Tuesday Teaching Tip: Don’t use this kind of illustration!

Let’s be honest. Illustrations help people understand biblical truth. Stories can help people connect God’s Word to their lives today. Maybe.

If you use illustrations as you teach, there’s one kind of illustration that you don’t want to use. Curious? Here it is: Don’t use illustrations from antiquity. Very few people care about Baron Von So-and-So. No one’s heart skips a beat when you mention how a poor farmer from eastern Europe made a discovery one day while plowing his field.

If you are going to use illustrations when you teach, make sure you use current illustrations. If I were teaching a Bible study this coming weekend, you could bet your bottom dollar that I’d find an illustration from this week’s Olympic events. I’d do one of the following:

  • Show a picture of an athlete or athletes.
  • Read an article from a newspaper about the Olympics.
  • Use an object lesson that relates to the Olympics.

What are other sources of illustrations from current culture?

  1. Television shows
  2. Newscasts
  3. Newspapers
  4. Magazines
  5. FaceBook
  6. The web
  7. Movies
  8. Current books
  9. Your life/family
  10. Sports

So when you are tempted to share a story about that 7th century monk, don’t. Instead, keep your illustrations more current. Your group members will thank you.


Follow this blog and receive daily posts Monday-Friday. Click here and use your email address to sign up once you jump to kenbraddy.com.


3 Kinds of Questions that Kill Discussion

Today’s post is taken from a book authored by a friend of mine, Sam O’ Neal. Sam wrote the book Field Guide for Small Group Leaders, and I have found it to be a very helpful resource.

Sam helps us understand how some questions we might ask in our groups actually kill discussion. Here is what Sam has to say about questions we should avoid if we want to boost discussion:

There are several different types of questions that can kill almost any discussion in any small group. I’ve listed some of the most common below.

Idiot Questions. These are questions that have extremely obvious answers – so obvious that only an idiot could get them wrong. Unfortunately, many small group leaders are fond of these types of questions…Here are a couple of examples: What do we put in the mouths of horses to make them obey us? Is it true that no human can tame the tongue?

Unreasonable Questions: These are questions that no one in the group will be able to answer unless they speak  Hebrew or have access to a Bible commentary. Unreasonable questions often make their way into a small group discussion when group leaders spend a lot of time in preparation and get a little overzealous about what they’ve learned. For example, “How would a first-century interpretation of the word tongue impact our understanding of this passage?”

Leading the Witness Questions:  Some discussion questions are phrased in such a way that it is obvious the group leader is seeking a specific answer, or that the group leader wants to steer the discussion in a certain direction. This is a bad idea…group leaders who ask these kinds of questions behave like sheep dogs attempting to herd other people toward their way of thinking.

There are other kinds of questions that kill discussion, and Sam addresses those in his book. I encourage you to pick up a copy and put it in your personal library.


To follow this blog and receive daily posts about group leadership, sign up using only your email at kenbraddy.com

Friday’s Hot Links – February 9, 2018

Here we are at the end of another week, and many of us are looking forward to meeting with our Bible study groups this weekend. I trust you’ve been reading, studying, and preparing – and that you are ready to guide your group members in a study of God’s Word!

Here are a series of links that I have curated over the past week – links to trusted content from friends and colleagues who have much to say about groups, ministry, and leadership in the church. I hope you’ll enjoy reading some of these over the weekend.

Thanks as always for following this blog. Please pass the homepage link (kenbaddy.com) to others you know who would benefit from being a part of our online community of leaders.

Shoulder to shoulder,

Ken Braddy


Links you might like:

Answering tricky questions in your Bible study group, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I showed how to answer tricky questions that are innocent, the first of two categories of questions we are asked in a Bible study setting.

Today, let’s answer the question, “How do I handle the other category of question: the malevolent question?”

If you’ve ever been put on the spot intentionally by someone during a Bible study, don’t despair! This happened to Jesus at various times. In Luke 20 a group of men came to him to trick him, and he turned the tables on them. He wouldn’t respond to their question before they responded to a question he decided to throw at them. The result? They dared not ask him any more questions! I think there is some humor in the Bible, and that’s one of the spots – I’d have loved to have been there to see Jesus expertly handle a group of people with a malevolent question!

