Keys to Increasing Verbal Participation in Sunday School

Wednesday 28th November, 2007

The more learners are involved in the Bible study session, the more they are likely to learn, to retain, and to apply. Thus, involvement is essential. What can be done to increase the verbal contributions of attenders in our classes? What can a teacher do to get everyone talking?

If you really want to increase participation, I want to share five keys that can revolutionize your class. If you, as the teacher, begin to implement some of the following, I want to caution you to go slow (for your comfort and for theirs). Consider the following ways you can get them talking:

  1. GET THEM TALKING EARLY IN THE SESSION. If they don't talk in the first 5-10 minutes of the session, they are less likely to do so later in the session. That is why I have shared so much information about icebreakers. Check out Five Suggestions for Using Icebreakers Well in Sunday School Small Groups and Nine Reasons to Use Icebreakers in Sunday School/Small Groups. There are lots of ways to do this. This can be done in pairs or in small groups. Doing this as a large group makes success more difficult (leads some to the fear of public speaking when the group size moves beyond six). This can be a written activity handed to participants on the way in the classroom with instructions to share with two people before they sit down.
  2. ASK GOOD QUESTIONS. Don't do all the talking. Ask questions and then wait for responses. Ask questions about their responses. This shows interest and that you are listening to them. And this reinforces the fact that you want them to participate. Avoid asking "yes" or "no" questions. Avoid asking one-word or one-phrase questions. Seek to make attenders think. Get them to reflect, to debrief, to struggle with the truth.
  3. DON'T TRY TO COVER TOO MUCH MATERIAL. If you try to cover too much, you will find yourself rushing. You won't allow for discussion. You will rush through questions and answers. You will convey the fact that you aren't interested in and don't have time for discussion. Pace yourself. Don't plan too much. And don't be afraid to cover only part of the session's materials. If an important truth did not get covered in one session, don't be afraid to carry it forward to the next session.
  4. BREAK THE GROUP INTO SMALLER GROUPS. Even after doing an icebreaker, don't be afraid to break the group into smaller groups. Even a group of four or five can have two groups. At minimum, they can pair off to read and discuss a passage. Break them into groups no larger than six because almost everyone in a group of six will talk if given an assignment. Help them to choose a scribe/reporter. Give them a passage and some questions. Tell them how much time they have. Float around from group to group to make sure they are getting it and involving everyone. Call for reports. Affirm the reports and ask other groups to add to what that group shared.
  5. GIVE A WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT AND THEN ASK THEM TO SHARE. Some people need time to think before they speak. Others were ready as soon as they read the words on the page. Don't rush the sharing time. Ask if anyone had a different thought or response. Make sure persons are willing to speak out loud in front of the group before you call on any by name, but if you have their permission, call on some of those who have been quiet.

These are not the only keys to increasing verbal participation in your class. What else have you done that worked well with your group? Press the comments button below to share your experiences and in so doing encourage others to try it! Don't do all the talking! Lead your attenders to get involved and in so doing lead them to learn, retain, and apply God's Word! Be revolutionary!

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