What teachers need and want

by David Francis, posted Wednesday, May 14, 2008 (12 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Every Sunday School leader and worker can do a better job. Even though most of them would acknowledge that in reality, it is still difficult to get Sunday School teachers to attend training.

I'd like to make some suggestions that will help leaders of church education avoid pitfalls that cause workers to grimace when they hear "training session."

-- Practical vs. theoretical.

Most Sunday School workers want to do a better job. So try to cut through the theory and demonstrate practical "how to" examples. For instance, rather than harping on how important it is to make newcomers feel welcomed, show a preschool worker how to get down on one knee and greet a child at her level and say, "We're so glad you're here today. We have a lot of fun activities to help us learn about today's Bible story. Please come in and choose what you would like to do first."

-- Substance vs. announcements.

Ever been to a meeting that was billed as a training session, only to end up enduring an hour of announcements? I've not only been to those meetings, I must confess that I've conducted them. If leaders are going to give extra time to attend training, make sure it has some substance. At the very least, make sure everyone leaves with at least one new idea they can implement next weekend in their class. Recently, after conducting an event in West Texas, a young adult leader came up and said, "We're doing a pretty good job of making guests feel welcome. Greeters, nametags –- all that. But starting next Sunday, we're going to start making sure we have a member fill out the forms on new guests, as you suggested. That one idea was worth coming tonight." People will come back again if they know they'll get new ideas.

-- Planned vs. winged.

Ever been to a training session where you know the leader is winging it? Again, I've been to them and, regrettably, I've conducted them. If you are going to conduct a training session or take leaders to a training event, plan for it! Write out a plan. Make the room attractive. Get your presentation material ready well in advance. Put candy or snacks in the chairs. Know what you're going to say and practice it. That way, instead of running around at the last minute trying to get things ready, you can relax and interact with your workers as they come in.

-- Interaction vs. sittin' and soakin'.

Make your training sessions active. Get people into buzz groups to discuss a concept you've presented. Include ample time for questions in your planning. A temptation on the part of the leaders (yes, I am confessing again) is to try to cram too much into a training session "while I've got them there." Try to avoid that temptation and instead focus on a few key objectives and cover those thoroughly.

-- Coaching vs. scolding.

Ever felt scolded instead of motivated at a training session? "You leaders are not following up on guests" can become "Most of us could probably do a better job of follow-up with visitors, so today we're going to spend some time sharing some ideas for doing that better." That's coaching. Don't just talk about the concept. Model it. Role play. Have fun!

-- Stories vs. principles.

There are a lot of important principles Sunday School leaders need to understand. Those principles are best understood in the context of stories. Tell stories –- preferably ones that are true. Ideally, stories where your own leaders are the heroes! Principles educate; stories motivate. Stories are a good way to start and end every training session. Watch and listen for good ones. Log the stories when they happen and share them with your Sunday School leaders.

For more information about training Sunday School leaders, visit www.lifeway.com/sundayschool. In addition, the upcoming LifeWay Sunday School events are excellent training opportunities for church staff, Sunday School trainers and teachers: July 11-14 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina and July 21-25 at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico.

David Francis serves as director of Sunday school for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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