Teaching in the Saviour’s Way

Teaching in the Saviour’s Way

Ten or more years ago, teaching methods consisted of a teacher reading from the manual, asking the obvious “Sunday school” questions. Youth were, at times, bored or distracted. In the Calgary Alberta Stake, as with many other church units, all of that has changed.

“My Sunday school teacher, Sister Stubbs, has been our teacher for a year,” says Karli Vance of the Calgary Willow Park Ward. “Her teaching style is different. She is more focused on all students having input in the class.”

Those results did not come solely by intuition or skill alone. The new Church-wide youth curriculum, “Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” invites teachers of youth to remember that they are not dispensing facts; rather, today’s gospel teachers “help youth become converted, and help them prepare to follow the Savior throughout their lives.”
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Kyle Glenn teaches 16 and 17-year-old students in Calgary. “The students are teaching one another,” he says. “I break them into groups and give each a topic to study. I let them know that when they come back they will give a five-minute summary to the rest of the students on the topic they were studying and lead the discussion on the topic.”

The technique parallels teaching in the Saviour’s way: “He asked questions that caused [His disciples] to think and feel deeply. He was sincerely interested in their answers and rejoiced in their expressions of faith. He gave them opportunities to ask their own questions and share their own insights, responded to their questions and listened to their experiences.”

Brother Glenn guides how the students learn; what they learn comes largely from self-instruction. “One time, I broke them into three groups and gave them topics of baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, prayer, honesty and integrity. They had five minutes to study and prepare to be the teacher of their topic. They were guided to use open-ended questions instead of yes/no responses. They did pretty well for teaching and leading discussions on their own.”

A young man in the ward, William Lloyd, says his priesthood quorum now assumes the responsibility to have the young men teach one another. “At the beginning of every month, we use one meeting to discuss the principles we would like the quorum to learn. The leaders distribute that topic by e-mail, we study it by ourselves and when we come to quorum meeting, the youth lead the discussion.”

In Brother Glenn’s Sunday school class, a recent discussion explored the parables of the Saviour. “We wanted to focus on what the Saviour has done for the world. In one group, a girl who loves the ocean created a parable about the beach and a lifeguard who saves us when we are out in the water too far – but he doesn’t stop us from making mistakes.”

Teaching and learning are skills that we need to develop. “Some students would answer with 'share the gospel' to every question,” says Brother Elder. “They appeared bored in their posture and answers and declined to pray in class. Now, part way into the year with our improved teaching approach, they have more to share in class. Students are more talkative and answering questions. We have noticed how their prayers have changed, gradually getting better and more personal. It’s to the point where many youth will now lead the group discussions.”

Teaching in the Saviour’s way underscores how the Lord trusted His learners to teach: “He trusted them, prepared them and gave them important responsibilities to teach, bless and serve others. ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,’ (Mark 16:15) He charged them. His purpose was to help them become converted through their service to others.”
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William Lloyd underscores the importance of trusting the learners. “When questions come up about the lesson, our teacher, instead of answering the question, asks a mature youth to give an example of how he would handle it. It’s a great idea, but it does depend on the leaders backing off and the young men stepping up to lead the charge.”

In the end, teaching in the Saviour’s way will change decisions; it will change lives. Karli Vance is one who has internalized the change. “A lot of people at high school smoke and drink and do drugs. I’m faced by it every day and even asked to do it, so I face the problem. I have to choose what path I want. Once when a bad movie was being shown in English class, I went to the teacher and told her that I didn’t agree with the content, that it was against my beliefs, and asked if I could leave. She was very polite and said, “That’s fine. See you!”

“My faith has grown and I’ve seen it in other youth. We’re engaged, more focused and applying it to our lives.”