TRAIN YOUR TEACHERS
BY HAROLD J. WESTING
As a Sunday School executive director there is one large vision that ought to weigh heavily upon your soul–developing godly people. That ought to be at the top of your priorities and the guiding motivation for everything you do. If that is going to be accomplished, you will need to have many staff members who have that same vision and who are trained in developing godly people. You could state your goal like this: We desire of every worker that they be responsible in following through with their God called ministry of bringing each person to maturity in Christ.
The Need for Training Teachers
Statistics show me that evangelicals are not doing a very good job in that regard in most churches. In a sampling of 622 teachers taken from among 44 churches, I have found that 31.2 percent of those teachers did not have any training to help prepare them for the task of discipling men through teaching. When the teachers were given a multiple choice question on a questionnaire in regard to their training, the answers showed real problems.
To the question about how much training they had received in preparation for their teaching ministry, the results showed:
One course, 14.5%
Two or more courses, 28%
Extensive training, 26.4%
No training whatever, 31.296
In reference to their felt need in regard to training, they responded:
I need more help in understanding teaching techniques, 44.4%
I need more Bible background, 33.5%
You can readily see what a poor job is being done in equipping teachers for their particular ministry of teaching. It should be one of the major tasks of the superintendent to see to it that he has adequate
staff who are equipped to lead men to godliness. Of course, he will be working in cooperation with the Christian Education Board in seeing that task accomplished.
If for some reason you do not see yourself as a teacher of teachers, then as an administrator you have a strong responsibility of recruiting adequate trainers to train your teachers. In the meantime you yourself ought to be learning more about how Christ taught, how students learn, and how teaching is best accomplished. Without that knowledge it will be difficult for you to supervise your teaching staff toward the accomplishment of bringing all men to maturity in Christ.
Methods of Training Teachers
If you expect your Sunday School to grow, you must constantly be in the process of training staff. There will be a certain attrition rate because of workers resigning for one reason or another, and there will always be a need for additional staff for a Sunday School that is reaching its community for Christ.
As a trainer of men and women for the teaching ministry you will to be conversant with three different possibilities of training formalized training, independent training, and staff meting.
1. Formalized training.
The National Teachers Education Project of Tempe, Arizona, has researched various teacher training methods to discover which ones do the best job. Through their research they have come up with this model.
(1) Training must be related to experience with students in a classroom situation.
(2) Those being trained must have an opportunity to observe some kind of model for effective church teaching.
(3) Those trainees must have the opportunity to try out model techniques so that they can have a sense of success.
(4) They should be given opportunity to analyze and discuss what has transpired in the demonstration and practice session.
Isn’t it interesting that the current research of this group verifies Christ’s model? For, basically, that is exactly what He did with His disciples. Each teacher who is going to be trained adequately for the teaching ministry must have a mentor. It has been discovered recently that every noted world or noted American leader somewhere in his early development had a mentor.
We best understand this model as on-the-job training. As a superintendent you could build a great staff by giving to each one of your best teachers an understudy who would work with him in an internship practice. Those four steps would serve as an excellent guideline for the internship experience.
In cooperation with the Christian Education Board you should plan to offer numerous training courses throughout the year. Of course, that would be dependent upon how many new teachers are needed and how large a Sunday School you have. The Evangelical Teacher Training Association, 110 Bridge Street, Box 327, Wheaton, Illinois 60187 provides twelve excellent courses to aid in the teacher training process for
evangelical churches. There are numerous other sources, including denominational headquarters and Christian bookstores, where teacher training materials or books on specific subjects may be obtained. Some of this curriculum is geared to the Sunday School as a whole and for departmental staff training, while some of it is given to pedagogical subjects of a general nature.
Leaders in some churches are successful in planning an effective training program geared especially to their needs. The First Baptist Church of LaGrande, Oregon, chose its most effective teacher to teach a
one year curriculum for prospective teachers. Thirteen students were personally selected and trained that year during the Sunday School hour. At the conclusion of the year, ten teachers who had been currently teaching were replaced with those trained teachers. Then the teachers who formerly taught went through the year’s curriculum with the trainer. This was done over a period of five years with all of the Christian education workers in the church. You can well imagine the tremendous impact that this one trainer had upon the entire ministry of the church You may choose to follow something of a similar nature.
2. Independent training.
There are great benefits which come to each teacher by being trained together in a group. But there are other benefits to the trainee which can come by independent study. The average church has a number of people who are extensively trained and another group who have no training at all, according to the survey mentioned earlier in this chapter. An educational committee ought to be aware of this and, therefore, not try to offer the same kind of training for all of its staff. There is a great possibility of programming a training program to fit the needs of each one of your staff members.
