Saturday, April 6, 2013

ADULT EDUCATION: A sage on the stage?

Many adult Bible study classes are about an adult speaking and other adults listening or about whatever book is being used and going through it together. The adult speaking is more often than not the pastor and some people describe a pastor's adult Bible study as a long sermon though most pastors feel the opposite. Many pastors are very good speakers and have a lot to share but they don't seem to know how to facilitate a good discussion. Some other adults who lead adult Bible studies don't always feel confident in leading other adults. After all, "What if they know more than I do?"

Tips for Teaching Adults
  • There will almost always be somebody who knows more than you do (even if you're the pastor) about something.  Don't sweat it.  Ask them to share what they know.  It will add to the discussion.
  • Lectures are not evil.  They are often a great way to impart information and they can be dynamic and fun.  Just don't make them too long.  The adult attention span is about 15-20 minutes.
  • Adults like active learning too.  Adults like to solve problems and think about things from different perspectives.  We like to be challenged.  It's the really great discussion about a topic that keeps us engaged.
  • Pay attention to those 'teachable moments' when you go off task. Take advantage of them. They are rare and valuable and they give you insight into what people are most interested in knowing.
  • Consider yourself as participating in a dialogue with your peers. Don't give answers before they've had a chance to think about the question. Learn to be comfortable waiting.
  • When you tell somebody something it may impress them for a moment. When they talk about it and it runs around their minds a bit, it impresses them more and sticks longer.
  • Give them a problem and let them come up with the solutions, sharing more pieces as the discussion continues. For example, we recently talked about Pentecost, witnessing and speaking in tongues. Pastor knew what he wanted to tell us but we didn't get a chance to wrestle with any of it. Propose the problem or ask some provoking questions and give them a few minutes to wrestle with it as a group or in smaller groups. With regard to witnessing, what is our job and what is the job of the Holy Spirit? What does the Bible say? How do you reconcile it with how you live your life?  Let them discuss and solve the problem. It's the leader's job to focus the discussion.

Significant Questions are a Big Deal

Questions can either elicit information, shape understanding, or press for reflection. Many times we ask questions that simply require people to repeat what they just read. Significant questions require the participant to think a little more deeply and/or apply the information to their lives. The easiest way I can tell you about significant questions is to show you. I used a sample taken from Witness, Mercy, Life Together (Questions 6, 7, and 8), written by Albert B. Collver III, published by CPH, 2011. The questions in BLUE are samples of possible significant questions added by me. If you want to see all the sample questions for the Bible study you can find them here. I chose this example because it seems to be a very typical adult Bible study.

Content of a Witness

When called as a witness in a court of law, what are the kinds of things we are expected to share?  Are we to add opinions or just state the facts?  Why is that?  

Read John 1:29–34.
6.  What is the content of the message that a witness gives (vv. 29, 34)?
The answer is obvious and given (vv. 19, 34).  Answer:  “the lamb of God” and “God’s chosen one”.  
God was very clear that John was to let people know that Jesus was God’s son, the Lamb of God.  Think about what you know about the apostles.  Each one of them shared according to his personality because everybody says and shares things differently.  Describe what you know about the personality and witnessing style of the apostles. What is the content of your witness?  How does your witness fit your personality? 
7.  Why did the Holy Spirit, who descended as a dove at Jesus’ Baptism, remain on Jesus (vv. 32–34)? 
The answer is obvious and given (vv. 32-34).  Answer:  The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
How does the Holy Spirit descend on you?  What part does the Holy Spirit play in your witness? Can you relax and allow the Spirit to witness through you or do you feel pressure to "do it right?" 
8.  Read Romans 10:14–15. Why are witnesses to Jesus important? 
The answer is obvious and given (vv 14-15).  It MAY require very little summarizing.  Answer:  people will not believe if they don’t hear and people will not hear if nobody acts as witness.
Is it important to you that there were eye-witnesses that saw and knew Jesus?  Why or why not?  There are churches and Christians in every town and on TV, how is it that everyone in the mainstream world has not heard the message of the Gospel?  Thinking about how information is dispersed today, what would have happened had there been no eye-witnesses to Jesus but only second or third hand witnesses or even rumor?

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