A few months ago I introduced and explained a “coaching” model for teaching that I believe has greater potential for encouraging deeper, more transformative learning. Unfortunately, not many of us are teaching in this way and we need to begin changing how we prepare our lessons and how we use our time as we teach our students. Last month I began to share some ideas for how to begin moving from a “teaching for knowing” to a “teaching for growing” ministry. This month I will finish up these more specific ideas and give you some more questions for reflection. Beginning next month I’ll go back and spend more time on issues of how we prepare for our teaching, how we move beyond teaching for knowing in our use of time in the group, and how to develop a longer-term approach to promoting growth through our teaching. This blog picks up where the last one left off, with six more ideas for teaching more like a coach.
Moving from “Teaching for Knowing” to “Teaching for Growing”: Part II
7. Revisit, Reflect, Troubleshoot, and Strategize.
Part of slowing down to go deeper is to allow time when we are together to revisit what we have been studying over the past few weeks or months. We need time to share and discuss ways in which God has given us opportunities to begin to practice what we have learned so that we can reinforce the value of what we have been learning, and help each other live it out more faithfully. This time needs to be unhurried, allowing people to reflect back on where God has made them sensitive to the truths we have studied together, where they tried to respond faithfully, and what happened when they did so. In some cases, this will mean sharing successes and rejoicing together over significant progress. In other cases it will mean hearing struggles, discouragement, and confession of failure. There may be a need to encourage one another, troubleshoot together, share strategies that have helped others who have struggled with the same issues, and pray together, recommitting ourselves to learning and growing in these areas. If we hope to go deep together in our study of the Scripture, we must commit ourselves to “mutual coaching” – revisiting, reviewing, and reflecting on what we have been learning so that God can move it from understanding to our life experience. This takes time and commitment to not forget what we have been learning, but to cycle back to allow God to take us further in obedience.
8. Foster Mutual Modeling and Ministry.
Coaching in teaching is not something we have to do on our own. Part of being the Body of Christ is the mutual ministry that takes place as we encourage one another, support one another, bear one another’s burdens, and live out the many other “one anothers” found in Scripture. This kind of mutual ministry in a group allows us to draw on others to be models of growth, sharing how God has taught them and helped them grow in faithfulness. This can be tremendously encouraging, but we have to both allow time for this kind of sharing to happen, and we have to know those in our group well enough to know who we might ask to share about what God has been teaching them. This reinforces the importance of taking time to know our “team,” so we know who we can call on to help when someone is struggling or needs encouragement, or who might be an example for us all in obedience in something we have been learning. Just because we may be the “lead-learner” in our group, or the “player-coach,” does not mean that we cannot learn from others as we study together and share how God is working His Word into our lives.
9. Have Courage to Encourage, Confess, and Rebuke.
Those who coach spend a lot of time motivating their athletes. They urge them to “hustle,” “give it all you’ve got,” “don’t leave anything out on the field.” Coaches encourage where needed, and correct and rebuke when it is called for. They don’t sugarcoat the truth if there are poor attitudes, weak efforts, or bad habits hindering the athlete from performing well. Athletes listen to their coach’s corrections because they are convinced that their coach wants them to perform at their best, to achieve their goals. In our teaching, we will have to be prepared to encourage and urge on those we teach. There may be times when we ourselves will have to confess our lack of obedience and growth in what we have been studying. There will also be times when we will need the courage to speak up and challenge poor attitudes, spiritual laziness, or bad habits that may be hindering our own and others’ growth. This can only happen in the context of a relationship of commitment to and caring for those we teach, where they know that we speak out of love and concern for them, and that they can do the same for us. This is not easy, and it takes time to build the kind of relationship where this can happen, but it is an important part of teaching like a coach. Dietrich Bonhoffer describes the “ministry of proclaiming” this way:
We speak to one another on the basis of the help we both need. We admonish one another to go the way that Christ bids us to go. We warn one another against the disobedience that is our common destruction. We are gentle and we are severe with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s severity. . . . Or do we really think there is a single person in this world who does not need either encouragement or admonition. (Life Together, 1954, p. 106).1
