Sunday, November 20, 2005

New Resources from Discipleship Journal (NavPress)

Here are three new or upgraded resources put out by Discipleship Journal (NavPress) that you might find helpful in your lesson preparation or for your students as we approach the end of another calendar year:


I've been a subscriber to Discipleship Journal (DJ) magazine for over twenty years. I've also written many articles for this publication. And I find that I often use back issues of DJ as resources for various topics on which I teach.

Now, DJ has restructured their archives so that many portions of past issues are available on-line through their on-line archives. All you have to do is go to the archive homepage where you can browse by topic, by author's name, or do a search.


At the end of every fall semester (which for us, wraps up in December), I provide the ladies in my classes with various Bible reading plans. Though I've used several, I consistently return to those put out by DJ. I just think their the best, the most flexible, and the easiest to use.

In the past (with permission from DJ, of course), I've just run copies of the Bible Reading Plans I receive in the Nov/Dec issue of the magazine I receive each year. Now, DJ has offered them in batches of 25 that cost less than what it costs me to print them.

DJ offers three different Bible Reading Plans (all have free downloadable samples in PDF format):

3. Prayer Guides for Advent, Christmas, and the New Year (make great gifts)

These 3.5" x 7" laminated cards are sold in packs of 50 for only $5.60 (about 11 cents each), but they hold a wealth of encouragement:

Beyond these seasonal prayer guides, NavPress offers cards on a host of other topics (about 20). If you'd like to preview them first, you can order a sampler pack of 17 cards for under $5.

I hope you'll find something useful here for your students or for your lesson preparation.

'Til next time,

Friday, November 11, 2005

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" (Prov. 4:18, NIV). Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Teaching/Learning Styles: Mix it Up!

Okay. I'll admit it. I'm a visual/verbal learner. I love words. I love to read, write, and take notes. And I love to see things in graph, chart, or picture form. It's how I learn best.

And, truth be told, I tend to use those styles when I teach. But if I use only those styles, I'll miss (and fail) many of the learners in my classes: not everyone learns the same way.

In prepping for our upcoming teacher training, I was again reminded of the need to use as many styles of teaching as possible; to mix it up; to plan teaching strategies around the many styles of learning (not just those I like best).

And this training curriculum (Teaching Adults: A Guide for Transformational Teaching, Leader Pack, LifeWay, ISBN# 0-6330-0849-4) does a nice job illustrating various teaching techniques (sorry, but I this curriculum has been discontinued and can no longer be purchased). The trainers in this curriculum categorize learning styles differently than school psychologists or other learning experts, but they cover just about any learning style found in the classroom.

Here are their learning style categories (adapted from Teaching Adults: A Guide for Transformational Teaching compiled by Rick Edwards):

  • Physical learners (need to move, use their hands, role play, stand, etc.)
  • Natural learners (learn best from illustrations or experiences related to nature)
  • Musical learners (engage most effectively through music)
  • Visual learners (need videos, object lessons, art activities, drawings or diagrams, etc.)
  • Relational learners (learn best through personal interactions or personal stories)
  • Logical learners (like statistics, methodology, inductive questions, outlines, etc.)
  • Verbal learners (appreciate word studies, quotations, headlines, paraphrase activities, etc.)
  • Reflective learners (like thought-provoking questions, meditation, journaling, Q & A, etc.)
I must admit that I rely far too heavily on verbal, natural, logical, and visual learning styles (as categorized above). I almost never use music, physical movement (for the students), or reflection in my lessons. I think perhaps I should.

How about you?

These trainers don't suggest using every approach every time; they suggest only that teachers be deliberate in the strategies they use and that they design their teaching strategies to the needs of the learners.

If our goal as teachers is student learning and life transformation, we should be willing to try what works best for our students, even if it's uncomfortable for us.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Resource for Teachers of LifeWay Bible Studies (Beth Moore, Henry Blackaby, etc.)

Greetings to servingHim (aka Ronnie Ward) who hosts "Teaching LifeWay Lessons," a blog devoted to serving Bible study teachers who use LifeWay curriculum (including Beth Moore, Henry Blackaby, etc.).

I didn't know about servingHim's blog until he commented here a few days ago. (Thanks, servingHim, for your comment and observation!)

ServingHim's blog, which has been in operation since May 2005, provides a wealth of suggestions and ideas for enhancing your teaching as well as overviews of various lessons. It also provides links to helpful resources. If you use LifeWay curriculum, you'll find a support and encouragement here. Check it out.

'Til next time,

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Training Resources For Teachers

I know it's been quite a while since I've posted, but I'm hoping to blog more regularly now that I'm back into the routine. To get started again, I thought I'd offer some suggestions about resources to use for training Bible study teachers and leaders. We've used several training courses in our program that we've found helpful and easy to implement.

Here are a few we'd recommend:

The Seven Laws of the Learner video series (Howard Hendricks)

The Seven Laws of the Teacher video series (Howard Hendricks)

Teaching with Style video series (Bruce Wilkenson)

Communicating with Bold Assurace video series (Bert Decker)

Teaching Adults: A Guide for Transformational Teaching leader training pack (Rick Edwards, Compiler)

We've found that offering annual or semi-annual training opportunities for our Bible study teachers fosters fellowship, growth, and passion among those who otherwise might feel tired or burn out. It also makes them feel valued and helps to build oneness among the teaching team.

Hopefully you'll find something useful here, too!

'Til next time,

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Challenges of Growth

In our little corner of the world, our women's Bible study program kicked off two weeks ago and is running in full gear. To God's glory and our amazement, we have more women involved in our Tuesday a.m. program than ever before: 256 women and counting.

Class sizes are running anywhere from 30 to 55 women in each class (we offer six different classes--all offered Tuesday a.m. in the same time slot-- from which the ladies can choose each semester). The children's program, which runs simultaneously to the Bible study classes, is brimming with 110+ children.

While we're grateful for the privilege to serve so many and while we stand in awe of what God is doing, we're wondering what to do with this growth, as growth presents challenges: how to handle classroom dynamics when you have 50 women in class; how to foster intimacy and accountability yet have time for instruction; how to divvy up the children's classes so you don't have 40 two-year-olds in one room; how to prevent teacher and care leader burn-out; how to help women feel connected in so large a program; how to encourage new leaders to step up and help carry the load.

For those wrestling with similar challenges, here are some of the things we do to avoid burnout and facilitate personal growth, even when the numbers grow:

