knows the answer and looks around at each other to see who is going to put the teacher out of his misery by answering. I also try to avoid the guess-what-I’m-thinking kinds of questions, also. Thinking of good questions, with a logical progression, that will eventually teach a lesson, is the hardest part of the job.

    My own peculiar quirk when teaching is that I do all the out loud scripture reading. That way I can emphasize the words I think should be emphasized, interrupt myself without being rude to comment or ask a question, and not make sure everybody can hear.

    Good luck. Have some fun with it. Chances to do this come infrequently.

  41. I had a professor in college who taught “Great Books Colloquium”. We were a class of about 20 students, our chairs were placed in a circle. The one rule was that to comment, you had to have read the material, and if you were referring to the material it was always best to start with an excerpt.
    He would often, but not always, start the class with 5-10 minutes of background on the material, but never give any personal opinions, then he would ask one thought provoking question and fall silent. The only times he would speak up would be if asked a direct question, or if we got completely off topic.
    The class lasted two hours twice a week. It was by far the best class I ever had in college, I learned not just about the great philosophers and writers, but more importantly how they differed from each other and how they interrelated.

    I have no idea if this approach would work in sunday school. For one it relies on a need for everyone to have read the assignment. But I have always wondered and hope some day to be able to try.

  42. As for teaching youth – I find the phrase “I don’t know” when used honestly goes a long way. The kids rarely hear an adult admit that.

  43. teach the class you would want to attend.

  44. I’ve taught a lot of youth Sunday School over the years. I enjoy it more than anything else in the church.

    70% of the Bible is stories. So tell the story.

    Why are the Pauline epistles or 2nd Nephi so difficult to get through? No plot, no story. Church History/Doctrine and Covenants only gets interesting if there’s some kind of story behind the lesson.

    I always thought that my only job in Sunday School was to make sure that when the kids got home, they should have a solid answer to the question “So, what did you learn about in Church today?” We’re also told that the primary point of Church meetings is to help us teach the Gospel in our homes. So, how about making sure that we tell enough of a story during the lesson that parents can tell the story to their children over Sunday dinner?

    I was talking with one of the teenagers in my old ward a couple of weeks ago – he still remembers, vividly, some of the stories I shared in Sunday School about three years ago. I doubt that he’ll ever forget them. Best of all, he told me how he’s related them to friends at school, and even girls he’s gone out with.

    So, make sure there’s a story in the lesson. Quote the manual, parse the verses, and the eternal “Pray, pay, obey” lines, but if there’s a story there, cover it well enough that people can go home and tell it to somebody else.

  45. I like avoiding prooftexting in order to really get a feel for a text.
    And then let people talk through their encounter with the text.

  46. My favorite GD teacher ever always emailed questions to the class the week before and that let them focus their reading of the scriptures. Then during the lesson, the class knew what to expect of the discussion and it went swimmingly.

  47. the best GD class I ever taught was when I read through the lesson, then picked out a few scripture blocks specifically related to it, read those as a class, and called it a day.
    I skipped the questions the manual offers, and we simply digested the scriptures as they are. That way we can bypass the usual answers, and really see what the original authors were trying to say.

  48. The best advice on teaching I have ever been given was by my second mission companion: be yourself. Don’t try to copy other teachers, and don’t try to be other teachers. I would be surprised if there are people in your ward, Kevin, who don’t know that you are a Mormon academic, in addition to being a lawyer. So don’t try to hide it. Not saying you need to go all out and throw every little nugget of academia at them, but still – be you.

    Also, my experience with teaching Gospel classes has taught me to not be afraid to use the scriptures. When my wife and I were teaching the 10-11-year-olds class in Primary, we would use the manual to inspire questions, but most of what we did was just read and discuss the pertinent scriptures, even when they touched on some kind of out-there concepts. Teaching about plural wives, exaggeration, fat guys getting gutted while on their chairs, and lying-because-God-said-so were all ways that we were able to catch their attention. I contrast this to the GD lesson we just had on Hosea and Amos, and our teacher tried to gloss over the whole “marry a harlot” thing, as well as the whole “I curse you so that your kids are gonna die, your wife will be a whore, and, oh, your country will be destroyed” part. Fortunately, the class picked up on those parts, anyway.

  49. StillConfused says:

    My thoughts:
    1. Don’t just read the scriptures in class.
    2. Control the blowhards that always have to share their thoughts (seems like every class has them).
    3. Throw in a little controversy every now and again just to make sure the people are paying attention.
    4. Avoid questions with the lame primary answers (like “pray”)
    5. Never underestimate the power of a snack (Chick-Fil-A has cheerios in a sacrament cup — how cool is that).

  50. I teach Sunday School to 17-18 year olds. There are good weeks and not-so-good weeks, but I love the calling and I hope I get to do it again next year. I’ve loved reading all the suggestions in the comments here, there are a lot of great ideas I’m going to consider.

    Here are some things I regularly do:

    (1) I usually spend a few minutes at the beginning just asking them about school, life, sports, family, etc.
    (2) When possible, I tell them what this lesson would be rated if it were made into a movie. I emphasize the sex and violence when appropriate (these are teenagers and they love finding out that this stuff is in the scriptures).
    (3) My general philosophy is “whatever gets them interested in the scriptures is worth it.” I don’t shy away from the meat. They are tired of hearing the same lessons year after year. For example, instead of asking them what lessons Jonah learned while in the belly of the fish, I asked them if it was possible for a man to survive in the belly of a fish. A very good discussion ensued. They eat that stuff up, just like you and I do.
    (4) I always emphasize an overarching lesson that I’ve decided will be the theme for the entire year. For the Old Testament it is “keep your covenants.” It ties all the lessons together and helps them remember at least that one thing, even if they don’t get anything else out of it.
    (5) I don’t ask or expect them to read or prepare before class. I didn’t do it as a teenager, and it is a battle I’m not going to win. I prepare with that in mind.
    (6) Have at least one moment (usually near the end) where you really try to bring the spirit into the room. It is quite amazing, but this can easily be done just by changing the way you speak. Pause, speak softly, make it a bit awkward so they are paying attention, look them in the eyes, drive home the message, pause again, then close in the name of Jesus Christ. It always works.

  51. Would go to any class that you taught, Kevin.

  52. RE #32: What is the difference between “teach the scriptues” and “teach about the scriptures”? Did your seminary supervisor give his opinion on that?

  53. RE #47: On the course Manual: One of the GAs said that the church leaders worked with the authors of the Course Manuals to make sure that the lessons were conveying the gospel concepts that the GAs wanted to be emphasized in the lessons. I would suggest looking carefully at the manual, to see what concepts in the scriptures are to be emphasized.

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