Before I continue with this observation I need to point out that I am not a teacher by trade only by calling. I have no formal training only a few thoughts on the subject. I claim no authority or expertise only opinion. Here on some ideas I have thought about concerning teaching as Jesus taught.
In more than one instance, Jesus taught by using more than one sense. In other words, he allowed more than one sense confirm his teaching. For example, in Matthew 14 we read about how the 5,000 people were fed after following Him to a desert place. In the following chapter, 4,000 were fed. Both instances people heard His word and ate. John 9 shares the account of the man blind from birth that was healed after Jesus told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This man heard Jesus and the felt the waters as he washed. The point I gathered from several instances such as these is effective teaching engages more than one sense. From personal experience I recognize I have a difficult time focusing. When the teacher only lectures I will zone out and think of other things. If I have to use more than one sense – such as hearing and seeing – it helps me focus. It is also not easy to come up with methods that involve more than one sense and this is a work in progress. When I prepare a lesson I ask, “How can I engage more than one sense? What other ways can I communicate this lesson?”
Closely related to the first example is the use of questions when teaching. I was told once that the person doing the talking is the person doing the learning. So asking thought provoking questions and allowing time for answers is a very Christ-like teaching attribute. A favorite example I like to quote is in Matthew 16:13-19. Jesus asks His disciples who people think He is. He then lets them answer and follows up asking them for their testimony of Him. There is a thin line between asking thought provoking questions and interrogating. It is a delicate balance that requires practice to enhance not distract a class discussion. When I prepare a lesson I ask, “How can I engage the class in an edifying discussion not a lecture?”
Any reader of the New Testament is familiar with the parables the Savior used to illustrate His messages. See Matthew 25 for examples. Personally, I typically understand stories rather than facts. A good story, whether parable or personal experience tends to draw me in and helps me focus. Whether or not I make the connection with the subject of the lesson is up to me. A good story can be understood on different levels depending on the students’ aptitude. A beautifully effective teaching method that again is delicate. It takes finesse to share a good story with a moral. I have witnessed a lot of misses with this one because its complexity is deceiving. A wrong story can derail a lesson and the whole point missed entirely. When I prepare a lesson I ask, “What is the main point I’m trying to communicate and do I have any simple stories to share that clearly illustrate the point?”
There are a lot more lessons to learn from studying Jesus as a teacher. He used many subtle and not so subtle techniques. In my effort to become an effective and useful gospel teacher and communicator I will begin with these three skills. If I get them down I will move on to the next three.
A question for all gospel teachers out there, what Christ-like attributes have you practiced in your lessons?