• Nick McDonald

How to Add Creativity to Your Teaching

Something that stands out to me about Jesus' teaching is his creativity. Jesus uses stories, props, real-life situations, q&a and demonstrations in his teaching.

After I study my passage and uncover the "core" of the message, I ask: "How can I add an element of creativity to this?" I've come up with a little acronym I look at every week, with options to choose from. I wish the acronym had more to do with teaching or something, but it doesn't. It's OASIS.

Objects - One of my pastors used to use an object in a sermon every couple of months. One of the parents in the church nudged me after one of these sermons and said, "My kids get so excited for 'object' Sunday!' Why do you think that is? Using physical objects to get our point across shows we've put time and care into preparing. It simplifies our message into something concrete. It's the ultimate sign that we have a clear point: we've concretized it into a metaphor.

Acts - Letting people take part in the sermon can be a powerful way to communicate a message. This could be inviting a few people to help act out a parable in front of others. It could be inviting people to write or draw a response to the message. You might have a chorus of people read scripture, assigning different "parts" to help people keep track of the story.

Screens - By screens, I don't mean power-point slides filled with dense verbiage. If you've ever seen a TEDx talk, you can see that there are many powerful ways to use a screen in teaching. You can show a picture of what you're saying (like an object lesson). You could play a clip from a youtube video or film, to illustrate a point. Screens - used sparingly and correctly - can be a powerful way to drive home a point.

Interviews - As we've journeyed through the Psalms together this semester, we've been talking about the ways each Psalm represents a different nuance of human experience. To illustrate this, I've given the first ten psalms specific emotion words, and I've asked ten students to do a short interview about experiences they've had with these feelings. One of our photography students has edited these up, and they have been a very powerful tool for our group.

Speech - One way to make a sermon memorable is to allow people to speak back to you! This could be through inviting someone to repeat what you're saying to a neighbor. "Acts" play an integral role in the African American church tradition, where the congregation takes a much more active role in responding to the preacher throughout the sermon. Many church planters who are desiring to reach skeptics/seekers do a Q&A after sermons, to allow people to voice their questions and concerns.

I try to pick one of these elements, and notice when I'm getting stuck on a single tactic. Don't do an object lesson every week, or it will feel contrived. Once every month, along with different elements sprinkled in between, is powerful. The most important thing is to choose what is appropriate to the message at hand. If it's a Proverb, likely an object lesson will work well. If it's a parable, you might lean more toward using Actions. If it's about instruction/obedience, interviews might do well. If it's a dense portion of Paul's writing, speech might help people process it better. For the Psalms - especially those that draw in nature's beauty - screens might do well.

In all cases, be sure that the creative element is tied to your core point. This is what keeps it from being a distraction.

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