  • each women's class is led by a team of four people: one lead teacher; one assistant teacher; one hostess; and one care team leader. The teachers teach (the two teachers share the teaching load and/or cover for one another); the hostess handles room set up and refreshments (including sign-ups for the women in class to bring in refreshments); and the care team leader recruits a few others in class to help her with "care" or special needs: sending cards or notes of encouragement; arranging meals for someone who is in need, etc....
  • the larger classes utilize small group break out times in class: when I teach a class of 40, for example, I divide the class list into eight groups of five people who sit together in table groups for prayer, sharing, small group discussion, or in-class activities. Part of our two-hour session each week, then, includes both large group interactive teaching and small group time. This allows those in larger classes to connect more closer to a few others in their class over the semester.
  • all six classes combine once a month for joint worship: to keep us feeling like a single Bible study program (and not six separate Bible studies), we join together on the second Tuesday of each month to worship together as a large group. Though our worship times only take 15 minutes out of our 2-hour program, they foster a larger sense of connectedness.
  • all classes take turns doing "service project" twice a semester: though our children's classes have regular staffs who teach the entire semester (each children's class has three regular teachers who serve in that class each week for continuity), the ladies' Bible study classes take turns being the "helpers" in the children's program. Yes, the entire class of 30 or 40 women takes a week off from their regular classtime to serve together as workers in the children's program (that includes their Bible study teachers, too). Since our semester runs 12 weeks and we have six adult classes, each adult class takes two turns helping in the children's program over the twelve weeks. We call these weeks "service project" weeks, because we're trying to foster a Bible-study-wide sense of service, and because we provide alternate service projects for those women who (for medical or other reasons) cannot participate in helping with the children (anything from stuffing envelopes for the church office to dusting the sanctuary to cutting out craft project pieces or shelving library books). This strategy finally solved our never-having-enough-helpers issue and gives the ladies an opportunity to interact in ways they would not in their regular Bible study class.
  • we provide an intentional variety of study topics from which to choose to best meet a spectrum of needs: every semester we offer at least six classes (sometimes seven), each class filling one of these broad categories: an Old testament book study (e.g.: I Kings or Hosea); a New Testament book study (e.g.: Romans or John); a practical topical study geared toward daily life issues (e.g.: parenting, marriage, busyness); a doctrinal or theological study (e.g. God's sovereignty, Christology, the character of God); a basics study (e.g.: discipleship, how to study the Bible, Bible survey, etc.) and an inner life or spiritual growth study (prayer, spiritual disciplines, fostering awareness of God, etc.).
  • we offer a variety of difficulty/commitment levels: within the six categories listed above, we also make sure we offer different levels of difficulty: our studies range from requiring only in-and-out attendance with no homework to weekly attendance requiring an hour per day of homework between sessions (and various levels of commitment in between). Most of our classes require somewhat regular attendance and about 90 minutes per week of homework, but we offer more and less for those women who need or desire it.

These are just some of the strategies we employ, and we'll use them as long as they work. But our continuing increase in numbers may require more strategizing. :o)

How glad I am the God is sovereign over it all.

'Til next time,


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Routine Returns

Well, I'm back.

Forgive my month-long hiatus; August became far more demanding than I anticipated. But I'm returning once again to normal routine.

Here's just a smattering of what the month held:
  • teaching several seminars at a conference
  • a weekend away with family
  • moving middle child (our daughter) out of her apartment in MD back to PA
  • moving said daughter from PA to dorms in DE
  • moving 21-year-old son into his dorm
  • more kidney/UTI issues for me
  • adjusting to my type 2 pre-diabetes diagnosis and accompanying learning curve
  • learning to include 60-minutes-per-day of exercise into my routine (mandatory now with my diabetes)
  • several migraines
  • completing a 60-hour volunteer project for high-school-senior son's marching band, which I do once a year--this year for the last time
  • completing all the senior year stuff for said son (as only parents of seniors can know)
  • managing the home front solo while dear hubby worked in Ireland (ten weeks this summer)
  • reading and judging 40 books for a Writer's Digest competition (I'm a preliminary round judge), none of which were shipped in June when they were supposed to be shipped, all of which arrived in August
  • treating Elsie's (our youngest Lab) ear and staph infections 2x daily for two weeks
  • helping 82-year-old mother with car difficults, sale of one car, purchase of another
  • writing deadlines and other work

And so it goes.

But next week begins our Bible study season once again, and after our Bible Study Leaders' meeting yesterday, I'm excited about the year. Our teachers are motivated, the Care Teams and Hostesses are eager to begin, and our enrollments by pre-registration are higher than ever.

God knows my exhaustion from last month, and my need to be equipped for this teaching season. And I trust He will provide as He always has before.

In the meantime, I'm trying to lower my stress levels, eat carefully, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep--all of which my doctor tells me are necessary to managing my insulin resistance.

So I have limitations after all! ;o) That's a good thing. It makes me confront my fraility, prioritize my physical needs, and rely on God more than ever.

Will I ever learn?

'Til next time,


Saturday, July 23, 2005

I'm Away Teaching at a Conference

Hey, all,

I'll be away until August 3rd and won't have Internet access while I'm gone. FYI, I'm teaching at the Montrose Christian Writers' Conference until July 29th, and then I'm spending time with my family.

I'll start blogging regularly again after my return.

Have a great week-and-a-half! :o)

'Til next time,

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Daily Necessities

A few weeks ago my doctor told me (based on blood work) that I'm now officially "pre-diabetic." What it means is that I'm insulin-resistant, and that if I do nothing, I'll definately develop full-blown diabetes (type 2) within ten years.


If I change my diet, exercise regularly, and avoid certain foods all together, I can keep Type 2 at bay indefinately. I may even be able to avoid this horrid disease completely. But only if I do what I need to do...everyday...for the rest of my life.

Since my diagnosis, I've exercised an hour a day, six days per week. I've cut white sugar, white flour, white rice, white potatoes (basically anything "white" or anything made with anything white), and highly-processed foods from my diet completely. I'm eating only whole grains, loads of veggies and fruits, and low-fat proteins and dairy products. The only sweet things I eat are sweetened with artificial sweeteners (Splenda or Equal).

And I'm doing this everyday.

And I feel better than I've felt in years.

I've gone on a number of healthy eating kicks and exercise regimines in the past, but they never lasted. I knew when I started them, whatever the latest kick was, it wouldn't last.

But this time it's different. It even feels different. If I want to live, and live healthfully, I have to do what I'm doing now. It's non-negotiable. Period. I don't want to end up blind or toe-less. And I want to grow old with my husband.

I want to stay healthy. So I'm doing what the doctor told me I have to do. Sure, it takes time, discipline, and effort; and it's keeping me from doing other things. But it's a must. I never realized how time-consuming all this could be until now. But it's worth it.

The same could be said for my spiritual life. My long-term spiritual health depends on the little things I do daily. If I want to grow wise and muture and old in the faith, little things like daily devotions and regular prayer and feeding my soul with healthy things make a huge difference.

Again, it takes time. But regular disciplines and spiritual habits will keep my soul healthy. And I'll be a better teacher for it.

My recent diagnosis has been a wake-up call for me, physically and spiritually. For too long I'd been lulled into an illusion of health.

Now I'm faced with reality in both my body and my soul.

So it's back to regular disciplines for me for my physical and spiritual health.

How about you? How's your spritual health these days--especially now, during the summer, when we tend to relax and play more?

I pray this summer will be a time of health for you, and growth, and soul-nurture. Even in the little things.

'Til next time,

Friday, July 01, 2005

Hey all,

I won't be posting again until July 5th; we're taking a much-needed weekend away up at my family's cottage in Northeastern PA.

Enjoy the weekend; remember to give thanks for our freedoms; and take time to rest and recreate!

Oh, and remember to smell the roses (or petunias as it may be).

'Til next time,

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Take Time for Fun

For those of us who maintain heavy teaching or ministry schedules from September to June, summer provides the opportunity to "catch up" on all those things we set aside during the academic year. House projects, filing, crafts, gardens, reading, letter writing, and other tasks eat up our discretionary time, and before we know it September is here again.

This summer, don't forget to guard time for relaxation and play. God did, after all, create a weekly day of rest and recreation; he also provided a year of Jubilee. We weren't created to carry continual, on-going stressors or demands without reprieve; and when we do, our health and functioning suffer.

What one thing can you do for "play" this summer? What one thing can you participate in just for fun?

Take time to giggle and laugh and enjoy the life you've been given, no matter what your circumstances. Your soul will thank you for it; you'll be glad you did.

