FRL in action: it even works in youth group
by Deborah Covert, Entrust executive assistant
I’ve watched the youth at our church go glassy-eyed during lectures. Lecture-based learning has been our church’s primary approach to teaching our young people.
Because I’ve joined the youth group as a sponsor and our youth pastor knows I’m trained in Entrust-style discovery-based learning, I was asked recently to teach the youth group. I prepared a 2-part lesson plan about the Holy Spirit. In the first lesson, I had the youth form five groups to observe 15 passages of scripture about the Holy Spirit. The job of each group was to list from the text what they identified as either the roles or character of the Holy Spirit. Sponsors, including me, assisted each group. I also checked on the others to make sure they were progressing. The scripture observation was slower than I’d hoped, but they did an excellent job wrestling through each passage to make their lists.
When we came back together as a large group, I asked each group to read their passages and share what they had identified. We made two lists on a large white board, “Roles” and “Character.” The lists were gratifyingly long, which showed me they had done a good job at observation. However, the observation had taken so long, I ran out of time for some of the discussion questions to process what we had observed.
I felt a bit inadequate, like I hadn’t planned well and that they might have come away confused. Yet, I realized that the group had made some incredible discoveries in the discussion we had, such as, “I never thought of the Holy Spirit as more than just a being before – he’s a real person!” and “I’m looking at this list, and – it looks like it’s listing God!” and “I never thought about how he brings us into unity.” I handed out index cards and asked them to each write something they want to remember about the Holy Spirit and put it in their Bible to take home. At least they seemed to be writing something down!
Despite my disappointment at the lesson not turning out the way I’d hoped, several youth said to me afterward, “Good job teaching, Miss Deborah.” The following Sunday, one of the moms told me her daughter said to her, “I love the way she teaches.” This was wonderful confirmation that, in spite of my shortcomings as I’m still learning to facilitate in this kind of setting, God used it and me to help them learn.
Realizing the youth group’s knowledge level about the Holy Spirit was different that I had anticipated, I decided my original second lesson plan was too much. I revisited my outline from the first lesson, added/revised some of the questions I didn’t get to, and created a plan to work on expanding the elementary understanding of the Holy Spirit.
The second lesson went so well!
I had recorded the previous week’s lists of the role and character of the Holy Spirit and put those lists into a handout, so the group could review its hard work in observing the scripture passages. My discussion questions sprang from there.
I used quite a few tools I’ve learned from Entrust’s Facilitating Relational Learning to engage them in discussion. The youth group is not a “small group” by typical definition (9-12 people). We have about 20 youth, plus four or five sponsors which makes asking discussion questions dicey as some may not feel safe talking in a large group. So, I had them take turns around the circle reading each point in the lists of observations, to get everyone involved in a small way. I had them talk in twos and threes about one discussion question, so it might seem less intimidating to answer, and then share back with the large group what they had discussed. I utilized a “mini-sermon” on some points I wanted to make sure would sink in and also to change up the flow.
They engaged very well with the discussion and it appeared that putting their scripture observations from the previous week on paper really helped them grapple with the discussion questions. Afterward, a student came up to me to say she likes the way I teach. Another approached me to share her answers to one of my discussion questions, saying she is too shy to share in the large group but wanted me to know. One of the adult sponsors even thanked me for making it “so accessible” for the kids, saying how great I was with the kids and how well they are responding, and even told me she as a new Christian finds the way I am teaching easy to understand. She had tears in her eyes.
In leading just these two lessons, I had my share of ups and downs, but I can see how God is using this process to affect the participants and how he makes up the difference in what I lack in ability and experience. I’m so excited to be part of the youth group and am looking forward to my future opportunities to teach them.
As an administrative staff member at Entrust, I never thought I’d be directly involved in multiplying leaders, but God is at work!