You are ten minutes into your lesson and it is not turning into an all-star lesson. Everyone looks bored and the content you are presenting doesn’t seem to come across as overly interesting. It’s time to save the lesson by getting the class involved—get them talking. So you naturally ask a question, “So brethren, what are your thoughts on the scripture I just read?”

And then you wait….

…and you wait

…and wait


…still waiting

By this time the feeling of awkward silence settles on the class like it did on your first date in high school, sweat beads appear on your forehead and you just can’t take it anymore, so you break the silence yourself. “Well….ok….What about this…” By the time you finish answering your own question you get a few nods from the quorum. You then look uncomfortably back down at the lesson manual and move to the next point.  Hopefully there is a next point.

Tough crowd, eh? What is it that makes a crowd tough? Let’s consider this exchange of ideas from the perspective of a class member. Remember the last time you were in a Sunday School class and the teacher asked a question that you knew the answer to but you didn’t raise your hand? Or you whisper the answer under your breath? Why does this happen? Why don’t you raise your hand and proudly proclaim the answer to the question?

When we walk into a room with a group of people, regardless how familiar they are to us, our comfort level seems to reset. We naturally put our guard up and our personality takes a back seat. As soon as we regain that comfort we then have no problem expressing ourselves.

Get them to hear their own voice

Many instructors in church jump into their lesson without realizing everyone in the room is in a closed state. No matter how intriguing you sound they won’t participate even if they know the answer. It is your responsibility as the instructor to prime the pump before you start with your lesson plan. The mental switch happens once they hear their voice among the group and realize they are safe to participate. This involves simply asking basic questions and having a natural conversation with the group.

“Well thank you for making it to Gospel Doctrine today. We are going to talk about missionary work. I need five of you to quickly tell me where you served your mission.”

This is a simple question and many will feel comfortable speaking up with an answer. The trick is to make the initial questions simple and have the feel of a normal conversation.

Additional examples of questions:

  • What are some things you miss about being a missionary?
  • Who enjoyed the MTC?
  • Who hope they never have to go back?
  • Who have contact with people from their mission?
  • Who still uses the language they learned on their mission?
  • How many copies of the Book of Mormon have you shared since you returned from your mission?

At the beginning of the class should be inundated with questions such as these in order to get them in the mode of participating. Once someone responds immediately give them a follow up question. “Brother Watts, tell me in what capacity you still use your Icelandic since your mission.” Just hearing their voice in the new setting will help them feel more comfortable later on in class to speak up.

The Shy of the Shy

The above technique may work for many in the class but there will always be a group of people that simply refuse to respond to your questions. It’s important that you address this at the beginning of the lesson so all will feel comfortable participating throughout the class. Once you see who isn’t responding ask them questions directly.

YOU: “Sister Nevershares, where is it you served your mission?”
Sister Nevershares: “Antartica West Mission”
YOU: “Wow, What sort of food do they eat there?”
Sister Nevershares: “Frozen whale.”

Continue with follow up questions until he or she feels comfortable speaking in the group.

Taking the time to get the class talking at the beginning is crucial. If you are able to help the class feel comfortable with active discussion at the beginning the rest of the lesson will be much more comfortable as the teacher.

Or you can skip this step and enjoy the sound of silence after each questions.

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