'Til next time,

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hymns On-Line

Another way to encourage your soul this summer might be to reflect on the words (or listen to) various hymns, both classic and contemporary. Here are a few web sites that provide lyrics (and in some cases the ability to hear) hymns from various ages. Enjoy!

(When found in quotations, the descriptions of these sites are taken right from their websites. Otherwise the descriptions are my summaries.):

The Cyber Hymnal:. "Thou­sands of Christ­ian hymns & Gos­pel songs from ma­ny de­nom­in­a­tions—lyr­ics, MI­DI files, scores, pic­tures, his­to­ry & more. Search­a­ble, ad­vanced Au­to­play fea­ture, free down­loads. New en­tries ev­ery week. Us­er friend­ly. Big­gest site of its kind on the In­ternet." "The hymns and psalm tunes posted at this site are in the public domain. You are encouraged to download, use, and enjoy any of the music that you find. Other than what you see in The United Methodist Hymnal or in The Standard Psalm Tune Book, none of it is arranged or voiced."

The Lutheran Hymnal: "These are the traditional songs of worship and praise from Lutheran Hymnals presented in midi, in mp3, in lyrics and in sheet music."

New Song On-Line: "The mission of NewSong is to make people aware that there is Christian music with a good beat. MIDI, MP3, Video, Music Comparisons, Articles, Awards, and Family Safe stuff."

John Wesley's Methodist Hymnal: Found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library entitled A Collection of Hymns, for Use of the People called Methodists.

A private list of hymns to enjoy provided by Lassen Technologies

Name That Hymn: A great place to search out hymn lyrics.

HymnLyrics.Org: a completely searchable data base of over 11,000 hymns (printed lyrics and audio provided)

That's enough to get you started.

Happy hymn hunting!

'Til next time,

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Task of Christian Scholarship

Something to think about from John Piper:

"The task of all Christian scholarship—not just biblical studies—is to study reality as a manifestation of God's glory, to speak and write about it with accuracy, and to savor the beauty of God in it. It is a massive abdication of scholarship that so many Christians do academic work with so little reference to God." (John Piper, The Pleasures of God, p. 298)

Either Christ in all, through all, and Lord of all, or He isn't. Hmmm...a challenging thought.

'Til next time,

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Five Ways to Nurture Your Soul This Summer

By now, most of us who were leading spring Bible studies or classes have wrapped up our semesters and are looking forward to a few weeks or months off from regular lesson preparation.

Downtime, recreation, junk reads, lazy beach days--these are some of the things we equate with our summers off. But don't forget to feed your soul.

Here are five things you can do this summer to foster some soul time:

1. Take a personal mini-retreat. By that I mean, take a day, or a block of six hours, or a two-hour chunk of time, and set it aside for prayer, reflection, stillness, and meditation on God's word. You don't have to have a big agenda, nor do you have to go away, to experience an effective mini-retreat. Try going to your local library or coffee shop. Or, better yet, go to the home of a vacationing friend or to a local park where you can find alone time. Then commit to spending the time you alotted in prayer and in God's word.

2. Try recording your thoughts on faith, God, the Bible, prayer--just some aspect of your spiritual life (in a journal or notebook or on tape). Set aside an hour each Sunday for processing your thoughts.

3. Read a short, classic Christian work. Try Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God, or A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy, or Ole Hallesby's Prayer, or Andrew Murray's The Deeper Christian Life. Try journaling about what you read. (For free classics, check out the Christian Classics Ethereal Library on-line.)

4. Write a psalm or hymn.

5. Watch a sunrise from a hilltop and worship our Creator God.

Summers can be busy times filled with fun, travel, and activity, but if plan for it we can include "still" time for our souls.

'Til next time,

Saturday, June 04, 2005

How Big is Your God?

I stumbled upon this quote by A. W. Tozer this morning. It's something to think about.

"History will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history positively demonstrates that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. For this reason the most portentous fact about any person is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like...." (from The Knowledge of the Holy)

I suppose this would be especially true for those of us who teach.

Just how big is our God?

'Til next time,

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Motivational Quote

From Henri Nouwen's Mornings with Henri J.M. Nouwen:

"Listen to the book. By that I mean read the Bible; read books about the Bible, about the spiritual life, and the lives of "great" saints. I know you read a good deal, but a lot of what you read distracts you from the way that Jesus is showing you...

Your thirst for knowledge and information often makes you desire to own the word, instead of letting the word own you. Even so, you will learn the most by listening carefully to the Word that seeks admission to your heart."

So, fellow teachers and leaders, does the Word own us?

'Til next time,

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Optical Illusions

If you liked yesterday's tip about using puzzles to engage your learners, you'll enjoy using optical illusions. They're particularly handy for lessons about perspective, world view, convictions, bias, subjectivity, seeing things that aren't there, missing things that are--you get the idea.

To find free downloadable (or copy-paste-able) optical illusions you can try Cool Optical Illusions (when you get there, just click on any illusion listed in the sidebar on the left), The Optical Illusion Archive, Optillusion, or Eye Tricks.

I find the "Cool Optical Illusions" site easiest to navigate, but I've used illusions from the other sites, too.

Fair warning: in addition to illustions, these sites contain crass humor links, magic links, and tons of advertising, most of which I would not endorse. If you stick to the illusions, you'll be fine.



Monday, May 30, 2005

Puzzles: They Work for Grown-Ups, Too!

I'm always on the look-out for creative ways to engage my adult students. Puzzles, believe it or not, are one way I've found to foster fun, thinking, and discussion in my adult Bible study classes.

I've used brainteasers, optical illusions, word art, and jigsaw puzzles for group projects and discussion starters (much to my students groaning delight). :o)

I used to spend hours putting these things together or hunting for them on-line. Now I've found a great tool for creating these things in a snap.

Sponsored by the Discovery Channel's, the site is called Puzzle Maker, and it allows you to create (in almost an instant) several different types of puzzles on any subject.

These services are free and printable for your teaching/leading use.

I suspect I'll return to this site often!


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Spurgeon Archive

Here's another great resource, especially for you Charles Haddon Spurgeon fans:

The Spurgeon Archive

Quotes, writings, The Treasury of David (his commentary on the Psalms), sermons (indexed by chronology, title, or Bible passage), devotionals, and other helps, this all-things-Spurgeon site contains just about anything you want to read by this classic author. And is completely searchable.


'Til next time,

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Blue Letter Bible - Check it Out!

If you're looking for free, solid, on-line learning opportunities, check out the Blue Letter Bible Institute (BLBI). Their introduction is self-explanatory and worth reading. You also can find a general "about" section on the BLBI here.

Home of the Blue Letter Bible, a superb on-line Bible study tool (searchable Bible, concordance, articles, maps, images, commentaries, audio teaching, other Bible tools), the Blue Letter Bible Institute provides FREE courses on basic Bible doctrine. As of this writing, the courses available to take free on-line (for grade or audit) are these:

God's Sufficiency for Godly Living
Growing in the Grace of God
An Exposition of Matthew
Bible Survey 1 (Genesis to Song of Solomon)
Bible Survey 2 (Isaiah to Malachi)

There is no time limit within which you must complete the course work (it's entirely self-paced) and you can take as many classes at a time as you wish. Course materials are free and downloadable as PDF or MP3 files.

The BLBI faculty is solid (from the little I know about them). The BLBI's statement of faith is true to historic Christianity.

