George Katzman is a lifetime friend of mine who serves in Crestview, Florida. He’s a native of Florien, Louisiana (home of the Black Cats)
He is a fellow Louisiana College alum and also graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is an exceptionally wise article.
George Katzman stands in front of Florida’s only 24 hour open air used bookstore. It operates on the honor system.
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The Timeless Truths of Sunday School Teaching
Written by George Katzman
For 35 years I have been privileged to teach Sunday School, discipleship classes, and other Bible studies. Here are some things I have learned teaching God’s Word.
The Holy Spirit is the real teacher. John 14:26 says that He came to teach us all things. It can be tempting to spend most of your preparation time on one point or illustration while neglecting the rest of the lesson. Yet on Sunday you may find your class wanting to focus on a different point We have to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, and that means knowing the whole lesson.
We teach people what God’s Word says. That sounds obvious, but how many times have you told someone, “I teach the Bible.” We know what that means, but at the heart of the matter we are teaching people what the Bible says. Second Timothy 2:1-2 says we are to pass on what we have learned to reliable men who will then pass it on to others. We must never forget as we study our lessons that it is people we are teaching.
A teacher can’t lead somewhere he is not going. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica that they should follow his example. Teachers must set the example in study, prayer, evangelism, and personal godliness. It will be hard for you to teach about evangelism when you’re not witnessing. Nor can you speak with enthusiasm about prayer and Bible study when you don’t spend time alone with God. Invest in your personal spiritual refreshment and renewal. Learn new teaching methods and skills by attending conferences or following the mentorship of a more experienced teacher. A stagnant Sunday School teacher is an ineffective one.
Teachers must remain conservative in doctrine, but become liberal in method. If we reverse these concepts, not only will we be wrong, we will be boring and wrong. The New Testament epistles are filled with warnings about false teaching. So we teach the truths of God’s Word and not those created by men, but we adopt creative ways to make learning fun and interesting. Rearrange the room, use different styles and illustrations, choose different people to read the Scriptures aloud, and hear personal testimonies related to your lessons. Such methods require more work, but it’s worth it.
Teaching takes place wherever learning takes place. True learning may happen days after you teach a lesson, when a learner experiences a situation in which scriptural truth means more to them. For instance, you may teach on forgiveness, and then a week later one of your learners tells you about someone who has done them wrong. At that point they will better understand your practical application of forgiveness. Jesus used every opportunity to teach, whether through parables, object lessons, or on-the-job. A good teacher still recognizes this today.
Teaching is helping learners move Bible truths from the head to the heart. The good teacher not only communicates facts but also what Christians should to do with them. Ezekiel tells us God wants to take hearts of stone and turn them into hearts of flesh. This is teaching for life transformation. Teachers can make the Bible come alive for their learners, in such a way that they can picture themselves in the crowd or as one of the disciples. Help them imagine the sights and sounds of the events and locations of Bible stories. Reinforce your lesson passages as events that happened to real people in real places so they will understand how truths are still relevant today.
Teachers prepare learners to become servants. It’s our job to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to encourage their growth and development of their gifts and talents, and to help them to get plugged in to ministry. This is one of the greatest things you as a teacher can do, even if learners leave your class to serve elsewhere.
A teacher instructs from the overflow of the heart. In Acts 4, Peter and John testified to what they saw and heard about Jesus – and so should we. As we study our Bible and pray, God speaks to us His truth and reveals His will. These encounters with God bring excitement you will want to share with your class.
George Katzman is Minister of Education at Woodlawn Baptist Church, Crestview, Florida.