Numerous churches have instituted programs similar to the LEROY Certification Program to encourage Christian education workers to engage in self-improvement through various training opportunities.
LEROY is an acrostic which stands for five phases of training to cause each worker to be stretched from where he is in his particular level of expertise and knowledge of teaching skills.
L LEADERSHIP COURSE. The worker is to complete at least one Christian Education course during the year. It could be a course of fared by the church’s Christian Education program, a correspondence course, evening or day school courses at a Christian institution or a course offered by some evangelical organization or publishing house in your community. Each course should be approved by the governing Committee or Christian Education Board.
E EVALUATION. The workers’ class or group session is evaluated at least once during the year by a Christian Education Board approved person or a member of a governing committee. The evaluator will have a session with the worker to discuss the observations he made during the evaluation.
R READING. The worker will read at least 200 pages from an approved reading list. The person should be encouraged to read books which pertain to his particular field of endeavor and at his level of expertise.
O OBSERVATION. The worker is to visit a comparable Sunday School class or other group session with the intent of learning from a competent teacher either in his own church or in a neighboring congregation.
Y YEARLY CONFERENCE. The worker is to attend at least one general session and two workshops at a Sunday School convention or similar training conference.
The uniqueness of this program is that each worker can be expanding his knowledge and expertise in his own self-designed way. He need not feel pressured to study or learn at a level beyond his capacity. The plan has a great deal of flexibility for people whose time schedules are different and, therefore, causes each worker to strive toward the goal of achievement in line with his own individual needs or interests.
As workers complete one of the five phases, they simply report their progress either to the superintendent or to another person, like the assistant superintendent, who is in charge of the administration of the program. At the end of the school year each teacher who has completed his certification should be given ample recognition either at a church service, a Sunday School appreciation banquet, or in some other public service. They should also receive recognition in the church bulletin and/or the newspaper.
The certification is to be renewed every twelve months. After the worker is initially certified he must simply repeat a minimum of two or three of the five steps to qualify for his yearly certification. Each step must be completed within the twelve month period of time to count toward certification. (Conservative Baptist Press, Box 66, Wheaton, IL 60187, has a complete packet with all of the explanation and forms necessary to operate a LEROY program.)
3. Staff meetings.
A staff meeting is to the Sunday School what a huddle is to a football team, or a sales meeting to a corporation, or a professors’ meeting to a university. It is inconceivable how a superintendent can
operate an effective growing Sunday School without regular team meetings. You must constantly keep in mind that a Sunday School staff is a team. All your teachers and other workers need to work together.
But that will be impossible if they do not meet together on a regular basis. This is an area where so many superintendents show weakness in their leadership.
(1) Determine who should meet when and where. When teachers are asked how often and when they would like to have their meetings, they generally feel that departmental meetings are more important than
having a meeting with the entire staff. It is probably most effective, therefore, to have meetings which encompass both the general and the departmental staff meetings at the same time. An hour and one-half
meeting for the entire staff divided into sections may be more appreciated than having two separate meetings on different days.
If your general staff meetings are given primarily to teaching, it will be extremely important for you to have a meeting with your departmental superintendents periodically to care for the business affairs. I have generally found that teachers do not like to be involved in all of the business decisions. A good deal of the
administration can and should be taken care of with the departmental superintendents in your session with them. This can be one of the most important meetings you are going to have during the month, because the
heart need of the Sunday School is developed with those leaders.
(2) Develop teamwork. There must be a certain element in the program which advances teamwork. Here you promote the function of the staff working together, coming to decisions which advance the work,
enthusiastically giving commitment to planned endeavors.
(3) Conduct necessary business. Periodically there ought to be the clarification of procedural operations. How do we take care of visitors? What kind of record system do we keep? How do we take care of the offering, and other miscellaneous operations of the school? Never let the staff meeting degenerate into a business meeting only. Always keep in mind the other items essential to an interesting and profitable
Departmental meetings should address themselves to such items as presessions, assembly time, grouping and grading changes, evaluation, curriculum items, social and fellowship times, student contacts, the
records of the department, and of course the most critical thing, talking about how the lessons are being taught. Whether or not they are having effect upon the spiritual development of each student should be
(4) Aim toward enlarging the vision. It is very important that during nearly every staff meeting someone challenges the staff to enlarging the vision of their mission. If you yourself are not able to always provide that visionary impetus, you should seek the aid of a speaker, or the use of films or tape presentations.
(5) Consider growth development plans. The staff should know which part they are to play in the growth and development of the school and what they need to do to implement that growth.
