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This weekend, I had the chance to hang out at The Middle School Ministry Campference and teach a couple of seminars! Here are my notes (as promised) from the session I co-led with my favorite husband Kenny, Building a Better Teaching Strategy for Middle Schoolers. 

BUILDING A BETTER TEACHING STRATEGY

If you want to be effective in teaching students, you need more than just good sermons or solid curriculum. You need a strategy.

WHAT TO TEACH

1. DETERMINE THE SCOPE

  • You have less than 50 chances to teach a student this year. For your average students, 20 chances or less is probably more realistic.
  • You can’t cover everything in the Bible, so what will you cover?
  • First, you need a SCOPE: A comprehensive plan that prioritizes what you teach.

WHEN TO TEACH IT

2. RECYCLE THE BIG IDEAS

  • There is a difference between a “scope and sequence” and a “scope and cycle.” You teach in a sequence when foundational concepts must be mastered before more complex concepts can be learned. But faith isn’t sequential. It’s a journey. We never master concepts like forgiveness, prayer, or compassion. When it comes to following Jesus, we have to learn and relearn them again and again.
  • You need a CYCLE: A plan to revisit and reinforce what you teach.
  • You can (and should) revisit core truths and key concepts again and again.
  • Core truths gain fresh meaning at every new life stage.

HOW TO TEACH IT

3. ELEVATE OTHER VOICES

  • Your voice is important. But it’s not the only voice your students need to hear.
  • Recruit other communicators to teach your students regularly. Use teaching videos, conduct interviews with your small group leaders, and pass off your teaching responsibilities to volunteers you can empower.
  • If you don’t elevate other voices, you may reduce God in the eyes of your students to your perspective of God. But when you do introduce your students to other voices, you introduce them to a bigger God.

4. CRAFT THE TALK

  • Middle schoolers learn best through discovery. High schoolers learn best through open debate and discussion. That’s why your teaching time shouldn’t be your “big moment.” Small groups should.
  • Your job as a communicator is to raise or build a tension that your students want to see resolved.
  • When you see your talk as the set-up for a small group conversation, it changes the way you teach.
  • Use simple and sticky bottom lines every time you teach. If you can’t boil your message down into a simple phrase, your students will have difficulty remembering what they heard.
  • (Check out this post to learn 5 rules (and 5 exceptions to those rules) for teaching middle schoolers, specifically.)

5. AMPLIFY THE MESSAGE

  • If you want your point to stick when kids walk out the door, you need to be strategic about amplifying your message.

WITH YOUR PROGRAM

  • Keep changing things in predictably unpredictable ways. Students respond well to a predictably structured program, but surprise them occasionally to keep them engaged.
  • Use games, visuals, experiences, interactive teaching experiences, and changes in your usual schedule.

WITH SMALL GROUPS

  • Small groups matter because some truths are best processed in the context of relationships. 
  • Students aren’t easily convinced by a communicator telling them what to think, believe, or do. They need freedom and space to draw their own conclusions and create their own applications. Small group give them the space to do that alongside a small group leader.
  • Small group leaders are not teachers, but they are guides. Small group leaders primarily roles are to facilitate a conversation and build relationships where the concepts they hear from the platform can be processed.
  • To make the most of small groups, prepare your leaders well. They need to know three things, every week: What to Think About (give them insight into a middle or high schooler’s world), What to Know (give them a summary of what you’ll be talking about), and What to Do (give them their small group discussion guides in advance so they can prepare).

WITH WHAT HAPPENS AT HOME

  • If you want what you teach to be amplified at home, think about how you’ll make the connection for families.
  • Cue parents with what their students are learning and thinking about.
  • Use social media to remind students of your bottom lines and prompt more conversation.

You have an important message to share. The most important message, actually: the good news of Jesus. But if you want that message to actually be heard, you need more than great communicators, excellent doctrine, or the best curriculum. You need a strategy. If you want your message to be heard, be strategic about what you teach, when you teach it, and how you teach it.

Okay, so what do you think? What would you add? Got any questions you want to talk about? Let me know!

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