Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Which is more important when you teach a lesson, following the manual exactly as written, or using inspiration and your own resources?
The lesson manuals were created under direct guidance and inspiration from God. They’re designed to make certain students have a basic understanding of every principle necessary for their salvation at a given time in their lives. In general, we should follow the manual, teaching the topic and teaching in the ways the manual suggests.
However, in recent years, the church has moved the missionaries away from recited lessons. Instead, they’re taught to fully understand the doctrine and then to teach by the spirit. This means that one person might receive a lesson on the plan of salvation one way and another might receive an entirely different lesson, depending on what the spirit instructs the missionary to do.
This can apply to teachers as well. While we should nearly always plan to teach the lesson given, unless the manual instructs us to make no changes, we should always ask the spirit for confirmation of our lesson plan. It may be that a specific student in your class needs a particular aspect of the topic brought out just for him. The spirit may know of a teaching method that will work better for your students than the one that will work best for most of the church.
When venturing off on your own, however, it’s important not to get creative with your sources. Always seek a church approved resource unless the lesson manual specifically asks you to find something on your own. The church magazines generally contain every possible item you could want for your lesson—quotes, stories, pictures, activities.
In general, the following circumstances make it appropriate to venture outside the lesson materials:
1. The manual allows for this.
2. Your class has unusual needs not covered in the lesson—for instance, the stories are clearly about middle class lives and you teach students who live in poverty, or a child in a class has a disability that should be discussed in the context of a lesson (such as a lesson on eyes including information on blindness.)
3. The church has recently made changes that differ from what is in the lesson. (Verify the change.)
4. Small children need more activities or visual aids in order to get through a lesson.
5. You want to provide an opportunity to actually live something being taught, have time to do so, and the activity is appropriate for the class.
6. There is an important need to relate the lesson to something important happening to the people in your class, such as coping with the aftermath of a flood or recent death.
Overall, the manuals are sufficient to our needs, but do listen closely to the promptings of the spirit to discern whether or not something special is needed this time.
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