Trendy is not always smart. Here are three ways gospel teachers can dodge trendy mistakes and always be in classic style.
In 1963, publisher and inventor Hugo Gernsback used a Life Magazine photo shoot to show off a new device he’d created—TV glasses. At the time, Gernsback looked like a man on the cutting edge of innovation. But what do you think of his photo today? Does it show a brilliant forerunner to Google Glass or is it, as most people seem to think, iconic only because it’s goofy enough to produce a smirky laugh.
Myself, I particularly like the antennae.
Now what about innovation in teaching the gospel? At the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned grouch, let me suggest that we not put too much stock in being trendy. There are new ways to divide classes, new terms to explain truth, and tons of flashy new media to engage kids. I use some of those things myself, and they might be good ideas—but you never know for sure. They also might distract from what really matters. Worse yet, they might be gimmicks we look back at twenty years from now with smirks and groans.
The following principles are neither new nor innovative. They’re simply foundational. They always make us great teachers no matter how with-it or out-of-it we may be.
Be biblical. God’s Word is constant. It always applies to life, always gives life. When we guide kids by diving with them into the Bible, we open up a treasure that will only get richer and more relevant to them as the years wear on.
Be prayerful. Prayer is the chief way we practice faith. It’s how we trust God, how we abide in Christ, and how we live as children of our Father. When we pray with kids we bring them into the throne room of their Daddy, and when we pray for them we tap into power that never grows stale.
Be Christ-centered. Jesus never goes out of style. Every generation that discovers him discovers the Friend and Savior they long for. We must keep pointing kids to the endless, beautiful facets of his person and work. It’ll make us sound a lot like the very best teachers of twenty, 200 or 2,000 years ago, but that isn’t old-fashioned. It’s timeless.
Those points may sound awfully traditional and familiar. So be it. In this world where new ideas become old next year, I need frequent reminders of what is lasting. Whatever other techniques I may also opt for, I must never forget that the latest gimmick, no matter how clever it may be, is not what offers life to my students.
As for those students… well, they’ll appreciate our classic style—I promise. Today’s students are actually bored with what’s new and flashy. Cutting-edge is commonplace to them. They’re hungry for what’s rare—a teacher who’s exicted about the Bible, prayer and Jesus.
Thoughts? Please share or comment below. I love feedback and discussion—it’s how we learn from each other!