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Our Most Precious Possession J. Oswald Sanders . 20
Has Anyone Seen My Time? Gordon MacDonald 22
It's About Time! Charles R. Swindoll . 26
Overcome Burnout Before It Overcomes You! Larry E. Neagle 32
Build Your Library for Effective Bible Study James F. Stitzinger . 54
Discouragement: Its Cause and Cure Charles R. Swindoll . 60
Ministry and the Spirit's Control John F. MacArthur Jr. 85
How to Evaluate Your Teaching Kenneth O. Gangel 36
Teaching Behavior Inventory Harry Murray . 40
A Teacher-Building Test Marlene D. LaFever . 44
Eleven Practical Secrets of Discipline Katie Abercrombie 65
Perturbing Personalities in Your Class Neal F. McBride . 67
Help! I Can't Take It Any Longer! Daniel E. Weir . 72
Surviving a Troublemaker's Attacks Ann Cannon 76
"Dos and Don'ts" of Discipline Linda and Keith Burba . 82
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE
Excellence in Sunday School Teaching Carl Shafer . 47
How to Build a Successful Teaching Staff Jo Berry 12
"A+" Parent-Teacher Conferences K. Meyers and G. Pawlas 28
Give Them a Choice of Assignments! Donn McQuirk 88
How to Build a
Successful Teaching Staff
What does "teacher recruitment" mean in the average church?
Unfortunately, not what it should. A veteran educational consultant and
teacher outlines what a successful teacher recruiting should look like.
The truth is that most churches have a problem procuring Sunday
school staff. Why? I have asked many teachers, pastors, and Sunday
school administrators as well as laymen who have refused a class.
The basic reason, I discovered, is that most people will not teach because
they are afraid they can't handle such a lofty task.
Men and women of God are not too selfish to give of their time, and
they do want to trust the Lord, to let His perfect love cast out fear. They
know something of their gifts, too. But Christian educators, whether pastors
or laymen in positions of responsibility, are not preparing people; and
God's people have enough common sense to refuse to get into something
for which they are not qualified.
If we want well-staffed, competent Sunday schools, therefore, we
need to rethink our basic approach to providing staff. We must look at
our philosophy of recruiting and training teachers. To introduce this, let's
look at some dangerous misconceptions about what a Sunday school
teacher is supposed to be.
1. One misconception is to think all Sunday school teachers will
automatically know how to teach, present material, and set up
a classroom, as if they were superhuman saints.
2. We also make a mistake when we act as if all a teacher has to
do is teach Sunday school. Intellectually, we may agree that
there are minor incidentals in their lives, such as homes, families,
and jobs; yet we act as if Christian teachers always have
time to study devotedly for hours and attend endless, and sometimes
3. Also, we erroneously envision each teacher as a haloed saint
whose entire life is devoted to being a Sunday school teacher,
one who never has the urge to miss church on a sunny
Sunday. And, of course this devoted educator, no matter how
severely or unfairly he is criticized, never gets upset or
4. Due to a final misconception, we consider a teacher someone
who never makes a mistake-especially in front of his class!-and
who will know the answer to every question that is asked.
No wonder the average layperson is afraid to teach and is fearful about
meeting the requirements of our unrealistic stereotype! He knows he has
many weaknesses, he is torn between various commitments, and he has
difficulty maintaining his priorities. He is afraid if he adds another, especially
one as demanding as teaching, it will be the proverbial straw that
breaks the camel's back.
1. First and foremost, recruiting should be done continually, not
annually, semiannually, quarterly, or when things reach panic
2. Bulletin announcements should be made frequently, so the
needs of the Sunday school are presented to the congregation
on an ongoing basis.
3. Leaders must provide opportunities for prospective teachers
and workers to go into classrooms to see what a position
4. Pulpit announcements should be made as often as necessary.
If the pastor regularly stresses the value and importance of the
Sunday school, the congregation will be more responsive.
Some recruiting amounts to looking for a live body to fill a space. In
a way it is coercion, trapping someone who doesn't know how to say "no"
to a person in authority and shoving that person into a task he or she cannot
do. This approach cannot be justified in light of Paul's admonition to
Timothy that we should not place a novice in a position of authority.
Those responsible for building a teaching staff must be willing to function
on the premise that competent educators don't just happen: They are
trained and developed.
The secular world recognizes this. So must the church. Even if someone
has been gifted by the Holy Spirit, he must be trained to use his gifts
properly, within the framework of his own local church. Christ shepherded
the Twelve: He called them, then devoted Himself to teaching and
nurturing them so they would be effective when they were sent to serve.
No matter how large or small your church, if you want good teachers,
and enough of them, you must offer to train them for the job. You
must set standards, lay down requirements for service, and be selective
about who is to be allowed to hold the influential position of teacher.
But how can you challenge people to attend training sessions? Most
important, it should be a stringent requirement that anyone who is going
to teach must complete the church's training course. Too often we are
willing to compromise important standards just to get volunteers. I have
observed that churches with the fewest staffing problems have the most
demanding training courses: classes of eight to twelve sessions that include
written homework assignments and classroom observation and allow
absences only for illness.
Also, leaders would be wise to choose a time for the course that will
encourage attendance. Since most volunteers are regular churchgoers, they
will be more apt to attend if training sessions are on Sunday mornings or
Wednesday evenings as part of the regular schedule.
