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Welcome to a new year of teaching at church! Are you ready?
This year for the second and third weeks in Priesthood and Relief Society we will be studying the teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley. He served as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from March 12, 1995 to January 27, 2008. A lot of us love President Hinckley even more than most though because of his darling wife, Marjorie. Hopefully we'll be able to include some of her great quotes this year too!
Before you dive into Chapter 1, I recommend reading the Historical Summary and The Life and Ministry of Gordon B. Hinckley sections found in the beginning of the manual to give you context when you teach. It's always fascinating to see how the Lord prepares his servants. I also recommend reading the Introduction as it explains why the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have chosen to make these manuals as well as how they would like you to study it and teach from it.
If you have been asked to teach the history of the prophet, President Hinckley, try highlighting key parts of his time as prophet. President Hinckley was the one that introduced The Family: A Proclamation to the World, announced small temples, published The Living Christ, introduced the Perpetual Education Fund, appeared on 60 Minutes, and so much more. Pick a few and discuss their significance in your lesson and even how President Hinckley was prepared early on to be the prophet that helped bring those things about. Many people don't know a lot about President Hinckley and others won't remember so it is a great time to teach about him- don't assume everyone already knows.
Preparing Your Lessons
I often get asked, "How do you go about preparing your lessons?" and I'm always hesitant to answer because the process is different for everyone. And it should be different for everyone because we all think and learn in different ways and are blessed with various different talents. However, in hopes of helping you find your method, I am sharing mine if you promise to tweak it until it's right for you. Keep in mind this process also includes a ton of prayer- during the whole process I'm praying for guidance, direction, understanding, my class, my family, ideas, etc. Prayer is the key.
- I read the chapter selfishly first. I want to see what I can take away from it for my personal life. I highlight and take notes and make action plans for my life. This allows me to focus later on others because I've already gotten what I need out of it.
- After at least a day, I go back and reread the lesson thinking purely of my class. I try to think of their life circumstances and what may resonate with them. Sometimes it is the same things that I highlighted before and sometimes it is completely different.
- Then I let my thoughts sit with me and ponder for a while- it could be a couple of hours to a week depending on the materials and impressions I receive. Pondering is a huge part of the process for me. I can't move forward until I feel good about the chapter and the ideas I have in my head first.
- Next I start writing down thoughts I feel good about and figure out what my main point should be. My main point is what the majority of my lesson will focus on. Then I go back to the title and see if my main point aligns with the main purpose of the lesson. If it does, I write down my main goal for the overall lesson (i.e. to strengthen everyone's testimony of the restoration and it's significance to our lives today). If it does not, I go back and rework it- was I thinking too much about myself and missed the point? Am I distracted by a great quote and not focusing on the lesson as a whole? My main goal is what I want the class to walk away from the lesson with. Everything that I plan from here on out should help accomplish the main goal especially the main point.
- Now I find two other points that support the main goal that I would like to include. These two sub points while great are ones that I can leave out if time is an issue.
- Then I start beefing up the main point with scriptures, quotes from the manual, activity ideas, discussion questions, and testimony. I do the same with the sub points but not to the same depth. I don't write word for word- I keep everything in outline form so I can have a discussion with the class instead of a read aloud.
- Finally I figure out a way to open and close my lesson. I find when I plan the beginning and ending at the same time, it helps bring the lesson full circle and ties everything together nicely.
- I always want to leave my class with a challenge to take action- we don't go to church to simply listen. The challenge will basically be my main goal for the lesson reworded to apply to the individually. I write it down again (in big letters) to make sure I restate it clearly at the end of my lesson. Issuing the challenge usually gives me another opportunity to bear my testimony as well.
- Then I walk away from my lesson plans for a few days. If something's not right, it will nag at me and I'll know I need to spend more time on it. Either way though, I'll read through it all again and tweak as necessary. I make sure I know the lesson well enough that I know what comes next so teaching flows more effortlessly. And last of all, I gather all my supplies ahead of time so I'm not doing a last minute dash out the door on Sunday and inevitably forget something.
All in all it's a couple of weeks process at the minimum. Of course, life doesn't always allow for that long but I strive to have at least that much time when possible.
Need a basic lesson outline to get you going? Here's one that I've created based on my method above. Try it out and figure out what works for you.
Study and Lesson Helps
On this blog you will discover posts full of resources to help you study, prepare, and give you ideas to figure out what is right for your class. Each lesson is available as soon as I can get to you- usually at least one month before most of you will teach it. Head to my Gordon B. Hinckley blog to find all the current chapters available and get working on yours!
You may also enjoy reading Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley by Sheri Dew. It's an excellent read that will make you appreciate this great man even more as well as how the Lord guides and directs his servants.