Need new teachers? Invite a group of potential teachers and start a class just for them. Model what you want your teachers to do. Many will see you do things they don’t think adults will do in a learning environment. Maybe they have never had the opportunity to be creative or to interact in any way during a Bible study session. They will typically teach the way they have been taught. Their being involved as a learner gives them much more confidence in teaching later as they can see that people typically don’t jump up and run out of class when someone asks good questions or involves learners in other ways. They also see ways to address typical teacher fears such as what to do if someone dominates a discussion, how to adapt when focal walls are not ideal, what to do when people chase rabbits, etc.
Someone is saying, well sure that will work for adult teachers; but we need preschool teachers. The answer is still the same—lab school! As a minister of education, I found teaching in VBS in an area where we needed teachers is a great lab experience. For example, if you need teachers for the four-year olds, enlist potential teachers to serve alongside you in VBS in that age group. I found people would commit to a week especially if they were not the person in charge. Most volunteers would end the week telling me if I needed help again next year, they would love to help. Since they had a trial run in VBS, they are much more open to the Holy Spirit’s leading and usually end up serving. By the way, it also helps people discover where God is not calling them to serve. Don’t forget about mission VBS or other mission experiences that give people a chance to teach in a short-term setting alongside experienced teachers.
My husband, Steve, and I enjoy starting new classes. We found the best way to grow class leaders is to enlist a core group of leaders for any new class. This leadership team’s first responsibility is to begin praying about whom God would have them begin training on the job. Yes—it’s lab school again. If I’m a teacher, I’m going to immediately begin growing up a teacher. If I am responsible for outreach, I’ll do the same. You get the picture. We ask the leadership team to aim for having someone else ready to step in within six months to a year. That allows the team that began the class to step out of the way and hand off the class to the people who grew up in it.
Some will say this takes too long, but it produces great leaders. In addition to the on-the-job training itself, you have the opportunity to hang out with potential leaders, pray with and for them, and process the things they are concerned about prior to taking on a ministry role.
Lab school? I’m not sure why I hated college labs in the first place.
Belinda Jolley serves as the Director of the Adult Ministry Office of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Belinda and her husband, Steve, enjoy starting new classes at First Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina.