It occurred to me last night after class that we want our students to remember SO MANY things in religious education, that I wonder sometimes if they remember anything! Our lessons have numerous learning outcomes/objectives, vocabulary words, names of saints and holy people, doctrinal formulae, and so on, not to mention the myriad of announcements and interruptions that occur on any given night. And all this, after the kids have been bombarded by tons of information throughout the day from so many different sources!
Not to fret…I turned to my friend Bret! Bret Nicholas is a talented author, marketing expert, and former Sunday school teacher who recently offered this advice about marketing which, I firmly believe, can be applied to proclaiming the Gospel:
“I often talk about giving the customer or prospect ONE good reason to buy from you. After all, the common expression is “Give me one good reason why I should…” not “Give me eight good reasons why I should…” If given too much information, the mind gets confused and doesn’t know what to focus on. As a result, it focuses on nothing. Remember, when you communicate everything, you are really communicating nothing. So give them ONE good reason!”
Author and curriculum expert Grant Wiggins talks about selecting “the enduring understandings that will anchor” your lesson (Understanding by Design, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, ASCD). He calls these the “big ideas” that students should remember even if they’ve forgotten many details. By identifying the “big idea” we clarify the most important thing about our topic and why it should matter to our students.
This does not mean ignoring the details, but rather, making sure that they reinforce the big idea. Personally, I feel that unless I can explain precisely what my lesson is about and that it is of urgent need for my students, I have no business presenting it as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, I often prepare my lessons by imagining my most difficult student saying, “Give me one good reason why I should pay attention tonight!”