One of the scariest moments for a new Bible teacher might be the first time they get before a room full of peering eyes. Feeling all alone, doubts, insecurities, and all sorts of questions arise. — Will students like me? Am I good enough? Will I make a difference? What if I don’t know what to say or do?
Even veteran teachers can get some jitters before standing in front of a room full of people. Even they can get rattled by objectors, or antagonists. The unexpected can send a jolt of anxiety through them.
Imagine how the original disciples must have felt when Jesus ascended back to heaven. Jesus had been right by their side, instructing and guiding them each step of the way. Now they were on their own, going into uncharted territory, undoubtedly facing persecution, hardship, and many unknowns.
Not Alone. We Have an Advocate!
Prior to leaving, Jesus taught the disciples what they needed to know. He reminded them of the link between obeying His commands and loving Him (Jn. 14:21-24). Then He said, “All this I have spoken while still with you” (Jn. 14:25). Yes, He would be leaving them BUT …
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (Jn. 14:26)
(Click to enlarge image in Pinterest & repin.)
God wouldn’t leave them defenseless. The Holy Spirit would be their Advocate.
They would not be left alone. The Father would send the Holy Spirit who would not only be with them but also dwell in them (Jn. 14:17).
They would not be expected to figure things out on their own. The Spirit would instruct them and remind them of what Jesus had said.
The word for Advocate, parakletos, literally means called to one’s side. As such, the Spirit would come to their aid. Jesus undoubtedly used this word, also translated Helper, Counselor, Comforter, and Intercessor to reassure them. And so, He continued, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Jn. 14:27)
A Reliable Advocate
Jesus emphasized the reliability of the Holy Spirit to come alongside of them with the help they needed through two phrases He used:
1) whom the Father will send
2) in my name
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work in unity. The Holy Spirit would not be an entity out there on His own acting out His personal agenda. The Spirit’s authority and purpose would align with the work Jesus began. The disciples could count on the Holy Spirit to come alongside of them and help them fulfill the mission Jesus gave them to do.
Bible Teachers, Remember That You Have an Advocate
When we walk into a classroom, we aren’t alone. We aren’t defenseless. We have the presence and power of the Almighty God right there with us. Remembering God’s promise of His Spirit provides the confidence we need when we feel incompetent.
The Spirit helps us through those unexpected distractions, disturbing comments, or unanswered questions. Even if we get so flustered that we don’t know how to pray about it, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf in accordance with God’s will (Rom. 8:26-27). We don’t need to despair. God will work through these circumstances.
We too can rely on the Holy Spirit to help us accomplish His work through our teaching. In the next couple of posts we will look at two specific ways the Spirit helps us in our teaching.
If we walk through the pages of Scripture we’ll find a message of redemption from the beginning to the end. The following acrostic provides teachers with an easy way to remember the various sections of biblical content in a way that brings them together for a view of the big picture from Genesis to Revelation.
An Acrostic of the Big Picture of the Bible Showing a Message of Redemption
Starting in the beginning books of the Bible we see the need for redemption. As we continue to read, God’s plan unfolds and then becomes a reality. The message of redemption in Jesus Christ from the penalty of sin continues to be proclaimed until in the end we find deliverance even from the very presence of sin.
B – Beginnings (Genesis – Esther)
“In the beginning God created” the heaven and earth and its inhabitants. Created with a free will, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s one restriction, bringing sin into the world and breaking fellowship with a Holy God. In these books we see the beginning of the nation of Israel through whom the Messiah would come to save the world from sin. God also enacted the law which was impossible for them to keep, pointing to their need of a Savior. — Hence, these beginnings help establish our worldview.
I – Insights into Living (Job – Song of Solomon)
Pain, suffering, and hardship entered the world due to sin. God in His grace provided wisdom to navigate life’s circumstances, the good and the bad. — Hence, these insightful books provide perspective for living in a fallen world.
B – Broadcasting (Isaiah – Malachi)
Through the prophets God broadcasted the necessity of judgment for sin but also His plans for delivering that generation and the generations that followed which included the coming Messiah. — Hence, through these prophecies we gain hope in a Sovereign God we can trust to right the wrongs in this world.
