I love the game of golf. Years ago, my grandfather, A.J. Downing, introduced me to the game and took me to my first driving range. Then he and my parents bought my first set of junior clubs. Then he took me to my first golf course. I was hooked. Did I mention that I love the game of golf?
As I’ve learned to become proficient at golf over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two from the game of golf that has helped me become a better Bible study teacher. It’s true. Golf can actually help you improve your ability to teach God’s Word. Not convinced? Keep reading. Here are three things golf has taught me about teaching the Bible:
- Play the hole backwards. When I play golf, I see the end point of each hole, the green, on my scorecard map. From there my vision travels toward the tee box and I ask myself, “How many yards to the hole do I want to be for my approach shot to the green?” If I’m most comfortable being 100 yards out, I must then come backwards toward the tee box again and ask, “Which club gets me to this point?” I keep doing that until I get to the tee box. By starting with the end in mind, I can play my way around any hole and make the most comfortable shots for my game. What does this have to do with teaching the Bible? Start by seeing the end of your lesson. What do you want to accomplish in your Bible study session? How much time do you have? Play your Bible study backwards in time and determine how much time you can spend on each teaching procedure. By “playing the study backwards” you can manage your way around the study and accomplish your goals. Start with the end in mind.
- Work on all parts of your game. When I go to the practice range, it’s a half-day ordeal. I hit each of my irons, my driver, fairway woods, hybrids, and wrap up putting on the green for 30 minutes. I practice fading shots, drawing shots, and I love working on my short game. Although I hit some of the clubs better than others, I have to discipline myself to practice using all of them. As you teach, you must work on all parts of your teaching “game.” You need to make sure you spend time working on your opening to each session…what is often called “learning readiness,” or the motivation stage (in which you are generating motivation on the part of the group member to engage in the study). The middle part of your lesson, the “examination” stage requires different kinds of “shots,” as does the final stage of your lesson, the application stage. Perhaps you favor one of the three stages over the others? Do you hurry past the motivation stage to get to the heart of the Bible study? Do you forget to work on strong openings and closings to your lesson? Work on all parts of your game.
- Accept responsibility for each shot. One of the cardinal rules of golf is to be responsible for every shot you take. Honesty is a part of the game of golf – and maybe a reason I love it so much. I’ve seen golfers call penalties on themselves. When is the last time you saw any athlete from any other sport do that? As a teacher, I am responsible for everything that happens in my group’s Bible study. I’m responsible for everything that goes right, and everything that goes wrong. If a teaching technique doesn’t work, it’s not the people’s fault – I “hit the shot.” I simply evaluate what happened after each session – the things that worked and the things that didn’t – and I make adjustments the next time I teach. But I take responsibility now.
Are there more lessons from golf? Of course! Maybe I’ll write a “part 2” and cover a few more. Golf has a lot to teach teachers about leading their groups to study the Bible.
Which of the three tips above makes the most sense in your context as a Bible study leader?