Teaching: Creativity Counts
The most effective lessons are those the students remember. Memorable lessons require a certain amount of creativity.
A good sermon or lesson is, above all, three things - Biblical, funny, and memorable. I think of a memorable lesson like a good song that sticks in your head even after it is over. Think of the way Jesus taught. He used images, parables, and real-life situations to heighten the teaching experience. I can imagine that the disciples thought of the “fishers of men” lesson every time they saw a net or smelled the sea. The bottom line is indisputable: to be an effective teacher whose lessons are remembered long after they are over, you have to be willing to be creative.
Creating an interesting environment can really impact your teaching. This may present difficulties and potential distractions, but the key is not to do it arbitrarily: have a purpose. Once I taught about having faith in Jesus. The audience was a group of kids who had never made any kind of commitment to the Lord. Instead of talking about it around a table, we went up on the roof of our church (we have a flat roof with ledges all around, so it wasn’t quite as dangerous as it sounds). We played a game where we blindfolded members of our group. Each blindfolded person had a partner who could see. They could only do what their seeing partner told them to do. Later in the game, the blindfolded students were separated from their partners and had to find them by listening to their voices alone. It was a scary, fascinating experiment that the students still talk about it to this day. Moreover, some of them have since decided to follow Jesus.
Another creative approach is the staging of a skit. Skits can be effective to introduce a lesson or to support specific points presented within the lesson. On one occasion, I staged a scenario where a young woman came in late to our student Bible study. She pretended to be rude, constantly talking to those around her and asking them to purchase cosmetics. To the students, it became obvious that we were in conflict. There were glares, eye rolls, shoulder shrugs, etc. As the skit went on, the room grew especially tense. At one point I even asked, “Can I talk to you outside?” When we re-entered, things improved for a moment, but finally I called her out in front of the group. “What’s your problem,” I snarled, angrily. “I have no problem, I am just trying to earn a little money!” she shouted back. The whole experience, unbeknownst to the group, was an introduction to the anger of Jesus as He cleansed the temple. We still talk about that lesson and the students remember the tension in the room, not unlike the bystanders in the temple must have felt during the time of Jesus.
There are a variety of approaches to creativity that can appeal to students with different learning styles. Lecture is only a marginally effective teaching tool. Lessons should have many discussion questions, but even that is a predominately auditory style of learning. If you’re teaching about being molded by God, why not pass out play-dough to the group to press and shape while you teach. If a movie clip you’ve seen captures a truth better than what you can stage, use video as a part of your lesson. If you want to talk about having fresh faith, make students taste a really stale cracker, and ask them to ponder what God thinks of their faith.
There are as many creative approaches as there are lessons. Sometimes the best ideas are ones that flow from your lesson preparation and your own creativity. Often, they pour out of group brainstorming. No matter how you get the ideas, get them. Creativity counts and should not be ignored as you teach students.