If you’re like me there will be times when you prepare to teach when things just click. Then, there are times when things don’t come easily at all. I love those times but, for me, those are few and far between.
When I preach on Sundays I get up early, go to my office, and spend a few hours fine tuning. By this point, all the prep work should be done. I just want to zero in on where I’m going.
I remember a time not too long ago when Sunday morning rolled around and I didn’t feel good about the message. After a few hours preparing on Sunday morning, I still didn’t feel as good as I wanted to. I had worked on it for hours and it never magically came together.
Despite my foggy thinking, I was able to come up with two critical questions. Granted, these were principles I’d thought about many times before. On that morning, the principles crystalized like never before in the form of questions.
Now every time I teach I ask myself these two questions…
1. Is it true?
This is the first and most important question. If I’ve prepared something that isn’t true the entire thing needs to be scrapped. It doesn’t matter how compelling, entertaining, or energetic I am if I’m not teaching the truth.
This question guides me as a teacher because it simplifies and clarifies my role. I’m sure all teachers think about being clever, profound, or thoughtful at times. There’s nothing wrong with that.
If I can find a clever, profound, or thoughtful way to tell the truth, that’s great! But, I never want to sacrifice the truth for something else. That’s why I always ask, “Is it true?”
If what I’ve prepared is true, even if it’s lacking a lot of other things, I can live with it. If it’s not true, it’s not worth saying.
2. Is it clear?
Clarity doesn’t trump truth. But in my mind, it trumps just about everything else. Who wants to prepare something that isn’t clear enough to be remembered? Not me. I don’t think you do either. You want to maximize the impact of your words.
Once again, this question guides me because it helps me remember my role as a teacher. I want to teach people something. In order to teach someone something they have to remember it. I have to be crystal clear if I want to be remembered.
I try to guard against saying too much. In fact, the last step of my preparation process is eliminating everything that isn’t essential. It’s hard to do. But, that’s why I need to ask myself this question.
When I’m eliminating the non-essentials I often think about the question another way: “Is there something in my message I want to say so badly that I’m willing to risk being clear?” The answer should always be “no.”
In the end, if I’ve prepared something that’s both true and clear I can live with it. On the Sunday morning I referred to earlier, I asked these questions, answered “yes” to both, and went with it.
What helps to guide you when you teach? I’d love to learn from one another! Leave a comment below.