Five Moves to Extra-Ordinary Teaching, Part 1

Teaching Techniques //

Five Moves to Extra-Ordinary Teaching, Part 1

Colleen Derr, Associate Professor Wesley Seminary


Want the children in your ministry to not just learn about the Bible stories but be transformed by them? Want the lessons taught to not just be remembered but also result in changed lives? Increase the impact of teaching in five easy moves so that the children are not just well informed but transformed! Over the next five blogs, we will discuss the five moves to extra-ordinary teaching…teaching that doesn’t just inform but transforms!


“Consider the worthiest purpose of education as that learners might become fully alive human beings” (Groome, p. 36). If our desire is for the people whom we are called to serve to become “fully alive” in Christ and to live out their faith in the everydayness of life, how do we design teaching that results in this type of transformation?


The teaching that often occurs in ministry settings does a great job of helping students remember and actively engage the stories. We strive for experiential learning that helps the children not just hear about but become a part in the biblical narrative. That is a great step toward engaging the children and creating interest. But what if the desire is for more than remembering and experiencing? What if we truly believed that children have the ability to experience spiritual transformation and growth? I believe they can be more and do more. I believe they are valuable members of the Kingdom of God and have a significant role to play in the Kingdom. If you do as well, then consider five steps toward deeper engagement.


Consider that there are five steps in the process of designing transformational instruction. The next five blogs will engage each step. Today we begin with Step one and ask ourselves, “What is in the room?”


Step One: Take Inventory


The first step in developing instruction that transforms is to take inventory of all the things that are in the teaching space – in the “room”. Everything in the room impacts your ability to teach and the student’s ability to learn. Some of the things are helpful, beneficial, and contribute positively to your teaching impact and the student’s engagement. Other things, however, are obstacles or hindrances to what you’ve designed and can result in distracting from the goal or perhaps even hijacking them! Have you ever found yourself developing a wonderful lesson to only have it go very wrong – end up somewhere you never intended and you were clueless as to what went wrong? Perhaps there was something in the room that had a negative impact, something you may have been completely unaware of or something totally out of your control.


What is in the room? Take a look around and discover:


  • There are things that are obvious – like furniture, wall decorations, and the people.
  • There are things that are hidden but still “present” like the student’s home, school experience, friends, and family.
  • Your skills, training, likes and dislikes, idiosyncrasies, philosophies, and theology are also present “in the room”.
  • The room also holds the curriculum, hopefully the Scripture, and the Holy Spirit.
  • The culture or ethos of your church is in the room and this particular gathering of people also has its own unique culture and ethos that impacts the room.


Take a moment and create a list:

o   Take inventory and fill in as many things as you can think of that are “in your room”.

o   Make sure to include all of the things that impact the senses: What is seen, heard, smelled, touched, and even tasted as well as the things that are not seen but present none the less!


Now ask yourself of all those things on your list, which ones create opportunities and are seen as blessings and which ones are challenges or could be called “threats”?

o   Question: How many of those things that are challenges or threats can you change?

  • Circle them.
  • Reflect on how you could change them and what change would require.

o   Question: How many of those things that are challenges or threats can you not change and must you need to learn how to manage?

  • Ignoring their presence is not helpful and neither is routine frustration over their presence.
  • What is a possible and productive solution?
  • How can the threat be eliminated?
  • How can the challenge be turned into an opportunity?

o   Question: How many of those things are blessings or opportunities to be capitalized on, utilized, and fully engaged?


Reflect on your preparation for this coming week – how does what’s in the room impact your lesson and approach to teaching? Are you aware? What can you embrace? What should you change? What do you need to manage?


Step one – take inventory and ask yourself “what’s in the room?”











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.