I loathe lectures. I suppose there’s a place for them in learning somewhere, but I don’t think group Bible study is one of them. Unfortunately, lecture is a common method used in Bible study—as if imparting knowledge is the number one goal—and it’s the reason a lot of people write off an invitation to join a group. They equate Bible study with a misguided approach to Sunday School where someone lectures and reads to them.
I don’t blame them. I would dread that too. But there’s a better way.
Think back to your childhood. In the early years of school, you drew, told stories, interacted with the others kids, and even played games as a part of learning. Somewhere along the way, though, we were expected to grow up, which means sitting quietly in chairs, reading a book, and listening to the teacher. Play was reserved for recess.
I propose we recapture the ways we used to learn, because we never outgrow the ways we like to learn.
Educators like Thomas Gardner and Thomas Armstrong have identified eight ways we learn. We can all learn using these eight approaches, but individually, we gravitate to certain ones. There are certain approaches to learning that connect with each if us and make learning and applying quite easy and natural. It’s time we brought these back into our group Bible study.
Here are the eight approaches to teaching and learning. See which ones resonate with you.
- Relational Learners. Some of us learn well when we get to interact with others in the process. As we work together, they learn from each other. This can happen through personal sharing, storytelling, debating, and brainstorming. The key is that we’re doing it together. (In fact, as we look at these others ways we learn, many of them can be incorporated with relational learning and working together.)
- Musical Learners. For some of us, music enhances the environment for learning. They don’t have to be musicians, but they enjoy music. Let them listen to a song and consider how it connects to the Scripture being studied. They can rewrite lyrics of a well-known song to capture the essence of your study. Even playing music in the background during other activities gets them in tune with learning (no pun intended).
- Logical Learners. OK, so these people often enjoy lectures, but they also like problem solving. They like to reason through things and analyze them. They enjoy an outline, word studies, analogies, and even statistics.
- Natural Learners. When nature and God’s creation are brought into the mix, these people become more attune to learning. They’re the ones whose quiet time is enhanced with a walk though nature. But you can bring nature—physical objects—into the group as well. For example, as you discuss Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, pass out water. Or better yet, give them salty pretzels, and they’ll be thinking about water. A physical object helps them make the connection and discover biblical truth.
- Physical Learners. The physical learners in your group don’t always like to sit still! Physical movement engages their brains. Use hands-on activities. Let them role-play. When asking a question that calls for an agree/disagree response, place the words on different walls. Let the group members move and stand based on how they agree with the statement. Let me stress again, movement engages their thinking.
- Reflective Learners. These learners don’t mind quiet. They like to internalize and think things through. Like logical learners, they don’t mind a lecture, because they want to think and reflect. Instead of talking, occasionally direct the group to write down their responses to a discussion question.
- Visual Learners. Anything they see with their eyes engages learning: visuals, PowerPoint, movie clips. Let them draw or illustrate something from the study. Drawing is not a juvenile activity. I’ve done this with senior adults, and they loved it. Why? We never outgrow the way we like to learn.
- Verbal Learners. These people in your group connect with words: writing, reading, and speaking. Give them a moment to read a small portion of the book you might be using. Let them write a prayer oru how they will apply the Scripture. Let them use words!
Some of these learning approaches will take you out of your own comfort zone if they are not how you like to learn—but others in your group will love it. They will feel more engaged. But don’t try to do all eight approaches in one study! You’ll wear yourself and your group out. Instead, incorporate one or two different learning approaches each time you meet. Thirty-five years of leading groups has shown me that by using these eight approaches on a regular basis, everyone is more engaged. They learn better, which leads to transformation—and that’s what it’s all about.
NOTE: Lifeway’s ongoing Bible studies—Explore the Bible, the Gospel Project, and Bible Studies for Life—offer ways to incorporate these learning approaches in their group plans.