“Planning to Teach,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 73
Many have discovered the joy of teaching the gospel, but there is another distinct joy to be found in connection with teaching—the joy of preparation. Often, lesson preparation is seen as a chore and is put off until the last moment. Like a hurried prayer, last-minute preparation becomes shallow and not very effective.
I have known that kind of preparation myself. It is not pleasant, and it does not build confidence. I have also experienced great exhilaration in preparation. It can be a time of meaningful prayer and profound thoughts. I have found it to be a pleasantly productive time of worship, introspection, understanding, and inspiration.
Of course, very little happens by accident. Effective, enjoyable preparation is the result of thoughtful planning plus adherence to principle. Here is my own personal path to lesson preparation.
I find it important to preview, at least one week in advance, lessons I am to teach. For me this is a quick look at headings, critical scriptures, and general concepts. Once I establish some central ideas and have scriptures in mind, I have the whole week to relate them to present-day life. As the week develops, I jot down ideas that come to me. By the time I sit down to finalize my preparations, I have some personal thoughts and feelings about the lesson material.
A regular place for study is very important. I study at the kitchen table when I prepare my lessons. Because I use the same place every week, I associate it with many joyful, spiritual moments. The memories of previous preparation experiences make it easier to get into the frame of mind to study. Solitude is also important. I like early-morning study, but anytime you are able to think without interruption or disturbance will work fine.
It is important to have the proper resources near at hand during preparation time. The scriptures and lesson manuals, of course, are the critical texts, but additional counsel and inspiration can also be found in Church magazines, books and commentaries by Church leaders, and other sources. Having what I need within easy reach helps me focus on the lesson and allows me to concentrate on the spirit of the experience.
Once all things are ready and in place, I begin to experience the joy of preparation. New insights come into view as I pray and ponder. While I explore and examine the lesson material more deeply, I begin to get a clearer picture of how to give the lesson.
As I have tasted the joy of preparation, I have discovered great pearls of wisdom and insight. I find I learn far more through my preparation than I will ever have time to teach. The final part of my preparation period consists of organizing what I have prepared and planning my presentation so I won’t neglect key points.
Wherever truth is taught, the need for preparation is much the same. Those who develop a path to successful preparation will find a joyful experience awaiting them.