L – Life Through Christ (Matthew – Jude)
The prophesied Messiah came and lived among us (Gospels), died for sin in our place and rose again so we can be saved by His grace and live as His Body, the Church, as a pillar of truth and light in this world. — Hence, through the Life of Christ, we learn how we can be saved by grace through faith with the power of sin broken in our lives and a relationship with God restored for now and eternity.
E – End Times (Revelation)
Christ will come again and right all the wrongs, once and for all saving us not only from the penalty of sin but also from the very presence of sin, death, and the enemy of our souls. — Hence, in light of God’s End Times plan, we find hope realized in a new heaven and earth where there will be no more pain, suffering, and tears because we live in the presence of the Almighty God for all eternity.
Perhaps you’ve worked through the validity of using games as a Bible teaching method. But, now you may be uncertain about whether the game you choose will work. That brings us to another frequently asked question about using games.
How can I keep the game from flopping?
Remember these five P’s:
Preparation – Make sure all the equipment and supplies are there and in working condition. Think through the logistics ahead of time to make sure the game is within the age level ability range of your students, will work with the number of students in your class, and in the space you have. Consider the noise volume in terms of consideration of other classes. Make sure think through all safety issues. If you think through conceivable problems in advance and how you can deal with them, you will be able to approach the activity with confidence. Uncertainty and fumbling on the part of the teacher can negatively affect how a game works.
Practice – While physically testing a game is best, at least mentally run through the game prior to class so you can better be aware of potential difficulties. In class you may want to do a trial run or demonstration for students, particularly if the game is a bit complicated or requires some sort of skill.
Presence – Be there to support students with help and encouragement as needed. Yet, do not so micromanage them that they’re hesitant to enjoy it. Bring your own excitement and enthusiasm into the game. Participate with them when appropriate or feasible to help build relationships with students.
Pace – Keep the game moving yet don’t rush it to the point of frustrating students. Idle students can derail a game’s effectiveness as a learning tool.
Pliancy – Be willing to restart a game if students seem to be floundering too much. Be willing to make some adjustments as you go but be careful of constantly changing rules as that could get too confusing. Also be willing to abandon the game if it seems to be irreparable. However, be cautious on how quickly you abort. Not everyone will always like certain games. That doesn’t mean they can’t still learn from them. Take students’ feedback but don’t base what you do on the complaint of one or two students if others seem to be enjoying it. Remember the purpose of the game isn’t merely to entertain but for learning.
You may see games listed as a Bible teaching method but have questions about the validity of using them.
Here are two questions you might ask.
Questions About the Validity of Using Games as a Bible Teaching Method
Isn’t the use of games in Bible classes just a time filler?
Yes, games can merely fill time and produce little eternal results. However, when used in Bible classes we should have a higher purpose. We should be making the best use of our time. We should carefully choose games that reinforce or set the stage for what is being learned. If we can’t explain the connection between the game and the lesson, we should question if it is the best use of the short time we have with our students. If done well, often students will have fun learning without even realizing it.
Does competition really have a place in Bible classes?
This question assumes all games have a competitive nature but they don’t. Games don’t always have to be structured with an emphasis on winners and losers. And, the ones that do entail competition, can usually be adjusted to tone it down. One way to do that is to eliminate prizes or figure out a way to reward everyone. You can also work it out so there isn’t just one winner. Perhaps you could have a team of winners. You can keep the focus on teamwork above individual prowess. If there is a level of competition, be prepared for what it may bring out in students and use it as a learning tool — how to treat one another, how to deal with conflict in a Christ-like manner, etc. Remember, it is the teacher’s responsibility not to let competitiveness get out of hand. Set some ground rules before beginning and stick to them. For more, read: Games Are Good As Long As . . .
While adapting is biblical based on passages like the one we’ve been looking at, it does bring some challenges.
Possible Problems Bible Teachers Need to Avoid as They Seek to Adapt
Sometimes we can begin with the right intentions but over time lose sight of the real purpose behind adapting. Classes then become little more than entertainment or worldly chatter.
