10 Tips to Know What Type of Bible Class to Teach

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Brian brought up a great point in the last post – there are times for a variety of teaching styles and methods to take place. It is just hard to know which one is most appropriate. Here are a few rules or thumb:

  1. If the class can generate the information (details, interpretation, or application), let it happen through discussion rather than lecture.
  2. If the class cannot feasibly generate the information you want to convey, lecture it.
  3. If you have time constraints you either have to pick less material and discuss or cover more material in a lecture. Define up front which is most important to you – that the people get more information or that they have more time to digest less but may retain more.
  4. If you want them to have a high retention rate of the information, discussion usually accomplishes it best.
  5. If you want to cover material that is extremely difficult, lecture tends to work best with momentary times of discussion to make sure the class is on the same page you are.
  6. Discussion should be avoided if you know the class is just going to be a “pooling of ignorance.” If your class tends to do that or tends to chase dozens of rabbit trails you need to prepare with a balance of lecture with some very specific questions that you don’t let them stray too far from – continue to pull them back to what the main point is.
  7. If you want discussion to go well, inform the class in advance what each class will be about (through email and a mention at the end of the previous class) so people can study in advance. If you really want them to get with it, provide them with some study questions to get them prepped for the next class. This takes the teacher actually being prepared several weeks in advance (what a concept!).
  8. Make sure not to ignore experiential learning. If we are going to tap into different learning styles we typically miss those people whose learning style/primary intelligence is bodily kinesthetic (who like things hands on).
  9. Discussion oriented classes should still have elements of lecture in them. It is important that the teacher actually have a direction for the class to go. There are few times a 100% discussion oriented class are appropriate…unless the goal of your class is to chase rabbits or brain storm. The opposite is true as well – lecture oriented classes should still have elements of discussion in them. Questions are one of the most powerful teaching tools available. It is often hard for a lecturer to have a feeling like they have lost control of the class – which is often the case in discussion. You just have to know how to get them back on track without putting anyone down or discounting their off track remarks.
  10. It takes unique abilities to be a good discussion facilitator and it takes unique abilities to be a good lecturer. Not everyone is good at one, the other, or both. Know your strength and play into that strength. Some people are brainiacs but are horrible at facilitating a non-teacher centered conversation. Others are great people-persons who may lack the ability to lecture well but may be able to bring the best out of those in the class and encourage healthy discussion, sharing, and reflecting/application on the text or topic.

0 Responses

  1. Back in my college days, I had the privilege of taking a course on Christian Education with David Wray. I also had a Leadership Training course with Ed Mathews. Some brilliant ideas; wish they had published them.

    One thing to consider, when looking at discussion, is what kind of activities will be used. Group work, general thought questions, case studies, etc. There are two gazillion and one different things that can be done.

    Something else to consider is the type of questions used. “What was the name of Adam and Eve’s third son?” won’t generate much thought nor discussion. At the other end is the teacher that asks, “What’s Paul saying here?” who then says, “No, that’s not it” to every answer received. Those teachers want you to be a mind reader

    There are information questions, analysis questions, life application questions… I’m realizing that I need to go dig out my notes from those classes!

    All of that to say, pure lecture should be used as a last resort. It won’t get people to think much and won’t lead people to learn much. Even lecture needs some questions, activities, etc. to engage the audience.

    At least that’s my one and a half cents worth.

    Grace and peace,

  2. Tim,

    Great thoughts. You reminded me of the book – “How to Ask Great Questions” by Karen Lee-Thorp. She lays out some really great rules for asking questions that get at the information you desire. She also talks about open vs. closed questions. This is a really handy book.

    Here is the link to her book at amazon – https://www.amazon.com/How-Ask-Great-Questions-Techniques/dp/1576830780/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1234635541&sr=8-1

  3. This is very helpful, especially for the person who may be teaching a class for the first time. Over the past few weeks I have had the opporunity to visit several different churches and sit in several different classes and some obivious do a better job with leading classes than others. And having worked as an associate minister I have listened to the compliants of teens when a class is missing a good leader. A great mistake that we tend to make in churches is that we assume that if someone has been a Christian long enough that are qualified to teach.

  4. great info, matt.

    i have started deciding what is most important and dealing with it first, then having everything else on the hand out that people can look at later if we don’t get to it during the class time. at least for certain classes.

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