Updated: Jul 10
Every Bible teacher has started a class by asking, “Who can remember what last week’s lesson was about?” Only to have no one raise their hand with an answer. One reason few people can remember the details of last week’s lesson is because they were not engaged on a personal level.
The answer is not that you are a bad communicator or don’t understand the material. You simply cannot engage everyone with a single all-encompassing teaching method. Every individual has a unique way of learning, which means Bible teachers must master various strategies to engage each person’s learning style.
How do we do this? … just do what Jesus did. He lectured, used visual aids, told stories, asked questions, changed locations, and got his disciples to discuss among themselves. He taught unchanging truth in different ways. Jesus knew that people learn in different ways, so he varied his style of teaching.
Teaching experts have observed three basic ways that people learn: visually, audibly, and kinesthetically (hands on). This is a simple tool for thinking about how we are going to teach our next Bible study.
Here is a summary of each of the three learning styles with some simple tips to engage everyone in your Bible study class:
Engaging Visual Learners
Visual learners learn best when information is presented in a graphically organized way. They learn through pictures, images, charts, and diagrams.
People remember more when they have a personal book in their hands to read and write personal notes.
Using visual aids like charts, diagrams, and PowerPoint® illustrations. When people shift their attention from the teacher to the visual it keeps them actively engaged. When people try to stay focused on a single thing (usually the teacher) their mind wanders and becomes distracted.
Passing around some interesting items for people to examine. I have passed around a Greek New Testament, a replica of an ancient artifact, a small container of mustard seeds, a deck of prayer cards etc.
Engaging Auditory Learners
Auditory learners learn best through sound and speech. These learners prefer to listen to information to understand it.
Reading the text of each lesson out loud as every reads along. This may seem boring but is very valuable for auditory learners.
Tell a personal story, or application of the principle that is being discussed.
Stop and ask easy questions. Don’t embarrass people by asking difficult or controversial questions. Easy questions that people can quickly blurt out the answer keep this kind of learner focused.
When appropriate include short joke. Humor is a great engagement tool.
Engaging Kinesthetic Learners
Kinesthetic learners learn through physical activities and experiences. They remember information better by doing something physically related to it.
Encourage each person to have their own book and write down answers in their own words.
Have everyone turn to the focus passage in their own Bible.
Encourage people to underline or circle important words or points in the lesson.
It is impractical to try too many things at once. But even small tweaks to your lesson will help engage people better. And when people are engaged they can learn. Next time they will remember what last weeks lesson was about!