Sometimes we can go too far, compromising the truth of God’s Word or losing Christ-like integrity in the process. We become like them instead of winning them to the Lord or establishing them in His Word.
How the Apostle Paul Avoided These Problems when Adapting to Those He Served
Having the right perspective and purpose behind adapting, as seen in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, certainly laid the foundation for avoiding the above mentioned problems. Here are two more takeaways from Paul’s example in being adaptable:
1) He knew where to draw the line. Notice he said “I” adapted, not the message or who God is.
I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9:22)
We don’t change God to make Him more palatable for our generation. We don’t make Jesus or God according to our liking. God is who He is as described in the Bible.
The truth, or message, did not change, just how it was presented. All Scripture is inspired and useful (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Who are we to pick and choose what is relevant and what can be disregarded?
2) He kept the focus where it belonged. Paul concluded these thoughts with, “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:23).
We do what we do for the advancement of the Gospel, not for our own sakes, and not even just for the sake of our students. There’s a bigger agenda to which God invites our participation. If we fall prey to compromising the message or losing Christ-like integrity in the process of adapting, we won’t see lives changed. We will be robbing the cross of its power (1 Cor. 1:17-18). However, when we see people come to know Jesus as their Savior, and grow in their relationship with Him, we’re experiencing the power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16) at work. That’s the real blessing in teaching.
Many situations call for Bible teachers to be adaptable. We already covered some in the post, Adaptable Bible Teacher. But, perhaps one of the more difficult situations to know how to adapt relates to people’s belief systems which is what we find in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 where Paul says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
Notice Paul’s willingness to adapt for “all” people — “everyone” — not just those he agreed with or was most comfortable with.
In the classroom we will find people at varying places in their belief systems as did Paul in his day. We need to determine where people stand in their walk with God and plan for ways to meet them where they are with the purpose of bringing them more fully into alignment with where God is and who they are in Him.
Particulars of Adapting Depend on Who You’re Teaching
The Apostle Paul narrowed it down to those with the law (primarily the Jews), those without the law, and the weak.
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law … To those not having the law I became like one not having the law … To the weak I became weak … (1 Cor. 9:20-22)
This Scripture passage doesn’t detail how Paul adapted to these different belief systems but we can find examples elsewhere.
Examples of adapting to those under the law:
Acts 21:23-26 – He participated in Jewish purification ceremonies though not necessary.
Acts 16:3 – He had Timothy, of Greek descent, circumcised according to Jewish law.
Example of adapting to those without the law:
Acts 17:19-34 – He reasoned with the philosophers, even going to their marketplace. He zeroed in on what he had observed about them as a platform from which to jump to what they needed to know about Christ. He referenced their poets.
Example of adapting to the weak:
Rom. 14:1; 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:7 – He was willing to forego some of his freedoms in Christ, in non-essential areas, so as not to become a stumbling block.
Belief Systems Bible Teachers Might Encounter Requiring Particular Ways of Adapting
Not many Bible teachers will have both Jewish and Gentile students in their classes but they may have those in their class who are staunch or rigid in their beliefs about non-essentials as well as those who are more open or eclectic in their beliefs. Some may be insecure in their convictions. Perhaps some will be legalistic or dogmatic. Other might be relativistic holding to little or no true biblical authority. And some may be doubtful or self-condemning.
Whatever the variable may be, adaptable Bible teachers will determine if there are ways they can accommodate, identify with, or be sensitive to where there students are. Teachers may be able to …
Accommodate by incorporating some of the ceremonies, liturgies, or ideas students prefer and then use it to take them to a deeper level, a fuller understanding, etc.
Identify with them by using relevant illustrations from their culture, beginning where they are and pulling them back to the truth of God’s Word.
Be sensitive by purposefully avoiding that which might cause them to stumble or doubt, patiently waiting for them to grow in their walk with the Lord and understanding of His Word.
All of this needs to be done without compromising truth or losing Christ-like integrity — the topic of the next post.
