Is Bible Class Sometimes Too Formal To Learn Well?

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chairThis morning we tried something different in Bible class. We split up into small groups. Each group read a story from the life of Jesus. Each story highlighted a life lesson we learn from Jesus about how to see people, treat people and how to act ourselves. Now, we have done these types of discussions in the past and we usually conclude by going around and having each group report on what they discussed. This time we tried something less formal. When the discussion time concluded we just asked people share something they love about Jesus. Think about it for a second. When you are talking with others about someone you really love, do you have to be formal to have the conversation? Each guy has his set of questions and each group goes in order? It doesn’t work that way in real life. So instead of starting with Group #1 and going through Group #5 we just had an open ended discussion on Jesus. It was a powerful discussion that made me wonder if the formalities of Bible class don’t some times just get in the way of having a real conversation about our Lord (or any other topic for that matter).

Is Bible class sometimes too formal to learn well? It depends on what you are trying to learn. If you want to learn a list of facts and streams of pure information…lecture is ideal. But is that what we really come to learn? Life isn’t taught well in lecture because life isn’t lived in lecture format. What do you think? How do we get more outside the box?

8 Responses

  1. This morning, the elder who normally teaches the adult class was sick. He had called the preacher the night before and asked him to take the class. Sometimes when he has done this, the preacher brings his newcomers’ class into the regular adult class and teaches that way – but today a trainee was teaching the newcomers’ class so the preacher had nothing prepared.

    Instead, he asked me to co-teach with him in a dialog format. For the past 2 weeks we, as a congregation, have been reading from Mark in a schedule given us 2 weeks ago by the preacher. When he presented us the list of readings, I volunteered to write a brief meditation on each of the readings. What he wanted us to do was discuss some of the questions I posed in those meditations. We sat in chairs behind the communion table – and had dialog with the class of about 35-40 people.

    Afterward, many came to us and said that was the best class they’d ever had! While it was an orderly discussion, it was discussion! By the class – and responsive to the class.

    Matt, I think this is something like what you experienced this morning as well.

    1. I meant to include a link to those posts. The first one is here – and from it you’ll be able to find the others through links at the bottom of each post to the next post on the blog site.

  2. I think it is. I knew so much but internalized so little during my 12 yrs in Christian church and school, but my four years in college I grew a ton as a Christian and my personal faith was internalized completely. A huge part of that was feeling like it was okay to just talk about Jesus and the Bible, to ask questions and even *gasp* have doubts about stuff.

    1. Actually yes, because most of the Greek Philosophers used the Socratic method of discussion and questioning. The lecture format came upon the scene really with the advent of the University, as a fast way to put out information.

      That being said, most serious educators know that for long term retention of information and understanding, lecture is really not a good method.

  3. It’s not an either/or proposition. Some people learn better from lecture, some better from small group discussion, some better from reading, and some better from going out and doing it. Some lessons are learned better in different settings too.

    We need lecture, discussion, application, reading and, most of all, creativity in the way we teach and apply the word of God.

  4. I think it depends. I actually ran into the reverse situation within the church I currently serve. There was much discussion but little authority established, so that there was no clear idea of who spoke with wisdom and who just talked a lot. As a result, there was a sense that anyone who spoke with passion about a topic must have authority to speak. I reorganized the adult Sunday school to make it more of a lecture for a season in order to establish the teacher as the authority. The mid-week Bible studies tend to feature more interaction (“facilitation” rather than “teaching”) to provide that opportunity for personal involvement.

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