Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church: Beginning an Apologetics Class

Beginning an Apologetics Class by Derek Jarrard
I began an apologetics class at my church almost one year ago. Before the class began, I spent several months (about six) in preparation. These six months leading up to the class consisted of several areas. I hope to shed some light on the preparation process I went through in order to help others beginning a similar ordeal.
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The first thing you need to do is decide who your audience will be. Is this a class for new Christians of all ages, high school or middle schoolers, or for those who wish to shore up their faith in order to be a more effective witness? This is important because the content of your class will vary based on who will be listening. Also, the depth of the material will also change. Someone who has been a Christian for many years will be able to go deeper than say a middle school aged student. I have a passion for preparing our youth for the defense of the Christian faith, so I chose to teach high school and middle school students.

Next, you will need to decide on the length of your class. Will it be for one hour each Sunday for a month? An hour and a half? This is important in order to have enough content to fill the allotted time. My class is for an hour and a half on Sunday evenings for three weeks. This gives some fun, icebreaker time at the beginning then about one hour of lecture time, then time at the end for questions.

Lastly, you will need to think about what the content of the class will consist of. Apologetics covers such a wide variety of topics, you will want to narrow your choices in order to provide the most information on what you wish to convey. You may want to really zero in on science and religion and talk about God's existence, astronomy, physics, etc. Or you may want to talk about the historical significance of Biblical events. I chose to do a basic introduction to apologetics and talk about the existence of God, the reliability of the Scriptures, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

After you have these three things decided, begin to get things on paper and write out an outline of the class and what you will discuss each night. Then, meet with your pastor or youth director and share with them your vision of the class and seek their affirmation and ideas. Lastly, pray. This goes without saying, but so many people do not seek the Lord's will and blessing. You will see a direct correlation in the success of your class and the amount of time you spend on your knees in conversation with the Lord.

I would like to also suggest a few other things to consider as you prepare for your class. A few weeks before the class begins, you may want to have something in your church bulletin, include something each week in the announcements, and advertised on the church's website. If you have a Facebook page or Twitter account for your church, this is also a good way to get the time and dates for your class in the right people's hands. Anything you can do to get the word out. Also, ask possible attendees to submit questions they would like to see addressed in the class.

If possible, I also highly recommend a solid Power Point presentation to supplement your discussion. Here you can include pictures, quotes, graphs, and a general outline to help your audience follow along. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words and it is easier to show them than tell them. Power Point will also assist your class in taking notes. There is usually a lot of material to present and to help drive home a particular point, you can put it on the overhead.

If you are looking to leave a lasting impression on your class, give them something they can keep and refer back to often. A notebook of all the Power Point slides, outlines, and blank pages for notes makes a great keepsake for your students. It is something they can take with them and use when confronted with questions and ministering to others. You will leave a legacy for years to come just by offering this simple tool for them. God will take the seeds you plant and multiply the fruits of His harvest a hundred fold.

One thing you may want to include in your notebook, or just give as a handout, is a list of recommended books, websites, and social media "friends". There is so much misinformation out there it is hard for people to know who and what to believe. Having a list of trusted resources can go a long way to spreading the truth. This is so important as we encourage our students to love the Lord with all their mind as well as their heart and soul. As the old saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. Let's help them dispense with the garbage and replace it with the truth of our savior, Jesus Christ.

As for the flow of the class, that is really an individual choice. We all have different teaching styles we employ so our outlines will all differ. One thing I would highly encourage you to do though, is make sure to set some time aside for questions at the end of your presentation. Not only will this benefit your students, but it will help you in the future as well. This is where you will find out what issues your class has with defending their faith. You can then use that information when tweaking your presentation for future classes. For example, I found out that our high school students face many questions from their peers about the Trinity. I then went back and made sure I devoted more time on that particular topic in the next class.

Lastly, in each of your presentations make sure to explain that the whole point behind apologetics is to present the Gospel message to unbelievers. It is not a "gotcha" game we play where we win and they lose. Rather, it should be done "... with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3:15b) in order to show them the hope that is within us. It is not our calling to win their souls, God does that. But our calling is to proclaim the Gospel message to all, to sow the seeds, and the Holy Spirit to draw them to the Father.

I hope this will be beneficial to anyone who is thinking about starting an apologetics class. In this Post-Modern world we live in where all truth is deemed relative, our churches must be ready to defend the faith like never before. To know what you believe and why you believe it seems fundamental, but that kind of teaching is missing in today's time. Easy-believism, feel good lessons, and pats on the back have replaced the truth of the Bible. May God lead and direct you on this new journey you are taking to help further His kingdom. Grace and peace to you from our Lord, Jesus.


Craig said...

That's very helpful. Next quarter at my church I'm going to teach a Sunday school class using Reasonable Faith. I think now I will definitely use powerpoint and handout out the slides. Before, I'd use my notes, and pass them out.

I also agree say it is great to teach these things to high school kids. They are smart and need it, since they are attacked all the time, and they are responsive, even if they seem "too cool." For example, I taught a youth group class on the problem of evil, simplified from a chapter in Hard Questions, Real Answers and the youth were really involved, which surprised the parents.

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