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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4 Ways to Connect to Logical Learners

29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
(Mark 11:29-33)

Jesus often used logic to confound the religious leaders and set others free. Logical learners need to be challenged in ways that some teachers never teach.

Logical learners enjoy logic and problem solving. They see patterns in the world, can reason through difficult situations, rely heavily on analogies, like working with abstractions, may be gifted at mathematics and enjoy games and puzzles.

So how do we teach logical learners?

Teach God’s truth towards ideas, not events or people. Socrates once said, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” Logical learners want to figure things out through the world of ideas, not get bogged down with temporal topics.

Provide object lessons for them to figure out how it applies to the Scripture. I believe in total period teaching. Provide an object in each chair before class starts that goes with the lesson, or have a big object up front. If the passage is on Jesus talking about “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me”, have a yoke at the front of the class. If it is on Jeremiah and the Potter’s house, have Play Doh in every seat or a pottery wheel up front. With an object lesson, people (especially logical learners) are trying to figure out how it applies.

Ask the hard questions, and stay away from pat answers. Logical learners are turned off by our religious easy answers. They want to wrestle with the Scripture.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12 NIV.) Mature discipleship requires wrestling with Scripture for life application.

Admit when you don’t know all the answers, and let them help you figure it out. Be honest. Logical learners will know when you are not! Let them help research and discuss hard passages. Provide some commentaries and let them do some work. They like discovering truth for themselves.

Logical learners requires teachers to do a little extra work, but the benefits for the entire class are great!

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Reflective Learners

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV)

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” (Luke 10:39 NIV)

We have these verses about two different Mary’s.

Jesus’ mother treasured and pondered at the birth of Jesus and all that took place.

Martha’s sister sat at Jesus feet and listened as Jesus spoke.

Both were reflective learners. Reflective learners learn best by listening, pondering and reflecting before they speak (if they speak at all.) They enjoy working alone and long periods of solitude. They look for activities that lead to self-expression. They internalize concepts by personalizing them. So how do we involve reflective learners in Bible study?

Consider small group activities. Reflective learners are mostly introverts. Many are not going to speak up in large crowds. Have part of your study in small groups of two to four people. They are more likely to share their wisdom in the small group, and the extravert in the group can give the report to the larger group.

Consider sending questions about the lesson ahead of time. If reflective learners have space and time alone to ponder & reflect, they are much more comfortable sharing what God has shown them. Send questions out by e-mail, text or Facebook. If none of those are available to some of your class members, give questions a week before as they leave class.

Have time for reflection during class. This is a great activity for the life application piece as music is played in the background. Allow them to respond by writing, drawing or making something rather than talking.

You may discover with activities like these that the reflective learner will be more engaged in class. Feel free to comment and share your ideas with me.

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Visual Learners

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw–that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:1-2 NIV)

As teachers prepare to teach a lesson, understanding learning styles of your class members is essential for greater effectiveness as a teacher. (Send me a request by e-mail at tony.brooks@bgav.org and I will send an inventory for teachers and class members to take.) Too often we teach out of the learning style we are most comfortable with, and we miss opportunities to create a better learning environment.

One of the learning styles is visual learner. John (based on the Book of Revelation) was a visual learner. He writes with great imagination and imagery about God’s triumph over evil and suffering.

Persons younger than me (I am 52) have always had a television and other visual technology. How are you using visual images and technology to strengthen your lesson towards life application? They are prone to see pictures. Provide some.

Here are a few ideas to assist in teaching visual learners:

Use pictures to make your point. If you search for art and a Scripture on the internet, you will probably find a painting to help enhance your teaching. I have been amazed at all of the paintings about Scripture that one can find on the internet.

Use video clips to enhance your lesson. If you have a theme in mind, use YouTube and GodTube to find some videos. For instance, a great video on looking at the needs of others is “Get Service”. Here is the link: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=DYKP7GNX

Another great video with music is “Do Something” by Matthew West. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8

Allow prayer time to become an opportunity to use art. Sybil Macbeth has a great book called Praying in Color that demonstrates how art and prayer can be used together to strengthen the prayer life of adults and children. (There is a children’s edition to this book.)

Visual learners will create their own pictures if none are given or ‘check out” of class. Why not provide some resources to keep them focused and applying God’s Word to life application?

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Baby Busters and Sunday School

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12 NIV)

I had a chance to be with some family this week on vacation. The two couples are related by marriage but important family to me as well. They have wonderful jobs, are Christians but not actively involved in church. They have been involved with churches in the past, but have not found a place to meet their needs now. Both couples would be in the Baby Buster’s generation (in their 40’s.)

I discovered some interesting facts as we consider reaching people for Bible study. One couple has both working great jobs with adult children, but finding themselves trying to pay for college for millennials and making a life for themselves. One couple has no children (by their choice) and figuring out their future place of long term employment before retirement. Both couples have depth in life and trying to figure out more.