Several small churches have ongoing programs where the pastor
disciples individual members who are going to teach. Sometimes the
Sunday school superintendent spends several weeks in a one-on-one basis
with trainees before they go into classrooms. In some cases, teachers train
their own replacements before leaving. It should be a hard-and-fast rule
never to put people into classrooms until they are properly trained.
We commit a second error if we offer no secondary support systems to
teachers. Once they have started to teach we ignore them. But the basic
training they have received is not sufficient; they need additional classes to
help them develop expertise and to stimulate their creativity.
Periodically churches should offer courses on a variety of topics, as
needs are noted. Teachers need practical suggestions on how to improve:
constructing bulletin boards, preparing lessons, developing lecturing and
questioning techniques, disciplining the unruly child, and preparing
interest centers. Also "how to" courses are needed: how to teach a song,
make interesting arts and crafts, conduct group discussions, or use the
overhead projector. A good in-service program will eliminate the weaknesses
and undergird the strengths of the teaching staff.
Another mistake we make is to shut teachers off from the chance to be
students themselves in a Bible class. In most churches all classes occur at
the same time, so this seems impossible. But we might, for example, offer
an adult class on a weeknight for Sunday school teachers only. Or we might
find ways to give each teacher a tape of the class of his choice. Nursery
workers and children's church workers who must miss the worship service
could receive a copy of the pastor's sermon.
But even beyond this, a teacher needs to be refueled; he or she should
have a time for rest and recuperation. The easiest way to assure that teachers
get some relief is to establish a quarterly rotation system whereby a person
can take off one quarter out of every four. This means he will teach
nine months and then take a "mini-sabbatical" for three. This is accomplished
by developing a full staff, regardless of the size of the church.
Use of supplemental teaching positions will allow for flexibility, and
several staff categories might be established.
1. The first is the full-time teacher, who will teach for three
quarters and then take off one quarter (not necessarily the
summer). The timing will depend on the needs of the Sunday
school and the teacher's schedule.
2. The second category is part-time teacher. This person will
teach only one or two quarters a year, filling in for full-time
3. Category three is the backup teacher. He is being discipled
by the regular teacher, and sits in the class of his chosen grade
level as often as possible. He may be called on by the full-time
teacher to substitute or to do team teaching. He should
always be prepared with the week's lesson, even if he is not
planning to attend the class. Every grade level should have
one backup teacher.
4. The fourth category is substitute. Such a person will teach on
an "on call" basis and serves when the backup teacher is not
available to fill in. Those in junior high through career-age
brackets make good substitute teachers.
5. The last category is aide, who does not teach or prepare lessons,
but assists with the physical manipulations in the room.
People with special talents-such as pianists and secretaries-are
in this category. Aides can supervise nonteaching children's
activities, such as storytelling and arts and crafts. Many young
persons who start in this capacity end up as full-time teachers.
If a teacher knows he will have a backup/support system, he will more
readily accept a position. He needs the freedom to miss a Sunday or to go out
of town without feeling guilty or thinking he is deserting the cause of Christ.
COMMON SENSE SERVICE
Most churches discourage prospective teachers because they overwork the
one they have. Word gets around-once a teacher, always a teacher.
Leaders and educators have to be more empathic about the service they
expect and more selective about whom they allow to teach. If they truly
want a quality Sunday school they must be more concerned with proper
placement than merely with having "teachers" in the classrooms.
Hudson Taylor said, "God's work done in God's way never lacks God's
supply." To put the wrong person in the wrong position just because he's
there at a time of a vacancy can cripple the working of the whole body.
Pastors, Christian education directors, and administrators must rely on
the leading of the Spirit in the hearts of people rather than on their own
begging or coercion. They must commit themselves to the premise that
they would rather not have a teacher in a class than to have someone with
an unwilling spirit.
Another erroneous concept is that women, not men, should teach children.
Have you ever noticed how we feminize the children's division in
the church? In most churches a huge majority of teachers in grades six
and below are women. In some congregations all are. Why? Certainly not
because of any biblical injunction. Probably not because it is written or
required policy. I am afraid it is for that old excuse, "We've always done it
If we accept this premise and exclude the possibility of having the
men in the congregation teach children, we cut our resources of recruiting
almost in half. This "women teach the kids" policy is a loss to the
entire body. Children, even very young ones, need a father figure. Many
little ones in our churches come from broken homes and desperately need
a masculine touch-a representative of God the Father. A man in the
classroom can help control behavior, improving the overall quality of
instruction. By including men we also open the possibility of having
ENCOURAGING THE SHEEP
Along with reevaluating educational philosophy and the approach to
recruiting and training staff, Christian educators also need to encourage
1. Being available to them.
2. Being supportive of them.
3. Providing the services and materials needed to make their
4. Providing both initial and ongoing training.
5. Offering opportunities for study.
6. Covering expenses to send teachers to appropriate training
7. Seeing that supplies and materials are easy to obtain. Teachers
should not have to grovel to get the tools of their trade, whether
crayons, workbooks, duplicated outlines, or slide projectors.
Even small churches should see that teaching materials are a
high priority in the budget. Both children and adults are accustomed
to sophisticated methods and materials-the world goes
all out to attract us-and unless the church strives for quality, we
will lose the interest of our students.
8. Making it convenient, even easy, for teachers to shift or resign
A Sunday school whose leaders are not willing to revamp their philosophical
approach and training methods will always have staff problems.