Summer may be a great time to take a course if you've been thinking about brushing up on your theology, doctrine, or exposition.

I'm taking the two survey courses in preparation for teaching next year. So far, they're very good.

The BLBI seems almost too good to be true, but it's not. For FAQs, click here.


'Til next time,

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bible Study Helps

Here's another 0n-line resource that provides a ton of links for Bible Study Helps. Provided by Ark Web Ministries, the resources listed seem solid, but use your judgment. Rather than duplicate their list here, just click on link in the first sentence of this paragraph and it will take you to sources for on-line Bibles, commentaries, apologetics, Q&A, study aids, and downloadable Bible software.


'Til next time,

Friday, May 20, 2005

Bible Verses for Teachers

For those of you writing thank-you notes to teachers, here are a few passages from Scripture that might encourage those who teach (at least they've encouraged me over the years). Feel free to use these in cards or notes as you pray for or encourage your teachers!

Psalm 1:2-3 (NIV)
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Psalm 37:31 (NIV)
The law of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip.

Jeremiah 17:8 (NIV)
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."

Matthew 25:21 (NIV)
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Ephesians 1:16 (NIV)
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, [18] may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, [19] and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:2 (NIV)
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV)
The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

1 Timothy 4:11 (NIV)
Command and teach these things.

2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

3 John 1:3 (NIV)
It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.

Whatever you end up saying (or writing), you can be certain your teachers will appreciate your affirmation, perhaps in ways you can't even begin to imagine. Thanks for taking the time to offer a pat on the back and a humble "thank you" to those who teach!

Blessings to you,

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Tools for the Teacher's Soul

If your Bible study classes or groups break for the summer, now is a good time to be thinking about your personal devleopment as a teacher or leader. Summer breaks provide a great opportunity to foster your own growth and development apart from preparing for next fall.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what you might work on over the summer. I've used most of these in trainings with Bible study teachers or have used them for my own study and can recommend them all. I've grouped these suggested resources by type or subject area. Enjoy!





I suspect that's enough to get you started. In later posts I'll list resources for doctrinal development, personal devotions, and other topics of interest.

I hope you'll take time this summer to allow God to renew your soul and to increase your knowledge and understanding.

'Til next time,


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rhythms of Life

Os Guiness, in his book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, encourages the reader to follow Jesus' model of living out the faith in a secular world. He states,

"For Jesus, spirituality is plainly not a life of contemplation divorced from a life of action. There is nothing in Jesus' life of either the super-spiritual...or the the all-too-secular.... There is only a rhythm of engagement and withdrawal, work and rest, dispensing and recharging, crowds and solitude, in the midst of one of the shortest, busiest public lives ever lived."

As leaders, if we're to stay refreshed, recharged, and relevent, we would do well to listen to Guiness and follow Jesus' example. And this year, I plan to model his rhythms of engagement and withdrawel; work and rest. I will allow for rhythms of life.

As I write this, our Bible studies have come to the end of our academic year. I no longer have to teach weekly. This summer, instead of filling my time off full of travel, additional work deadlines, and vacations-from-which-I-need-a-vacation-upon-my-return, I'm planning for rest. Real rest (not just escapist recreation).

My soul needs a cycle of rest just about now. I can sense my weariness. I need to withdraw from engagement for a time so God can restore my soul.

And so I will. I'll do what Jesus did in Mark 6:45-47; I'll dismiss the crowds, I'll pause from my ministry, and make time for solitude.

How about you? In what part of the life rhythm do you find yourself these days. Don't forget about cycles of rest. Jesus needed them; we do, too.

'Til next time,

Friday, May 13, 2005

Away Again

I'm away speaking this weekend, so I won't be able to post until Monday, May 16th.

In the meantime, enjoy the weekend, stay faithful, and rest in God's mercies. :o)

Blessings to you all,

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ideas for Expressing Appreciation

In yesterday's post, I challenged us all to say "thanks" to those who have supported our ministries this year (in any capacity).

Lest you feel overwhelmed, here's a list of ideas that offers various levels of "thanks": some cost no money and taking only a moment of time, and others require a bit more investment. Enjoy!

Money-Free Ways to Say "Thanks" (these only cost time and things you have):
  • Make a phone call whose sole purpose it is to say thank you (no other agenda allowed).
  • Make a public statement of thanks (in front of class, group, or congregation).
  • Write a thank-you note and hand-deliver it.
  • Make a small bouquet from cuttings from your garden or yard (Iris and Lilac blooms are plentiful this time of year), then give the bouquet as an appreciation gift.
  • Bake cookies and place two or three in a Baggie tied with ribbon (one batch makes lots of thank-yous).
  • Bake mini-loaves of bread and give them as appreciation gifts.
  • Roast your own coffee beans and give small bags of them away as thank-you gifts.
  • Write out Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 on stationary or an index card, then give it to the person and commit to praying Paul's prayer for him over the summer.
  • Write a poem about the person for whom you're thankful, then give it to her.
  • Using your computer, create a personalized appreciation bookmark (using Publisher, Print Shop, or Adobe, for example) for those you want to thank, print them, laminate them (if you have a limanator), and give them to those who've helped you.
  • Create a list: The Five Things I Most Appreciate About You and Why. Give it to the person about whom you've created the list.
  • Offer to do a service for someone you want to thank (babysit, cut the grass, weed their garden).

Ways to Say Thanks that Cost a Bit More:

  • Give gift certificates to local restaurants or bookstores.
  • Give gift certificates to CBD (Christian Book Distributors).
  • Host an appreciation day recognizing all helping hands.
  • Put on a "thank-you" brunch.
  • Treat your whole team to a catered lunch (or even take-out).
  • Treat them to a one-on-one-with-you thank-you lunch at a restaurant.
  • Give chocolate, coffee, or tea as gifts.
  • Order a gift basket, fruit basket, or treat tower from your local florist (great for church staffs to share).
  • Give mugs with appropriate messages printed on them.
  • Give a personalized gift (monogramed or inscribed).
  • Create personalized appreciation certificates (using pre-printed certificate paper).
  • Give a token appreciation gift: pens, journals, medals, gift Bibles, Bible-study helps, single-stem flowers, potted plants, stress balls, bookmarks, picture frames, trophies, paper weights, framed prints, Scripture Keepers.

There are countless ways to say thank you. The point isn't how much we spend or how big a gift we give; the point is simply to communicate our appreciation.

This year I gave each woman on my class leadership team a box containing two books marks and a few pieces of chocolate nicely dressed up in tissue paper. With each gift I included a personalized note from me expressing what I valued about that person. The total cost for these four appreciation gifts was less than $5 (for all four total) and little bit of my time. And my leaders know I'm grateful for them.

Next week I'll give my program teachers different appreciation gifts, just to say thanks for their faithfulness in teaching this year. And each will receive a personal note from me with their gift.

The personal touch counts.

So, yes, indeed, express your thanks, but include a personal touch no matter what you choose to do. It will mean more to those receiving your appreciation.

'Til next time,


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Remember to Say "Thank You"

It's May now, and many of us are or will be wrapping up our classes or studies for this semester. I'm not sure why, but in American culture we tend to take the summer off from Bible studies and small groups.

