The church I attend restarted our on-campus Sunday morning groups in the Spring. Most of us who taught adult groups had been meeting online prior, so we thought we were ready to make the jump. Several things caught my attention in the early days of us returning, with four of them being the most important. Let me share the four things and then dive into each of them separately and share a tip related to each. The four things I wish I had known were:
- Everyone needed a personal contact.
- We were rusty as teachers.
- People wanted to talk.
- The smaller groups worked best.
Everyone needed a personal contact. My group did better than most during our online time. We created a private group using a chat APP so we could keep up with each other. I continued to deliver the Explore the Bible Daily Discipleship Guide to the homes of everyone in my group, making sure they had a copy before the first Sunday of each quarter. Phone calls were made as well. We stayed in touch. However, we did not restart on a Sunday near the start of the quarter. I wish I had made a personal visit to each group member the week before we started. That would have helped ease some of the fears and allowed me to answer questions prior to that first Sunday. It would have also signaled that it was time to leave the house and get out of the new routine that had been established in the months prior.
- Tip One: Personally contact everyone.
We were rusty as teachers. I am an experienced teacher with lots of training. The first few weeks were about me knocking the rust off. I had regressed in some areas as a teacher and needed to get things shored up. The group was happy to be together again, so they were gracious and most didn’t notice, but I did. The way a person teaches online is very different from how we teach in person. Interaction is different, timing is different, even the arrival time is different. I needed to be reminded of some of the basics. I can’t imagine what those first few weeks were like for less experienced teachers!
- Tip Two: Review any books you have on teaching or ask the church to do some refresher training.
People wanted to talk. People were hungry to talk. They had said all they could say to their spouse and were ready to talk to someone….and they did. My class is accustomed to discussion anyway, but they led the way with little coaxing by me. The one thing they could not get and needed more than anything was an intelligent conversation with a person sitting in the same room with them. That one value sets Sunday School and ongoing Bible study groups apart, we offer relationships and conversation. Had I approached that day with a lecture or presentation, I would have only frustrated them. We had a great deal of discussion time built into the plan for that first day, but we needed more.
- Tip Three: Put together a plan that allows for people to talk about the Bible lesson in a meaningful way. (The plans in the Explore the Bible resources are designed to do this.)
The smaller groups worked best. This is related to the third observation. The larger the group, the less likely there will be conversation and discussion. The smaller groups flourished as a result. By smaller, I mean a group of twelve or less. For preschoolers that may be even smaller. I taught a preschool class as well during that time and they were just as ready to talk and demand personal attention just like the adults. People of all ages were ready to interact with other people and that required smaller classes and groups. That meant starting more groups, but people didn’t seem to mind since that gave them the opportunity to have the one thing they missed the most: interaction with live, in person people. New groups means more leaders which is where we adult teachers come in. We must be willing to release people to serve in those new groups and be happy to see them go. We should find satisfaction in seeing people who once were in our class leading their own class.
- Tip Four: Start more classes and commit to starting more once a group gets larger than 12 people if students or adults, smaller if kids.