5 Moves to Extra-Ordinary Teaching, Part 5

Leadership / Teaching Techniques //

Colleen Derr, Associate Professor Wesley Seminary


Children are seekers, young pilgrims, open to things of God and spiritual conversations. Robert Coles, a clinician, pediatrician, child psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, documented children from a variety of cultures and backgrounds who he was privileged to encounter on their journey through health and life challenges. His notes provide wonderful insights into how children think, process, and view spiritual things and illustrate children’s profound capacity to think morally, theologically, and spiritually. His works, including The Spiritual Life of Children[1], offer wonderful examples of children seeking answers. The children in your ministry are young pilgrims and seekers too. Perhaps not facing traumatic life and health issues but with questions and an awareness of spiritual things.


We have looked at four moves toward creating a culture in your ministry setting where children don’t just learn and experience but where children are transformed! In the concluding step, we ask: How will we know if we have arrived at our destination and if transformation occurred? When will know if our children now know, feel, and do the things we had designed for them to know, feel, and do? We must measure success, and then we must celebrate!


Move #5: Measure Success


In order to measure success, there are a variety of moments and questions to pursue:

  1. Immediate reflection during the teaching moment.

While you are teaching, in the middle of the interactions and chaos of a learning environment, reflect on what is happening:

  • How are the children responding?
  • Are all the children engaged? Do you notice when some are and when some aren’t?
  • Do they seem to “get” what is being discussed and experienced?
  • What adjustments have you had to make “on the fly” and why?


  1. At the conclusion of the teaching moment and before you leave the room:
    • Ask: How do we know the students now know?
    • Ask: How do we know the students now do?
    • Ask: How do we know the students now feel?

Some of these questions might take a week or more to determine, but are there immediate outcomes that have been realized? If so, what are they and how were they achieved? Does “success” look like you anticipated or does it look a bit different?


  1. During preparation for the next lesson.

It is helpful to reflect during and after the lesson, but for long-term assessment it is beneficial to make a few notes of the experience and ask yourself: If I taught this lesson again, what would I do the same (and why) and what would I do differently (and how and why)?


How will you attack the planning for the future lesson based on your assessment of how successful this last lesson was?


  1. At prescribed timeframes. You developed long range, mid-range, and short-range goals at prescribed intervals based on your timeframe (move 3). Perhaps you developed five year, one year, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. Those are great prescribed timeframes to include a moment of reflection and assessment on goal attainment: How did we do?

At the conclusion of each timeframe ask:

  • Where is transformation evident in the child’s life?
  • And do we need to adjust goals and goal acquisition?


  1. At the end of the season – whatever that is. When a child transitions out of your ministry for a variety of reasons, reflect again on that child’s personal journey of faith.
  • How have you seen them grow?
  • What do they now know?
  • How do they feel differently than when they arrived?
  • What do they now do that demonstrates their spiritual growth?


And then CELEBRATE! Whatever goals were achieved and outcomes reached, there is a reason to celebrate. Celebrate with the children, the families, the volunteers, and other workers and remember, “all of heaven rejoices” with you!


Ultimately transformational teaching happens through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the teacher, the curriculum, and in the child. Transformational teaching relies on prayerful discernment during the process of preparation, in the moments of instructional design, and in the midst of the teaching moment.


Be purposeful, be strategic, be flexible, be honest, and be willing to ask: How did we do?


[1] Coles, R. (1990). The spiritual life of children. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.






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.