Ask Angela: That's it! I need better Sunday School lessons

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  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    June 13, 2014 9:04 p.m.

    I certainly do remember from attending Sunday School (I am a Primary teacher now and thus do not have the opportunity to attend Gospel Doctrine classes anymore) the way that lessons would frequently veer way off-topic into dangerous, contentious and irritating territory (particularly hot-button political issues). I remember having to bite my tongue a lot to keep from getting into arguments. Usually however the distractions were provided by the members of the class—not by the teacher, who generally tried to stay on topic. So I don’t think changing the curriculum would really help matters any, if that’s what the writer was desiring.

    Also, if someone has read the lesson ahead of time in the manual, that person should see going over it again in class as an opportunity, not as a boring, redundant chore. Share what you have learned with the rest of the class, and provide the insights and/or revelation you received during your own personal study as part of the general discussion. It is wonderful to be ahead of the game, and to “do your homework”, as it were. But knowledge is useless unless it is applied and shared with others.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    June 5, 2014 12:12 p.m.

    "How does a lesson about spiritual gifts turn into an all-out debate about cosmology?"

    And you *complain* about this?

    It sounds fascinating.

    June 5, 2014 6:38 a.m.

    A couple of things: (a)this discussion reminds me of a scout roundtable I attended years ago when all I heard was rattlesnake stories. I didn't go back for a number of years. When I did, I learned that I'd been missing some excellent training all for a bad decision not to attend over one bad experience. (b) for those who are bored because they've "heard it all before"--take your laptop or smartphone into your ward's family history class and work on that. You'll accomplish much good for others that have gone before, but two cautions: (1) don't assume your family history is all done; it isn't. Try going to an earlier ancestor and do descendancy research (2) don't overlook your need to study the scriptures on your own time. You'll need their strength in today's trying times.

  • Janet Ontario, OR
    June 5, 2014 1:36 a.m.

    A well prepared teacher makes all the difference in Gospel Doctrine, and this is one class where the teacher needs to be firm about staying with the lesson both in what s/he presents and what gets discussed. I was in a ward where the teacher was so fascinating that Sunday School flew by, and we never got off track. I have been in other wards where same-sex marriage and the evil of the present administration were front and center, no matter what the lesson was about. Sorry, I've been known to get a sudden headache and run home to take some Tylenol. I'm bad for copping out, but better that than an exploding head.

  • Big Joe V Rancho Cucamonga, CA
    June 3, 2014 10:14 a.m.

    I was talking to a elderly brother from the islands at church one day about Sunday School class participation. He said "you go to class and sit down. You pay attention, or go to sleep".

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 3, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    RE: Prodicus ,”Gospel Doctrine class ought to be about together attempting to confront the scriptures on their own terms.” True i..e.,

    Despise not prophesyings.Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.(1Thess 5:20-21)

    “No one has ever seen God’, but the one and only Son,‘who is himself God ‘and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known(John 1:18 NIV)As translated correctly

    J S, Lectures on Faith, Q. What is the Father? A. He is a personage of glory and of power. (5:2.). What is the son? First, he is a personage of tabernacle.

  • Yorkshire City, Ut
    June 3, 2014 7:36 a.m.

    Some really well though out Comments here....

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    June 2, 2014 11:08 p.m.

    Gospel Doctrine class ought to be about together attempting to confront the scriptures on their own terms. We have plenty of other time in the church and outside of it where we can listen to the echo chamber of each others' opinions and speculations.

    Too often people are in a rush to try to apply the scripture when they have made no effort first to understand the scripture. To liken the scripture to yourself first you have to immerse yourself in the scripture and understand its primary message, the moral principles at hand, and the sentiments expressed. Discussion and commentary helps when and only when it helps us explore these.

    Too often people fasten on superficial similarities to modern situations, on trivial details or wordings that they think can be used to advance their pet speculative theories, and miss the real truth of God's interactions with His people.

    If we actually pay attention, the scriptures shatter our speculations, challenge our human complacency, and are an affront to the self-assurance of any human society (even societies among the faithful). A good example of something really jarring is the Sermon on the Mount.

  • truth in all its forms henderson, NV
    June 2, 2014 10:57 p.m.

    The program of the church works best if you follow the program from the church. I prefer to hear inspired council from the prophets out of the manual not some "deep doctorine" from the local Sunday school teacher.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    June 2, 2014 9:53 p.m.

    No one has a right to teach his own ideas, a different subject, pursue a personal or partisan agenda in Church meetings. It is dry and boring , at the other extreme, merely to read out of a manual.

    The topics in the manual are, however, those to be taught, following teaching suggestions in asking important, thought provoking questions to the class. A good class is one in which all are motivated to understand and live the basic Gospel doctrines better than ever before, where people leave class determined to be a better person.