Before you dismiss for the next few months, remember to express your appreciation for those who have supported you or from whom you've received any kind of assistance this year. That could be those who:

provided the home or room in which you met
made home-made goodies for refreshments
brought store-bought munchies to nibble on
offered suggestions for next year's improvements
made coffee
set up the room
participated in classes or meetings
reached out to someone in your class or group
prayed for you, your attendees, or your ministry
cleaned up after your meetings
provided transportation
watched children so that others could attend
loaned you study helps or resources to aid in your preparation
gave you counsel
spoke a kind word
ran copies of handouts for you
shared your teaching/leading load
encouraged you in any way

Certainly there are other roles for which we can give thanks, but you get the idea.

Expressed thanks goes a long way toward encouraging others; it helps those you are thanking to feel valued and to feel like needed members of the body of Christ.

Won't you take time to thank someone before you dismiss for the coming summer season? It will be good for them, and for your heart, too!

'Til next time,

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Problem of Buffet Theology

The following is an observation I made nearly three years ago in a newsletter I used to put together for the ladies who teach in our Bible study program (about 15 in all).

Sadly, these observations are still true, and they've become even more pervasive today than what I saw then. Read, enjoy, but be challenged. I know I am, and will be, as I seek to know the God of the Scriptures.

At a recent Christian conference, I was making my way through the dinner buffet line when I overheard two women discussing their views of God.

“I can believe that God is loving and that He is in control,” said the first, “but I really don’t think He’s ever the source of suffering in our lives. I mean, what about all those passages that say His plans are only good?”

The second woman thought for a moment and replied, “God doesn’t make people suffer. Suffering is always caused by sin, but then God uses it for good….”

Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Actually, the view these women held may sound appealing, and it contains an element of truth, but it’s not accurate or complete.

Scripture makes it clear that God brings both blessing and calamity (Lamentations 3:37-38), that He sometimes wills suffering for our lives (1 Peter 3:17), that He disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and that both good things and trouble come from Him (Job 1:10). Yes, they were correct in part: God is loving, suffering can come from sin, and God uses suffering, but biblically He can also be the cause of suffering.


I couldn’t help but think how these two women had a theology of God much like the buffet we partook of together. “I’ll take a little of God’s grace, and a helping of His love, but I’ll pass on His anger.” “Oh, yes, I’d love a heaping portion of His mercy, but ‘no thanks’ to His justice or wrath.”

The problem with a cafeteria-style theology of God is that we ultimately end up with a God of our own making, not the true God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in His word.

Is your God manageable? Does He fit into a nice, tidy theological box? Is He comfortable? Then (forgive my boldness), I would submit that you don’t really know the true God of the Scriptures. That God is never “manageable.” His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9). He is unsearchable (Romans 11:33). Some of His closest followers, when seeing Him face-to-face, fell prostrate before Him in holy fear (Revelation 1:17).

Tidy? Manageable? Comfortable? Hardly!

As teachers, it’s vital that we endeavor to have a biblical understanding of God, and that we communicate as accurate a depiction of His character as possible (knowing that we will fall short). We won’t always understand Him and we won’t always be able to reconcile His ways. This is a good thing. That means that God is a God too big for us to fully grasp (He is God), and that should lead to worship and wonder.

This God, however, has also said that He can be known (John 10:14). Let’s pursue knowing Him as He truly is, and not how we’d prefer Him to be.

‘Til next time,
Joan :o)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Prayer and Teaching

Today is our National Day of Prayer (in the United States).

In honor of this annual call to petition, I ask this question:

How dependent are we on God for our ministries?

In other words, do we invite God into our lesson preparation? Do we depend on His wisdom and guidance? Do we rely on Him to work in our students? Do we rest in the fact that outcomes belong to Him--they are not in our hands?

Take time today to thank God for the gifts, talents, and abilities He's given you. Thank Him for your health, your mind, your ability to read and write, your training (these, too, ultimately came from His hand), and your ability to understand His word.

Invite Him to work in the hearts and lives of your students or group members. Ask Him to grant you the wisdom, humility,love, and knowledge you need to be an effective vessel. Ask him for strength and perseverence. Ask Him to reveal more of Himself to you and to increase your passion for Him.

And then, if you're brave enough, ask Him to make you more reliant on Him (a dangerous prayer).

He will.

And when He does, let me know how it works out.

'Til next time,

Monday, May 02, 2005

Where to Find Resources

As teachers or leaders, we're always on the prowl for new studies or helpful books or fresh insights on topics we're preparing to teach. Retail prices sometimes make these resources cost prohibitive.

The following is a list of web sites where you can find discounted resources or resources for free that might aid you in your teaching, lesson prep, or resource building.

DISCLAIMER: Though I've found these sites reliable and helpful, I can't guarantee their content or products. You'll need to do some investigation on your own.


Christian Book Distributors (an on-line Christian book & other resources discounter)

Christian Book Clearinghouse (another on-line Christian book & other resources discounter) (another on-line Christian book & other resources discounter)

Christian Classics Ethereal Library (full text book resources, downloadable, searchable, and free)

123 Christian (an on-line Christian product superstore)

If you want to shop several stores at once and compare prices, try using the Discount Christian Stores and Christian Catalogs section of Access-Jesus.Com, an on-line hub for Christian resources.

These should keep you busy for now! I'll post more in future updates.

'Til next time,

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Freedom of Admitting Our Weaknesses

"Good leaders are aware of both their strngths and weaknesses. They are not afraid to admit to the latter. The know how to find support and are humble enough to ask for it. There is no perfect leader who has all the gifts necessary for good leadership."

Leaders, by their very gifting, like to run things. We like to be in charge. We like to be in control. Our problem is that we sometimes take on too much responsiblity or try to control things that would be better left in another's hands.

I know. I've been one of those leaders.

When I first started leading small groups and teaching classes, I felt like everything was up to me. I assumed responsibility for content devlopment of the study or topic, for discussion facilitation, for hospitality, for refreshments, for soul care, for leadership-liason roles between church leadership and the group, for social activities... and well, you get the idea. Like a one-woman band, I tried to play all parts simultaneously and ended up flat and off-key.

Then I learned about delegation. I studied the Scriptures about the Body of Christ and how we need each other. God humbled me and let me know I wasn't indispensible, and that, in fact, He could accomplish some things far better without me.

By trying to do it all, I in effect denied someone else the chance to use her gifts or to develop her gifting. I denied that someone the privilege and blessing of serving others with her gifts. My compulsion to do everything barred her from becoming a vessel of God's grace in the lives of others (1 Peter 4:10). Father, forgive me.

Through a painful process of growth and learning, I've finally found rest in knowing I'm free to use only my gifts and no more. I can focus on what God as prepared me to do and leave the rest to those who are better equipped.

So now, in our Bible study classes, each class has a leadership team: two teachers, one hostess, and one care team coordinator. The teachers are responsible to prepare content, teach the class, and foster small group interactions within the larger classes. The hostess handles room set-up, refreshment coordination, and overall responsibility for creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The care-team coordinator is responsible for creating a class care-team (a small group of people) who will see to the group's special needs (meals, visitation, notes of encouragement, condolences in loss, support in injury, etc...).

Each role requires gifting specific to the task.

And what a relief it is for me, as one whose primary gifting is teaching, to turn over the reigns of hostessing and care. Though I was competent in those roles, I was not gifted. And when I tried to assume those roles too, the responsibilities of care and hostessing drained me and compromised my ability to teach.

What fun it is to focus on teaching! And what grace it is to serve with a team. Team leadership beats one-woman-band leading any day.

I'm thankful for my team. I delight to see God in and at work through them. I'm releaved to be able to focus on my strengths. And the class is far better for it, as are we all.

Consider delegating. Try team leadership. I suspect you'll be glad you did.

