5 Moves to Extra-Ordinary Teaching, Part 3

Leadership / Teaching Techniques //

Colleen Derr, Associate Professor Wesley Seminary



In the past two blogs we have covered the ultimate goal – that students experience spiritual formation, or growth in Christ beyond the salvation moment. In order to see our students grow as Jesus did “in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) we need to first take inventory and ask: What’s in the room? We need to determine the resources we have to work with, the resources and challenges represented in the room, and realize that beyond the room itself the students and you there are a lot of other people and relationships represented in each student…all of which impact learning. After we’ve taken inventory of the room, we need to determine the location or ask: Where are they? We need to determine the developmental location of each student, ascertain their past experiences, and identify who they are in terms of personality, learning style, and needs.


Move #3: See the Destination


Based on what the students already know and where they are at (step two), we now look to determine the potential “destination” in the timeframe given. In step three we ask: Where can we go? What are appropriate goals for this group of students with the resources and challenges available (step one) and in the timeframe given? How many months or years will these students be in your “room”?


A few pointers on how to develop goals that get you where you want to go!

  1. Develop goals beginning with the farthest date and work backward to the present – five year, one year, one month, and next week goals.


We tend to want to start with goals for this week – the immediate. But that may result in disjointed learning. It is best to start with the big picture goals and then work our way backward. If we want our students by the end of this year to know, feel, and do these things, then what do we need to accomplish each quarter to reach that goal? What do we need to accomplish each month to reach the quarterly goals? What do we need to accomplish this week to reach the monthly goals? When we have created the goal map we know how this week connects to next, and to next month, and to this quarter, and to the next, and eventually to the year.

Can you see how the goal map comes together with each goal building on the next?


  1. Remember to develop goals that are holistic – in that they embrace the whole student (head, heart, and hands) not just one part of them!

Develop goals that answer the following questions:

  • What do you want them to know (cognitive or head)
  • What do you want them to do (behavioral or hands)
  • What do you want them to feel (affective or heart)


Each timeframe should have at least one goal for each category – one head goal, one heart goal, and one hand goal.


  1. It is also important to develop goals that are measurable in order to assess goal attainment.

How will we know if we have reached our goals if we can’t measure them in some way – visually by watching them complete a task, through question and answer dialog, through observation of their behavior, partnering with the home, or encouraging self-evaluation.


How will we know that students now know this? How will we know that students now do this? How will we know that students now feel this? Use action verbs in your goal writing. There is a great list of them at:



“If you aim at nothing, that is exactly what you will hit!” We’ve heard that familiar saying before, and we know it is true. Spiritual formation is a journey and spiritual growth is a series of small steps along that journey – small steps leading in the same direction. If we want our students to experience spiritual formation or growth in Christ, then we need to have a destination in mind and a charted path to help us reach it. Obviously even our best plans are nothing without the work of the Holy Spirit to come before, during, and after. It is God’s Spirit at work in the hearts, minds, and lives of our students that results in spiritual growth, but we can be useful instruments to help create the experiences and opportunities for that goal.


Where are you going? Next time…how are you going to get there?






About the Author

Colleen Derr serves as Professor of Christian Ministry and Congregational Formation at Wesley Seminary. She provides oversight to the M.Div. spiritual formation courses and the MA in Child, Youth and Family Ministry program. Prior to joining Wesley Seminary Dr. Derr has served as Director of Children’s Ministry for The Wesleyan Church and as Assistant Pastor of Fall Creek Wesleyan Church in Fishers, Indiana. She has been involved in local church Christian education for over 30 years. Colleen developed a children’s catechism program for The Wesleyan Church, Building Faith Kids, and a preteen discipleship tool, Explore. In addition, she developed a host of training materials for local church ministry leaders and has provided training and consultation for local churches across the country.