From my experience, teenagers are more likely to teach each other well when they don’t have to stand alone.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' new Sunday curriculum “Come Follow Me” encourages youths to actively participate in discussion-oriented lessons during both the Sunday School and Young Women or Young Men hours. Since many are preparing earlier to serve full-time missions, class time is the perfect time to practice teaching in companionships.
Every Sunday, I distribute short teaching assignments to pairs of students from the suggested online materials by luck of the draw. With a stack of index cards in hand, two pick the opportunity to say opening and closing prayers. Two are given a list of scriptures from which they can choose to teach a principle. Two share brief stories from general conference addresses. Two teach a paragraph from “Preach My Gospel,” and so forth.
They are all given just a few minutes to prepare, which might seem like an overwhelming task, unless you have a buddy.
Granted, sometimes one or two students are not in the mood to talk, teach or even sit up straight, and so they lean more heavily on their companion that day. But it doesn’t mean a bad day gives a person a pass to not speak at all. In my class, even the most grumpy still serves an important purpose of confirming what his or her partner has preached.
If nothing else, the second participant is encouraged to say an “I believe” sentence, which has sometimes proved to be one of the most powerful moments of the entire class.
The concept also works well for those who are painfully shy. Even if one companion does all the talking, that second person summing up with testimony takes the teaching moment to an entirely more spiritual level.
As the teacher, I see my role as being a third witness, so that the “word” is firmly established. My cue comes after the second testimony when I compliment, clarify and end with a summation statement that begins with “I also believe ”
I learned the power of such a process while serving a full-time Mormon mission in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area. My third companion was a beautiful recent convert from Haiti. With her thick French Creole accent, she had been called to learn Spanish — and yet most of our investigators spoke Texas-flavored English. Her budding English was difficult for even me to decipher and I lived with her 24/7. So we set out to be an effective companionship despite the fact that I had to translate almost everything she said to everyone.
We became as close as sisters could be during our three months — mostly because we had a trial to overcome together. At the time, we were trained to alternate teaching principles, but we learned it was more effective for me to teach a principle and for her to confirm with a simple solid testimony.
My memory is strong of some of those missionary moments — me teaching, her smiling, our investigators sitting with various levels of interest. But then came the “pow” of her second witness. “I believe what my companion is teaching is true,” she would say slowly and deliberately. And the Spirit of confirmation would come pouring from above to all of us.
One sweet reward of our time together was teaching a family who had recently moved from Haiti to Texas. Suddenly our roles reversed and I watched her erupt with language and love and a very bold testimony.
The more our youths learn to teach together now, the better companions they will be on full-time missions, in businesses, in communities and especially in marriages. Bravely standing side by side to teach the gospel requires patience, coordination and restraint as well as accountability, responsibility and dependability, to name a few.
I believe it’s never too soon to start.