Sunday School Teaching Methods for Impacting Discipleship, Part 2

Sunday 15th August, 2010

This is Part 2 of a post that answers the seventh question asked in Questions about Making Disciples Through Sunday School:  Are some teaching-learning methods more likely to increase retention, involvement, and discipleship? The twenty questions there focus on how Sunday School can help the church carry out Jesus' command in the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).

In Part 1, I began by defining the best teaching method as the one that communicates the truth of God's Word in the best possible way to a specific group of people at a particular point in time. Then I asked three questions: What method will best communicate the truth? What method will best communicate the truth to these learners? What truth and method does God want learners to encounter in this lesson (even if it is not the one assigned)?

Then in Part 1, I weighed values of various teaching methods for increasing retention, involvement, and discipleship. I covered lecture, question and answer, discussion, dividing into smaller groups, visual methods, using more of the senses, and using a handout/writing. In Part 2, I will list a bunch of teaching methods which can move learners toward greater involvement and retention.

In a two-part series entitled Balanced Diet of Sunday School/Small Group Teaching Methods, Part 1 and Part 2, I shared a list of seventy-five methods from Dr. La Verne Tolbert's book, Teaching Like Jesus: A Practical Guide to Christian Education in Your Church. The list is too extensive to respond to thoroughly here. But I do want to list a handful of them. Remember, the issue is whether the method increases retention and involvement resulting in progress as disciples. Here is a quick dozen from the list in Dr. Tolbert's book:

  • Conduct a demonstration. Should result in higher retention for most learners. To increase involvement, get attenders involved in the demonstration. Could prepare them to practice what was demonstrated.
  • Prepare a speech or lecture. Preparation, sharing, and listening to others should result in big retention. Rotate this assignment or get everyone involved. This could be done to prepare them to share their faith--definitely leads them to take steps of spiritual progress.
  • Take a trip. Learning happens in advance, during the travel to/from, as well as on site. Retention of some information is great, but will be aided by a debriefing session. This is best done together and is very involving. Have seen life-impacting results.
  • Paraphrase a passage. This increases thinking and retention related to the verse and its meaning. This can be done together as a small group raising involvement. The measure of discipleship is whether it leads to living it out.
  • Keep a journal. This is a personal method. By writing and reflecting on scripture or life experience or prayer needs, it can lead to a heightened sense of God's presence and movement. By voluntarily sharing excerpts, the group can connect and learn from each other. For some this can help them grow as disciples.
  • Take a test. Like a journal, we tend of think of tests as personal. But they can measure what we retained. When announced in advance, they can lead to review and reinforcement of learning. Test can also be taken as a total group or in smaller sections of the group to increase involvement and interaction. Some will naturally study and forget, but review can be helpful.
  • Read in unison. This method adds variety and covers the reader who is less confident reading out loud. May be a slight gain of retention over reading alone. There is not as much gain from interaction as some methods, but variety adds interest. Probably no gain in discipleship, but the method is quick and different.
  • Write a letter. Again, this can be a personal method but could be made into a small group project. Writing to a biblical character can stretch the imagination and help individuals to think for deeply about the context of a passage before writing. Volunteers sharing letters and small groups working together on one can increase involvement. Some letters can indicate steps of commitment as disciples.
  • Take a walk. This can be done many ways. The group can prayerwalk. The group can observe and thank God for the world, pray for people and needs they see, and just reflect on God's blessings. In connection with the right passage and purpose, it can raise memory. Benefits from interaction can be increased with good questions following the experience. Spiritual progress steps can be pursued with this method.
  • Brainstorm. Brings out verbal responses and creativity. Adds a level of thinking and interaction. Can teach a skill which can be helpful in dealing with circumstances as a disciple.
  • Debate. Instructions, preparation as a team, presentation as a team, and debriefing all add to retention and understanding. Involvement of the group can be high--though each team has to balance involvement versus intimidation about public speaking. Chewing on issues in using debate well can definitely help deepen thinking which should impact discipleship.
  • Make a video. With the prevalence of video cameras and even video phones, making a video can be inexpensive and fun. The team will need instructions and time to write a script, practice scenes, and then must shoot the video the first time. This raises retention and involvement and can lead to learners processing learning more deeply.
If they retain what was taught, they are more likely to have their lives influenced by God's Word. The more they are involved, the more they are likely to retain (remember) and the more they are likely to do as a result. Discipleship takes steps forward as learners become more like Jesus through a growing relationship that obeys what He commanded (Matthew 28:20). What steps can you take this week to use teaching methods which increase retention and involvement of learners?

For more ideas about Sunday School and discipleship and about teach methods, check out these blog posts:

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