THE program of the Theocratic Ministry School is prepared to benefit the entire congregation. Valuable information is also presented at other congregation meetings as well as at assemblies and conventions. If you have been assigned a part on one of these programs, you have been given a weighty responsibility. The apostle Paul urged the Christian overseer Timothy to pay constant attention to his teaching. (1 Tim. 4:16) Those who are present at Christian gatherings have set aside valuable time—and some have put forth much effort—to be in attendance for instruction in matters that pertain to their relationship with God. Giving such instruction is an awesome privilege indeed! How can you care for it well?
Highlights From Bible Reading
This feature of the school is based on the Bible reading that is assigned for the week. Emphasis should be put on how the material affects us today. As reported at Nehemiah 8:8, Ezra and his associates read publicly from God’s Word, explaining it, ‘putting meaning into it,’ and imparting understanding. Your handling of the Bible highlights affords you the opportunity to do that too.
How should you prepare such an assignment? If possible, read the assigned portion of the Bible a week or more in advance. Then think about your congregation and its needs. Pray about it. What counsel, what examples, what principles in this portion of God’s Word meet those needs?
Research is essential. Is the Watchtower Library on CD-ROM or the Watch Tower Publications Index available in your language? If so, make good use of them. By researching what has been published on the verses you have chosen to focus on, you may find enlightening background material, explanations of the fulfillment of prophecies, analyses of what certain texts reveal about Jehovah, or discussions of principles. Do not try to cover too many points. Focus on just a few selected verses. It is better to cover a few verses and do it well.
Your assignment may also call for inviting the audience to comment on how they have benefited from the week’s Bible reading. What did they find that will benefit them in their personal and family study or in their ministry or way of life? What qualities of Jehovah were manifested in his dealings with people and nations? What did the audience learn that strengthened their faith and built appreciation for Jehovah? Do not dwell on technicalities. Emphasize the meaning and practical value of points selected.
This is based on published material, such as an article in The Watchtower or Awake! or possibly a portion of a book. In most cases there is more than enough material for the allotted time. How should you handle the assignment? As a teacher, not merely as someone covering material. An overseer must be “qualified to teach.”—1 Tim. 3:2.
Begin your preparation by studying the assigned material. Look up the scriptures. Meditate. Endeavor to do that well in advance of the date of your talk. Keep in mind that the brothers are encouraged to read beforehand the published material on which the talk is based. Your assignment is not simply to review it or to condense it but to show how to apply it. Use appropriate portions of the material in a manner that will truly benefit the congregation.
Just as each child has his own personality, each congregation has distinctive traits. A parent who teaches effectively does not simply recite moral precepts to his child. He reasons with the child. He takes into account the child’s personality and the problems with which the child struggles. In a similar way, teachers in the congregation endeavor to come to grips with the needs of the group to which they are speaking. However, a discerning teacher will avoid using examples that could embarrass someone in the audience. He will point out the benefits already being enjoyed as a result of walking in Jehovah’s way and will highlight counsel from the Scriptures that will help the congregation to deal successfully with problems that they face.
Good teaching touches the hearts of those in the audience. This requires not merely stating facts but also building appreciation for what these represent. It requires genuine concern for those being instructed. Spiritual shepherds should know the flock. If they lovingly keep in mind the problems that various ones are facing, they will be able to speak encouragingly, showing understanding, compassion, and empathy.
As effective teachers know, a talk must have a clearly defined objective. Material should be presented in such a manner that key points will stand out and be remembered. The audience should be able to take with them practical thoughts that will affect their lives.
When you are giving a talk based on an article in Our Kingdom Ministry, the challenge may be somewhat different. Here you will find that you are often called on to convey fully to the audience what has been provided, not to select what is most appropriate. Help the audience to reason on the scriptures that constitute the basis for any counsel given. (Titus 1:9) Time is limited, in most cases not allowing for additional material.
On the other hand, you may be invited to present material on which no article appears in Our Kingdom Ministry. Reference may be made to a Watchtower article, or the assignment may consist of a few brief notes. It is up to you as a teacher to consider the needs of the congregation in relation to the assigned material. You may need to use a brief, pointed illustration or relate a fitting experience. Remember that your assignment is not simply to speak on the subject but to handle it in such a way that the congregation is helped to accomplish the work that God’s Word sets out and to find joy in doing so.—Acts 20:20, 21.
As you prepare your assignment, think about the circumstances of those who make up the congregation. Commend them for what they are already doing. How may their applying the suggestions given in the assigned material increase their effectiveness and their joy in the ministry?
Does your assignment call for a demonstration or an interview? If so, it should be planned well in advance. It may be tempting simply to ask someone else to make arrangements for it, but that does not always yield the best results. If at all possible, rehearse the demonstration or interview before the day of the meeting. Be sure that this element of your part is handled in a manner that truly enhances the instruction being given.
Assemblies and Conventions
Brothers who develop fine spiritual qualities and who become effective public speakers and teachers may in time be asked to share in the program at an assembly or a convention. These are truly special occasions for theocratic education. Such an assignment may come in the form of a manuscript, an outline, instructions for a Bible drama with a modern-day application, or a paragraph of instructions. If you are privileged to serve on such a program, carefully study the material supplied to you. Work with it until you appreciate its value.
Those who are assigned a manuscript talk should read the material word for word. They do not reword or rearrange the material. They study it to discern clearly what the main points are and how these are developed. They practice reading aloud until they can deliver the talk with proper sense stress, enthusiasm, warmth, feeling, earnestness, and conviction, as well as volume and intensity appropriate for a large audience.
Brothers who are assigned an outline talk are responsible to develop their material in a manner that closely conforms to the outline. Instead of reading from the outline during the talk or preparing it in manuscript form, the speaker should present the material extemporaneously, from the heart. It is important to adhere to the time allotted on the outline in order to present clearly each main point shown. The speaker should make good use of the thoughts and scriptures listed under the main points. He should not bring in additional points of his own personal liking to the exclusion of what is in the outline. The foundation of the instruction, of course, is God’s Word. The responsibility of Christian elders is to “preach the word.” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2) So a speaker should give special attention to the scriptures in the outline—reasoning on them and making application of them.
Do Not Procrastinate
Do you serve in a congregation where there are many opportunities to speak? How can you do justice to all of them? Avoid preparing your parts at the last minute.
Talks that truly benefit the congregation require adequate forethought. Therefore, get into the habit of reading the material as soon as you receive each assignment. This will enable you to mull it over as you go about other activities. During the days or weeks before you give your talk, you may hear comments that help you see how best to apply the information. Situations may arise that reveal its timeliness. Reading and thinking about your assignment right after you receive it takes time, but this is time well spent. When you finally sit down to develop the outline, you will reap the benefits of having thought it out well in advance. Handling assignments in this way will greatly reduce stress and will help you to present material in a manner that is practical and that reaches the hearts of those in the congregation.
To the extent that you appreciate the gift that has been entrusted to you in connection with Jehovah’s program of education for his people, you will honor him and will prove to be a blessing to those who love him.—Isa. 54:13; Rom. 12:6-8.