Aaron Summers is a follower of Christ, husband, and father of two who currently serves as the pastor of First Baptist in Perry, OK. You can find out more at www.theintersect.us.
Leaving the Leader Guide Behind
In so many lives there is that seminal moment where the choice to leave all that is comfortable for the greater adventure must be made. Robert Frost wrote that two roads diverged in a wood. He took the one less traveled and it made all the difference in his life. The day that I left the leader guide in the office was the scariest moment in teaching. What it forced me to do was teach from my heart more than the notes. We talked as a group. Instead of just opening a guide we opened our hearts. I have not brought a leader guide to class since that day. I assure you that I prepare using the tools I will talk about. However, I teach from the overflow of that preparation, planning, and prayer. How does one teach/lead a group without a guide in hand?
How can we lead a group successfully unless there is an outline to provide guidance? Let me share with you the few things you really need:
1. Communication. Talking with God is an absolute must! No amount of study will prepare you as much as this one thing. Whenever I am about to dive into a project around the house I make sure my phone is charged and in my pocket. Depending on the project, I have a “guy” that I will call. We talk about the project, the potential hazards, and the plan to get through it. Our Father wants to share his wisdom and experience with whatever is going with you or the group. He can help you know what is needed for discussion or development. Praying over the needs of the group and the passage under review is critical. Each lesson must be real for us before it becomes real to someone else.
2. Manual. When the head on my engine leaked I immediately bought the Chiltons Manual. It was there that I found out all I could ever know about the vehicle. It gave me clear instructions on how to fix the problem I was having. The Scriptures are the manual we need. So often I find teachers spend more time in the teacher’s book before class than they do in THE book. A regular time spent in the word will provide immeasurable depth and ability. As you allow the Bible to shape you it will shape your thoughts and abilities. One day in class you will be able to answer a person’s question with a Scripture because you will be familiar with it. Your time in the Word prepares you to receive those on-the-fly memos from the Holy Spirit. In the same way, read and meditate on the passage in your lesson. Read the Word before you read about the Word.
3. Expert Advice. After we have read the Bible and prayed over it, we are ready to read the works of those who have expert advice based on education and experience. I was building a play set in the backyard and discovered I could not dig the holes I needed. I called a buddy of mine and he came over. He kicked the dirt around a little, dug a small hole and then shared his advice. He left and came back later with his tractor, an auger, and a cheater bar. There are times when we need the expert advice and experience of those who have gone before us. When I study scripture, I like to use The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
4. Elbow Grease. The final thing I want to share with you is the need to work hard. I have a few shirts that have 19 yrs of worth of paint on them because no matter what the project I get dirty doing it. When leaders do not get dirty doing the job they are not working hard enough. The Oklahoma Sunday School Initiative “ReConnect Sunday School” reminds us that Sunday School is the church’s primary strategy to connect people with Jesus, His truth, His community, and His mission. Know your people and listen with your heart. I have found that teaching a scripture that has meant something to you in the past week is more encouraging than popping out a lesson. I implore you to research the options: Explore the Bible, The Gospel Project, and the new Bible Studies for Life. Each of these offer unique experiences with the Bible.
Leaving the leader guide behind means that you must do the time in preparation through prayer and study on your own. In the group, teach from the Bible and your heart allowing what God has taught you to overflow into the group.
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