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I have written in the past with regards to public speaking. It’s a core competency of being a great leader. It’s a skill that takes refining, but can be powerful when mastered. Every leader that wants to have a greater impact should study public speaking. One way to do so is to analyze how others excel and what tactics they use.
I recently came across a video with great public speaking tips by Phil Waknell. These can be applied to anyone speaking in church or teaching a lesson (listen up, High Council). Take a watch and then let’s discuss these principles in the LDS perspective below.
Death by PowerPoint, Death by Reading, Death by Boredom
Thankfully PowerPoint slides are not allowed in sacrament meeting (and so help me…they never will be). However, occasionally a bishop wheels in the projector for a 5th Sunday combined lesson, or even a Sunday school teacher will use the projector. There’s rumor of some church building installing a projector in the ceiling for quick access. This isn’t a bad idea; however, it can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
In the video, Phil also mentions death by reading and death by boredom, which I have discussed in past posts. (See Preparing a Sacrament Meeting Talk Without PowerPoint, and What Sunday School Needs is a Flash Mob)
3 Goals for Any Church Lesson/Talk
When is the last time anyone walked out of Sunday School thinking, “I didn’t know that”, or “I’m glad I do now”, or “I’d like to know more”? What a great model for preparing anything you teach in church. Before you think regurgitating the generic questions listed in the manual is going to inspire people to want to learn more, one should consider these 3 goals. How can you focus the lesson on topics that the class may not understand completely? What angle of [said lesson topic] is not obvious and would stimulate further discussion? What resources can I give them that would allow them to study the topic on a deeper level during their personal study?
Make Your Message Stick With a Powerful Conclusion (Testimony)
Those first two topics are worth considering; however, making your message stick with a powerful conclusion is by far the most important part of any public speaking–especially in the LDS context. Most people sort of know this, that is why they end with their testimony.
The reality is, Mormons are awful at bearing testimony. That’s right, I said it, and I’m not going to apologize! I know what you are thinking, “but we Mormons have the exclusive rights on the concept of bearing testimony.” That is the problem; we have been “bearing testimony” for so long it has turned into a standard list of clichés. “I know the church is true”, “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet”, “I love my family”. These are all phrases that have been so overused their intrinsic value is inflated and therefore has little impact on the hearts of the listener who have heard it over and over.
Elder Holland said it best (as he always does). Back in the 2007 World Wide Leadership Conference Elder Holland commented on this concept of how to conclude a less. I’d recommend you read his complete training when you have time; however, here is the main take-home message:
We may not give the fanciest lesson. We may not be skillful with audiovisual aids (though we can use any we know how to use). But we can share with all students the fire of our faith, and they can warm their hands by it.
I have been painfully disappointed over the years at wonderful lessons, given by loyal, gifted teachers who, somehow, at the end of a class, say, “Well, there is the bell. Brother Jones, would you give the prayer?” And it’s over. There’s no closing of the books, no looking in the eye for just a minute, no settling down to say, in effect, where have we been and where are we going and what does the Lord want us to do? In some cases—I’m being a little unfair and a little extravagant, but to make a point—not a single reference is made to what this lesson was supposed to mean to the student or to the teacher. I’m left to walk away saying, “I wonder how he felt about that. I wonder what she thought about it or what it was supposed to mean to me.” There is so much effort to get some doctrine, some principle, some map, some video clip across to the students, but not a hint of personal testimony about what that doctrine or that principle meant to the teacher, the one who was supposed to lead us and guide us and walk beside us.
As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. once said, “Never let your faith be difficult to detect.” May I repeat that? “Never let your faith be difficult to detect.” Never sow seeds of doubt. Avoid self-serving performance and vanity. Don’t try to dazzle everyone with how brilliant you are. Dazzle them with how brilliant the gospel is. Don’t worry about the location of the lost tribes or the Three Nephites. Worry a little more about the location of your student, what’s going on in his heart, what’s going on in her soul, the hunger, sometimes the near-desperate spiritual needs of our people. Teach them. And, above all, testify to them. Love them. Bear your witness from the depths of your soul. It will be the most important thing you say to them in the entire hour, and it may save someone’s spiritual life.