In addition to the perspectives needed to adapt provided in the last post, we also need the right purpose if we’re going to take a biblical approach to adapting in our ministries.
Reasons Bible Teachers Might Give for Adapting
We might think Bible teachers should be adaptable to keep up with the times in which we live. If we’re going to attract students to our classes we need to show them that we’re relevant and current, tolerant and accepting, innovative and creative.
We might reason that Bible teachers need to be adaptable in order to be good teachers. As they stretch themselves, sometimes beyond their comfort zones, in order to be flexible in their teaching, they could become more creative teachers and potentially have better lessons.
While the above mentioned reasons have some merit, a look at 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 takes us to a deeper purpose behind adapting. It’s about more than looking relevant. It’s about more than being a good teacher or teaching great lessons.
The Biblical Purpose Behind Adapting
The Apostle Paul gave these reasons for being adaptable:
I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Cor. 9:19)
I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9:22)
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Cor. 9:23)
Paul was willing to do almost anything, apart from sin, if it would lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. As an evangelist, Paul’s objective behind adapting related primarily to the saving of souls through the power of the Gospel. Elsewhere Paul said, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Cor. 10:32-33)
We too should adapt as needed to lead students who don’t know Jesus to accept Him as their Savior. But as Bible teachers our prime objective would be to see lives transformed into more fully devoted followers of Jesus. We should be willing to do what it takes, apart from sin, to not only “make disciples” in terms of salvation but also in “teaching them to obey everything” Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20).
When Bible teachers adapt to where their students are, they’re then able to take students to the next step in their spiritual journey. People can usually only understand one step beyond where they are. If we don’t reach people where they are we are likely going to try to take them to someplace they are not yet ready to go.
Though suggesting the need for Bible teachers to adapt, one of the qualities listed in the Be-Attitudes for Teachers, not everyone will find that easy. Whether because of personality or upbringing, some teachers will dig in their heels and push through their agendas regardless of the effect. Others may find it easy to adapt but for the wrong reasons … because they’re people-pleasers or because they don’t really have convictions themselves.
In the next several posts we will see from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 that there is a higher eternal purpose for being adaptable but we have to not only know how to adapt but in what. Foundational to a biblical approach to adaptability is having the right perspective.
Biblical Perspective Needed to Adapt in Ways That Count for Eternity
We find perspective in the first verse of the passage we’ll be breaking down to gain a better understanding:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Cor. 9:19)
1) Know your place in the Lord.
Paul made two assertions about His position in the Lord: 1) He was free. 2) He belonged to no one.
So it is with us. Jesus came to set us free … from sin, the law, and anything that would enslave our souls. — “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36) And, we do not belong to anyone but the Lord. — “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10)
As Bible teachers, we’re first and foremost accountable to the Lord. Only He deserves our full allegiance. And, only He can give us all we need and make our lives full and meaningful. We will not find our significance in teaching but rather in Him. When we look to Him as our Source, we aren’t dependent on the applause of our students or everything going our way to feel good about what we’re doing. Because we aren’t holding on tightly to anyone or anything other than the Lord, we can let go and adapt as needed.
2) Choose to let go of your rights.
Just because we’re free doesn’t mean we have to live for ourselves. Rather, if we truly want to live in the fullness of our position in Christ, we choose the way of love and looking out for the good of others. Elsewhere Paul wrote, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Gal. 5:14)
One of the rights Paul gave up included his right to be materially or financially rewarded for his service seen in the context of prior verses. He said, “But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12). In other situations He did take support but in this case he adapted, choosing to let go of His rights for the greater good, for the specific people He served. Notice the wording in Paul’s statement, “I have made myself a slave”.
What you or I need to let go of as Bible teachers for the good of others may vary. Be sure of this, however, that we will have to make choices as teachers that may cost in terms of our time, agenda, opinions and preferences, and maybe even finances should we adapt to better meet the needs of our students. Also be certain of the significance of willingly, and not begrudgingly, choosing to adapt. Those who willingly choose to let go of their rights tend to be more cheerful teachers, finding encouragement and purpose in what they’re doing. Those who do it out of obligation, because it’s expected of them, will tend to at least inwardly grumble and complain, finding themselves more easily discouraged and resenting what their teaching is taking out of them.