'Til next time,

Monday, April 25, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - April 25, 2005

"Faith is that attitude in which, acknowledging our complete insufficiency for any of the high ends of life, we rely utterly on the sufficiency of God....It is an act which is the negation of all activity, a moment of passivity out of which the strength for action comes, because in it God acts.
--C.H. Dodd

I have to agree with the insight provided by twentieth-century British theologian and biblical scholar C.H. Dodd (1884-1973) in his quote above.

Until we realize that we, even as leaders, cannot change hearts or give someone understanding—until we realize our insufficiency—we won't rely on God (the only true heart-changer and source of all understanding) as we should.

Dodd’s words are a wake-up call for me this week. How much do I really rely on God alone to accomplish life change in the hearts of those I serve? How much do truly realize how insufficient I am to do anything of eternal significance in and of my own resources?

May God give us grace this week to realize our inadequacy and to rely on His sufficiency in all we undertake.

'Til next time,

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Importance of Pauses

Read the following:

raphbutatleastyoumightgi veitatryiusedthisactivitythis
weektoillustratealessononsi mplifyingandfocusinghoww
thisparagraphwillmakelitt lesenseitneedscapitalizations
pacesbetweenwordsandpar agraphscommasperiodsan

I suspect the paragraph above will seem difficult to read and decipher. It maybe confusing, too. If, however, I insert the necessary spaces between the words, add correct punctuation, and capitalize letters as needed, the paragraph becomes readable.

Now try it:

I'm not sure if you're going to be able to make sense of this paragraph but at least you might give it a try. I used this activity this week to illustrate a lesson on simplifying and focusing how we use our time. Without capital letters or punctuation, however, this paragraph will make little sense; it needs capitalization, spaces between words and paragraphs, commas, periods, and other punctuation for it to become readable.

What a difference a few pauses make!

We need pauses (spaces and punctuation) and priorities (capitalization) to help us make sense of our lives. Do we bother to pause to think about what we're doing and how we're using our time? Do we take time to prioritize? When we do, instead of living lives that feel like endless streams of activities and demands, we end up with lives that flow like words of a well-written paragraph.

A punctuated life makes more sense. It's easier to follow and understand. It's easier to live.

Won't you take time this week to pause and prioritize? You'll feel refreshed and refocused if you do.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - April 18, 2005

"Leaders are human. They get tired, frustrated, discouraged, and confused. They also fail and sin time and again. Yet, by God's grace, your humanity does not disqualify you from serving God in all that you do. In fact, it becomes the means for God to reveal his power and mercy to you and through you."

--Touchpoints for Leaders (Tyndale, 2004)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Stay the Course

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; [24] and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
Hebrews 10:23-24 (NASB-U)

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. [36] For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
Hebrews 10:35-36 (NASB-U)

Ah. Endurance. Perseverence. Determination. Holding on. Hanging in there. These traits and attitudes are part of biblical leadership. And it's no wonder.

What leader hasn't felt like quitting? Who hasn't wanted to give up? How often have we wanted to throw in the towel? Sometimes we're so exhausted or discouraged we just don't feel like going on.

I can say, without exception, that the times I've wanted to quit or give up have been the times when my eyes were focused most on myself, my inadequacies, and my circumstances and least on the character and power of God.

If you're discouraged just now, remember these truths from God's word:

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB-U): And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;

Philippians 1:6 (NASB-U): For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

1 Cor. 15:58 (NASB-U): Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

2 Cor. 1:8-9 (NASB-U): For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; [9] indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;

2 Cor. 12:9 (NASB-U): And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

1 Thes. 5:24 (NASB-U): Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

When I'm discouraged and feel like quitting, I ask God to lift my eyes from my circumstances and my inability to His sovereignty and might. The vehicle through which God accomplishes this in me in His word. Scripture moves my eyes to Him.

If I'm physically exhausted, I take time to sleep, exercise, and eat right, and I pray for strength. If I'm spirit-weary, I pray for renewal. But most of all I ask God to reveal more of Himself to me. I ask Him to move my eyes to Him. And He does.

If you're discouraged today, take a few moments to meditate on the passages above. Allow God to renew you through His word. Allow Him to move your eyes off yourself and your circumstances and to set them squarely on Him.

Hang in there.

'Til next time,


Friday, April 15, 2005

Thought Provoking Lists Make Great Teaching Tools

My apologies for my recent two-week absence. Life's been a bit crazy, but I haven't forgotten you! I'm back now, and will be posting regularly again.

And I'm continuing to learn about new (and new-to-me) resources that can enrich my teaching.

One group of teaching illustration resources I've discovered recently are those countless books of lists on the market today. Wow, are they filled with topics that can generate great discussions! Here are just some of the list books in which I've found useful teaching prompts or intriguing discussion starters:

Checklist for Life: The Ultimate Handbook (2002, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Lists to Live By: The Christian Collection (2004, Multnomah)

List to Live By for Smart Living (2002, Multnomah)

Lists to Live By: The First Collection (1999, Multnomah)

I have found these books clearanced at overstock book sales, second-hand novelty shops, and public library used-book sales (have yet to pay full price for one). The cheapest cost only 50 cents; the most expensive was $5.97 (far less than retail). I'm sure you can find them on sale, too.

And they are loaded. Their lists cover topics like these: wisdom; virtue; sin; prayer; marriage; success; leadership; rest; forgiveness; time management; handling criticism; building character; memorizing Scripture; endurance; contentment--you name it; it's probably covered in one of these lists.

Sometimes I use the lists "as is" (duly credited, of course) as a resource handout for my students; sometime I adapt the lists to suit my lesson-planning needs (again, duly credited). Sometimes I just use the lists to springboard my own thought process.

In any case, I think these lists can stimulate our thinking and foster creativity in our teaching.

I hope you find them as useful as I've found them.

'Til next time,

Monday, March 28, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - March 28, 2005

"The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know God. Disregard the study of God and you sentence yourself to stumble through life blind-folded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul."

--J. I. Packer

We leaders sometimes fall into the habit of studying the Scriptures for theological knowledge or doctrinal know-how. When we do, we can become modern Pharisees: people with lots of knowledge but with hearts far from God.

This week, as we study God's word, let's remember to study not to know more about God, but to encounter Him through our interaction with His word.

Our prayer might be: Father, as I study Your Word this week, reveal more of Yourself to me that I might love You more, honor You more effectively, and become a bit more like Jesus.

That's it for now!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bible Study Zone - Another Resource

Sometimes it's difficult for Bible study teachers and leaders to come up with fresh activity ideas or new, dynamic curricula. Staying on top of current resources is a must if we want our classes and groups to stay fresh and creative. But how?

One bi-monthly resource I've found helpful, put out by NavPress, is Bible Study Zone. This is an on-line small group leader resource that can be perused on-line or received as an e-mail subscription newsletter, completely free. It comes out six times per year (every other month) and, if you don't want to bother checking the web site, it can be e-mailed directly to your e-mail address. It's loaded with the following:

Tips for ministry leaders
Tips for leading small groups
Group discussion tips
Group activity tips
Community-building tips
Bible study tips
Outreach ideas
Additional resources
New resource releases

It also keeps you up-to-date on NavPress's newest small group study guides and leader resources, and offers them to you at discounted rates.

To subscribe to Bible Study Zone, just click here, then check the appropriate box, fill in the subscriber information boxes at the bottom of the page, and click "submit." You'll be added to the Bible Study Zone e-mail list.

