Preparation: How to Plan for a Relief Society Lesson
One of the wonderful things about the LDS church is that it calls on its members to fill all of its positions. This is, of course, one of the challenging things about the church, too. I’m sure most of us have been in a calling that took us outside our comfort zone and left us a little bewildered about how to accomplish the tasks before us. So we hope the following will be helpful to those of you (probably all of you at some point in your life) who plan Relief Society lessons–whether you’re an old hand or brand new.
The most effective lessons have clearly stated objectives. I’ve tried to identify objectives that all lessons should achieve. You should obviously refine them to fit the specific topic of your lesson.
- Encourage the sisters in our ward to spend time regularly in personal gospel study
- Present music and lessons in Relief Society on Sundays that will foster an open, honest, and safe environment in which the spirit directs discussions of what we have learned in personal study and in which we can ask questions we cannot answer on our own so that we can learn the gospel together as sisters.
- When done with the spirit, the above will help all of the sisters in the Relief Society improve their spiritual literacy, both as individuals and as a sisterhood.
Some suggestions for how to accomplish the above objectives through your teaching.
Encourage personal study:
- Post next week’s lesson on board each week
- Use email or a Relief Society newsletter in order to identify the upcoming lesson(s) as well as specific questions, ideas, or scriptures for sisters to consider as they read the lesson in preparation for Sunday.
- Ask individual sisters to participate in weekly lessons in such a way that it encourages personal study during the week. Some suggestions: 1. Share an experience and tie it into the content of the lesson; 2. Share what a scripture or passage from the lesson personally means to the sister; 3. Share a hymn that is meaningful to them in relationship to the lesson
- Musical numbers or readings (poetry, scripture, etc.). If you allow them to choose their own musical number or reading, please find out what they will be doing ahead of time and use your judgment as to whether it is appropriate.
- Model study practices and habits in the lesson. Rather than simply presenting the conclusions you reach, show how you got there. This may leave you covering less material over all, but it will in many ways be more valuable.
Foster open, honest, and safe environment in which to discuss and ask questions:
- A significant portion (but not all) of each lesson should encourage the sisters to participate through discussion.
- Discussions should be focused. If they begin to stray, politely redirect them to the question at hand.
- Try to build connections between what sisters say and what you have planned in your lesson. Try to acknowledge each sister’s contribution.
- Share experiences as appropriate. While experience is one powerful teaching tool, it is only one of many and should not regularly be a primary component of a lesson.
- Don’t be afraid of silence after a question. Allow time for sisters to contemplate the question you’ve asked. If they aren’t responding, try to re-phrase the question before giving your own answer.
- Do not cut a good discussion short in order to cover all of your material. Plan your lesson so that you’re already prepared to cut some of your material. Two options: 1. Plan the whole last section in such a way that you can cut it altogether; 2. Plan the lesson in sections so you can cut lesson by glossing main points and cutting some of the content of the section.
- Plan not only what you will teach but also how you will teach.
Encourage spiritual literacy for individual sisters and for our Relief Society as a sisterhood:
- Focus on principles
- As you prepare the lesson, focus on the principles of the lesson rather than the stories. Use stories as a tool for teaching principles.
- When considering other material (limit only to scriptures and an occasional other source), choose only those that reinforce the principle of the lesson.
- Help sisters understand how the lesson applies in their own life
- Rather than trying to present all the material in the lesson, prayerfully select the material that will be most helpful to those in our Relief Society.
- Focus on how they apply now rather than only on how they will apply in the future.
- Help sisters understand what they can do as a result of what they have learned
- Knowledge is only useful insofar as it is applied.
- Help sisters think about what they can do as individuals and also what they can do as a sisterhood.
- Faith and the gospel are about action as well as contemplation.