I had a chance to ask some pointed questions to the couple without children. As we consider Baby Busters, perhaps their honesty can help!

My question: What are you looking for in a church?
We would start with looking for churches in my denomination. We would look for churches close to home. We would then look for churches that were educational and not just fun and games (flash.)

Unlike the Millennials, some Baby Busters want what is familiar in denominational churches and close to home. Whereas most Millennials would look at a website first, this couple would base it on vicinity to where they live and their denominational preference. No one has contacted them from a church. There is a “no solicitation” list in the city. Churches would need to work harder to reach this people group. For me, this goes back to recognizing that every member is a minister and needs to develop relationships with persons each day!

My question: What would entice you to go to a Bible study?

We would want new knowledge about the Scripture and ways to apply it to this day. Discussion is okay, but we prefer understanding the Scripture for today. Perhaps a panel discussion with two or three different perspectives would be best. We want time to hear the possibilities, reflect upon them and then decide how to live into the passage. Biblical truths are ageless, but some parts need to be modernized. (Eating pork was one of the examples mentioned.)

Millennials, Baby Boomers and Baby Busters would agree that we need to bring God’s Word to life application today. Pat answers won’t work for these three important demographics. We need to wrestle with the text as a class and discover timeless truths about Scripture. Perhaps a panel of three persons discussing how the passage applies to them would be a great way to start!

My Question: What if a friend invited you to Bible study?

If a friend invited me, I wouldn’t necessarily go, unless the person is leading the Bible study. If they are in a different class, I probably wouldn’t go.

Invite people who would be in your class! Relationships trump everything else. They may try a class at least once. The next step is up to the teacher and care groups to show that the person is important.

The bottom line is this: we all have some work to do to reach younger generations.

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Sabbath and Sunday School Revisited

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15: 1-4 NIV)

How can we be the most productive SS teachers for our class/community? We need to make sure we have time for renewal and re-creation. One of the great reminders of this for me was my time in a discipleship huddle group a few years ago. (If you are interested in huddle groups, contact John Chandler or Laura McDaniel in the Spence Network of Virginia Baptist life: http://www.spencenetwork.org/)

I was reminded of the need for Sabbath (not as a way to rest from all of my work), but the time to abide in Christ so I am more effective in my work. Here is the crux of it all: Do you work in order to have time to rest or recreation? Do you rest/abide in Christ in order to work out of God’s design for you? Too often our priorities get out of the appropriate order and we need to be reminded of time away from it all with God for rest, renewal, abiding and pruning. Here are some ideas for you as teachers to remain effective:

Take time each day for God. I am not talking about preparing a SS lesson. We each need some quiet time with God. It does not always have to be in your study. For me it is time while I am pushing a lawn mower, fishing, taking a prayer walk, working in a garden or in other methods while enjoying God’s creation. Whatever energizes you in your relationship with God is appropriate. Though prayer on bended knee is important, so is prayer in other ways each day.

Have a Sabbath day each week. God chose for each of us to have a Sabbath day to rest and abide.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-3 NIV)

For ministers and teachers, Sunday is not a Sabbath. We need another day in the week to seek renewal and rest if possible.

We need longer periods of time for pruning and abiding each year. Part of this time each year is seen as vacation. Often we pack so many items into the agenda that it seems like work! Pick some time each year to seek renewal for your soul, and whatever that would look like for you.

Part of this time is pruning for teachers. This is a time of training and renewal as well. Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professions need continuing education each year. Why not SS teachers? We have the greatest responsibility in sharing God’s Word. Take time for training each year. You may want to take a Sunday off and go hear another teacher in your church or another church. This could be a great experience to continue to prune and grow.

So how do we make time for vacation/training? Make sure you are mentoring someone as an apprentice. Every teacher needs an apprentice to train. When we do so, we will have plenty of new teachers to fill in for us and be prepared to teach a new class.

Help your church see the potential for Sabbaticals. All church staff should have opportunities for an extended period of time (for instance after the 7th year of ministry) for sabbatical. This is a time (1-3 months for rest, renewal and continuing education) to fan the flame within and step back to see a clearer vision for your ministry. Check with your VBMB Field Strategist about advantages of Sabbatical for church staff. SS teachers need a Sabbatical as well. I know of a church that requires teachers to take a year break after every three years. This decreases burnout and provides energized teachers when they return.

The bottom line is we sin against God when we do not take periods of time each day, each week, each year and longer periods of time to abide in Christ. I look forward to writing again in a little over a week. For the time being I am trying to practice what I am sharing, and will be on vacation and conference time. Until the next blog, may God provide restful, abiding moments for you as well!

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