Capitalize on the Benefits of Discussion in Your Sunday School Class, Part 2

Monday 24th November, 2008

In Part 1, I shared that there are only two times when discussion is the wrong teaching method in Sunday School. First, discussion is wrong when another method would be a better choice to communicate the truth of God's Word to this specific group of people at this moment in time. Second, discussion can be wrong when it is used all of the time. Without a variety of teaching methods chosen to best communicate God's Word, preferred learning styles may be ignored resulting in reduced attention and retention.

Also in Part 1, I shared some previous posts about discussion: Creating a Safe Zone for Discussion in Sunday School/Small Groups, Part 1, Creating a Safe Zone for Discussion in Sunday School/Small Groups, Part 2, Effective Discussion in Your Sunday School Class, Part 1, Effective Discussion in Your Sunday School Class, Part 2, and Effective Discussion in Your Sunday School Class, Part 3. In addition to that information, I recently came across a brief but well-written article by Paula Marolewski entitled Bible Study Basics: The Importance of Discussion. Make sure you check out Marolewski's article.

In Part 1 I shared the first two benefits. In Part 2, I will share her final four benefits listed in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • DISCUSSION HELPS PEOPLE MAKE PRINCIPLES THEIR OWN. Discussion allows Sunday School attenders to take ownership of learning. God's truth moves from theory to application. It moves from being right to being right for me. I like how Marolewski puts this: "By talking about a topic, discussion helps people make the movement from hearing facts (head knowledge) to understanding truth (heart knowledge)." Learners process what they are hearing and thinking through filters of knowledge and experience.
  • DISCUSSION BRINGS ADDITIONAL INSIGHTS. This creates a dynamic Sunday School learning experience. Discussion allows for multiple sources of input--hopefully ultimately from God. This increases enormously the potential for additional learning and experiences with passages, truths, and issues. Those who verbally participate in discussion tend to share their positions or desire to hear others' responses to what they are "throwing out." Questions and illustrations move discussion deeper beyond surface issues. Even the teacher in a discussion can be brought to consider perspectives not previously considered.
  • DISCUSSION KEEPS BALANCE IN THE GROUP. The idea Marolewski is affirming here is that the teacher is not the only source of knowledge. In her words, it levels "the playing field." Instead of considering the Sunday School teacher as the only expert, all learners are valued for their contributions. This perspective often encourages some who might be reluctant to contribute verbally. T he teacher becomes more of a facilitator of the learning experience giving direction to the discussion.
  • DISCUSSION FOSTERS RELATIONSHIPS AMONG MEMBERS. Lecture only creates connection between the learners and the teacher. Discussion, on the other hand, broadens the sources of input and the network of relationships in Sunday School as others have opportunity to share. Affinities are discovered. Similar thinking and common past experiences are uncovered. As group members share and realize they are not the only imperfect people in the class, relationships and trust are developed and strengthened.

How well do you use discussion? Are discussions in your class short? How could you address these four benefits of discussion in your class in order to lead to greater attention and participation? Time spent planning a good discussion is time well spent. Go back to Part 1 to review the first two benefits of discussion. Make sure when you use discussion that it is the best method and that it is not the only method! Teach to change lives! Be revolutionary!

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