3) View your choice as a calling.
Paul said, “I have made myself a slave to everyone” which doesn’t at first glance sound too exciting. However when we know our place in the Lord, temporarily letting go of our rights doesn’t actually strip us of our freedom. Rather, it means we’re becoming more Christ-like. We are called for this purpose, to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. n your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Phil. 2:3-7)
… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:26-28)
When we have a biblical perspective about adapting, or letting go of our rights for the good of others, we’ll view it as more of a privilege. We will gladly adapt “to win as many as possible” … the purpose, which will be the topic of the next post.
When new teachers acquire the attitudes and perspectives about teaching used in the following acrostic, it tends to guide their skills in the right direction as they aim at what matters most. Keep this in mind as you recruit, train, encourage, and support new teachers.
Acrostic with Attitudes and Perspectives New Teachers Need to Guide the Use of Their Teaching Skills
T – Truth (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12)
Always remember that you’re teaching the inspired, infallible Word of God.
Aim for accurate representation of God’s Truth, keeping the Bible central.
This will provide focus, guiding you in the content you teach.
E – Engagement (Deut. 6:5-9; Acts 17:11; Phil. 4:9)
Always remember that students learn best when involved in the process — doing and talking, not merely listening.
Aim for active, not passive, students.
This will affect learning and retention, guiding you in the methods you use in teaching.
A – Accountability (James 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:15)
Always remember that you are ultimately account to God for how you teach His Word and treat students.
Aim at being faithful in all you do.
This will spur you on to adequately prepare and effectively present the lesson, guiding your level of commitment.
C – Cooperation & Collaboration (1 Cor. 3:6-11)
Always remember the rippling effects in teaching. You’re building on top of what others have imparted and they reap the benefits of what you have planted with God as the One who ultimately brings the growth.
Aim at leaving a long-term, positive impact for others to build upon.
This will give you a big picture perspective, guiding your goals in teaching.
H – Help (Jn. 14:26; 15:5; Matt. 28:19-20)
Always remember to ask for help, not just from your leaders but most importantly from the Lord who is with you always.
Aim at making prayer a vital part of your teaching.
This will remind you that it’s not about what you do but what He does, guiding your heart toward humility as you depend on the grace and power of God not your own abilities.
I – Investment (Matt. 28:18-20; Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:8)
Always remember that you teach people not merely a lesson.
Aim at investing not just your time but also your heart into your students.
This will help you approach teaching as discipleship not merely dispensing knowledge, guiding the kind of relationships you build with students.
N – Non-Negotiables vs Negotiables (Matt. 6:33; Eph. 5:15-17; Col. 3:1-2)
Always remember what’s most important in light of eternity.
Aim at setting goals for your own growth as well as that of your students and taking the steps to get there.
This will affect how you spend your time both in and out of the classroom, guiding you in maintaining the priorities needed to adequately prepare and present lessons.
Some questions teachers of early childhood classes have relate directly to developmental abilities like those looked at in the previous post:
How do you deal with the short attention spans of young children?
Will children in early childhood really retain what they learn?
Here we want to look at some questions about the role of the Bible in early childhood teaching.
Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching the Bible in Early Childhood Classes
How important is it to teach the Bible to this age when it’s content is so far beyond them?
If we’re going to lay a solid foundation at this age, it needs to be the right kind of foundation, one based on the Truth of God’s Word. Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. He said, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful … (2 Tim. 3:14-17) The question isn’t “if” we teach the Bible to this age group but “how” which ties into developmental abilities. For more about this, take some time to read:
How important is it to teach the Bible accurately to this age group?
2 Timothy 2:15 exhorts us to correctly handle the Word. It doesn’t include exemptions based on the age of those you’re teaching. Too often we’re tempted to embellish Bible stories to make them more palatable for young children. While it might seem to engender interest in the moment, as they grow, they must unlearn these added elements. This could even cause them to question parts that are true.