Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Teach the Bible Better Pt. 1 – The Teaching Team

I thought it might be fun to do a series of blogs on teaching the Bible, specifically how to teach it better.  I want to say from the outset that I am not writing this series of posts because I am some qualified expert at teaching the Bible but as one who has really been wrestling with this issue myself quite a bit in these last two years of being a pastor who teaches from the Bible on a weekly basis.  So, I will share some things that I have learned, some things that I am striving for, and some of the issues that seem the hardest to deal with when preaching / teaching each week. 

Today, I would like to toss out something that I have found to be very helpful in teaching from week to week—the teaching team.  During my first year as the pastor of Northshore Vineyard Church my messages were, for the most part, topical in nature and crafted alone.  The biggest challenge to me during the first year teaching/preaching at Northshore Vineyard was that my process of studying and putting together the weekend messages was carried out in so much isolation.  This was very difficult since I am such an outward processor who creates and learns from bouncing ideas off of others. 

In January of this year I decided to try something different.  I put together a teaching team made up of some of our core team members who had been very involved in planting this church (currently our team is made up of six people including myself).  We were getting ready to kick off a series on the book of Philippians so I bought commentaries on Philippians for all of the teaching team members and we began meeting one morning a week for a discussion around breakfast.  During a typical teaching team meeting everyone gives me feedback on the message from the previous weekend (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and then we have a discussion about the text for the coming weekend as well as any creative ideas on how to present the message.  We are now coming up on about a year of doing the teaching team and I have to say that this has been one of the most helpful ways to not only come up with teachings but to also get perspective on how I am communicating as well.   

Below I want to summarize what I see as some of the benefits to this approach.
1.     Feedback - I have encountered many folks in ministry who are not very effective communicators.  I believe that much of this is due to the fact that they don’t get regular honest feedback on how they are doing.  This is one aspect I really love about our teaching team.  We have such a diverse group of people on the team from various religious backgrounds, with very different personalities and giftings that provide me with a real good picture of how I am communicating and coming across on a weekly basis.   For instance, two of the members of our team grew up nominal Catholics who came to faith in Jesus only in the last 10 years as adults.  They both have a real heart for the unchurched or dechurched people that visit Northshore Vineyard each week.  If I communicate things in a way that only a seasoned Christian would understand they have no problem calling me on it.  I really appreciate this because as someone in ministry who reads a whole lot of theology booksI could easily find myself teaching in a way that alienates those who are just checking things out or who have no background in Christianity.  Some of our teaching team discussions become quite lively when discussing these aspects but I am a much better communicator as a result.
2.     Processing scripture together – If we truly long for folks in church to interact with others as they read the Bible it would make sense to interact with others as we pastors wrestle with the scriptures ourselves.  I love hearing how different people on our team process scriptures and what stands out to them.  It helps give me a more broad view of the different ways that people connect with the Bible outside of my own perspective on things.
3.     Equipping others – I would like to think that this team approach is equipping other team members to be good teachers of the word as well.  It is my hope that members of this team will one day be a regular part of delivering the weekend teachings and not just in emergency situations when I can’t make it but rather because we have been proactive in valuing team ministry.  I think this is ultimately better for the church for a variety of reasons.  First it fights against personality driven teaching.  Secondly it puts into practice the idea that kingdom ministry is about equipping and releasing others.  Finally it is healthy for the body as it brings diverse expressions and giftings to the role of teaching outside of the senior pastor’s giftings and personality. 

Summary: The way or process that gives rise to the weekend messages is every bit as important as the message itself.  I believe it does those of us in ministry well to wrestle with how we can incorporate central values such as community and equipping others for ministry into the very process of studying the Bible for teaching. 

Speaking of feedback, I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • How have you benefited from a team approach to ministry?
  • How have you grown by getting feedback from other trusted friends?
  • How have you found getting the perspectives of others helpful in the way you communicate?


brian jeansonne said...

Some of the most powerful things that I have learned have come from dialogues about books and scriptural texts with others who have been reading/wrestling with the same things.

I love the idea of a teaching team to dialogue with and study with when it comes to message prep. I have not tried it at this level yet, however, I am quickly working towards it.

Penny Murray said...

As the newbie teaching team member, I've benefited so much just from getting to know the members of the team. I love hearing everyone tell their stories and how they relate to the passages we discuss each week. There has been such transparency and honesty, that I very quickly have come to feel I knew each person well and value each relationship. Everyone shows up to the table with a unique perspective that sheds light on the scriptures in exciting ways.