“Who was your favorite teacher in school? And more importantly, why was he or she your favorite?”
I asked that question at a conference once, and the responses came quick. I heard stories of a third grade teacher from 40 years earlier. A college physics professor. A high school English teacher who made reading come alive.
As they shared their stories, a common theme became apparent. They remembered fondly teachers who did something creative to engage their students. They made learning fun.
What would our groups look like if we injected a little “fun” in the way we discovered biblical truth?
It’s easier to read background material and spit it back to the group (i.e., lecture). It’s far better to bring them into a discussion and let them discover on their own the meaning and application of the passage. But if you periodically added a different element, something a little “off the wall,” it would help them see the principle or application in a whole different light—and it would likely help them remember it better.
There is a host of ways to insert creative teaching, but let’s keep this short. Let me share one approach I find helpful and memorable.
Use objects to communicate.
- In a discussion of John 8 (the woman caught in adultery), I passed out rocks. “As I read this passage, look at the rock in your hand. What thoughts come to mind?”
- In preparing a study of Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4), I considered the obvious idea of bringing water bottles. I came up with a better idea, though: serve snacks at the beginning but offer no water or drinks. Consequently, the group was more attuned to thirst and the value of water.
- I’ve worn an odd assortment of clothes (including swim flippers) during a study of Colossians 3, where Paul called us to take off the clothes of the old nature and put on the new. (My point: We look really odd when we try to wear the new nature in Christ but also choose to wear and flaunt pieces of the old nature.)
- I’ve taught about Samson using the jawbone of a … well, it was a cow, but it could’ve been a donkey.
- I even brought a lamb to my group when we were discussing the Passover. That was over 20 years ago, and people in that group still remember the study.
We all learn from discussions, but objects engage our senses—sight, smell, touch—and consequently engage our thinking on a different level. So look at the passage and see what objects come to mind.
This is not something to do every week. Nor is it something to be forced. But when you can use a physical object to communicate, you grab their attention. The group is pulled into the passage, and because they will remember the point of the study better, they also remember better what they should do with it.
Creative teaching leads to transformational learning.
I’m always looking for good ideas, so how have you used a physical object with a particular passage of Scripture?
Lynn Pryor is a team leader for adult resources at Lifeway. He and his wife, Mary, lead a Bible study group for young adults and have survived raising two sons to adulthood. A graduate of Southwestern Seminary, Lynn has previously pastored and served churches in Texas. Follow him on his blog at lynnhpryor.com.
This summer at kids camp for the TBC I used a lump of modeling clay and a beautiful clay vase twice a day in worship to emphasize to the kids our theme verse for the camp, Isaiah 64:8, about God being the potter and we the clay. I also told a story of making mud pies as a kid garnished with fresh strawberries….the kids loved it! My point was, all we can do with our lives (molding it ourselves) is make mud pies, which are essentially useless; while God, the master Potter, can shape us into something beautiful and valuable, but only if we are soft and pliable, like clay (total submission). Each day’s topic focused on submission. All week, the kids asked me questions about that mud pie story, and we even had a dessert that week called ‘mud pies’. I’m still getting messages from church leaders about that camp, and the images of clay, mud pies, and a vase. Many of them took pictures of the vase, and even their group with the vase, to record the image. Physical objects do indeed make an impact, and not just on the kids.
Hi Lynn – thanks for this post. I am a huge believer in creating these moments, but haven’t been able to be very innovative in this way when creating Bible learning opportunities.
Things we have tried:
-At the beginning of a series on Ephesians, we created a multiple choice quiz about the city of Ephesus and what it would have been like back in that day.
-Halfway through a series on a particular book (Esther), we asked each member of our Gospel Community to create a drawing to highlight a particular “vignette” and then explain it to the group.
-In a series on 1 Peter, we broke the bigger group into sub-groups with newspaper titles, marker pens, and magazines (to clip pictures), and each sub-group explored a different theme (e.g. chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation) and then presented back their poster to everyone else.
-Recently in studying the Mark 4 passage on the parable of the sower/four types of soil, one of our Gospel Communities broke into 4 sub-groups who created a sculpture for one for the four soil types from kitchen/pantry/food items. The pictures looked amazing!!
Many thanks for this post – keep trusting Jesus! Leighton