Augustine (AD 354-430) wrote that biblical education meant “moving the minds of the listeners, not [simply] that they may know what is to be done, but that they may do what they already know should be done.”1
Augustine’s ancient advice is a good reminder for us all. The purpose of any Bible class is not to make spiritual smarty-pants out of God’s people so they can answer all the questions in Bible Trivial Pursuit. No, we want God’s people to know God’s Word, to believe it, and to put it into practice. What did Jesus say? “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). Christian authors Rick and Shera Melick even made up a word when they wrote: “The goal [of Bible study] is transformactional learning: learning that acts.”2
Of course, our Bible studies shouldn’t be a series of “How To” lessons (“How to Have a Successful Marriage”; “How to Budget Wisely”; etc.). Our lessons will clearly teach God’s law so that we are convicted of sin. Our lessons will also firmly center on Jesus and what he has done to win forgiveness. So yes, we will want to help our students grow in the knowledge of our Savior (cf. 2 Peter 3:17,18).3 But God has also promised that Holy Spirit-worked faith in Jesus does lead to change and action in a repentant sinner’s life (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3).4 This change and action is something we may intentionally encourage when teaching. Through the next several Teach the Word articles we’ll explore some practical ways to do that.
1 Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, 4.12.27. Italics added.
2 Rick and Shera Melick, Teaching that Transforms (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 186.
3 2 Peter 3:17,18a: “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (NIV 84)
4 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV 84)
You can and should target every learning style at some point in every lesson.
If you can teach in a way that reaches all four styles simultaneously, you will be much more likely to hold the attention of your entire audience.
After looking at all of these four learning styles, you probably have the same big question I did:
How can one possibly reach all four of these learners at the same time?
Talk learners are the opposite learning style of the Research learners.
Talk learners love to rephrase to learn. They desire verbal exchange immediately (hence the name “Talk learner”).
They prefer to learn by collaborating with others and being part of a team (or having a study buddy). They prefer studying things that directly affect people’s lives, rather than impersonal facts or theories. They also love personal attention and encouragement from instructors. (Many talk learners will get tutors just for this reason alone).
“Create” learners are the exact opposite of the Step learners.
Create learners love to synthesize to learn. They desire to generate something (create something) in order to really “get it.”
They prefer to learn by being creative and using their imaginations and creative ideas to plan and organize concepts. They prefer working on a number of tasks at one time, discussing real problems and looking for real solutions. They also enjoy searching for alternative solutions to problems, looking beyond those normally considered. (Some might call this divergent thinking.)
Create learners learn best with creative and artistic activities that are used along with open-ended discussions about personal and social values. They do best with activities that enlighten and enrich understanding, such as stories, dramas, etc.
Step learners (just like the name) love to follow steps to learn. They desire goals and practicality.
They prefer to learn by seeing tangible results through practicing what they have learned and following directions one step at a time. They like being active, rather than passive, learners and need to know exactly what is expected, how well the task must be done, and why.
Step learners learn best by drill and repetition, demonstration, direct instruction, and guided practice exercises.
They really like doing things that have an immediate and practical use. They appreciate being acknowledged for thoroughness and detail, and they enjoy praise for prompt and complete work. They are also into competitions when they learn along with immediate rewards, privileges, etc.
This is the big difference . . .
The big difference between the disconnected teacher and the engaging teacher is . . .
knowing who you are.
There are four learning styles that individuals use to absorb new information.
Each teacher tends to be naturally good at learning and teaching in one or two of these styles.
The disconnected teachers don’t know their styles and aren’t connecting with ALL the styles of their audience members.
If this sounds like you . . . it’s not your fault.
Bible study is always important. As we study, we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we study, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith. But because our thinking still is influenced by sin, we are easily distracted by other issues and even allow those issues to take precedence in our lives. That can happen to those of us who handle God’s Word every day. It also can happen to those who come to study with us in our Bible classes.
As we continue our discussion of one of the principles of adult learning—that adults need to be motivated to learn—we are going to focus on the application. Putting effort into crafting application questions will pay dividends by helping the students recognize why the truth that was studied in God’s Word is important to their lives.
How does a pastor help people see why the lesson is valuable for their lives? Continue reading