Basic Tips for Teaching AdultsBasic Tips for Teaching Adults

I've taught youth or adult Sunday School classes in one church or another for the better part of the last 40 years. It's my first love as a way to be involved in the life of my church. It's what I believe is my primary spiritual gift and where I find the most fulfillment in serving the Body of Christ. Recently, a UBA church asked me to come speak to the Sunday School teachers for 20 minutes. That was tough. It was like Sunday School on Twitter. That time frame forced me to identify essential concepts for teachers.

1. Be Clear about Your Role
Your primary role as a teacher is not to stand before your class and impart knowledge.  Your primary role as a teacher is to develop disciples. The Holy Spirit is the teacher (1 John 2:27; John 14:26; John 16:13-15). Our role as a teacher is to lead others to grow in Christ as they learn to discern and respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. That's the end result we are after - not more knowledgeable disciples, but more faithful disciples.

2. Teach for Change
"Teach for obedience, not for knowledge," is the way I first heard Carol Davis phrase this.  She would quote Matthew 28:19-20 and then stop to dwell on "teaching them to obey."  She reminded us that the Scripture did not stop with 'teaching' but called us to teach them to obey. Teaching falls short if we do not lead them to apply what they know to their lives and make necessary changes. James 1:23-24 reminds us of the emptiness of hearing without doing.  Develop an expectation of regularly changed lives in your classes.

3. Teach them to Feed Themselves
Involve them in their own learning, discernment, and application process. Model processes during the Bible Study hour that they can apply at home. Have them read the Scripture aloud; ask questions; talk in groups about their understanding; write a reflection; spend a few moments in silence gathering their thoughts. Encourage questions and responses from within the group. Cultivate the skills for reading, understanding, discerning and applying the Scriptures with obedience as the goal.

4. Teach them to Teach Others
Finally, work under the assumption that God has gifted and is calling some of them to be teachers.  Enlist a class member to teach when you are absent.  Encourage them to try temporary opportunities that come up in other areas (substituting temporarily in the Youth or Children's area; teaching VBS; volunteering in a Wednesday night youth event). Rejoice when they are led out of your class to teach or start a new class.


Hebrews 4:12 assures us that when we engage the Word seriously and intentionally that our lives are impacted.  'For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.' (ESV) Take advantage of your Bible Study hour to lead disciples to deeply engage the Word.  (click here for part 2)

Dian R. Kidd   |   Associate Director   |   @diankuba