Tips for Talks and Lessons #7: Lead Meaningful Class Discussions

The best gospel lessons include class discussions. Edifying uplifting discussions are an integral part of a good lesson. We all learn best when we are actively involved.

We can all learn from others.  No teacher has a monopoly on gospel knowledge and insights. Only God is omniscient.  Every student has something to contribute. Pure lectures are inferior to discussions.  

D&C 88:122: “Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesman at once, but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.”

D&C 50: 21-22:
“Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
“Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.”

Good Discussions Begin with Planned Good Questions

Questions should be:

  • Preplanned
  • Well thought out
  • Designed to stimulate thinking
  • Designed to encourage pondering
  • Designed to encourage self-reflection and evaluation
  • Open ended
  • Designed to invite the Spirit

Examples:

  • What impresses you most about …? (Joseph Smith, Russell M. Nelson)
  • What words in the verse seem to stand out?
  • What can we do to increase our …? (love, faith, charity, hope, spirituality, testimony)
  • What doctrinal truths do we learn from …? (First Vision, Nephi’s Vision, these scriptures, church history episodes)
  • How can we tell the difference between the promptings of the Spirit and our own thoughts?
  • Why is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the first principle of the gospel?

Bad Questions Lead to Unproductive Discussions

Avoid questions that:

  • Don’t edify
  • Probe deep doctrine and mysteries
  • Encourage speculation
  • Repel the spirit
  • Encourage the students to judge God or church leaders
  • Ask for obvious rote answers

Examples:

  • Where are the 10 tribes?
  • What do you think will happen to the sons of perdition?
  • Why does God kill people?
  • Do we wear clothes in the Celestial Kingdom?
  • How many Apostles are in the Quorum of Twelve?

Wait for student’s response

Pauses are good.  It gives students quiet time for reflection. It allows the Spirit time to touch their minds and hearts.

You may also want to give the students advance notice of questions: “In a few minutes I am going to ask….”

Listen carefully to the student’s comments

Allow a pause after a class member responds before you comment, ask another question, or move on.  You may want to emphasize the student’s insight by repeating it or rephrasing it.

Thank students for their participation

Thank students for their contributions. They need to know that you appreciate their willingness to share their insights and testimonies.

Encourage everyone to participate

Some students hesitate to participate because they are shy or feel inadequate.  They don’t think they are smart enough or knowledgeable enough.

Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t shared yet” “That’s an interesting observation. What do the rest of you think?”

Stay Focused and Keep on Track

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One challenge is keeping discussions focused and on track.

C.S. Lewis explained that readers and listeners are like sheep.  It is not good enough to point them in the right direction, because they will get distracted and wander off.  You must build fences along the path in order to get them to their destination.

Invite the Spirit

Let the Spirit guide.”  “Be still, and know I am God

    (www.londonedition.net)

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