    A Sunday School class is not to justify popular sins, show off the teacher's ideas including questionable or irrelevant "knowledge"; it is not to teach man-made doctines and popular psychology. It is to teach sound doctrines and inspire greater obedience to God's commanments out of a pure heart. It is not to "get through all the lesson material". It IS to encourage meaningful participation by all.

    Regardless of the teacher, however, the Spirit of God is always present where one or two are gathered together in God's name; I have had personal inspiration and revelation during poorly presented lessons and separate from them.

  • Kjirstin Youngberg Mapleton, UT
    June 2, 2014 8:56 p.m.

    OMGosh! I would SOOOOOOOO much rather hear about cosmology than the lessons I memorized eons ago. I must leave the room if someone starts up with any version of the Parable of the Bicycle by Stephen E. Robinson. Great story (though I do think it lulls us a bit into the carnal security spoken of by Nephi) but a human like me can only take so much, and then we explode. I tiptoe quietly away to protect others. I also try to vacation in July. Love the pioneers, and wouldn't be here without them, but when I can recite the stories verbatim, it's just function overload.

    So, just one question: where is your church building, and what time is Sunday School? Joseph Smith and Abraham were really big on cosmology, and I'd love to be enlightened.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    June 2, 2014 5:15 p.m.

    First: The purpose of Sunday School is to supplement your own learning and to allow class members to share testimonies and experiences that reinforce doctrinal principles. There is risk in that but it can still be a rich environment for both sharing and receiving.

    Second: I attend Sunday School every week because I sustained the instructor in his/her calling. I also ready the lesson manual before every lesson so I can aid with thoughts and experiences of my own. Attending and participating are a part of sustaining. Sometimes I participate a lot (especially if it is slow) and other times I don't participate at all (if other class members are actively engaged). Sometimes I contribute best by listening.

    Third: I love Sunday School. I've had teachers of all types: organized/disorganized, confident/insecure, facilitator/lecturer, humble/proud, doctrinal/touchy-feely, engaging/boring, etc. I don't expect the teacher and other class members to adjust to me. I figure it is my opportunity to adjust to them so I can best learn from them. People are wonderful. I learn best from the kaleidoscope of different personalities.

  • Big Joe V Rancho Cucamonga, CA
    June 2, 2014 2:08 p.m.

    The SS student seems to have read the lesson before class and is not seeing the same lesson being taught. I like to read the Gospel Doctrine and Priesthood lessons before hand as much as possible and contribute. Once in a while I will refer to a scripture or important point to help direct the discussion. I the past I have been in classes where the teacher comes in announces the lesson title and wings it on his own thoughts and knowledge and the class has a fine, but not necessarily spiritually uplifting time.

  • benjjamin Beaverton, OR
    June 2, 2014 1:18 p.m.

    Sunday school teachers have a responsibility. So do the class members.
    The best way I have found to keep a lesson on topic is to participate. We all know the doctrine, some more intimately than others, but we can all speak up in class and get a lesson back on track by simply sharing how a point the teacher made relates to actual doctrine. If the teacher is getting off topic regularly, the students can become the teacher's teacher by sharing testimony. Not by pointing out the teacher's faults in front of the class and embarrassing them into shame. Rather, by supporting the teacher's INTENT by steering the conversation back into the safety of pure doctrine. At that point, the Spirit of God has a way of helping people get back on track.

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    June 2, 2014 12:20 p.m.

    I have been in Sunday School classes like this, and there are ways to get it fixed.

    1. Going to the Sunday School President is the first thing that should be done.

    2. If #1 doesn't help, this leads to more creative ways of "helping". Assuming you have an iPad, tablet, or phone with the LDS software installed you can always ask where they are in the lesson becuase you are lost and what they are teaching doesn't seem to be in the manual.

    3. Ask the bishop for a calling in the Primary or Sunday School so that you can teach. (Some callings are more despiration than inspriation)

    4. Study the lesson each week, then ask the teacher questions you have based on the lesson material.

    5. Ask for scriptural support for non-doctrine issues.

    To "Angela" I think you missed the problem.

    What is being described is more like what I have seen where a teacher uses the lesson title as a guide, then makes up their own lesson that has no resemblance to what the manual outlines. Your advice fits better if the teaching is good and the class members are the problem.

  • rubyscarab Chicago, IL
    June 2, 2014 11:59 a.m.

    In Gospel Essentials/Principles Class, there are normally life experience examples given and it is expected that there will be an explanation of how they relate to the topic at hand. This should be the same course of action in any class.

    Insights can come from life, from good books, media, from other Prophets, General Conference, etc., but should seek to build the Kingdom and to teach true doctrine. When class members seek to look/sound intelligent, but follow courses for false doctrines or things not already clarified by General Authorities, the conversation needs to be steered back to basics. The idea is to teach by the Spirit, and to not teach things that aren't clarified. If needed, it is fine to say, "I don't know the answer to that question, but I will check on it and get back to you next week," and then to steer back to the original topic. Conversations should help uplift, and there should be enough respect to attend lessons.