10. Offer Hope for Real Growth.
Coaches are optimists. They see the challenges of the game and where the athlete is now, but they also see the potential of the athlete in the future. Those who teach like coaches don’t minimize the challenges of obedience, but they maximize the hope we have of growing in obedience because of God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Like Paul, we proclaim a hopeful message as we teach. As he wrote to the Romans,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:28-37, NIV)
This confidence in God allows us to offer hope to those we teach, encouraging them to not give up when they struggle, because God will not give up on them. Hope leads to perseverance, and perseverance leads to growth in grace.
11. Celebrate, Commiserate, and Get Back in the Game.
When we teach like coaches, and we take time to review and reflect on areas of growth and areas of struggle, we will take time to celebrate God’s grace. Learning together from Scripture and seeing God at work in our lives should lead to doxology. In some cases, we have much to be thankful for as we have seen Him help us grow. In other situations we praise Him for His faithfulness in spite of our faithlessness, we mourn over our sin, but we still worship Him for His love and grace and we rededicate ourselves to following Him in His ways, allowing Him to teach us His paths. It is important to periodically take time where we pause and look back over where God has brought us, moving us to praise and worship, fortifying us to get back in the game because of the hope that has been renewed. Wise coaches build time in the schedule for this kind of group experience.
12. Focus on the Right Measure of Success.
Finally, those who teach like coaches will focus on an appropriate measure of success for their efforts. It is not a matter of how many people want to be in our study group. It is not the amount of Scripture we have studied together. It is not how knowledgeable those we teach have become regarding God’s Word. Nor is it strictly a matter of how obedient those we teach have become, as important as that is. Coaches know that a team may not win every game, but they can grow to play to the best of their ability and learn to persevere and eventually rise above the challenges they face. For teaching the Bible, it is a matter of the depth of learning that is taking place, even if we have not fully mastered it. It is the evidence of progress in putting into practice what we have been learning, even if we still have a ways to go in living it out consistently. These are the things we treasure, that we are thankful to God for, and that we celebrate as we teach and as we continue to strive to learn God’s paths and follow Him.
Questions for Reflection:
These six areas are enough for this month. Next month I want to take a focused look at the ways we prepare for our teaching that can lead to a deeper impact as we teach. It will reflect many of the things I’ve been discussing these last few months about “coaching” in our teaching. For now, spend some time reflecting on these questions related to what I have written above.
- In your teaching, how often do you take time to revisit what you have been studying in the past to see where people have had opportunities to put it into practice and what happened when they did so? If this is not happening very often, why not? What might you be losing by not doing this?
- In your past teaching, have there been times when you have learned from others in the group? Is there time available for the kind of discussion that allows others to be models to the group in areas where God has helped them grow? Is mutual ministry taking place, or does it all seem to hinge on you?
- Do you find that you feel comfortable urging those you teach to put what they are learning into practice? Are you an example to them of someone who is committed to allowing God to change you? Is there an atmosphere in the group that allows people to confess where they need to grow, and the opportunity to encourage one another to do so?
- Are you an optimist, offering hope for real growth to those you teach? Is the climate of your group one that acknowledges the challenges and problems we face, but sees real hope in how God is greater than the challenges or problems?
- Within your group, is time taken to share and celebrate God’s grace in helping you follow Him better? Do you take time to lament disobedience and struggles, and recommit yourselves to greater obedience?
- When you consider how well your teaching ministry is going, what do you tend to focus on? What evidence are you seeing that the purposes for your teaching are being accomplished? If not, what might need to change in your teaching to help you see more progress in the areas that really matter to you? The blogs over the next few months may give you some help in adapting both your preparation and your actual teaching to support real growth in those you teach.
1. Bonhoeffer, D. (1954). Life together: The classic exploration of faith in community. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.