Shortly before his release as general Sunday School president, Brother Russell Osguthorpe invited me and educator Brad Wilcox to join him in a Mormon Channel conversation about “Come, Follow Me.”
For those looking to revitalize or reintroduce themselves to the new curriculum for youth inaugurated last year, I encourage you to search through the 35-plus audio episodes of “Teaching, No Greater Call” (www.mormonchannel.org/teaching-no-greater-call) for inspiration and great training.
During the first episode of our unscripted conversation that aired for the first time recently, the three of us gravitated toward addressing a few misconceptions about the new teaching style and content.
Misconception No. 1: “I really like ‘Come, Follow Me’ because you don’t have to do anything anymore. You just turn the teaching over to the youth now.”
That was a response from a teacher to Brother Osguthorpe shortly after launching the new program. Brother Osguthorpe has advocated that teaching the Savior’s way or by the Spirit doesn’t mean “winging it and bearing testimony. Teaching by the Spirit means you still have to be prepared.” He also has repeatedly advised that a lesson shouldn’t be assigned to a single student to teach because that only re-establishes the model of Sunday School being a lecture rather than a conversation, which is not what “Come, Follow Me” intends.
Wilcox added: “(Teachers) still prepare, but they’re able to see needs as the needs surface. They redirect (the lesson) to meet the needs that you see. It doesn’t mean you show up at church and haven’t thought about a lesson.” At the other end of the spectrum, he encouraged teachers to not be so rigid, “As a younger person says something or makes a comment or asks questions, you should be willing to let the lesson go in that direction rather than saying, ‘Be quiet. I’ve got to get through this lesson.’ ”
As a teacher of “Come, Follow Me,” I’ve found the best tools I can utilize are trust and faith. They have quite a bit to share when given the opportunity. We also have to have faith enough to not control everything that happens during a 45-minute Sunday School class.
“It’s a matter of being prepared, but then being able to feel the promptings of the Spirit to: one, inform you what the needs of your students are; and two, help you guide the experiences of the classroom to be able to meet those needs."
Misconception No. 2 — A Sunday School student’s role is to listen and learn.
The three of us agreed the most important preparation a teacher can make is to plan what students can do to participate in class discussions. Appropriate questions for a teacher to consider are, “What am I going to have them do? What can they do right in class as well as during the week? How can I use class time to help the students be active and not just listening to me as the teacher?”
Brother Osguthorpe said: “Sunday School is no longer the old lecture mode of a teacher talking and the learners just listening. They’re getting tired and they’re getting bored and they need to be doing something.”
I spoke of my son who recently turned 12. He potentially has 300 Sunday School opportunities to practice teaching and testifying before serving a full-time mission, making him so much more prepared for a conversation with friends this week or for teaching investigators somewhere across the world in the future.
“Twelve-year-olds are amazing creatures,” Brother Osguthorpe said. “They can do so much more than we think.”
Misconception No. 3 — Because of the monthly themes, students are getting the same lesson in Sunday School as they are in Young Men or Young Women.
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