The authors and leaders at NavPress has proven themselves to be consistently on-target when it comes to equipping Bible study teachers and leaders. I think you'll find loads of solid, helpful information in this NavPress subscription.


'Til next time,

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Featured Site:

If your looking for a one-stop-shopping site for Christian resources of all shapes and sizes, try Loaded with links, this site offers Christian clip art, jokes, cartoons, puzzles, desktop wallpapers, shopping, news, name it; it's probably there.

I recommend this site, not because you'll find so many links or so much Christian "stuff" (something that usual bugs me), but because of it's Bible Study resources page. In addition to several translations (though fewer than other sites offer), this page offers access to writings from Christian history (e.g.: Josephus), classic works from figures like John Bunyun and Augustine, biographies and autobiographies, topical Bibles, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and thousands of sermons and articles in which you can find ideas or illustrations for your lessons.

I'm not one who likes banners and blinking ads, but don't let the heavy Christian advertising on this site's opening page fool you; it's loaded with helpful resources (and almost no advertisements on the resource pages).

I hope you find something useful there!

That's it for now,

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Tuesday Challenge: Ask a Great Question

Because Tuesdays are my teaching days, I don't have much time to create blog entries. So, I thought Tuesdays might be a good day to issue a weekly challenge designed to foster growth in us as leaders and teachers.

Here's this week's challenge (look for more in the weeks to come): Ask a great question!

Come up with one question you can ask yourself, your students, or your group members that requires thought and personal interaction with the topic.

Here are your guidelines:

1. The question cannot be answerable with just a yes or no.

2. The question cannot look for a right-or-wrong, test-like answer (facts, people, places, etc.).

3. The question should prompt thought and discussion.

4. The question should be open-ended. Here are some standard openers for open-ended questions:
  • In what ways...
  • How do you feel when...
  • What do you think it means when...
  • Why do you think...
  • With what or whom do you most identify...?

Here's an example. I'm currently teaching on simplifying the spiritual disciplines. One question I might ask that meets the above criteria is this: Why do you think we tend to complicate spiritual disciplines so much? Another might be: In what ways have you (or I) unnecessarily complicated the spiritual life? A third might be: In what ways do you think Jesus modeled simplicity in His spiritual disciplines? You get the idea.

That's your challenge! Go for it! If you have the time, leave a comment to let me know how your challenge worked out (now that Blogger's comment capabilities are back)!

That's it for now,


Monday, March 14, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - March 14, 2005

This week's quote comes from A.W. Tozer:

"...[biblical] exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth."

As teachers and leaders we're often tempted to impart knowledge to our students. We've done our research, we've studied the passages, we have a wealth of information we'd like to pass on. But information doesn't change lives. Encountering God does.

If our goal as leaders is to foster life change through learning (remembering that only God changes hearts), then we need to be willing to take the information we've prepared and tie it to experience. What difference does this information make? What does it tell me about God's character? What does it tell me about God's way of interacting with mankind? What does it reveal about the work God desires to accomplish in this world? What does it reveal about what He desires to do in or through me? In what ways has God revealed this truth in my experience? How might He apply this truth in the lives of my students or group members?

Intellectual ascent isn't the same phenomenon as intimacy with God. To move my students beyond intellectual ascent I need to ask and answer these questions as I prepare: how can this truth foster deeper intimacy with God in my students? How can I offer this truth in a way that will foster life change? What illustrations can I use to help my student identify this truth with real life situations? What one thing from this biblcal exposition can my students apply? What practical steps can I give them this week to help them apply it?

Teaching isn't about impressing others with our knowledge; it's about being faithful stewards of God's word and being vessels for life change.

It's good to perform a self-check now and then: what kind of vessels are we: the kind that leads to intellectual ascent or the kind that fosters life change?

'Til next time,

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Heart of a Leader

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, a small, heart-warming, wisdom-packed book on the meaning of Christian leadership. In it, I found this quote:

"It is not enough for priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God's presence, to listen to God's voice, to look at God's beauty, to touch God's incarnate Word, and to taste fully God's infinite goodness?" (emphasis added)

He then explains that the original use of the word "theology" (we often view theological grounding as an important qualification in contemporary leaders ) meant "union with God through prayer." Wow! How differently we view our academic version of theology today!

His point is this: Christian leaders, first and foremost, must be lovers of God; they must be men and women who know God intimately (not just know about Him).

I have to ask myself: do I desire to dwell in God's presence, to hear and listen to God's voice, to gaze upon His beauty, to touch and taste His character and Word? If I can't answer "yes" to these questions, then out of what motives am I truly leading: Self-sufficiency? A desire to please or impress other? A desire to prove myself? A deluded works-based effort to earn God's favor?

Authentic Christian leadership, true biblical leadership, flows from intimacy with and love for the Source of all life, strength, wisdom, and power. It finds its origins in grace and gratitude. If it doesn't, then that leadership differs little from the world's.

Let's do a heart check this weekend. How's our love for God? How well do we fit Nouwen's description of a leader in the second paragraph above? Just how rooted in grace and gratitude are we?

May God give us grace to love Him and to serve Him out of that love. May He equip us to do so.

That's it for now,

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bible Study Methods

As leaders and teachers it's easy for us to use the same methods of Bible study over and over again. Usually it's because we've found whatever methods we use to be reliable, comfortable, and user-friendly.

Sometimes, however, the same-old-same-old routine leaves us feeling flat and lifeless after we've encountered the Word of God. The same could be said for our students. Try spicing up your personal Bible study time (or that of your students) by trying new study methods.

Where can you find new and different methods of study? Try these resources:

These sites alone provide dozens of methods of Bible study. But if you'd like more options, trying these book resources (links take you to Amazon's book store). I own them and use them regularly for finding Bible study options to offer my students.

Personal Bible Study Methods: 12 Ways to Study the Bible on Your Own by Rick Warren

Discipleship Journal's Best Bible Study Methods compiled from past issues of DJ

The Navigator Bible Studies Handbook compiled from methods the Navigators have used for over 60 years

How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur (a summary of the inductive study method)

Between these book resources (some of whose contents you can view in part at and these web site offerings, you should be able to find a new way to approach the Scriptures or a old way with a new twist. Either way, trying something new may bring new life to your encounters with the Word of God.

That's it for now,

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Map and Bible Land Image Resources

Atlases come in handy for our lesson preparations, but sometimes it's difficult to adapt what we find in a book for use as an overhead transparency or PowerPoint slide. I've stumbled upon two helpful on-line resources that solve the problem of creating map and Bible land images for us.

The first is Heartlight's Here are just a few of the tools this web site offers for free to any user:
  • a searchable Bible (by key word or reference; searches in over twenty translations)
  • daily Bible reading plans
  • daily devotionals
  • "Today in Christian History"
  • commentaries
  • Bible dictionaries
  • Bible encyclopedias
  • concordances
  • lexicons
  • historical literature
  • "Sermon Jazzers" (anecdotes and humorous illustrations)
  • over forty FREE PowerPoint Bible maps!

The PowerPoint Bible maps alone are worth the visit to this site. They're well done and ready for teaching use. If you don't have PowerPoint you can print the on-line images directly onto transparency film for use as overheads.

The second site where you can find free maps and photos of Bible lands and other Bible images (e.g.: an Olive tree; a cubit; Mount of Olives, etc.) is This site boast all kinds of additional resources as well.

When you have a chance, investigate these sites. I think you'll find that both provide useful and practical helps for teachers.

