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Teach With This Trait in Mind: Problem-Solving

Teach the WordThis is the fourth article in a five-part series by Prof. Stephen Geiger, who teaches education and New Testament at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

No one likes to have problems, but everyone likes to be able to solve them. Endless conversations seek to solve relationship problems. Other conversations target—and seek to solve—issues with a sports team. Adults like to solve problems.

In so many ways, this dynamic drives the human experience. Because of sin, we are constantly confronted with problems. By God's rich grace, he has brought about the greatest solution, also providing perspective that offers divine solutions to all of the challenges we face.

So adults love to solve problems, and God actually solves problems. This can be a great mix, as God shares perfect solution for adults who crave just that.

We are looking at five key characteristics of adult learners. Adult learners are self-directed, experienced, task-oriented, problem-solving, and interested in immediate application. Today, consider the doors that are wide open for teachers, because adults are instinctively passionate about figuring things out.

Adults are problem solvers. How can my teaching of a Sunday morning Bible class be different if I keep this particular trait in mind?

  • Look for problems: This may not be a general principle to follow in life, but it does work when you are preparing to teach a Bible class. In connection with your Bible text, what dilemmas need solving? Perhaps you are writing a Bible study on Jesus' words to the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17). You decide that a key issue for discussion is sexual temptation. What problems do adults face in this regard that need solutions? Do they find it difficult to talk to teenagers about sexual temptation? That's a problem. Adults would love to have a solution.
  • Invite diagnosis: Diagnosis is key to being a good doctor. Adults enjoy not only solving problems but first of all identifying them. Challenge your fellow Christians to be doctors in training. Begin a particular class by asking them to do a diagnosis of some sort. For example, if your focus is on Jesus' message to the church in Sardis, you know that the external appearance of strength is masking great spiritual weakness within. Invite your fellow Christians to evaluate their own congregation. Ask, “What are our strengths as a congregation? What do you think might be our weaknesses?” If you wish, make it even more personal: “What are your own personal spiritual strengths? What do you think are your own personal spiritual weaknesses?” On their own, your Bible class participants have identified the problems. This sets up well for a class that is focused on finding solutions.
  • Question design – Practice problem-solving: Craft questions that directly ask adults to solve a problem. When Jesus speaks to the Ephesian Christians, he tells them that they have lost their first love. That's a problem. After inviting adults to consider in what different ways that same temptation challenges them, then invite them to do this: Write out for yourself a personal strategy for “regaining your first love.” Perhaps the answers will come easy. Or perhaps their struggle to come up with an answer will create great interest on their part to hear what you, their teacher, are going to say next. Either way, you have crafted a question that appeals to their instinct—their desire to solve problems. Finally, your goal is to be sure that they understand what God's solution is.
  • Question design – Provide the tools: Consider again Jesus’ words to the church in Pergamum. The key issue is sexual temptation. The problem you have identified is that adults want to know how to talk to teenagers about sexual temptation. But how can they solve that problem without some direction from the Lord? Craft a question that itself provides the tools for discovering the solution. For example, “As you read through Ephesians 5:1-20, underline words that you feel can assist in battling sexual sin. Which thought do you feel would be very helpful to emphasize as we want to encourage each other in our Christian living?” Right underneath that question are the first twenty verses from Ephesians chapter 5. The substance of the solution is there. They just have to find it.

Life is full of problems. The Scriptures provide all the answers God knows we need. Invite your problem-solving adults to discover all the solutions they need in God’s powerful word.

In next month’s issue — Adults are . . . Interested in Immediate Application