Preacher-teaching wisdom from the Pacific Islands
‘Never do alone what you can do with another!’
This comment captures Pacific Island culture. It also captures what motivates the growing networks of preacher groups facilitated by Langham Preaching worldwide.
For many Westerners it is a hard teaching that goes against our individualistic grain. In Brisbane, Australia, at the Pacific Island Consultation in February, there was infectious joy at the privilege of being together among the participants from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Tonga.
As I was preparing for leading a session on ‘principles of effective training’ with a group of Pacific Island preacher-training facilitators, I remembered the words of a friend. We had been discussing the joys and challenges of cross-cultural living and teaching when she said she often reminded herself to, ‘Remove your shoes, lest you think God had not been here before you.’
Each participant brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom and pulpit from their lives as pastors, teachers, parents, business owners, farmers, neighbours and any of a myriad other occupations and life experiences. God has been there, teaching them, long before any of us arrived on the scene!
So, heeding a foundational principle of adult education, I asked the group to give me their best ideas for teaching others. This is some of what they came up with:
1. Always move from the known to the unknown. Begin by having the participants tell you what they know before you move to what will be new to them.
2. When preparing to teach material that is new to you as the teacher, first present it to a group of people you feel comfortable with.
3. Never do alone what you can do with another.
4. Help the participants discover ideas for themselves. Let them find their own answers in the Bible, because when they do it by themselves they will be able to do it better the next time.
5. Use lesson-appropriate visual aids. Use content that is easily recognizable and familiar.
6. Use singing and rhythm as a teaching tool and memory aid.
7.Teach the way you want your participants to teach; they will teach the way they were taught.
8. Warn your participants before asking them to do things that may make them feel uncomfortable. They are there to learn, but it can be a frightening experience for some.
9. Always find something to affirm in your participants’ efforts – show that you believe in them.
10. Set tasks that can be easily evaluated.
11. Use only resources and technology that participants will also have access to.
12. As trainers, be honest and vulnerable.
The group owned this lesson. Was I needed? Yes, for without my facilitation they may not have been able to speak out what they already have learnt, and we would not have helped each other further. God is our ultimate trainer. And he has designed life so that no one has to do it alone!
by Jennifer Cuthbertson, Langham Preaching