The way we learn varies from person to person. There are 7 styles of learning: visual (spatial, using pictures and colour), aural (auditory, musical), verbal (linguistic, word-based techniques), physical (kinesthetic, using sensations or role playing), logical (mathematical, using reasoning), social (interpersonal, in groups), and solitary (intrapersonal, working alone, self study). Most of us incorporate a mix of these learning styles and rarely fit in only one category. My predominate learning style is intrapersonal, but I often need an interpersonal learning strategy to help me reflect on and critique my understanding. I’m also very dependent on logical systematic thinking and word based techniques.
Because we’re all different in the way we learn it stands to reason that when we teach the Bible we should do so in ways that facilitate different learning styles. So with this in mind here are 12 creative Bible teaching principles:
- The Paul and Timothy principle. Learning is strengthened when it’s under the guidance of a Christian mentor (cf. Philippians 4:9). Some biblical examples include Jethro guiding Moses (cf. Exodus 18), Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more adequately to Apollos (cf. Acts 18:26), Paul teaching Timothy sound doctrine and practical faith (cf. 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:2, 3;10, 14), older women training younger women (cf. Titus 2:4), and the ultimate example of Jesus investing 3 years into the spiritual development of the disciples.
- The yacking principle. Some people love to chat. Bible teaching is strengthened when people are given occasions to verbalize their thoughts and discuss what they’re learning.
- The theme park principle. Memorable learning experiences help to etch God’s Word on our hearts and minds. Working in a soup kitchen is a more powerful learning experience than reading about the poor. According to Edgar Dale the least to most effective teaching methods are: verbal activities, visual symbols, simulated experiences and direct experiences.
- The Sherlock Holmes principle. Some people are more motivated to learn when the answers aren’t obvious. Simplistic yes/no questions should be avoided. Jesus, the master teacher, used parables with hidden meanings. When we teach the Scriptures we should interact with the mystery and suspense that’s ingrained in the Story.
- The sticky principle. The only Bible learning that really sticks is that which is Spirit informed (cf. John 14:26). Human teaching must be subject to and guided by the Teacher (the Holy Spirit) because only He can ultimately inform, transform and conform the learner to His Word.
- The Sandals Beach Resort principle. An environment that’s comfortable is usually more conducive for learning than one that isn’t. On a purely practical level the Bible is best taught in settings where there are suitable lights, furnishings, an ideal temperature and the distractions are eliminated.
- The action-attitude principle. We believe what we do more than do what we believe. Christian education professor John Westerhoff says, “If we want people to be able to accept or reject the Christian faith, we have to turn our attention and emphasis from teaching about Christianity to offering within the church experiences which demonstrate our faith.”
- The concrete principle. Organized, rationale, logical thinking should be the underlying foundation for all teaching. Learning that requires abstract, hypothetical, or philosophical thinking should be built on concrete foundations.
- The show and tell principle. My wife, when she was a full-time kindergarten teacher, scheduled a weekly show and tell. It gave each child an opportunity to show and tell the other children about something that was special or important. Show and tell shouldn’t be restricted to children. Facilitating creative space for all age groups enhances the learning experience.
- The Google principle. The ability to search the internet for facts, answers, opinions and such enables us to take ownership of what we learn and when we learn it. Bible study is strengthened when there’s shared ownership of the process.
- The travelling supper principle. A variety of settings enriches the learning experience. I’ll never forget studying Acts 17:16-34 while sitting on the Acropolis rocks where the Areopagus would have been situated. And I’ll never forget Psalm 30:5 after singing it over and over again with a congregation of poor believers on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
- The iTranslate principle. We learn new things better when we’re given a chance to put what we’re learning into our own words (e.g. Matthew 16:13-20).
Have your say. Share your Bible teaching principles.
© Scripture Union Canada 2017