Another common concern I’m hearing with Come, Follow Me is that the lessons feel repetitive or like you’re teaching the same thing every year. You feel like your youth already know what you’re teaching. You feel like you’re teaching the same lessons over and over. They feel too “basic” for the youth that you’re teaching. Here are some ways that you can address that.
Remember What the Goal Is
According to the instructions on the Come, Follow Me page our purpose is to “help them [the youth] become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Notice it doesn’t say to teach them something new or interesting or exciting. We’re not even expected to entertain them, nor should we.
Think of a basic gospel principle. Did you understand everything you needed to know about that principle the first time it was taught to you? How about the 3rd time? The 10th time? Maybe the 100th time? I know for me, the answer is no. I still have a lot to learn about the basics of the gospel. My guess is that your youth do, too.
Let me ask you another question. How many times does someone need to be taught all the principals of the gospel to be fully converted?
What!? There’s no magic number!?
The truth is that we all need repetition in our gospel instruction. If you look at how any of the Church teaching manuals are set up, you will see repetition. It’s okay. It’s even meant to be that way.
However, maybe what you’re really looking for are ways to help the youth grow in their understanding of the gospel. Maybe you want to be able to offer lessons that are adjusted to their learning level. In that case, I have some suggestions for how you can scale the Come, Follow Me lessons to a more advanced learning level.
Let the Youth Teach
Have you ever noticed how going through the process of preparing to teach and teaching help you understand the gospel in new ways? I know that’s been the case for me. That may also be the case for your youth.
Not sure how? There are lots of ways you can do it. If this is their first time teaching, here’s what I suggest:
- Let them choose the lesson outline they teach from
- Have them choose a section of the lesson they’d like to teach. They could do the introduction, the body of the lesson, or deliver a challenge for everyone to complete at the end.
- Share the lesson outline and materials with them and set a time a day or two before the lesson to meet to plan.
- Study the lesson materials on your own.
- Meet to plan the lesson.
Do a Q&A Session
I did one of these a few weeks ago and we ran out of time to cover everyone’s questions! It’s one of my favorite lessons I’ve taught of all time!
You might be surprised what questions and concerns your youth have if they can share them anonymously. Here’s how it works:
- After the lesson introduction, give everyone a piece of paper and pencil and ask them to write down a question about the doctrine being taught.
- Have them trade questions with each other. We had everyone put theirs in the middle of the floor and the draw one from the pile.
- Give them time to answer the question. I let them use any Church-approved resource. I make sure I bring a copy of For the Strength of Youth, True to the Faith, Preach My Gospel, and the scriptures. I provide access to LDS.org on my laptop. You can have them work on their own, in pairs or in groups.
- Once everyone has prepared their answers, we start sharing. Usually, others will have insights into someone else’s question, so be sure to ask for other thoughts and comments.
Introduce the Lesson with a Question
If I feel unsure of their learning level on a certain topic, I start the lesson by measuring what they know. I have two questions I love to use to do this and either one of them gets the job done for me:
- What do you know about…?
- What words come to mind when I say the word…?
I simply insert the topic we’re covering that day into the question. So, if the lesson is “What do we know about the nature of the Godhead?” The questions look like this:
- What do you know about the Godhead?
- What words come to mind when I say the word Godhead?
In these cases, it might be good to have three teaching methods for the lesson, one basic, one moderate and one advanced. Then I let their answers and the Spirit help me decide which one to teach.
Choose the More Advanced Teaching Suggestions
One thing I’ve noticed about the Come, Follow Me lessons is that the teaching suggestions address a variety of learning levels. Let’s take a look at one while I explain what I mean. Below are some screenshots of the teaching suggestions form What do we know about the Godhead. I’ve labeled each teaching suggestion in the left margin with the learning level I think it should be.
How do I decide how to categorize the teaching methods? If it involves True to the Faith or For the Strength of Youth, it’s usually basic. If it involves a conference talk, it’s probably moderate or advanced. If it involves teaching the doctrine back to you or someone else, it’s probably advanced.
Try a Teaching Method You Haven’t Tried Before
A teaching method you haven’t tried before can also be one your students haven’t seen before. It can also offer a fresh perspective on a topic that’s been discussed a lot. And that may be all you need to make the lesson more engaging
I once taught a lesson where I had the girls draw what a particular scripture meant to them. Now, if you asked me to do that, I might not play along very well. I honestly don’t enjoy drawing. However, it completely reached a girl in my class who rarely every spoke up. Suddenly, she had a lot to say when she shared her picture with everyone. It was such a change in behavior, I wondered if it was the same kid.
A different perspective on something can help with several issues in the classroom. Feeling like your lessons are a little stale can be one of them.
Think in Terms of Engagement Instead of Excitement or Entertainment
I mentioned earlier that our role is not to entertain the youth. Sometimes I hear youth leaders who want lessons that are “exciting” or “entertaining”. Now, these aren’t entirely bad. These can be really great things. How do excitement and entertainment do when it comes to leading our youth to being fully converted to the gospel? Eh, maybe those aren’t the best ways to get there. Consider what Teaching in the Savior’s Way says about entertaining our students.
“If you focus on simply entertaining learners or keeping them occupied, you may miss out on teaching eternal truths that will help learners make meaningful changes in their lives.”
Rather than aiming to entertain or excite, try aiming for engagement. With that engagement, will come the excitement and maybe even entertainment. Have you ever read a verse of scripture you’ve read several times and seen something in it you hadn’t before? How did that feel to you? Was it exciting? New discoveries usually are! Try helping your students to have a similar experience. If everyone is sharing their thoughts on the materials being shared during the lesson, someone will discover something new. Why? Because we can all have the same experience and see it very differently than someone else. So keep asking for their interpretation of things. The exciting self-discoveries will come.
Have Them Role-Play Teaching the Doctrine to an Investigator
Being able to teach the doctrine to someone else is another way to adapt your lessons to more advanced learners. When they have to teach to someone who knows nothing about the doctrine, they will think about it differently.
Remember the Spirit Does the Teaching, Not You
The best thing you can do during a lesson is to bring the Spirit into the room and keep it there. He will teach your students better than you can. We are simply instruments in the teaching process at the end of the day. I once attended a session of stake conference with Elder Summerhays that focused on letting the Spirit do the work for us. He said, “Invite the Spirit and then get out of the way.”
To me that means that I’m listening and following the promptings I get during my lesson. Those promptings will help you adjust the lesson to the learning level of your students.
Now it’s your turn. What would you add to my list? Share your thoughts in the comments!