In this blog we interviewed Lee Ann Alexander on her recent book Teaching to Transform Hearts. From her insight you will gain strategies on teaching to lead and to transform hearts.
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.
Fun facts: Generationally I’m the borderline year between Gen X and millennials. Perhaps because of growing up in that liminal space, I don’t like coffee, Apple products, or online concierge services (DoorDash, Instacart, etc.). I love red snowballs and anything involving family memories, and I’m still waiting to meet someone who actually solved the Rubik’s cube.
The first line in your book creates quite a word picture and resonates with many: “I am one we almost lost.” How might Teaching to Transform Hearts offer guidance to parents and teachers today?
I hope my story encourages parents and teachers that teaching does work. The timeline for when those seeds sprout isn’t
Teaching with a contagious love for God, His Word, and our students shapes hearts.
always what we would like, but I believe in the principle of teaching. Many young adults confronted by secular teaching in college experience a faith crisis. I did, but it actually pointed me back to the teachings of my church and family. It wasn’t because that teaching brought to bear the latest scientific argument but because it was experiential and brought me to a place to encounter God. My parents and church worked together to instill Apostolic truth in my heart as much as in my head.
Why is teaching such a passion of yours?
I believe teaching is part of God’s plan for discipleship—that lifelong process of growing ever closer to God. If you look at the Great Commission, Jesus mandated that we go and make disciples in Matthew 28:19, and then He told us how in Matthew 28:20—by teaching His commandments. Teaching with a contagious love for God, His Word, and our students shapes hearts.If you look at the Great Commission, Jesus mandated that we go and make disciples in Matthew 28:19, and then He told us how in Matthew 28:20. Click To Tweet
You write that “a good teacher is a growing teacher.” Talk to us about the importance of ongoing education. What are some methods you use to continue your own education?
I push us in this book to look at transformative teaching not as an expert speaker spewing facts at students, but as a coach, setting up students to experience God’s presence and discover truths from His Word for themselves. If we’re going to do that, as students change, our techniques must change. I think we can and should always be growing in our understanding of God’s Word but also in techniques for ministering to students. I invest in generational research to understand trends in how children and youth process information. I also spend time with effective teachers to learn from them and to hear what they’re talking about so we can think about ways to fine-tune our approaches.
Transformation, you say, is a continual process–a continual renewing of the mind and growing to be more like Christ. Why is it important to communicate transformation to teachers and students alike?
I believe teachers are spiritual leaders. If we have somehow set up a mindset that teaching is the sideshow we get through to get to our main church service, we’ve done a great disservice. Thetus Tenney recently said that Jesus’ ministry was closer to teaching than preaching by our contemporary standards. I don’t want to be controversial because we know God ordained preaching for us to be saved (I Corinthians 1:21); my point is that teaching is an important spiritual act.
We must focus our efforts not on being a popular teacher, being liked by our students, or having the fun class, but on seeing spiritual growth in our students.
It too was established by God to bring transformation. Paul told the Corinthians to follow him as he followed Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). He illustrated the reality that spiritual leaders must themselves experience what they will lead students to embrace. Teachers must be transformed by God and be committed to a powerful, growing relationship with Him. It will spill over into our teaching and onto our students.
You ask many self-assessing questions throughout your book. Why is this important for teachers?
It’s so easy to fall into a rut. That’s our default really. Most of us don’t wake up each morning looking for a way to innovate our teaching approaches. I don’t know any full-time teachers in the church. So what we have is an army of volunteers who have family, job, and other church responsibilities competing for our attention within a typical week. What I call teachers to do is to stop and look up from the rut. In that moment we can honestly assess where we are, where we can grow, and then begin to make changes. For too long we’ve made the measure of success in church teaching if we didn’t have to administer first aid to a bleeding child or didn’t put anyone to sleep in the adult class. I’m saying there are higher metrics for success that involve if those in our class are growing closer to God. We must focus our efforts not on being a popular teacher, being liked by our students, or having the fun class, but on seeing spiritual growth in our students. To do that, we have to get real about what we’re doing currently and what results we’re seeing, which may prompt us to recalibrate for more effectiveness.
The generational studies you introduce are fascinating. Can you tell us why this is so critical for teachers to understand?
It’s always interesting to me how people are either enthralled with or dismissive of research about personality types and generational trends. I know they can’t be crutches for us to excuse behavior, but I believe they give insight into human interaction. It doesn’t take much discernment to realize the elders in your church learn differently than the twentysomethings. Yet beyond the teen class, we often force all other teaching efforts in the church into one style. I believe generational research can show us how various age groups process information, what resonates with them, and what we can do to better communicate. For example, if you try to lecture to the twentysomethings and thirty year olds? I won’t say it can’t be done, but when any number of research sources point to their preference for collaborative, kinesthetic learning and declining attention span, why would we set ourselves and them up for a negative experience? We could instead use research about ways those age groups learn to set up an interactive small group Bible study and likely see more participation and results. As another example, we need to check out the research on Gen Alpha, our youngest children, to figure out how we should be adapting our methods for teaching children.
It is disheartening to learn that a clear majority of individuals who left Christianity say they made their decision before the age of eighteen. Yet in your generational study, you offer hope and promises from Scripture. Tell us about this hope.
Generational research reveals trends to help us be more effective in our teaching methods. Sadly some research does suggest in the broader Christian world that the majority of children make their decision about Christianity as early as twelve. However, as Apostolics, we need to recognize a different dynamic. God is not bound by our statistics and tendencies. The Spirit can confront us at any age and in any season—like my experience in a college classroom at twenty years old. He never stops reaching for us, and the intensity of our new-birth experience is more than a mental decision or philosophy orientation. So I believe our distinct conversion and how it radically changes our lives sets up the Apostolic movement for different statistics I wish we could measure; my opinion is that we likely have significantly more adult converts than other faith traditions.
His intent is for the church to grow and thrive generation after generation. God will have a people, and He will help us in the work of passing on truth.
Additionally Scripture gives us hope: “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). Mary exclaimed in her song, “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). Generational truth transfer is a big deal to God. He doesn’t cite Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob repeatedly for no reason. His intent is for the church to grow and thrive generation after generation. God will have a people, and He will help us in the work of passing on truth.
Resources and Links by Lee Ann Alexander