Four Ways to Engage Verbal Learners

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV)

Verbal learners are ready to share at a moment’s notice. They learn best through reading, writing, speaking and listening. They may have a large vocabulary, love to talk and play word games. They enjoy stories, poems, debates, speeches and essays.

My wife, Katrina, is a verbal learner and a gifted speaker & writer. They are willing to go and share as the Spirit leads. Here are four ways to engage verbal learners:

Empower them to be spokespersons for small groups in a class. Whereas the reflective learner may share with two or three people in a group, the verbal learners are willing to share with a large group. They would be great spokespersons as the large group comes back together to share thoughts.

Empower them to be Prayer leaders in a phone chain or in class. They are willing to pray as well as let others know about prayer concerns. Give them four of five class members to call when there are prayer requests.

Empower them to lead out in outreach/evangelistic efforts. Most verbal learners are more than willing to talk to persons they have just met. Train them to be involved in your outreach/evangelistic efforts. Remember in our culture this is to build relationships in order for the unchurched to know they are important in belonging, long before they believe.

Empower them to share their story as it intersects with The Story in God’s Word. Often they are willing to share a testimony about what God is doing in their lives. Important tip: Let them know a few days before you want them to share, so they have time to pray and reflect.

Challenge: Some verbal learners can monopolize the class time for talking. Be ready to divert to others in a sensitive way as the class discusses the Scripture.

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Four Ways to Engage Musical Learners

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. (I Chronicles 13:8 NIV)

David was a musical learner. As seen in the Scripture above, he celebrated before God with the playing of musical instruments. He played the harp to soothe King Saul in I Samuel 16. He danced before the Lord in II Samuel 6. Music was a big part of his life.

Musical learners are drawn to activities that incorporate natural responses to music. They are sensitive to rhythm and pitch. They learn new songs and movement quickly. They are comfortable performing, playing and composing music.

We think of music for the times we are together in worship, but what about with your Bible study class? Here are some ideas to engage musical learners:

Set the mood for your class by having music played at the beginning. Music moves people in ways words alone cannot. Look for songs to highlight the theme in Scripture that day, and have it playing while people are entering. You may also use music while they are working in small groups.

Use music and music videos during life application or a time of reflection at the end of the session. Steve & Annie Chapman have a wonderful song called, “Change Us Lord,” for times of reflection. Matthew West has a great music video, “Do Something”, which inspires Christians to get involved in helping others. Allow music to become part of the life application, and your participants will remember it for a long time.

Have musical learners compose and/or play a song. If you have musicians in your class, let them know weeks in advance about a theme for the lesson. Ask them to compose or play a song for that session. You could go further by having a theme song for the quarter that you begin or end each class with.

Have your musical learners help plan socials around music. I have seen classes have dinner together and play, “Name That Tune.” (Yes, I know I am dating myself, but it was fun!) In our last church, we did a Christmas banquet every year. Individuals and groups would play Christmas songs and sing. Elvis often showed up at this event along with lots of famous singers! Set up a talent show (your own “America’s Got Talent”) and invite other classes to join you.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” Hans Christian Anderson

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4 Ways to Engage Natural Learners

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
(Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)

Natural learners see God’s handiwork all around them in nature. They are drawn to activities that allow investigation and exploration of God’s world. They are skilled at identifying elements of the natural world. They relate well to stories in the Bible about creation and nature. They have a fascination with plants and animals. They are sensitive about protecting God’s world as well. So how do we engage natural learners in our Bible study classes? Here are some thoughts:

When the Scripture and weather permits, go outside and teach. This may sound crazy for some adults who can’t fathom it, but hear me out. If you had a lesson on Zacchaeus, I would have someone dressed up as him in a tree. Bring the class out to hear his story. If the lesson includes elements of nature, go outside or bring that element inside to observe as it fits with the lesson. Have your natural learners share about that element.

When Biblical imagery about nature is in the lesson, use pictures. It is easy to find lots of examples on the internet for whatever picture you need. I am a natural learner. Every time I see a thunderstorm, I automatically thing about Psalm 29. I envision the Psalmist watching the thunderstorm as he describes the glory and power of God.

Emphasize ways to take care of the environment. Natural learners want to be good stewards of God’s creation. Recycle! We had a gentleman in our last church encourage everyone to bring their paper, aluminum cans and other recyclables to the church. He would collect them and get money for the items. All of the money went towards church mission projects. By the way, Millennials believe in stewardship of God’s creation and recycling as well!

Plan social events around nature. Perhaps your class can take a hiking trip or a retreat in nature as well (Go back and look at this blog about lessons on a men’s retreat: Natural learners would lead out and share about nature as you hike or retreat.

Have an Arbor Day social and plant or care for trees at the church, in a park/school as a community project (get permission) or in class members’ yards.

Henry David Thoreau perhaps puts it best for natural learners: My profession is to always find God in nature.

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Four Ways to Engage Relational Learners in Sunday School/Small Groups

Four Ways to Engage Relational Learners in Sunday School/Small Groups.

