I really struggle attending Church classes. On a whole, I find myself intellectually and spiritually dulled. It is a rare occasion when I walk out of Sunday School and feel I’ve really learned something and had my Spirit stirred. As I’ve strived to improve my Sabbath day and make the most out of my classes, I’ve recognized there are definitely thing I can work on as a student and there are things I could have done better when I was called as a teacher.
If you are in the same boat as me, here are some great things I’ve learned about turning Church classes into truly edifying experiences.
Read Ahead of Time. I know, I know. We’ve all heard this one before and making the time to go over our lessons before we walk into class is super hard. However, in order for Heavenly Father to expand our gospel knowledge we need to have something in there in the first place. To receive revelation about our own lives a foundation of work and study must be cultivated.
If we don’t prepare for class, we limit what our minds and spirits can soak up and we basically put ourselves at the mercy of whatever our teacher decides to teach. How can we make time? Try breaking up the curriculum and including small portions throughout your daily study. If you are especially in a pinch, try Sunday morning or while you’re waiting for Sacrament meeting to begin.
Go With Questions. Your questions are valid to Christ. He cares about what you’re going through and wants to help you on your journey to get the answers you need. But in order to get answers, we need to be asking the right questions. One of the best things we can do to prepare for our Sabbath day is to come before the Lord with our most earnest questions and concerns.
Try to contemplate these questions before Sunday comes. Put in effort to study and find answer in any way you can. Practice pondering and eliminate distraction. Bring your thoughts and questions to your classes and actively listen for answers.
Arrive on Time. As with many other faiths, the hours spent in Church are also used to connect as a community. It is easy to get caught up talking in the halls and foyer. With our culture of starting everything late, we also lose precious time by getting off schedule. It is great to catch up with others, but strive to get into your seat on time and ready to learn.
Some of the worst classes I’ve been to have been when the teacher is trying to adjust to a drastically shortened class period. Anxiety and haste never leads to the Spirit. Giving the teacher all of the time they deserve and have allotted for will allow time for the Spirit to teach as well.
Ask Questions. We’re a “comment-happy” Church. We love and encourage participation. What we’re not so good at? Asking questions. Teachers ask questions, but students don’t. However, as most teachers in secular subjects would know, students asking questions is vital to learning. We need to be comfortable asking questions and allowing time for discussion.
When you think of a question as you study and prepare, write it down. If you’re in class and you have a question, build your confidence to ask it if you feel so prompted by the Spirit. There have been a few times when people I know have asked questions just for the sake of asking a question, almost as a devil’s advocate. While this can get discussion going, asking a question you are sincerely looking for an answer too is always ideal.
Write Things Down. You don’t necessarily need to take pages and pages of notes, but it is important to record spiritual revelation when you receive it. Elder Richard G. Scott once said, “Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us. Recording will also enhance our ability to recall revelation. Such recording of direction of the Spirit should be protected from loss or intrusion by others.”
Have a small notebook or a special memo in your phone where you can right down spiritual impressions as they come to you. Regularly review these notes.
Prayerfully Prepare. The goal of preparation is not to prepare yourself into a rigid corner, but to help you feel confident and comfortable in the teaching environment. There was an apostle who once said when he goes into a classroom and the teacher makes a comment about having just prepared the night before or not having prepared at all, he’ll open his scriptures and start reading because he knows the class won’t truly be fulfilling.
Take the time to prepare your lesson. Sometimes you’re called last minute, but for the most part you can know you’re teaching days and even weeks in advance. Study the material and rehearse your lesson.
Focus on Your Student’s Needs. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the curriculum isn’t necessarily the most important thing. It’s the conduit to teaching gospel principles as they apply directly to your ward members. Trying to figure out what your ward members need to hear and learn is definitely intimidating.
Luckily, Jesus Christ knows exactly who will be in your classroom and what they need. We can rely on him to help us focus on certain principles from the lesson. Seek his help when creating your lesson plan. Even if we don’t always seem the outcome, we need to have faith he’ll be touching hearts as we try to follow him.
Leave Time for Thinking Without Pressure. We all know about the awkward silence that follows a question. A lot of times, this awkwardness is added upon when we get nervous and then pressure people to start talking. There are a lot of solutions to make sure you’re silence is productive. First, make sure you’re asking effective questions. Part of this includes not asking questions with specific answers in mind. Second, ask the question and give an example yourself, which allows people time to think.
Finally, allow for comfortable silence without rushing. Silence is a time when the Spirit can be speaking and working.
Start, Rather Than End, With Testimony. It is generally tradition to close lessons with our testimony. While this is a powerful way end, I believe it is an even more powerful way to start. A lot of times, we run out of time or rush our testimony. Brigham Young spoke about the power of testimony:
If all the talent, tact, wisdom and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning, and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, “I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord,” the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true.
Start your lesson by bearing your testimony. It will be the surest way to invite the Spirit to guide the rest of the lesson.
Adapt to the Discussion. While you probably have a lot of things you’ve prepared for and want to share, be flexible. If the discussion is going in a different, but still important direction, follow it. The Holy Ghost will hopefully be guiding both you and the class in the direction you need to go. Sometimes there are hard topics to discuss. Be open to where the Spirit leads. Humility plays a large part of it. There is no greater teacher than Christ and the Spirit, no matter how good of a teacher we are.
As we trust in the Lord and put in our full effort, we can all truly experience enriching Sabbath day. At the end of the day, if we make Christ the focus of every lesson and think how the lesson will lead people to Christ, we will help change hearts. What have you learned about making Church classes a truly powerful time each week? Share in the comments below!