But back to our groups today. Just like in yesterday’s post, here are four ways to respond when you’re asked a question that does have a bite – you sense that it has been asked to derail the study or to challenge you. Take a deep breath, compose  yourself, and choose one or more of the following ways to deal with that malevolent question:

  • DEFLECT – Deal with that potential barbed question by deflecting it. Say, “If I have time before the Bible study is over, I’ll get to that question. If not, I’ll visit with you after class. Let’s continue our study…” I never get to the person’s question (imagine that!). If I sense that the question was asked to do me or the group some level of harm, I always want to isolate the person and not give him or her a platform in front of the group. I always meet with the person afterwards.
  • DEFEND – On occasion, when I really do want to bring correction or rebuke to the person asking the snarky question, I choose to respond. Jesus did this in Matthew 24 when he was asked an intentionally tricky question about which was the greatest command in the law. Sometimes the best course of action is to confront the person and give your response. Defend your position. Use Scripture. Stand your ground.
  • DIVIDE – This is a great response that normally puts the person in their place, and causes them not to ask challenging questions any more. When asked one of those malevolent questions, say: “John has posed a hard question. Let’s divide into groups of 3 or 4 and work quickly to respond based on Scripture. Elect a spokesperson for you group. You have 5 minutes. Go!” What always happens is that the groups of people end up “policing” the person with the malevolent question. They put him in his place using Scripture, and you don’t have to say a word. It also give you, the teacher, time to think about a response while the groups are doing their work. I love this solution!
  • DIG – Normally when you are asked a malevolent question, there is “a question behind the question.” Do a little digging and find out what’s the real issue. Say, “Wow – I didn’t anticipate that kind of question in our study today. Why do you ask that?” Continue probing with an even more pointed question, “Why is it important to you that we answer that right now?” or “Help me see how that question connects to our study.” Just keep digging and ultimately the person will either back off, or he’ll reveal the true reason he’s putting you on the spot.

I hope that between yesterday’s post and today’s post you feel more equipped to deal with the two categories of questions that we’re all going to be asked from time to time: innocent questions and malevolent questions.


Would you like to receive posts like this each day Monday-Friday? Click here to jump to kenbraddy.com and sign up with only your email address. I’ll never sell it or give it away.

How to answer tricky questions in your Bible study group, Part 1

“Have you stopped beating your wife?”

“Have you been able to stop kicking your dog?”

These questions are designed to put a person on the spot – no matter how the person answers, they appear guilty! Sometimes we ask questions like these for fun – just to put a friend on the spot. But it’s not so fun when you are asked a tricky question as you’re leading your Bible study group. What do you do then?

Over the next two days I am going to share 8 ways to deal with tricky questions. I want to break the topic of answering tricky questions into two general categories of questions, then give you four ways to deal with them. Here goes!

Answering Tricky but Innocent Questions

This is the first category of tricky questions. These kind of tricky questions are not asked to trip you up. They are not posed in order to intentionally get the study off track. They occur when someone in your group asks an awkward question at an inopportune time. Here are four ways to deal with these types of innocent, but tricky, questions:

  • ADMIT – Learn to use three powerful little words: “I don’t know.” It’s OK to admit that you don’t have an immediate response for the person. Use this when you really don’t care to address the question. You’ll earn people’s trust and respect by not simply making up an answer – because everyone knows when we do that.
  • AFFIRM – Say something to the person who’s asked the question like, “That’s a good question,” or “You’ve helped me see this in a different way.” Affirm their question, but you don’t necessarily stop to address it. Move on. Keep the lesson on track. Affirm the person by saying, “You’ve given me something to ponder.”
  • ASK – This is where it gets fun! Turn the tables, as Jesus did (Luke 20) and simply say, “Now that’s an interesting question – how would you answer it?” 9 times out of 10 the person is eager to share their insight. They asked you, but now you’ve asked them.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE – This is a cousin to the first solution above, Admit. The difference here is that you admit your lack of knowledge and you commit to do further study. You simply acknowledge that you don’t have an answer, but you also promise to do some further study and get back to the person and/or the group.