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Four Ways to Engage Relational Learners in Sunday School/Small Groups

But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:27 NIV)

Barnabas is the perfect example of relational learners. Whether it was championing the cause of Saul/Paul or standing by John Mark, Barnabas cared and encouraged people. Relational learners are drawn to people and want to encourage and interact. They are keen observers of others, love to talk, and make lots of friends. How are you engaging them in your class? Here are some ideas:

Allow them to be the spokesperson for small group activities. As mentioned in another blog, reflective learners need activities in small groups of three or four to talk. They, however, may be anxious about sharing the results to the class. When the small group reports back to the class as a whole, the relational learners would be excellent to lead the discussion.

Encourage them to be care group leaders. Relational learners are natural at caring for others. Set up care groups in your class, and relational learners will be the best to be leaders. (If you don’t have the organizational chart about setting up care groups, e-mail me at and I will send the document to you.)

Relational learners make great outreach leaders. Every small group bible study needs someone to lead out in reaching new people. Every class needs an outreach leader. Relational learners are already meeting new people. Put them in charge of meeting new people with the intention of getting new people in your class.

Relational learners make great Fellowship/Social coordinators. They keenly observe others and discover the things they enjoy. The fellowship leader is responsible to set up a social once a quarter to meet social needs of the class. Why not let your most gifted class members at relating to people be in charge of socials? They will keep in mind the interests of the class as they plan.

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Four Ways to Engage Physical Learners in your Bible Study Class

11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (I Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV)

Perhaps taken a little out of context, but I believe Physical Learners can identify with this passage! Perhaps “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop…” (Proverbs 16:27a NIV) would be the other one.

Physical learners cannot be still for very long. If you ask them to sit still, they will have to focus on being still. Such concentration will keep them from hearing and learning what you are trying to teach!

Physical Learners are wired to be physically active. They want to act out a story as they tell it. They enjoy “hands on” activities. So how do we engage them?

Give permission to move around. With preschoolers and children, they have stations and movement as a part of class. Usually there are an arts and crafts, music and bible story stations. With youth and adults, we need to build in some activity. Have activities where they have to place something on the board, draw something or use items like Play Doh when a lesson lends itself to do so. At other times, give permission to get out of their seats and move in the classroom.

Use drama/role play. Physical learners prefer to act it out as they tell a story. Give them that opportunity.

Use arts and crafts. I mentioned Play Doh above, but let them use their hands for part of the lesson. Sybil Macbeth has a great book called, Praying in Color, which inspires people to draw as they pray. There is a children’s edition as well. My wife, Katrina, has helped young adults with their prayer life using this book.

Have service projects. As mentioned in several of my blogs, every Bible study class should have an ongoing service project in the community. It helps every person to feel important as they serve and physical learners learn best by doing something for others. I would encourage some lessons on the go while you are serving.

If physical learners are not given opportunities to learn as they move around, they will not be engaged in learning, and many will not remain active in the class.

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Four Lessons I learned on a Men’s Retreat

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

Let’s face it. Some men resist strongly going to a Bible study on a Sunday morning in a classroom. Perhaps they feel that it is for boys only. Perhaps they are Physical Learners (prefer “hands on” approach to learning) or Natural Learners (enjoy the beauty, investigation, and exploration of God’s creation.) Instead of using guilt, why not start them off on a men’s retreat?

Madison Heights Baptist has been doing so for 54 years! In 1961 their pastor, Reverend Hugh Bumgarner, led their first retreat for boys and men. The object was to combine things they loved doing with lessons about life skills, values and guidance through Bible study about what it means to be a Godly man. The retreat has continued through two Pastors since then, Dr. Tim Madison for 16 years and now Dr. Todd Blake for the last 5 years. They made Staunton River State Park their traditional retreat site since 1979, the year Dr. Blake was born.

Here are some lessons I learned this week from them.

In order to be a great leader, you need to learn how to be a great follower. Each child/youth is put on a team to serve. They clean up after meals and help keep the campground looking great. The older youth and young adults serve the meal. The older men cook the meal. Every person serves in some capacity. They are learning the value of serving and following directions. (As I have mentioned before, every SS class should have an ongoing service project. Part of my reasoning is to learn how to serve and follow.)

Discipleship is more than Bible study. It is teaching life skills and mentoring. Yes, there is a Bible study every morning, and a devotional every night. In years past, the Pastor would train older youth to lead some of the Bible studies, but this year is a young group (age 5 is the youngest.) Dr. Blake is leading the Bible study. Besides the Bible, they learn about the environment, fishing, physical health including sunscreen, taking care of nature, helping each other as they put up tents and learn other valuable skills. They encourage each other in the games they play, and pray for each other.

Following Jesus and Discipleship is an ongoing adventure. Jesse is the oldest camper in the group this year at age 65. He was at the first retreat at age 11. He is one of the cooks and encouragers. There are several more adults who have been on this retreat since their childhood. They recognize that following Jesus and discipleship is a life-long adventure.

Retreats are an outreach opportunity. Some men and children are experiencing this idea for the first time on this trip. I have talked with them and seen how this has been a transformative experience. It has been a new way to look at Bible study and discipleship. The children have influenced other children that brought dads! There is an excitement that is contagious. I overheard two boys around age 10 one night while they were waiting their turn to kick at kickball. Both can’t imagine what the summer would be like without this retreat. They look forward to it every year.

I do believe Madison Heights is training up a child in the way they should go. With so many adults coming (who once were children on the trip), the message is clear. It is our responsibility to train up a child.

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