A prevalent debate among educational circles is that of the role of the teacher. Some view the teacher as the expert ready to dispense information, while others see the teacher as a fellow learner, spurring students on to learn alongside him or her. Words like “leader,” “mentor,” “provider,” “coach,” “nurturer,” “motivator,” and “guide” are used by different scholars to describe the teacher’s role, with each term implying various responsibilities.
Historically, the role of the teacher in adult Sunday School groups has been that of the content expert who clarifies, redefines, and shares additional information with the group. In effect, the teacher is the source of authority within the group. This role is assumed when the expectation is that everyone has studied prior to group time. Thus, the purpose of the group gathering is to go deeper into what members have already discovered in their personal time. This methodology requires the teacher to have more information than the most learned group member. The pressure of being the resident expert every week can be daunting, causing many who lead to never consider the possibility. This approach has a proven track record, but it requires teachers who are willing to invest in rigorous study.
There is another way. Let’s imagine that the expectation for group members is that they attend the meeting without first studying the week’s Bible passage. The only person expected to be prepared is the teacher. Here, the teacher is not “the expert,” but instead introduces the group to the passage and sets the pace for members to go through deeper study in the days following group time. The teacher does not need to go into the deeper points, but could if he or she desires to do so.
The teacher is an expert in his or her role as introducer; this role allows the teacher to grow as an expert in the craft of teaching, and not the weekly content. Certainly, the teacher has studied and prepared to lead the group, but his or her biggest responsibility is to challenge individuals to take the next steps of reflection and application. And by being an introducer, the teacher also learns alongside group members.
The Explore the Bible Daily Discipleship Guide is one example of how the second approach of teaching can be resourced. With the Daily Discipleship Guide, teachers are given a reliable, simple resource to introduce the Bible passage to group members, and are given the opportunity to go deeper alongside group members. The Daily Discipleship Guide allows each group member to become a content expert, but to do so in a way that helps him or her incorporate the truths discovered in his or her personal life. In this approach, everyone becomes a resident expert in the days following the group time, removing some of the pressure felt by teachers.
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