Many high schools and universities have discovered the value of integrating community service and teaching; incorporating service learning into their curriculum. Service learning is an educational strategy that combines community service and instruction to give a deeper learning experience. The process revolves around reflection as participants record and ponder on the significance of their experiences and how those experiences relate to beliefs, values, and formal instruction. Participating in the service work functions as both motivation to learn and a lab for testing formal instruction received.
We can learn a great deal from this model. Think a moment about how most projects are done by Bible study groups. A need is discovered and brought to the attention of the group. Once the group decides to respond to the need, a plan is created and carried out to meet the discovered need. Photos may be taken and shared once the project is finished. The group then moves on to another need, leaving the former project in their rear-view mirror.
What if the service project became a means for teaching the Bible study? Suppose you selected a Bible study for the group and then looked for a service project that relates to the selected Bible study? What might that look like? For example, you choose Tony Evan’s Horizontal Jesus as your next study for your small group. Since the study looks at how Jesus impacts our relationships with others, you then look for a service project that puts the group in direct contact with lots of people…maybe volunteering to help staff a local marathon rest stop or community event. You then encourage the group members to record notes about interactions they have through the day. The study then gives insight into the interactions recorded while the notes serve as illustrations to what is being studied. The study and the project then work hand-in-hand to give greater meaning to both.
If anyone should be interested in aligning a study with service to others, it ought to be Bible study groups! We may be missing out on deep learning experiences by failing to tie our group studies to our group’s involvement in service opportunities.
What events and projects could your group take on this Summer? How can the experiences gained from that event or project be a tool for teaching a specific Bible study?
Dwayne McCrary is a project team leader for ongoing adult Bible study resources at Lifeway, including the adult Explore the Bible resources. He also teaches an adult group and preschool group every Sunday in the church he attends.