In tomorrow’s blog post, I’ll give you part 2 of this series and show you how to deal with the other kind of question you’ll be asked: the malevolent question. These types of questions have a bite, and they are asked by a not-so-well-meaning person in your group. Jesus had to deal with these all the time, and I’ll show you where, plus how He dealt with them.


Follow this blog by signing up at kenbraddy.com – just click here to jump to the home page. Use only your email address to begin receiving posts each morning Monday – Friday.

Tuesday Teaching Tip: Be Passionate

Today’s teaching tip comes straight from the book Talk Like TED. I’ve used it in blog posts in the past, and today I’ve chosen to go back to it. It a super book for anyone to read who stands and speaks in public.

The book summarizes the communication practices of the 9 best TED Talk presenters, showing how they captivate audiences. One of those 9 communication secrets is to communicate with passion. Here is what the author, Carmine Gallo, says about the importance of passion:

Compelling communicators, like like those TED presenters who attract the most views online, are masters in a certain topic because of the inevitable amount of devotion, time, and effort invested in their pursuit, which is primarily fueled by their fervent passion…passion does indeed rub off on others…When you’re passionate about your topic, obsessively so, the energy and enthusiasm you display will rub off on your listeners. Don’t be afraid to express yourself – your authentic self.

So how do Bible study teachers show their passion in front of a group? What causes them to be people of passion? Here are my thoughts about how to take Gallo’s advice and marry it with biblical teaching:

  1. Know your topic well. It’s hard to be passionate if you don’t know what you’re teaching. Spending adequate time studying the Bible leads to a more passionate group session when you teach it.
  2. Live it out. Being a person who is authentic and in step with the message you’re sharing leads to passion and boldness.
  3. Believe your source. Trust and confidence in the source of your message, in this case, God, will lead to passion in the classroom or living room.
  4. Show emotion. People who are passionate often raise their voices and pound their chests. People who speak in monotone often put their audiences to sleep, and do nothing to inspire them.


Sign up to receive daily posts like this one at kenbraddy.com. Your email is never sold or given out.

Amos, wild animals, and accountability

Today’s blog post, like those on Mondays, comes from a book. The book I’ve chosen for today is titled Shepherd: Creating Caring Community

The excerpt I’ve taken from the book centers around the Old Testament character, Amos. Amos was a shepherd by trade. In Amos 3:12, we get a glimpse into the life of a shepherd, and the implications for us who lead Bible study groups. I hope you’ll enjoy this brief excerpt!

“The Lord says, ‘As the shepherd snatches two legs or a piece of an ear from the lion’s mouth, so the Israelites who live in Samaria will be rescued…” (Amos 3:12)…As I read this verse, I wondered, “Why would a shepherd bother to rescue pieces of an animal that had obviously become lunch for a predator?….But as I kept thinking about this, it became clear why a shepherd would risk life and limb: he  was a shepherd. He wasn’t the owner. He was a temporary custodian of his master’s sheep. It was his sworn duty to protect the sheep, and if a predator came around and killed one, the shepherd still had a master to whom he was accountable…As teaching shepherds, you and I are temporary stewards of  God’s people, His sheep…Shepherds cannot risk viewing sheep as “ours.” They are the Lord’s sheep. You and I are temporary stewards, who, like shepherds of old, are responsible to our Master. That’s a sobering thought.” (p.37)

How you view the people in your Bible study group is very important. It defines your  ministry to them as a teacher. I hope you are known for being a teaching-shepherding  leader! Here are the main differences in the way teachers and shepherds view their people:

  • Teachers view their group members as an audience to be played to; shepherds view them as a flock to be cared for.
  • Teachers view their group members as theirs; shepherds view their group members as His.
  • Teachers like being with the 99; shepherds go after the one.
  • Teachers like being up front; shepherds enjoy walking among.

If you’re going to lead a group, don’t just be a teacher…be a teacher-shepherd! For more on becoming a teacher-shepherd, pick up a copy of the book Shepherd: Creating Caring Community.


Sign up to receive daily posts like this one by clicking here and jumping to kenbraddy.com where you can sign up using only your email account. Your email address is never sold or given out.