Classrooms are idea driven yet sometimes ideas run dry. The greatest resource available to teachers is other teachers. Recently, in order to foster inspiration and energy in the classroom I invited all of our church’s student ministry teachers to a “Teacher’s Symposium.”

The purpose of the Teacher’s symposium was to equip, resource and encourage teachers through a part information part forum meeting.

A symposium is a gathering of people for discussion and debate. It usually contains a mix of presentation and discussion. The Greek word, sympinein, means “to drink together”!! This is a summary of the points I made and the discussion questions we used. All the discussion questions come from Creative Bible Teaching by Richards and Bredfeldt.

Feel free to copy, adapt and repeat the format we used.

“This morning we will have four mini symposia. The topics are:

  1. Our Sunday School
  2. Our Students
  3. Our Curriculum
  4. Our Teachers

I will present a short set of ideas and then you will use the discussion guides on your table to think through the topic.

Symposia #1: Our Sunday School

Vision for Sunday School: To build a Biblical foundation for the Christian Life through teaching a comprehensive Biblical Theology

Our Sunday School…

… Is Biblical. Our primary goal is to teach the Word of God, to know its storyline, to understand its meaning (through the themes it follows) and its impact on the life of the Christian.

… Is evangelistic. We equip students with the knowledge of the gospel and the ability to articulate it clearly to unbelievers.

… Is about the love and knowledge of God.

Discussion Questions

Many People believe that if you can get students to think rightly, they will act rightly. What is wrong with this viewpoint? Does correct thinking produce correct action?

Think of people who you know have learned much about the Bible but aren’t changed by it. How do you explain this?

Consider this statement: “The purpose of educational ministry from a Christian perspective is to bring the learner into a reconciled relationship with God through Jesus Christ and to enable the learner to order all of life and learning around that relationship.” What does this statement mean? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Symposia #2 Our Students

Our Students…

… Have a set of cultural worldview pressures unique to their time.

… Are Globally minded, adaptive, relational and mistrusting of exclusive truth claims.

… Are at particular developmental stages.

Discussion questions

What makes teaching the Bible to young people challenging?

Young people are at a particular developmental stage. How do you teach to take into this into  account?

Read some developmental characteristics of young people below. How might each characteristic make a difference to your teaching styles, methods and content?

  1. Physical developmental characteristics: Rapidly growing and changing. Have high energy (especially MS), are becoming sexually aware.
  2. Cognitive characteristics: Have increased reasoning abilities and developing abstract reasoning skills. Are beginning to think critically and to articulate arguments.
  3. Emotionally/Socially: Have risk taking spirits. Are concerned about appearance. Are developing an interest in the opposite sex. Seeking a sense of personal identity. Seek greater autonomy. Are subject to rapidly changing emotions.
  4. Spiritually: Re-evaluating and personalizing faith.

Think of a student you would like to see more motivated to learn. What strategies can you identify to help motivate your student?

Symposia #3 Our Curriculum

Curriculum is “the course or direction set by a teacher which the student is to progress educationally”

Our curriculum is…

… Based on a Biblical Theology. A Biblical Theology is a method of theology that deals with the historically conditioned, progressive self-revelation of God in the Bible. In contrast with Philosophical, Systematic, Dogmatic and Historical Theology

… Appropriate to the developmental stage of the youth it is written for.

… Not a set of lesson plans. The curriculum is an aid and a guide for lesson plans, but not supposed to be rigidly lectured from. Teaching requires: Engagement with your particular group of students and a creative lesson plan that effectively communicates the truth found in the text one is teaching.

Discussion questions

Did you understand the differences between different methods in theology? What do you think of how the curriculum we have uses this method? How is it beneficial? What does it lack?

Evaluate your curriculum by answering the following questions on the Curriculum Evaluation

The Curriculum…

Regards the Bible as objective, propositional Word of God

YES

NO

Regards the Bible as authoritative and inerrant

YES

NO

Emphasises biblical essentials: salvation, discipleship, service

YES

NO

Presents biblical facts in accurate manner

YES

NO

Develops central idea of the study passage and appropriately applies that idea to the learner’s life

YES

NO

Communicates biblical values and a Christian worldview

YES

NO

Promotes internalization and application of truth by the student

YES

NO

Aids individual growth toward maturity in Christ

YES

NO

Makes provision for student interaction and expression of life experiences

YES

NO

Encourages active student participation in discovering life response

YES

NO

Provides practical suggestions for life application in the contexts of home, work, school and neighborhood

YES

NO

Provides relevant connections to typical life experiences

YES

NO

Promotes open ended discussion around matters of concern appropriate to the truths being taught

YES

NO

Uses the Bible to produce change in the life of students

YES

NO

Contains lessons that teach one major transferable principle or truth that is clearly rooted in the passage under study

YES

NO

Meets the developmental needs and capabilities of the students

YES

NO

Demonstrates an understanding of the teaching/learning process appropriate to the age group

YES

NO

Provides sufficient aids for the teacher

YES

NO

Symposia #4 Our Teachers

Teachers are…

… Not mere information transmitters

… Taught/Teachable

… Have differing styles and methods (and so do learners)

Discussion questions

If you could make one change in your teaching to make it more effective, what would that be?

Consider this list of characteristics of great teachers. In what areas do you think you are strong and what areas do you think you are weak?

  1. Great Teachers Have Credibility – This means that the content you teach is reliable, you teach with pure motives, you portray a genuine warmth to people, you have a good reputation among teachers and students, you are passionate about and know your material well.
  2. Great Teachers Communicate Clearly – You have clarity of content, purpose, class structure and presentation.Great Teachers Stimulate Interest – You interest the students in the topic, involve them in the learning process and equip them to live the Christian life.
  3. Great Teachers Teach with Style – This means that you teach using vivid language, use your body to express yourself, maintain eye contact with your students, vary how you speak, utilize visual aids and teach without total dependence on your notes.
  4. Great Teachers Value and Respect Students – This means that you recognize students as those made in the image of God with dignity, getting to know their interests and considering their needs, valuing them enough to teach the truth directly to them with care and love.”
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