Transform the Hard Topics with Q and A Teaching

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Recently I was in my office prepping to teach a lesson on heaven and hell to our high school students.  I stewed over piles of material I had compiled and as the the clock drew closer and closer to our Sunday night planning meeting in which I would present my teaching plan. I still didn’t feel like I had my mind wrapped around how I should teach the lesson.

I sat in the meeting prepared to say “I have no idea what to do” but instead, for some reason, I said, “I really just want to drag a white board up front and ask them what question they have and try and see if I can answer them all.”  It felt kinda like a word vomit and I was pretty sure I would get shut down but to my surprise it was met by positive reaction from our team.

The rest of the week I spent time studying up on heaven, hell, and end times.  I spent a lot of time rereading N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” as well as several other resources.  On Sunday night I opened the floor for questions from the audience of high schoolers and I dove in trying to answer to the best of my knowledge and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As I answered questions more came in and a wonderful dialogue began to happen in the room as we talked through such a big topic.  This was such a great night for our ministry because it gave us a break from our usual teaching style as well as tackling a hard topic head on starting with THEIR questions not what I thought they wanted to know.    I think this can provide a great change of pace for many ministries if done well.  Here are a few reason I think ours went so well:

  1. We picked a specific topic that we knew they hard real questions about.  A broad topic will many times leave a crowd silent because they don’t even know where to begin; for example we tried this several weeks later with the Bible and crickets were our loudest participants.  The topic was too large for them to even begin asking question.
  2. Study well!  Ask around for some good reads on your topic and spend some time in each of them.  Also, know your denominational or church’s stand point on the topic (you don’t have to completely agree with it but at least know it).
  3. Say “I don’t know…” at least one time.  It’s huge for students to hear their minister say that they are really not sure about some things, it shows vulnerability and that it is ok to know understand it all because more than likely every teen in that room is unsure about some parts of their faith.

So next time you find yourself at a loss for how to teach on a certain topic stop racking your mind start studying up and just ask.

Image attribution: AlexLMX / Thinkstock

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Adam serves as the Minister to High School Students at Brentwood United Methodist in Brentwood TN. Adam has a degree in Biblical and Theological Studies from Lambuth University and a Masters in Youth Ministry from Memphis Theological through the Center for Youth Ministry Training. Adam and his wife Carlisle both serve in youth ministry in separate United Methodist Churches and spend most of their time ministering to teens and laughing at their bulldogs, Hurley and Patty. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamcjones.

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