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Let the Students Absorb What You Are Teaching

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Let the Students Absorb What You Are TeachingDo you ever find yourself speaking at a rapid-fire rate trying to finish the Bible study before time is up? It’s a regular challenge for me. That’s why I appreciate the advice I once received: Don’t talk faster—cover less. Just because you are speaking doesn’t guarantee that people are listening. Especially if you are talking faster than the students can follow.

Is there any rule about how much of God’s Word you need to cover in a specific Bible class? Unlike a school setting where your schedule and curriculum are set, we parish pastors have some leeway. So what if you didn’t make it through a lesson? Find a good breaking point and invite the class to tuck their unfinished worksheets into their church mailboxes for next time.

The benefit of breaking up a lesson like this is that you’ll get to review it and include anyone who missed the first part of the lesson. It will take some work on your part to come up with a decent review, but it will be time well spent. (In a future article we’ll discuss review strategy ideas.)

Another reason to slow down your presentation is that it gives everyone the chance to participate. You can encourage this by giving students time to work on the questions (or learning task) by themselves. The introverts in your class will appreciate this! Just because learners don’t offer answers and opinions verbally in class doesn’t mean they don’t have them. Allowing time (anywhere from 1-15 minutes, depending on the task) for independent reflection also takes away the tendency of a group to sit back and rely on the class genius to answer all the questions.

Even after asking a question for which you are expecting an immediate answer, wait at least six seconds before calling on anyone. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up calling on the “quick shooters” again and again, and everyone else will mentally check out. If you have to, study your shoes for a while after you ask your question or check your notes for spelling mistakes or take a slow sip of that yummy church coffee.

Even after someone has offered an answer, you don’t need to affirm or correct it immediately. This is especially helpful with “Evaluate”or “Agree/Disagree” questions. If you remain non committal after the first person has offered an opinion, only acknowledging him or her with a nod and smile before looking around the room, you will invite others to join in with their thoughts. If you don’t like the idea of silence, you can try these conversation prompts:

  • “What did you say, Melanie? Hmm, interesting—why do you think that?”
  • “Good. Can you say what your reasoning is?”
  • “Mmm-hmm. What is John getting at?”
  • “Others we’ve heard from less?”
  • “If it’s already been said, how would you say it?”
  • “Whose opinion on this topic would you like to hear?”

Of course, you don’t want to unnecessarily drag out a lesson; but don’t rush through it either. Encourage your students (all of them) to savor the richness of God’s Word!