Every little bit helps!

That's it for now,


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Leader's Quote of the Week - March 7th, 2005

To encourage and motivate my readers, I've decided to add another feature to this blog: the Leader's Quote of the Week. Some weeks I'll comment; other weeks the quote will stand alone. In any case, I hope you fine these gems of wisdom helpful and stimulating.

This week's quote comes from Theodore Roosevelt:

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

Are you?

That's it for now,

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Christianity's FAQs

Sometimes people in our studies have basic questions about the Christian faith, the Bible, the Christian life, theological or doctrinal issues, or other questions we can't address within the limits of our classes or study groups.

While we might discuss these questions with inquiring individuals one-on-one, sometimes it helps to direct them to other resources that might answer their questions.

Evangelical pastor, Bible teacher, and best-selling author Johh MacArthur of Grace to You Ministries provides answers to dozens of Christianity's FAQs at the Grace to You web site. Click here to access this web resource.

You'll find answers to questions like these:

Is my Bible really free from errors?

Which Bible translation is best?

How can I be sure of my salvation?

What is God's will for my life?

If God is sovereign is He responsible for evil?

Using careful biblical exegesis, John MacArthur answers these and dozens more questions covering everything from suicide to sanctification.

Take a peek at this web page; I think you'll find it helpful (or perhaps your students and disciples will).

That's it for now,

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Christian Research Institute: Another Great Resource

Well, I'm back. :o) And since I've returned I'm more convinced than ever of our need to be solidly grounded in an intelligent faith: Bible knowledge, theology, doctrine, and application.

While I was away I encountered mature believers who, though they knew much Truth, struggled to apply it. Sometimes the difficulty was individual will (they didn't have the will to apply what they knew). Sometimes the difficulty was forgetfulness (they forgot to apply what they knew). But sometimes the difficulty was ignorance (they didn't know the Truth well enough to apply it).

One of the organizations I've encountered that best pursues the goal of equipping Christians with an intelligent, Bible-based, appliable faith is the Christian Research Institute (CRI), headed by Hank Hannegraff, the voice behind the Bible Answer Man radio program.

CRI offers a number of excellent resources on countless topics, including difficult-to-answer questions about our faith. One resource, the Christian Research Journal, tackles today's controversial issues head-one. Though non-subscribers cannot access the current issue's articles, past issues of The Journal are available on-line to anyone and are organized by topic. CRI also provides a solid summary of Christianity's essential doctrines and more detailed explanations of specifics of the faith.

The CRI Resource Center offers resources (for sale) in several media types (hardcover books, softcover books, audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc.) searchable by over twenty-five categories (e.g.: apologetics, Christian doctrines, Christian classics, cults, evangelism, eschatology, ethics, science and the Bible, world religions, etc.). These resources are well-researched, historically accurate, biblically grounded treatments of various topics. They make great references for teaching on everything from the Resurrection to Spiritual Warfare.

CRI is dedicated to equipping believers (hence their web address: I think you'll find their resources quite helpful.

'Til next time,

Friday, February 25, 2005

Quick Note: I'm Away

I'll be away for the next three days speaking at a women's retreat. Just thought I'd let you know. You can look for more helpful posts next week after my return.

Blessings to you all!

Another Great On-Line Tool!

I've been checking out several blogs and web sites lately, and I found another great "one-stop-shoppping" Bible study resource. Just about everything you need for lesson preparation (resources, references, and Bible study tools) is available at this site.

Called The Smart Christian, it encourages a thinking approach to Christianity. Good stuff!

You'll find the page devoted to Bible study tools here. You'll find the site's theological resources here. You'll find other general reference sources here.

Don't forget to check out the history reference link and other resource links offered at this site. You'll find a ton of neat study aids.

That's it for now,

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

ANNOUNCING: "Featured Site"

I've added a new feature to this blog: a sidebar offering called "Featured Site."

The "Featured Site" section on the right will contain a link to a new, excellent on-line resource I've stumbled upon and highly recommend. I'll try to highlight a new featured site at least twice a month.

This week's "Featured Site" is John Piper's site Desiring God. This outstanding resource offers all kinds of helps for Bible study teachers or leaders:

  • An On-line Library (on-line line book references)
  • An On-line Study Desk (a ton of Bible study aids and tools)
  • Weekly audio sermons (you can listen on-line)
  • Daily radio broadcasts (you can listen on-line)
  • The "Fighter Verses" Bible memorization system
  • The complete English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) and 25 other versions on-line
  • Daily devotionals
  • Today's News and Links sections
  • Easy-to-use search features that allow you to search the site by topic.

Just the On-line Study Desk feature is worth the visit to this site.

If you've never read John Piper's works, I'd encourage you to do so; his is a unique and penetrating voice that drives us out of complacency into deepening relationship with God--the true God of the Scriptures who if far greater and more wonderful than we know. You'll find no superficiality, quick fixes, or "cheap grace" here.

Please note that when I visited this site, the "store" feature (where you can purchase products) was not operational. This, however, did not affect my ability to search the databases or to use the on-line resources.

So, check out I hope you like it. Let me know what you think.

That's it for now,

Monday, February 21, 2005

On-Line Resources and Software

Okay. I'll admit it. I'm a book person. And a paper person. There's just something about the feel of pages beneath my fingertips that brings out the creativity in me. That's why my office is loaded with books, many of which I use in my Bible study lesson preparations.

But I'm a computer person, too. And I've found some nifty computer resources (on-line and in software form) that have made my life as a Bible study teacher easier.

The best of the on-line Bible study resources I've found are listed as links on the right side of this web page in the sidebar entitled Bible Study Tools. These sites contain just about anything you could want or need by way of Bible study references. Take some time to familiarize yourself with what's available. Though there may be a small learning curve to begin with, you'll find that these resources save time in the long run. To check out these sites, all you have to do is click on the links I've provided, then explore!

I've found software tools to be helpful, too. Though there are many excellent Bible software manufacturers and tools out there, the one I prefer is NavPress Software's WORDSearch with LESSONMaker, STEP compatability, and Zip Script features (co-published with IExalt). I have the package entitled the WORDSearch Discipleship Library with a bunch of add-ons, but Navpress and IExalt offer many different combinations covering many different price ranges. You can check them out at the WORDsearch home page or Christian Book Distributors.

An additional piece of software I've enjoyed (an add-on to the above that can be used on its own) is the Discipleship Journal Anthology, again a Navpress product. This CD-ROM contains nearly all the content from past issues of Discipleship Journal dating from 1981 to 2000 (issues #1 through #120). The searchable anthology comes in WORDsearch compatible or Logos editions, and has been a springoard for ideas and lesson preparations on a host of subjects for me.

I should admit that I'm partial to DJ. I've read the publication since they started in the early 80s and have written for them quite a bit over the last six years. I value their commitment to biblical integrity, their passion to equip believers, their heart for missions, and their willingness to take on challenging topics. It's a great publication--one I still receive in magazine hard copy form. And being able to search (via computer) back issues for topics on which I'm teaching and speaking is a dream-come-true for me. Before, I plodded page-by-page through old hard copies; now I can search with the touch of a button.

Logos makes some good software, too. I just happen to prefer WORDsearch. Others use Logos and highly recommend it. My suggestion would be to investigate both product lines and decide what suits your need best. For me, WORDsearch fits the bill.

In the meantime, don't forget to check out the on-line resources I've listed in the sidebar on the right. You'll find plenty to keep you busy there.

That's it for now,