I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday school class at our church for about 12 years. Actually, I’m more of a discussion facilitator than an actual teacher or instructor. I prefer this role as facilitator, because I’ve noticed that the best learning in class occurs when the participants share their knowledge and we seek answers and explore the Bible together. As a facilitator, I simply bring interesting information about the topic we’re studying and encourage others to ask question and share any insight they might have.
If I approach a Sunday school class as the teacher, it feels like I need to have all the answers and have a lesson plan figured out that details everything we’ll discuss during the class. I don’t like that approach because it doesn’t leave room for questions an exploration. If I’m seen as the teacher, the class feels more like a lecture, where I’m imparting knowledge to the rest of the class while they sit quietly and listen. This approach would be boring to me! While I’ve got some knowledge on the topic, I also have lots of questions that I’d like to ask. If I’m the teacher, there’s a lid on the class that only goes as far as my knowledge and understanding.
I much prefer to leverage the collective intelligence of the class. The people who attend regularly spend time in the Bible, so they are very familiar with it. They’re also eager to learn more, which causes them to read it with the purpose of gaining a greater understanding of what it says.
Having a forum where we can learn together, ask questions and share our knowledge has sparked numerous conversations (as well as opportunities to learn) that would not have occurred if I were the teacher, simply giving a one-way lecture. Our class works much better when we all have the opportunity to share the role as teacher.
I think it’s exciting to approach life as a facilitator as well. It’s fun to encourage others to share what they know about a topic and to hear, and learn from, experiences they’ve have had. Most people are willing to share what they know; they often just need someone to invite them to do so.