You’ve prepared a Bible lesson for your students. There are some great questions you’ve added to move students to deeper levels of thinking. There is an engaging, meaningful, hands-on activity prepared to help students better understand the principles behind the Bible lesson.
Unfortunately, you only have about forty-five minutes to accomplish all of that – assuming there are no issues that slow things down. As you get to the part of the lesson where John baptizes Jesus, a student raises his hand. “How will we know when we are ready to be baptized?” he asks. Several other students add that they too have questions about baptism.
What you do next is key. Your student has just given you the gift of a teachable moment. A teachable moment is when students become engaged in a lesson. A question occurs to them, that if answered well, can help them make a potentially huge leap forward in their spiritual growth. (In a Bible class situation.)
So what should you do? Give the student a brief, unsatisfactory answer like, “That’s a great conversation to have with your parents.”? Or tell your students you don’t have the time to discuss baptism today? Is the most important thing to complete the lesson you have planned or to take advantage of the teachable moment – perhaps going off of your original topic?
The best thing about teachable moments is that your students are actually asking you to teach them something that is suddenly important or interesting to them. They are initiating learning – a goal of any teacher.
The other important thing to understand is that teachable moments are just that – moments. If you were to go back to that same student even an hour later, he or she may have lost interest in finding out the answer to his or her question.
On the other hand, you need to understand the importance of the question. There are some teachable moment questions where students can probably wait for an answer until a more convenient time.
- If the student wants to know something that is extremely complex or controversial, you may want to ask for time to prepare an entire lesson on it.
- If the question is about something that God hasn’t given us the answer for, it’s okay to explain that and offer to have a conversation later considering the possible options.
- If the student is asking about something more secular than spiritual, it’s still important to acknowledge the question. You can simply explain that you are focused on the spiritual aspects at the moment, but would be happy to address that topic after class.
- If the question the student asks is appropriate for the student, but the rest of the class does not have the knowledge or spiritual maturity to truly understand the question or your answer, you can offer to schedule a time to discuss it privately with the student.
For any other teachable moment questions, it is often best to pause your lesson and give an answer that will help students grow spiritually. If you prefer, you can give a basic answer. Then offer a way for interested students to get the more complete answer later. This will usually allow you to finish the bulk of your Bible lesson.
At times the question is so critical, it is best to stop your lesson and spend the rest of your time helping students really explore the topic. It may be because of something traumatic that has happened in your community causing students to have deep faith questions.
Or it may be because they are all very interested in a foundational topic like forgiveness or baptism. Taking the time to help them understand these key topics when they have expressed an interest, gives you a wonderful opportunity to teach or reinforce import biblical concepts. Should you try to teach these same principles outside of a teachable moment, your students may barely even hear what you are trying to teach them on the topic.
Taking advantage of key teachable moments will allow your students to learn things when they are most naturally curious about them. It can also mean their hearts are most receptive to what God wants them to know about the topic. It may be better for your students spiritually than the lesson you originally planned.