Tuesday Teaching Tip: Use a Pre-test

Have you ever created a pre-test and given it to your group members? You can do this activity with kids, students, and adults. It’s just like it sounds – a test given before a Bible study is experienced by the learners. The pre-test serves two main functions:

  1. It is a learning readiness activity. It helps focus the attention of group members who often come to our Bible studies with lots of cares. It focuses their minds on some of the topics you’ll cover in the Bible study.
  2. It tests group members’ knowledge of a particular topic. It helps you, the group leader, know how to make micro-changes to your lesson depending upon the aptitude of the group members.

Multiple-choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, and matching exercises can be used in the pre-test. A few weeks ago I taught a Bible study from LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life series. The topic? Satan and demons. Here’s how a few pre-test questions might have looked:

  1. True or False? Satan is omni-present (meaning he is everywhere at the same time).  True____ False____
  2. Jesus said that demons, Satan’s helpers, can be cast out of people only by ______________.
  3. Check all that are correct:  Demons are (1) unlimited in number (2) more powerful than angels (3) relatively harmless (4) harmful to man

It doesn’t take a long time to create a pre-test, and it helps set the table for a learning experience. If I’d give this pre-test to my group members, I could have adjusted my Bible study based on their understanding of demons.

A final thought: A reporter from the NY Times wrote a piece about the value of pretesting and how it improves performance throughout a course of study. Here is what his research demonstrated:

This is the idea behind pretesting, one of the most exciting developments in learning-­science. Across a variety of experiments, psychologists have found that, in some circumstances, wrong answers on a pretest aren’t merely useless guesses. Rather, the attempts themselves change how we think about and store the information contained in the questions. On some kinds of tests, particularly multiple-choice, we benefit from answering incorrectly by, in effect, priming our brain for what’s coming later. That is: The (bombed) pretest drives home the information in a way that studying as usual does not. We fail, but we fail forward.

Here’s the link to his article if you’re interested.

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A relationship with God is unnecessary when…

If you’re having a feeling of deja vu, you’re right. I accidentally released this post yesterday morning (nobody’s perfect, right?). If you read it, you’re getting a double-dip! For those of you who are used to reading this kind of post in which I take an excerpt from a favorite book on Christian education, leadership, or some other topic relevant to your ministry, simply know that today’s post is from the book Spiritual Leadership, by Richard and Henry Blackaby.

The authors ask us to consider whether or not a relationship with God really unnecessary. Their answer may surprise you:

God’s assignment for a church may not include meeting every need expressed in its neighborhood…the congregation must discover its vision not by asking people’s opinions but by seeking God’s direction…Often need-based church visions cause Christians to neglect their relationship with the Head of the church as they focus their energies on tabulating surveys and responding to expressed needs…A relationship with Jesus is always a higher priority than meeting temporal needs. Jesus didn’t base his ministry on what people wanted but where he saw his Father at work…If the Father was working with the multitude, that is where the Son invested himself. If the Father was bringing conviction to a lone sinner, that is where Jesus directed his efforts. If setting vision occurs by merely tabulating a door-to-door survey, then a relationship with the Heavenly Father is unnecessary (Spiritual Leadership, 94-95).

It’s a convicting thought from the father-son team of Richard and Henry Blackaby. We must be careful the vision we have for our Bible study group is not determined apart from spending much time with our Heavenly Father. The vision we have for our groups should align with the vision the leaders of our churches have as well.

The Blackaby’s point? If you spend time with the Father, you’ll begin to see where He’s working in the world; wherever you see Him working, that’s your invitation to join Him. And that’s where your vision for ministry comes from – time with the Father, not surveys.

The question now becomes, “How will I motivate my group members to be involved in the accomplishing of God’s vision for our group and our church?” Perhaps an even bigger question is “How will I be involved in accomplishing God’s vision?” Maybe the biggest question is really, “Am I spending enough time daily with God that I would notice His work in the world so that I could join in?”

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A relationship with God is unnecessary when…

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from a favorite book of mine, Spiritual Leadership, by Richard and Henry Blackaby. Is a relationship with God really unnecessary? The answer may surprise you:

God’s assignment for a church may not include meeting every need expressed in its neighborhood…the congregation must discover its vision not by asking people’s opinions but by seeking God’s direction…Often need-based church visions cause Christians to neglect their relationship with the Head of the church as they focus their energies on tabulating surveys and responding to expressed needs…A relationship with Jesus is always a higher priority than meeting temporal needs. Jesus didn’t base his ministry on what people wanted but where he saw his Father at work…If the Father was working with the multitude, that is where the Son invested himself. If the Father was bringing conviction to a lone sinner, that is where Jesus directed his efforts. If setting vision occurs by merely tabulating a door-to-door survey, then a relationship with the Heavenly Father is unnecessary (Spiritual Leadership, 94-95).

And there you have it. A convicting thought from the father-son team of Richard and Henry Blackaby. We must be careful that our vision for our Bible study group is not determined apart from spending much time with our Heavenly Father. The vision we have for our groups should align with the vision our church has for our community and world.

The question now becomes, “How will I motivate my group members to be involved in the accomplishing of God’s vision for our group and our church?” Perhaps an even bigger question is “How will I be involved in accomplishing God’s vision?”

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Friday’s Hot Links – September 15, 2017

I hope you’ve had a good week in the Lord. It’s that time again when I send you links to some trusted content from friends and colleagues around the web. I know you’ll enjoy reading these blog posts that will encourage and challenge you as you lead and serve your church as a Bible study leader.

