Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Many wards are experiencing record growth. In some areas, there are baptisms nearly every week. A ward may have a large number of people with minimal gospel knowledge, and others with a lifetime of knowledge, and the needs of both must be met in the same classroom. In such a ward, there may also be people who arenít members of the church.
It can be challenging to prepare a lesson that meets the needs of both groups. One the one hand, you need to cover all the basics for the beginners. On the other, you want to challenge the experienced members.
Fortunately, the church has talked in recent years about returning to the basics in our lessons, to those things that affect our eternal salvation, as opposed to fun items of speculation. No matter how much experience one has in the basics, we always need a reminder of those items that we need to be living. Often, experienced members have forgotten the most essential basics and a reminder is helpful.
One year, early in my church membership, I noticed the next Relief Society lesson was about Joseph Smith. As I read it over, I realized even I, with my shiny new testimony, knew everything in the lesson. Surely, it would be downright dull to those with more experience in the gospel. I considered skipping it, but felt impressed that I needed to teach it. After pondering and praying, I decided to play a role. I would be an investigator come to learn about Joseph. Instead of teaching the material, I asked questions based on the material in the lesson. Newcomers were able to learn answers to the basic questions they had about the prophet. Experienced members were startled to realize they didnít know as much as they thought and that it was hard to put what they did know in terms an investigator would understand. As a recent convert, I was able to be ruthless, not letting Mormon terminology or assumptions slip by unexplained. I knew exactly how an investigator would see the answers. After allÖI had been a ruthless investigator not that long ago.
One way to present material that seems too easy is to ask questions. Members need experience answering basic gospel questions, and in a questioning atmosphere, newcomers feel safe asking as well.
Always start with an overview of the basic information. Assume no one knows anything, and explain it at the simplest level. This gives the investigators and newly baptized members a foundation for what you will be teaching further into the lesson. Then move on to any of the more complicated doctrine required by the lesson material. Finish with practical application. Both beginners and old-timers need to remember that itís not enough to sit in an interesting class and nod their heads. They must go and do.
No matter how long youíve been a member, going and doing is what counts.
Stripling Warrior Socks