Lee Ann Alexander is a disciple of Jesus Christ and a teacher and preacher of the gospel. As an associate editor of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI), she leads the curriculum team at Pentecostal Publishing House and is passionate about teaching teachers.
You mentioned that we cannot out-entertain Disney. Kids and adults alike are “overloaded with content that [we] will never outperform.” What can teachers do to capture student’s hearts?
When I go to a church or district seminar to train teachers, I spend some time on the “false dichotomy of fun.” Teachers of kids (and probably adults too for that matter) put so much pressure on themselves to outdo the last week’s fun and excitement with more, more, more. And I get that. We need students to want to come back so God can continue to work in their lives. But we’ve got to be clear about the most important ingredient of our Apostolic DNA: the work of the Spirit. If fun and entertainment were what people were seeking, they could go any number of places in your town and find a more exciting show and funnier entertainers. But it doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario. We really can have both because we’re naturally going to have a good time when the family of God, filled with the joy of the Lord, come together in His house. Yet our students can pick up their phones and in a millisecond have better entertainment than what we can offer. Instead of competing on the entertainment factor, we must change the game. What Youtube cannot do is personally connect with your students and involve them. Youtube can’t ask them to stand up and take part in an object lesson or volunteer a personal testimony to illustrate a key point. You can do that in real time and Youtube can’t compete. When we move students from passive listening to active participation, it won’t matter what statistics say about human attention spans. We build a bridge with a personal connection that can’t be beat with any other entertainment factor.
If you could coach teachers, what would your approach be?
I’ll answer this question on two fronts, and I hope it illustrates what church teachers should focus on each week: 1) the subject matter and 2) the method. What I mean is that if I could have three hours with all the church’s teachers, my subject matter would be about teaching as a spiritual act, building relationships with students, and then techniques for increasing students’ engagement in class. My method for teaching that to all our teachers would be to set up small groups and start asking questions. My hope would be that in those opening questions in our sessions where I asked the groups about their most pressing needs, they would volunteer that they wanted help in those areas. Then I wouldn’t be lecturing out of my opinion, but we would be working together to meet needs they had identified; they would be invested in the learning. We would look to Scripture for principles on these questions and then have the group share experiences to establish best practices.
Do you have any recent favorite books?
I gleaned a lot from Eugene Wilson’s Rodentivity—related to that concept of getting out of our ruts and fulfilling our purpose with focus and productivity. Also while not a book, the new Elements discipleship course is near to my heart. As teachers, we must be unswerving in our allegiance to Scripture. In twenty-four sessions, Elements gives a thorough study of the biblical basis for our faith, and so I think it is a must for every Apostolic teacher. And finally, I love the new children’s book Trudy and the Cupcake of the Month Contest by Sara Rowland. It’s a lovely way to convey the principles of I Peter 3. I’m encouraged by the creativity of our wonderful community of Apostolic writers.
Do you have any suggestions for teachers to successfully communicate the process of grounding believers in the Word of God?
My bottom line is that I believe teachers should catch the vision of teaching as a crucial spiritual ministry that grounds believers of all ages in the Word of God. We are not trying to get our students to memorize a set of facts; we’re trying to coach them in the process of falling deeply in love with God and committing to a lifelong relationship with Him. I believe that is primarily a heart process: if students fall in love with God, their minds will follow. It is transformative; God will revolutionize every part of our lives, and it all starts with teaching that opens people’s hearts to the move of the Spirit.
Everett Gossard interviews Lee Ann Alexander
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