For several years now, we have been using the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manuals for our Sunday lessons. I have heard countless opinions about this manual, the most common one being they are difficult to teach.
So, the question is: Are these lessons doing what they were meant to? Are we getting all that we can out of them?
I’ve just been thinking on ways that we might use these lessons better.
It seems that the one who gets the most out of any lesson given is the teacher. After much study and prayer, the teacher is the one who feels the Spirit, grows to love the doctrine, and ends up struggling to fit the information with the time allowed.
Maybe everyone should be given the opportunity to teach. Instead of calling two teachers to teach each month, the Education Counselor could invite various sisters to teach. This allows everyone the opportunity to get something out of at least one lesson a year; as well, everyone gets practice teaching, and everyone sees various ways to teach.
Some people are born teachers, others learn through practice, some people—hey, it’s just not their thing. In our church, we give everyone an opportunity to teach. We offer teacher training. The manual gives you ideas on how to approach a lesson. And of course, we have free reign of the Holy Ghost, who is the greatest teacher of all. As the teacher, you are guaranteed to learn the most. By rotating that position, everyone will have an opportunity to soak something in.
Another idea is to continue studying the lesson as a group during the following week. Not everyone would participate, but those who do would get an in-depth examination of the material. It’s frustrating to prepare so much and be able to offer so little during class time.
You might feel it’s too hard to understand all the information that is given. This might tempt you to use other material, material you feel more comfortable with. Or you might have pages and pages of outline and feel the frustration of not completing the thoughts you have prepared.
Here are some thoughtful ideas you might consider using next time you teach a lesson from this manual:
- Start class with a question. This may relax the class enough to begin an interesting discussion.
- Print up a short study guide to keep the class on track with what you’ve prepared, this guide can also give them something to study further at home, or with friends and family.
- Stick to only one or two main points and make sure those messages come across. Don’t get caught up in covering all of the material.
- Don’t teach anything. Have a list of questions and hear your class teach one another. Be prepared to provide direction if the class gets off course.
- Challenge class members. Provide a way to follow up on that challenge somehow (not with a treat). Encourage your sisters to grow, experiment, and study on their own. Provide opportunity to share results.
- Use creative means to personalize the lesson: brainstorming; group discussion; personal experiences; music; guests; maps, pictures, and diagrams; media presentations; etc.
- Teach the main point, testify of it, then open it up to additional testimony bearing.
- If it’s a lesson about the Priesthood, invite a man to teach the class. Likewise, if there is a lesson on marriage or motherhood, ask if a sister can teach the brethren’s class.
- Personalize the material. Understand the doctrine being taught. Share the historical stories and examples in the lesson, then share how that doctrine is practiced today. Tie the prophet’s experiences with our daily experiences.
- Always follow the material in the manual, just mix things up a little to make it interesting. There is no reason to use outside sources (other than scriptures). Don’t spend hours of preparation time making a “little goodie” to take home. Instead, use that time to be taught by the Holy Ghost.
- Take time to experiment on the message being taught in the lesson. See if it’s true, or not. Report your results to the class. Testify of the truthfulness of it.
- Do some personal research on the subject. Look up the references in the Notes section of every lesson. Understand completely the doctrine that is being taught. Teach with knowledge and conviction.
These lessons are really wonderful. There is a lot of information and insight in them. The opportunity is ours to connect with our prophets, understand them better, know what they thought, felt, taught, prophesied of. These doctrines are important to the gospel of Christ and must be discussed, practiced, learned, and mutually believed in.
Please remember that Relief Society is not just a Sunday class. It is a living, breathing entity, where we are expected to understand and act on that which we preach. It isn’t good enough to “just get through a lesson”. We must live the lessons we teach.