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, 2007 World Wide Leadership Training
After reading that, there is really nothing more to add. Go share the fire of your faith.
August 2013 Ensign has a fabulous article about asking the right questions in class. It totally changed the way I teach. Using it has encouraged discussion like nothing else. The other things I do are begin with scriptures, six to ten to set a foundation for the lesson; then after all the discussion I give a brief review and bear as powerful a testimony as I can. This is in RS. I’m glad to know I’m doing things right. Thanks for sharing.
What is the article called? Thank you!
The Aug 2013 Ensign article is by Jack Lyon, in case anyone wants to find it easier. Awesome article! Thanks Rozy!
I am teaching Elders Quorum today using “Teaching with the Power and Authority of God” as the foundation of the lesson. This post fits in perfectly. Thank you!
Thank You for this beautiful lesson. The fire of our testimony will not
only light our path but give light encouragement and strength to our
brothers & sisters who are in need of the gospel of love we hold.
Ensign article: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/08/great-questions-great-discussions?lang=eng
A short read/listen, but on-point and powerful. Thank you for sharing and reminding!
Here is the address for the video this material was based on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT-H6UrinG0 . I could not get to it by clicking on the link…it is well worth the 15 minutes to watch it…great, memorable presentation! And great article…just what I needed as I want to bump up my Seminary teaching to the next level! Thanks!
This was a wonderful post, just new to your website. I am one of two gospel doctrine teachers in my very large ward. The other teacher is very knowledgeable, but I feel like he thinks its a competition to see who has the most people in their class. Plus we have many adults who do not attend SS class but just sit in the hallway or in back of the chapel. My son took his son to the restroom during my class and later told me he counted over 50 people sitting around chatting. It is very discouraging, any suggestions on how to deal with the problems.
Julie, that is definitely a problem that many Sunday School presidencies deal with. Good for you for recognizing it and trying to figure out how to fix it. I’ll put some thought to your questions and do some further research.
In the meantime you can check out THIS POST, THIS POST, and THIS ONE. That may give you some ideas.
Thanks for the post. You have some good observations. Thanks for the Elder Holland quotation. That’s a classic. That entire broadcast was the best teacher training I’ve ever received.
I’ve gotta say that I don’t agree with your three goals for any church talk or lesson. Getting people to think “I didn’t know that”, or “I’m glad I do now”, or “I’d like to know more” would barely make my top ten, and definitely wouldn’t be my top three. When I think of the best talks and lessons I’ve ever heard, the goodness had nothing to do with what I came away knowing. I think Elder Holland’s statement focuses on what’s important – FEELING how great the gospel is and resolving to better follow Christ. I think feeling the holy spirit is pretty much the only metric of success in gospel teaching.
While I agree with Dave on the ‘feeling how great the gospel is and resolving to better follow Christ, I think the top three question fits right in. To become a better follower of Christ, we need to become like Him. To become like Him, we need to learn of Him. Those three questions can light the fire that will bump up our gospel study so that the feeling Dave talked about it reached more consistently. There is much we don’t know of the gospel and of the Lord.
I am not able to see the 2007 broadcast or download it in its complete form for some reason… other years of the Leadership Training are available, but not this one. Does anyone have a link that they could share so I could actually see Elder Holland in practice? TIA
I have not been able to find the video of this meeting. I obtained the audio from this link: https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/archive/worldwide-leadership-training/2007/02?lang=eng
I think you are both right. In my homeschool training, we have been taught to ask ourselves 3 questions before teaching.
1. What do I want my student to know?
2. What do I want my student to feel?
and lastly, this important question:
3. What do I want my student to do because of what they know and feel?
I love learning about being a better teacher! This is a great article. Thanks for sharing. =)
Love it Kurt! Thanks for your effort in compiling resources like this. It’s making a difference where it matters.