This past Sunday I changed things up in my Bible study group. I rearranged the chairs (normally arranged in one large circle) into two circles of 10 chairs each. I displayed a painting of the prodigal son (the topic of our Bible study). I used 8-10 Post-It Note wall pad sheets and changed the location of the focal wall. Plus, I introduced the Bible study by playing a popular song from the 70s to capture my group member’s interest. Over time I have “scaffolded” the way I lead my group members to study the Bible, so that when I decide to go all out and use a large variety of teaching methods in one session, my group members aren’t thrown into cardiac arrest.
Scaffolding your Bible study experience simply means building it up over time…stairstepping the types of activities you use to engage your group members. It is possible to do too much too quick, and people can get spooked; it feels like you are trying to cram too much into just one session of Bible study. So the key to engaging your group in Bible study is to use a variety of activities over time. Just like you’d build scaffolding one section at a time when you want to paint a high ceiling, build your Bible studies over time by using an ever-increasing variety of activities. As Dr. Ken Coley of Southeastern Seminary recently said during a training event, if you scaffold your study “you can get a group to do anything over time.” The key is to be deliberate, and to not try to build Rome in a day.
Here are some ways to scaffold your Bible study and appeal to a variety of learning preferences among your group members:
- Display an object
- Use visuals (maps, charts, etc)
- Vary the order of events in a study
- Use music (play a song, print lyrics to a song or hymn, write new words to popular tunes)
- Use objects from nature
- Use PowerPoint to lead people through the Bible study
- Create a paper and pen activity (fill-in-the-blank, jot sheet, quiz, pre-test, post-test)
- Divide the group into smaller groups for a time of discussion
- Circular response (people answer a question or respond to a statement one at a time)
- Case study
- Listening teams
- Paraphrase Scripture
- Role play
- Art activities
- Watching a drama
Of course, these are just a few of the ideas you might use to engage your group members in Bible study. If you normally lead your group’s Bible study in a particular way each time you get together, start small by using just one new teaching method the next time you get together. In the weeks that follow, introduce another method or two. By doing this, you’ll “scaffold” your group members’ experience and they won’t be shocked when you use multiple learning approaches during a future study.
As I have said when leading conferences designed to help group leaders become better teachers, “If your people know your plays, throw away your playbook!” Most of us tend to use methods we’re comfortable with ourselves, and we can forget that we have most likely become too predictable. If your group members could tell me what you’re going to do the next time you teach, be unpredictable and surprise them with something unique! Start building your scaffolding the next time you teach your group!