This post is the fourth of a four-part series on three different ways to engage with group members. You can also read part one, part two, and part three of this series, each of which explains one of the three ways of engagement.
Over the past three posts, we have examined three ways teachers tend to engage their class or group: the Presenter (tell/listen), the Investigator (ask/respond), and the Experimenter (propose/do). Given the strengths and weaknesses we have reviewed, you might now be wondering which approach is the best. Let’s be honest: every teacher has a preference. That preference may be dictated by how we learn, our comfort level with one approach, and our understanding of education. But the truth is that, as a teacher, we need to engage our class or group in all three ways at some point. We need the challenge, and they need the variety.
A great amount of research has been conducted on what and how we remember things, and the bottom line is that we remember more if we discover a truth or experience the concept for ourselves. So if that is true, then we must find ways of engaging our group members so that they at least are involved in the learning process. The allotted time, amount of content, and size of the group impacts how we engage with a class or group, but these limits shouldn’t keep us from finding a way to engage in multiple ways. Here’s a process to use:
1. Study the content. For us, that means studying the Bible passage using the tools you have at your disposal.
2. Identify the key points and THE key point. Within any Bible passage, there may be multiple points to make. However, there will also be a major point or truth that you must communicate. Another way of saying this is: determine the one thing you hope your class or group understands at the end of this study time.
3. Determine how you can help them discover this key truth. In effect, you are looking for a way to engage them as a learner. What can you lead the group to do to help them discover THE key point for themselves?
4. Identify the information they will need to make this discovery. Then decide how you can share that information with them. You are putting on your Presenter hat at this point.
5. Consider ways of helping the group process their discovery. You are looking for ways to challenge them to act on THE main point (or at least to consider acting on it). Now you have become the Interrogator, looking for ways to ask what are you going to do about it?
6. Determine how to introduce the study. This would be the last step, and it could be done with any one of the three approaches.
Some curriculum resources provide leader helps that include ideas that involve all three types of engagement. We may ignore those suggestions, but in doing so, we may also be ignoring the needs of our class or group. Our goal must always be to help our group members gain a clearer understanding of God’s truth, with a view toward them doing something with that clearer understanding. To accomplish that, we must tell, ask, and propose with the Spirit guiding our growth as teachers.
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for Adult and Young Adult group resources at LifeWay, leads two weekly Bible study groups (one for empty-nesters and one for 4-year olds), serves as an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience. He is married to Lisa (both native Texans), and they have two children and one grandson. Find him on Twitter: @gdwayne.