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken Braddy

Blog Posts You Might Like

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Group Leaders Matter – and the Numbers Don’t Lie

You may not hear the words “Thank you” enough as a group leader. People may not express thanks often enough for the hours you spend studying, praying, and serving the members and guests who attend your Bible study group. Well, I’d like to say “Thank you.” You are making a real difference in people’s lives. You’re closing your church’s “back door.” What you do is so very important to the health of your church. It means a lot to the people in your group. How do I know this? Just take a look at what the research says. Numbers don’t lie. Here is what Dr. Thom Rainer discovered through research for the book High Expectations as he examined the attendance patterns of two groups of people – those who attended worship only, and those who attended both worship plus a Bible study group:

Of those who attended both worship and Sunday School, 82% were still active after five years from joining a church. Of those who attended only worship, just 16% remained active. So take a church with 150 in worship: 50 who attend worship only and 100 who attend both Sunday School and worship. If the research plays out in that church, five years later 82 of the 100 will still be around. But of those who attend only worship, 8 of those 50 will still be there. Eight. How do these dynamics impact the way you view the importance of getting people into Sunday School? (p.45)

Do you matter to your church? You’d better believe it! As a group leader, you are helping people “stick” to the church. If you teach an adult group, then as you help those adult couples connect to people in your group, you actually help the entire family stay connected to the church family because those adults in your group have kids and/or teenagers in other parts of the Sunday School organization.

Thank you! Thanks for not only teaching and shepherding your group, but for helping your church close the back door. You’re making a difference in people’s lives. A significant difference. So keep up the good work. Don’t lose heart. Be encouraged. You matter.

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It’s time to start a new group when…

Having had the privilege of leading one church I served to grow its Sunday School from 4o members to over 24oo members in just 10 years taught me a lot about the importance of starting new groups.  If a church is not intentional about starting new groups it will soon find itself in trouble.  For every new group you start, you can figure you’ll increase average attendance by approximately 10 people.   From my experience, you know it’s time to start a new group when…

1)  A group has been together for at least 2 years.  It’s really hard for guests to break into groups that have been together for longer than 24 months.  Relationships have been formed and life has been shared.  When a group approaches its second birthday, it’s time  to think “start a new group.”

2)  A group doesn’t see a steady stream of guests.  It’s true…groups “cool off” after a time and will often turn inward.  Sunday mornings become “all about them,” not people who don’t yet know Christ.  If you can recruit people to leave the group and start a new one, it’s almost a guarantee they will reach more people for Christ and demonstrate an excitement for kingdom growth the mother group hasn’t known in years.  Who knows, maybe that excitement will rub off and inspire the mother group to move to new heights of evangelism.

3)  A group has ceased to grow.  When a group no longer adds people to its ministry role, it’s time to start a new group.  The group may have done a good job in the past of reaching new people, but over time the growth may have cooled off.  It’s possible that the influx of newer group members has frustrated the charter members of the group and therefore they are resistant to reaching any more new people.

4)  A group fills their meeting space beyond 80% of capacity.  The 80/20 rule is real, and it simply states that groups will struggle to grow beyond 80% of their meeting room’s capacity.  When a group exceeds 80% of its seating capacity, the room is visually full to guests.  A group can certainly exceed 80% of its seating capacity (it’s actually pretty fun to have a full room with no empty seats) but any group that does exceed 80% of its seating capacity for very long will almost always drop to an attendance rate less than the 80% it once exceeded.  People like elbow room, so think about square footage standards that recommend adults each have 15 square feet of space.  A group that averages 15 adults needs at least 225 square feet of space.

5)  The fall comes around.  Most churches experience a boost in Bible study attendance every fall.  It normally begins in August with back-to-school.  People begin settling into routines again after a long summer of rest and relaxation.  August/September is a great time to launch new groups – every year.  If a church was averaging 150 people in Sunday School and started one new group in its preschool, children, student, and adult ministries, it should grow by 40 people. Within one year it will average 190 people (new groups tend to add 10 people on average). The hard part is to be intentional every year and have a game plan to start new groups.

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Tuesday Teaching Tip: Stick to the 18-Minute Rule

Today’s teaching tip comes from the book Talk Like TED. It’s a book that documents the 9 best practices of the top TED Talk presenters. These are the people who mesmerize audiences and get their points across. While there are significant differences between the 18-minute talks they give and what we do in a Bible study, I want to use this presentation tip to make application to the way we lead our Bible study groups. Here is what the author of Talk Like TED says:

Eighteen minutes is the ideal length of time for a presentation. If you must create one that’s longer, build in soft breaks (stories, videos, demonstrations) every 10 minutes. Why it works: Researchers have discovered that “cognitive backlog,” too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas…It (18 minutes) is long enough to be serious but short enough to hold people’s attention…According to King, the accumulation of information results in “cognitive backlog,” which, like piling on weights, makes the mental load heavier and heavier…cognitive processing – thinking, speaking, and listening – are physically demanding activities…the longer the task or the more information that is delivered, the greater the cognitive load.

I’m guessing that you don’t lead an 18-minute Bible  study (more like 35-45 minutes), so taking a cue from the research in Talk Like TED is important. If our Bible studies are twice as long as a TED talk, how much more important is it that we give our people “soft breaks”?

To become a better leader of Bible studies, learn to break your Bible study into shorter segments of 5-10 minutes. At the end of a section of study, shift gears and do something different (if you’ve been talking a lot, put people in groups or show a video clip). Remember that “cognitive backlog” is a real thing, and the people in our Bible studies are no different than those people who sit and listen to an 18-minute TED talk…our brains all tire of information, and our minds wander.

Let’s learn from the best presenters in the world who deliver outstanding TED Talks.  Help your people take short mental breaks. Change things up every 5-10 minutes. Shift gears. Your people will rise and call you blessed.

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