Monday, April 27, 2009

So What?

I recently read a blog post (see this site) that discussed how hard it is to teach Sunday school to teens. One teacher left a comment with this advice that can be applied to family scripture study:

“When I teach fiction, I tell my students that if their reader finishes their story by asking, “So what?” the story has failed. If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, the writer has failed. In the Church, we have often taken the easy out–using sentimental tales (pioneer histories or embellished “Especially for Mormons” gems) to generate something LIKE caring. It is a poor substitute for the real thing. Why should we care about our religion? Why do you care about it enough to endure three hours of untrained speakers?"

I love this insight. It is brilliantly expressed, and is the nutshell of effective teaching. The gospel cannot be presented in a way that it inspires a “so what”" response.

So how do we avoid the "so what" response? Not having teens myself I feel somewhat unqualified to present my opinions here. However, I have a nephew who is struggling somewhat with the whole "so what" about the gospel. His mom commented to me recently that she has seen better responses to family teaching opportunities when she uses real world practical applications, not just spiritual ones. For example, if reading about the importance of giving service, she includes a practical discussion about the necessities of service in the real world (i.e., food banks, homeless shelters, volunteerism, etc.) and maybe even plans a service activity to extend the learning process. The result so far has been more lesson participation and a better attitude from her son (my nephew). Hopefully there will also be long term testimony results as well.

How do you avoid the "so what" response in your teaching opportunities? Please share!

Scripture of the Day: D&C 45:28


  1. I do teach teen-agers.
    We need to remember it is not us doing the teaching. It is the spirit. I dont teach based on the response I am going to get, I teach according to how the Lord wants me to - or what message he wants tme to relay to them.
    I get really excited about the princapals I get to teach them, and my excite rubs off. I love the Gospel - and if you have a teacher that really loves the Gospel, and them. They will listen. and more importanly - feel the spirit bear testimony to them.

  2. Youve got my mind turning and churning here. I don't have an answer but I am thinking about how I can include this principle with our fhe and scripture study.

  3. Good question. I teach a Sunday School class--I think the most effective way to relate what we are trying to learn to our day-to-day lives, not the "someday . . ."

  4. Interesting question. President Packer taught we should actually prepare all our lessons envisioning a student sitting on the front row asking, "So what?" since teaching without application isn't really teaching at all. However, as was stated in the first comment--it is the Spirit that actually does the teaching AND makes the application. Our job as teachers is to create an environment where the Spirit can be present to teach. (ELder Gene R. Cook)

    Okay, I started writing and kept writing and decided it was much too long. I think I will have to blog about this myself someday. After 11 years in the seminary program, I have a lot of thoughts on this. But three main quick ones .. . You will never teach a teenager anything if you don't love and believe in both them and what you teach. Second, for them to be able to really apply anything, they need to have a good understanding of the plan of salvation. That takes care of most of the so what's. You just direct them back to that and ask them how it applies. Usually they can figure it out themselves. And third--teach from the scriptures--without watering it down or adding fluff. I teach 22 14-year olds every day and ALL of my very best lessons are ones where they are involved in the scriptures and discover the principles themselves. Then you know it is from the spirit and application comes easily.

    Okay, sorry that was so long. But I LOVE teenagers and count every morning with them as one of my greatest blessings.

  5. Oh good question!

    I remember back in YW's the lessons. The ones that actually brought the stories or principles to us, I remember.

    For example, we had an AWESOME speaker for one youth conference. He spoke about choosing our music, internet sites, blah blah wisely.
    Well we listened for about 2 minutes and tuned him out.

    then he started telling a story about his seminary class kids. We all went to seminary so we tuned in a little. He taught this same lesson to them. It didn't sink in. They still listened to bad music, and all that stuff.

    So one day he asked his wife to make cinnamon rolls for the class. He then took the centers out of the middle of the cinnamon rolls. And replaced them with dog poo.

    He then gave everyone one at seminary the next morning. They all about puked, I know I would have.

    He said," Eat it, there's only one bad part."

    So then he related that too CD's and movies and internet sites. The next day, the kids brought there 'bad' CD's in and hung them on the wall. By the end of the year they had a whole room full from there friends and family. Because the kids went and taught their friends the same thing.

    So needless to say, that made a mark on my life. I still have that saying on a board in my house. It reminds me to be judging of what is in my home.

  6. I had to come back and post here. You have had me thinking of this all week. I really think you could write a whole book on this principle in and of itself. (hint)I would buy it.

  7. I like this idea - that we need to make the teachings "real" by applying them to kids lives, to something they can relate to. How can we expect them to care about the abstract unless we can tie it down?


Comments are much appreciated!