Tip 1: Wait longer. Somewhat useful outside of church too.
In my opinion, the most important skill I ever learned relative to teaching in church was the ability to wait in the classroom. This is also one of the easiest to implement. When the moment comes when you think no comments are coming, count slowly to five in your head. Or a larger number. Learn from Eglon’s servants: tarry till you are ashamed.
I have lots of postulates why this tip is good advice for almost every teacher instead of just a few. When people get nervous, they rush. People have trouble telling the difference between a class that’s still thinking and a class that has nothing to say. When you are presenting you brain’s running faster than the brains of those listening to you. You subconsciously start the clock when you formulate the question in your head instead of when you finish expressing the question with your mouth. Maybe all of those, maybe none of them. What is clear, though, is that almost every teacher I have had in churchand many outside of church too, good or bad, would be a better teacher if they waited longer.
Waiting longer will does not answer the question I posed in my last post: why do some conversations go astray and others are “the best lesson ever”. In fact, if you have a class that is inclined to talk amiss you might want it wait less, or not at all. I cannot recall having had such a class, though, so I am just guessing.
Waiting longer is important in a more lecture-style class too if you want to get feedback from the students (of any kind). This is true both if you are waiting for a question or if you just want to gauge how well something went over. It is in the silence that the students’ faces will show boredom or confusion or understanding or worry or relief that you have paused to let them catch up. I suppose there are instructors with small enough classes that they can also use silence to get answers to deep questions, but I teach in lecture halls large enough that any question I ask gets answered immediately by someone.
Conclusion: a good tip for every teacher, church and non-church, but not the tip that will separate enlightening from dissenting conversations.