(6) Provide training opportunities. Members of the team need help in acquiring know-how for their tasks. My surveys of most churches point out vividly the importance of using staff meetings for training.
When staff meetings were generally given for business affairs only, the percentage of teachers attending was somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 percent of the staff. However, when the staff meeting offered a high level of effective training, the attendance jumped to nearly 75 percent. The following section will give helpful instruction about the training time of the staff meeting.
Thoroughly Plan the Training Sessions
The success of the training sessions, whether they are a part of formalized teacher training or the training portion of the regular staff meetings, depends on how thoroughly the leader plans for the session in advance. Too often a busy superintendent will “throw together” the semblance of a training session at the last minute working under pressure and wonder why no one seemed interested. If you are going to expect your very busy staff members to attend, you will need to do a great deal of planning, sometimes months in advance.
The following ideas will provide insights as to how you can make that training time most effective.
1. Choose pertinent subjects.
You will want to make certain that the topic for each meeting is of interest to all who attend. The themes chosen must address major felt-needs of the staff The following fiat will give you some idea of the range of topics which might be a general interest to all of the staff.
Laws of Effective Teaching
The Teacher’s Life
Gaining Pupil Participation
Psychology of Training Pupils
Use of Bible in Teaching
Methods of Evangelism
Handling Discipline Problems
How Pupils Learn
How to Understand Your Pupils
Evaluation of Your Work
Successful Visitation Methods
Using Creative Methods
Holy Spirit’s Influence in Your Teaching
How to Prepare Your Lesson
Preparation Aids (library, study research, techniques)
Pressession for Children and Adults
Testing Your Teaching in the Lives of Your Students
How Jesus Taught
Story Telling for AU Ages
Better Use of Take Home Papers
Books in a Teacher’s Life
2. Program the doing for the staff.
Basically, you want your teachers to give assignments and get feedback from their students, so you ought to model the same to them. This can be prepared for in advance of the staff meeting, or you can give an assignment for the workers to practice after the meeting.
If, for instance, the theme of a particular staff meeting is addressed to teaching methods, you may want to expose your staff to numerous new methods which they have never tried before. At the conclusion of the meeting you will ask the teachers to choose and utilize a method which they have never used before or to practice a new technique in their next lessons. When they come back for the following staff meeting, it would be most appropriate to have a departmental staff meeting where they would discuss the success and failures of practicing their newly acquired skill.
At other times you may want to give them an assignment in advance of the staff meeting, such as making a visit to a student’s home. Give them a list of guidelines to follow as they make the contact. They will be highly motivated when they come to the staff meeting to discuss the various experiences they had while making their visits and receive further insights into contacting students. Here you could get some help
from Chapter Nine.
On other occasions you may want to assign each teacher some reading to be done, either in a textbook or printed magazine articles. Then the staff meeting itself will be given to a discussion relative to
the utilization of that information.
3. Utilize the media.
There are numerous cassettes or films which can be used for the presentation of new material or as inspiration for your staff. This is a meaningful way for excellent input for staff meetings.
I might also suggest the possibility of having a phone conference which has been prearranged with some outstanding Sunday School leader in some other part of the country. The telephone company will set up
loud speakers in your meeting room in advance, and the speaker simply has to address your crowd from the comfort of 0a living room via the telephone. As you make arrangements with him in advance, he might be able to send transparencies or a flip chart to be used during 0a presentation. The beauty of this arrangement is that it is much cheaper than asking that speaker to come to your facility, and of course you
can have a noted personality address your group in a very convenient fashion.
4. Use specialists for training.
Each community has certain skilled personnel who can help you in the training process. Sometimes Christian public school teachers have a certain expertise which they could and really should share with your staff Christian education directors from other churches could be called upon as well.
5. Gain your staff’s confidence and cooperation.
As you plan to schedule your general and departmental staff meetings or training sessions, you want to give serious consideration to the time schedule of your staff. You may want to give them a simple survey form so they can indicate when they are available and which nights or days they would prefer to meet.
The success of the Sunday School is greatly dependent upon the vision and effectiveness of the Sunday School superintendent. But his effectiveness is seriously curtailed if he has not encouraged the confidence of his coworkers and gained their cooperation. Your staff ought to receive at least three invitations to each meeting. There ought to be an announcement in the church bulletin and newsletter; they ought to be handed a printed invitation; and each worker ought to be personally invited by the departmental superintendent.
You cannot give too much time or energy to the staff meetings, because your Sunday School may rise or fall depending upon the effectiveness of that team meeting.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY ACCENT-B/P PUBLICATIONS, INC., 1980, PAGES 95-105. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.