  • Thinkman Provo, UT
    June 2, 2014 11:31 a.m.

    To learn more than what you have heard in Sunday School since you were in Sunbeams, I recommend that you leverage the power of the internet to strengthen your understanding of the LDS doctrines and more especially, the rich history of the LDS Church.

    You will learn much more by doing that than you ever thought possible from just attending Sunday School every Sunday. I speak from experience as I taught Gospel Doctrine for 6 years. The Internet helped me gain greater insights and I was complimented by the classes I taught for my depth of knowledge I could then share.

    Good luck!

  • Wonder Provo, UT
    June 2, 2014 11:24 a.m.

    I think the comments suggesting redirecting questions are the best. I also find that it's best to try to look at the situation from the most loving and charitable position possible. In other words, although these lessons may not be the most inspiring, perhaps the teacher is doing the best they can and we need to be supportive of them in their calling and not complain about them to other people.

  • ImaUteFan West Jordan, UT
    June 2, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    toddybear stated: Don't be rigid, deviate if needed, but teaching nothing other than LDS doctrine.

    This is the key: Teach correct principles and doctrine. Too many lessons go off the rails because the doctrine is not being taught.

    And when crazy comments are made from class members, it's hard to steer the lesson back to topic.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    June 2, 2014 10:04 a.m.

    An other thought is; imagination, attitude, perseverance, desire belief and expectations is your prayer. The lords prayer thy will be done is the Lord will not mine.

  • flatlander Omaha, NE
    June 2, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    Do what they do in our ward1-hijack the discussion or 2-don't go to class and visit in the hall.

  • Sandee Spencer Longwood, FL
    June 2, 2014 9:49 a.m.

    One of the many wonderful things about the church is that we all take turns serving in the various callings. Because of this we often have inexperienced, new, and untrained leaders and teachers. But with patience, love and practice we really do all get better.

    In the meantime you can do a lot to enrich the class by:
    1. Prayerfully study and ponder the lesson yourself ahead of time.
    2. While studying note personal experiences and insights of your own that go along with the principles that will be taught in the lesson.
    3. During the lesson listen to the spirit to note if you feel inspired to share those experiences or insights.
    4. If the class discussion gets way off topic see if you can gently redirect things. For example "This has been so interesting but I was really wondering about __________________ I had a thought I wanted to share about that." Directing discussion and segwaying back to the assigned topic is difficult for any teacher- help him or her out.
    5. Listen carefully to see if the spirit has something to teach you outside of what is being said in the discussion
    6. Pray for the teacher by name in your personal prayers.

  • toddybear Chester, 00
    June 2, 2014 9:29 a.m.

    As a Sunday School President I have recently had one to one interviews with the teachers to help them with their teaching. Basicly,Live the gospel to have the Holy Spirit with you. Know your subject so you can teach with conviction and confidence. Plan the lesson with the intention of teaching the main points.Dont try to cover all the material, Ask questions trying to make participation. Dont be rigid, deviate if needed, but teaching nothing other than LDS doctrine. Attention deteriates after 20 minutes so be prepared to finish early.Get a commitment, and promise blessings. Finaly, include your testiment of the truth of the matter taught.

  • Susan in VA Alexandria, VA
    June 2, 2014 9:22 a.m.

    Are you active in the conversation? Or do you just sit there? Once you become active, you can help lead the conversation in a different direction. I sometimes ask:"Can you help me understand how this correlates to this weeks lesson and how I can make that relate to my life?"

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    June 2, 2014 8:58 a.m.

    Pss To clarifie , You mater, That's the Spirit of things. It's not all about you nor is it all about me. It's all about the Spirit of things, the greater good.
    I'm not a smart person, I stop,look and listen before I cross the street. There are lines, fences, boundary's and limits for a reason.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    June 2, 2014 8:42 a.m.

    P.S. The truth is is you mater.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    June 2, 2014 8:40 a.m.

    A code of conduct.
    1. watch what you say.
    2. don't take what anyone said to heart or personally.
    3. never assume anything.
    4. always do your best.

    There are things that's expected, things that's acceptable and things that is unacceptable or uncalled for.

    If you don't stand for truth, you'll fall for anything.

  • petersenjc Springville, UT
    June 2, 2014 8:02 a.m.

    The suggestions in the article are good. But I've one request - don't call the bishop. Use the chain of command. Talk to the Sunday School president. He reports to a councilor in the bishopric over Sunday School. Try those first. I am a bishop and would very much appreciate ward members using other ward leaders who have been called and set apart in their areas of responsibility.