For 20 years I knew God had called me to minister within the community of people who are intellectually disabled.  But I could not figure out how to do it.  It seemed impossible until the Lord led me to Special Gathering.

Each time we meet at Special Gathering, we teach the Bible story two different ways.  First, we have a devotional in which all the members join together.  Then, we divide into small groups for Bible study classes.  This is a classroom type teaching.

Our Bible classes are an important part of what we do.  We divide them into two types of classes.  First are the Bible reading classes.  In these classes the members read through a book of the Bible, such as Matthew and we discuss the passage together.  To me discussion classes are most difficult to teach because of several misconceptions.  The most prevalent is that some teachers use these classes as an excuse to not prepare and study for the class.  This leads to a class that is usually ineffective.

The second type of class is a more formal teaching situation in which the teacher shares with the class.  This is the type of class that many people shy away from because they assume that it takes a great deal of work.  In reality, I believe that the verse-by-verse class is the most difficult to study for, if it is to truly have value to the Bible student.  For both classes preparation is the key.  This is the way I have found that I can effectively study to teach a class.

  1. I read over the verses that I’ll be teaching at least a week ahead of time.  I do not try to glean from the verses or study them.  I merely read them several times.  As an example, I read over the verses on Sunday afternoon the week before I teach on Sunday morning.
  2. I quickly jot down anything that I may get from the verses in the Bible.
  3. Several days before I teach, I read over the lesson in the curriculum.  I follow this order.  I READ the BIBLE verses a week before.  Days later, I read the lesson.  At Special Gathering, we use ACCESS published by the Southern Baptist publishing arm Lifeway.  The teacher’s lessons are excellent.  You will find valuable Biblical and historical background.  You will have more material than you can use in a year.  In fact, many new teachers complain that they can’t ever use all the material presented.  That is the point of these lessons.  You can pick and choose what you believe is valuable to your students.
  4. I read and study the Bible each day, in my normal devotions.  I mentally note anything in the scriptures that relates to the weekly lesson.
  5. As I listen to the radio in the car, cruise the Internet or view TV, I write down any current events that relate to the class and the lesson.  I always glean more material than I can imagine.
  6. The evening before I teach, I set down and gather my material and thoughts.  Then I write down the lesson.
  7. I find that 15 minutes should be about 1/4 to 1/2 of a typed page in outline form.
  8. I always keep in mind that I am only going to teach only half of the class time.  The rest of the time is dedicated to  guided discussion.  If my class is 30 minutes, I will be teaching the Bible lesson for only 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. The hardest part for me and probably will be for you is bringing too much material to the class.  If I am to give time for discussion or questions and answers, I must limit the amount of material I plan to present.
The discussion or question and answer part of the lesson is as important as presenting the Bible lesson.  This is another lesson.  To be continued…

Each week at Special Gathering, we teach the Scriptures two times and two ways.  First, we teach in a devotional format where the entire group gathers.  Of course, this is much like a sermon.  Then we teach in a smaller classroom setting.

Obviously, preparing a teaching for the classroom is different from preparing a devotion.  At Special Gathering, we have done a good deal of work in how to prepare and present a sermon to people who are mentally challenged.  We have prepared several videos that you can view on our website.

Teaching a class with ten to 12 students can be even more challenging than teaching a larger group.  Here are

some pointers that you should remember as you begin to prepare.

  1. Don’t under prepare or over prepare.  Study three times the amount of time that you will teach.  A 15 minute teaching requires 45 minutes.  One hour, three hours of study.
  2. Mentally challenged people (and everyone else) learn by continual repetition.  Reteaching the same lesson that was taught or will be taught for devotion on the same day will only reinforce the Biblical principle.  Don’t shy away from teaching the same lesson.  This seems to be the hardest lesson for Bible teachers within our community to learn.
  3. Reading the lesson to my class is NEVER acceptable.  It is harder to learn the lessons so that I can teach it without reading it.  However, the benefits to me are greater than the benefits to my class.
  4. Be sure to include daily applications in the lesson that give practical benefit to applying God’s word to life.
  5. If you desire to have the students participate by having them read the lesson, do not have them read from the curriculum.  Read from the Bible passage from which the lesson is taken.
  6. Be sure that every student participates each time you teach.  This is not only a good practice, it keeps folks awake.
  7. Ask the class questions that are simple to understand and answer.  Don’t try to trick the members.
  8. Expect your class to answer the questions.
  9. Somehow, reward the students who reward by assuring them that they have answered correctly.  Every one of Laura’s answers is “Jesus.”  I ask her questions that will give me that answer.  She loves to participate.
  10. Allow the Holy Spirit to take over the class. His invasion can come in the form of a prayer, a prayer request, an answer to a question or a thousand different ways.  Give way to the Lord if he desire to touch hearts.
  11. Don’t allow one or two people to monopolize the class time by answering all the questions.
This list is only a precursor to the nuts and bolts of how to prepare a lesson.  There is more to come.  To be continued on Monday…
What do you think is important in teaching a class?  What is the optimum size class?  What is the maximum size class?