Need Help Teaching? Sunday School Leader Shares How to Teach Like the Savior

Contributed By Brother Devin G. Durrant, Sunday School General Presidency

  • 13 March 2019

An image from the Church's Bible video series depicts Jesus teaching a group of people. “Teaching like the Savior is the best way to build listeners’ testimonies,” says Brother Devin G. Durrant of the Sunday School General Presidency.

Article Highlights

  • Teaching like the Savior will help us become the most effective teachers.
  • Looking to Christ’s example in the scriptures will help us decide what we need to do.
  • Teaching is important in the home.

“Throughout His ministry, the Savior used variety, flexibility, and customization to meet the needs of those He taught. May we strive to be more like Him in all that we do, including in how we teach in our wards and branches—and most important, in our homes.” — Brother Devin G. Durrant, Sunday School General Presidency

What does it mean to you to teach in the Savior’s way? This question can be answered in a number of different ways. Let me share my answer to this important question with you.

How did the Savior teach in mortality? Throughout His ministry, Jesus Christ taught in a variety of situations, such as one-on-one teaching with the woman at the well, small-group teaching with the Apostles at the Last Supper, and large-group teaching with the multitude at the Sermon on the Mount. He was willing to teach all—those who were desirous to hear His message and those who would ultimately reject it.

Responding to the variety of settings, as well as the numbers and attitudes of His listeners, the Savior used a variety of teaching methods. Let’s consider a few:

  • He taught through stories, such as parables like the sower and the lost coin.
  • He taught by referring to common elements that the people understood. Some examples are wheat and tares or leaven and water.
  • He taught with visuals aids. He asked His followers, for example, to “consider the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28).
  • He taught with analogies. Do you remember His reference to a mustard seed?
  • He taught from the scriptures. He guided those He taught to the scriptures by asking, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (Luke 10:26).
  • He taught by asking questions. He asked His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” (Mark 8:29).
  • He taught by answering questions. Do you remember when He responded to this question? “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29).
  • He taught with object lessons. He used a Roman coin with an inscription of Caesar to teach the need to render to Caesar what is his and to God what is His.
  • He taught by inviting His learners to act on His teachings. Often, He did this by encouraging them to follow His example and do as He did (see 3 Nephi 27:21).

As the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ discerned what would be the most effective way to teach His learners, and He chose the approach that would work best in each situation.

For me, teaching is like playing a piano. The Savior taught in rich, beautiful melodies because he used all of the keys on the keyboard. As we ponder how we might teach more like the Savior, we should ask ourselves this question: Are we hitting one key over and over, or are we seeking the Spirit’s guidance so that we might strike just the right keys from lesson to lesson?

We are currently blessed to have a wide variety of resources at our fingertips to assist us in teaching to the needs of our learners in our homes and at church.

Let’s say you have been called upon to teach a lesson about a general conference message. The following questions could help you develop a teaching plan (see also “Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” p. 19):

  1. What are the key doctrinal principles in this message? How can I best highlight them using the words of the speaker?
  2. What scriptures did the speaker use to teach? Are there other scriptures in the endnotes of the talk or elsewhere that could be shared to enrich the message?
  3. What questions could I ask that would invite the Spirit and elevate the words of the general conference message? Also, did the speaker extend an invitation? How might I help those I teach feel the desire to act on that invitation?
  4. What teaching aids did the speaker use that I could highlight? What teaching aids could I use to enhance the message? Would an analogy or a supportive story be helpful? Is showing a video of the talk or portions of it possible in your class? Would a piece of art or a hymn help elevate the message? Is there a brief video you might share that supports the speaker’s teaching?

Additionally, the Ensign and Liahona magazines include ideas and questions specific to the conference messages. This is a great place to start as you prepare to teach.

As a gospel teacher, you can give those you teach a magnificent concerto instead of hitting the same one or two notes. Throughout His ministry, the Savior used variety, flexibility, and customization to meet the needs of those He taught. May we strive to be more like Him in all that we do, including in how we teach in our wards and branches—and most importantly, in our homes.