#29 – Don’t Read Your Lesson (Tips For Large Group Teaching)
Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.
When I agreed to take over the large group teaching segment of our curriculum at my church, the first thing I did was I started to read. I looked for books with tips and helpful advice on teaching and presenting and children’s ministry in general so that I could do the best job possible. As I was browsing at my local Christian Book Store, I came across a book that looked like it would be really helpful. I started to browse through it a little bit at the store, and I came to a chapter with some interesting advice. The author’s very first piece of advice was that you should memorize your lesson every week. Well, I promptly put that book down and found something else. How was I going to manage to memorize a lesson every week and take care of everything else in my life? It wasn’t advice I cared for, so I did what most of us would do in the situation – I ignored it!
A couple of weeks later, I found myself back in that same store looking for more books on teaching and Children’s Ministry. I picked up the book again and browsed some of the other chapters. It seemed to have enough good stuff in it to make it worthwhile, so I decided to overlook the whole “you should memorize your lesson” thing and go ahead and buy the book. I’m glad I did. The book was chocked full of great advice, some which I have since used and is now incorporated into this series, but I found myself most convicted by the idea of memorizing the lesson. As I frequently do when I am convicted about something and don’t really care for it, I chalked it all up to indigestion and continued reading. As the time for me to start teaching the class grew closer and closer, the thought of memorizing the lesson continued to swirl around and around in my head. Finally, I decided I would give it a shot. Well, to make a long story a little bit shorter, it worked out pretty well. I found that by memorizing the lesson, it allowed me to freedom to adapt on the fly a whole lot easier and to deliver a better message.
So, I found myself somewhere in the middle. Here’s is the procedure I go through for each lesson. I start out with detailed script for each lesson which I eventually reduce to a very very detailed outline. That detailed outline is later reduced to a higher level outline as I continue to commit the lesson to memory. Oftentimes, that higher level outline is then further reduced to a listing of key points. In the end, I do take my abbreviated outline with me (just in case), but most of the time I try to deliver the message from memory, and I just check my notes occasionally to make sure I haven’t missed anything. It isn’t quite as memorized as I might like, but it does the trick for me.
So, what are the benefits of memorizing your lesson? Well, for starters it gives you the ability to adapt. When you’re exerting all of your energy trying to remember what it was you wanted to say, you can’t concentrate on what is and isn’t working in the lesson and make on-the-fly adjustments. Secondly, if the kids see that you can’t haven’t even bothered to take the time to remember your lesson, what incentive do they have to try to remember it? When you’ve taken the time to memorize your lesson, it sends the message to the kids that this is something important that you’re talking about, and they should listen up. Some people will argue, “I just try to remember the high points, and that works well enough for me.” To that, I would argue that you’re entire lesson should be high points. If it’s not, if there are “throw away” points such that it doesn’t really matter whether or not you remember them, you have bigger issues than just memorization.
Ok, now that you’ve reached the end of this section, go back and memorize this post as practice! Just kidding, go start memorizing your lesson instead!