3 Rules You Should Break the Next Time you Teach Your Group

People love breaking rules, don’t they? bird-breaking-the-rules

  • Do not walk on the grass
  • Silence your cell phone before the movie
  • Speed limit 70

I could go one, but you get the idea. Maybe you’re even thinking about a rule I didn’t include in the list above. I’d like to give you permission to break 3 rules of thumb the next time your Bible study group gets together. Go ahead, you know you want to.

Rule #1 to break:  Say more than the people in your group.  Every good group leader knows they should say less and allow group members to say more. The problem? Most group leaders violate this rule every week. It seems counter-intuitive. After all, the teacher of the group has prepared, studied, and has lots of things to say. But truth be told, group members should be allowed to talk at least as much as the group leader. We must adjust our understanding of the teaching-learning process to accept the fact that group members bring valuable experiences, intellect, and understanding of the biblical text to the group experience. If you are a teacher, a good rule of thumb is to not say more than your group members do. This means in a 40 minute Bible study, a group leader only has to have about 20 minutes of “stuff” to say. What a relief for the average group leader who believes it’s his or her job to say everything during the Bible study. That may be a good model in the pulpit, but it’s a poor model in the classroom. As a friend and colleague of mine once said, “The one who speaks is the one who learns.”

Rule #2 to break:  Cover all the content.  Many teachers believe they are a success only if they get through all the points of the Bible study session. This can lead to hurried lecturing and a silent audience who knows they should just let the teacher speak because he’s on a mission – a mission to get through all 4 points found in the Bible study. Just last week in a Bible study I led, I only got through 1/3 of the lesson I’d intended to guide my group members through. Did I feel like a failure? Absolutely not! I told my group we’d pick up where we left off next week. Some of you just hyperventilated. What?! Not finish a lesson?? That’s terrible! But it isn’t. My goal as a teacher is to get through — to get through to the mind of my group members, not through the lesson. It is OK to give yourself permission to stretch out a Bible study occasionally. Or simply plan to cover less of the prescribed lesson from your teacher’s guide so your group can take a deeper dive into God’s Word. But don’t feel obligated to cover all the points you’d intended. God may have intended something else to happen in your group. By all means, break the rule that says you must cover all the content.

Rule #3 to break:  People don’t want to participate in activities. Perhaps it is you, the group leader/teacher, who isn’t comfortable with guiding your group members in active learning exercises. They may feel silly, or like a waste of time. But people learn in a variety of ways. Jesus used multiple teaching approaches. Just last week in my group’s Bible study, I drew a large map of the biblical world (from Assyria in the east to Spain in the west); I used 3 wall-size Post-It Notes to draw the map (it was about 9 feet long!). We studied the story of Jonah, and identified several major cities in the story (Joppa, Tarshish, and Ninevah). Rather than labeling these cities on the map, I left them off. I gave each participant 3 mini Post-It Notes and had them write a J on one, a T on the second, and an N on the third (to represent each of the 3 principal cities in the story). I invited them to take their best guess and place them on the map where they thought the cities were located (it was a giant game of “pin the tail on the donkey” with their eyes open). Although not everyone got the locations right the first time, we had fun anyway. And when we get together next week and review the story, they will all get the locations right because they experienced the learning exercise in an active way. They’ll never forget where these 3 cites are located, and why they are important to the story of Jonah. Did everyone want to participate in the activity? Nope. But did we all learn together, get up and move around, and have fun in the process? Yep.

So there you have it. 3 rules of thumb to break the next time you teach. Go ahead, do it. It will feel good to be “bad.” Break some rules. Have some fun. And watch your group start to change because of it.

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