Wisely Choosing Sunday School Teaching Methods, Part 1

Saturday 30th August, 2008

Over the years, I have talked about the importance of making wise choices of teaching methods for Sunday School. The worst method is the one used all the time. Just two days ago, I shared that the best method is the one that best communicates the truth of God's Word to the assigned group of people at that particular moment in time.

That means that we should seek God's leadership first, allowing His Word (our text) to lead us to the best method for communicating that truth. Second, we look at what our attenders know and how they learn best. Third, we look at the immediate time context to see if more pressing needs for ministry or teaching are present--such as comforting grief or confronting sin.

I recently read an article by Phyllis Kline entitled This Month's Teaching Method: Computer. In her article, Kline uses the anagram, GROUP FACTORS, to identify issues that should be taken into account as you choose the best teaching method. In Part 1, I will share the five issues in the word GROUP, and in Part 2, I will share the seven issues in the word FACTORS. The following five issues from Kline's article are in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • GROUP SIZE. The number of attenders present can make some teaching methods impossible. For instance, if you have only two students, dividing into groups for a debate or two dramas will be difficult. On the other hand, a very large group meeting in a very tight place may limit method choices. For instance, active movement methods, such as games, may not be possible. So room size also can impact methods.
  • RESOURCES NEEDED. If resources needed are not available or not affordable, then other options have to be considered. It is wise to start early in considering methods so there is enough time to gather needed resources or make adjustments. Otherwise, the teacher may have to be creative on the spot.
  • OBJECTIVE TARGETED. What are you trying to accomplish? Will a specific method enable that objective or distract from it? If you are trying to help attenders sense the emotions of the those immediately after the Lord's resurrection, it may be that meeting at a cemetery on Easter morning with someone dressed as Mary telling about seeing Jesus may best accomplish your objective.
  • USE MODELED. How is this method used with this group in other contexts? The more they are exposed the method, the less novelty and possible impact it may have. How has this group responded to the method in previous uses? Does this method address one or more of the group's preferred learning styles?
  • PROXIMITY OF OTHERS. Noise can be a factor. It may be best to divide the group into more than two groups since two groups tend to compete more for sound attention than three or more. Also, preparation of a drama may need some private preparation time, perhaps in a nearby hallway. Space can also be a factor caused by proximity. It can be challenging for subgroups to meet when rows of chairs are packed into a small space.
Which of these five factors need more attention in your choices of teaching methods? In Part 2, will look at Kline's final seven issues in the anagram, FACTORS: finances needed, age level, categorization, time required, openness of group, room size, and skills needed. Wise choices of teaching methods for Sunday School will naturally result in variety. Avoid choosing variety for "variety's sake" and choose with intention and God's leadership. Teach to make a difference. Be revolutionary!

For more information about teaching methods and learning styles, check out the following:

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