Category Archives: Teach the Word

Keep It Simple With Backgrounds and Fonts

Teach the WordDr. Sue Holtz is the author of our feature article this month. Dr. Holtz serves as the Director of Technology Integration and Support at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. She received her doctorate in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University in 2004. The topic of her dissertation was Nurturing Cooperative Learning Online. Her background is in teaching business communications at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also taught technology courses at various colleges.

Keep it simple. Less is more. How often have we heard these words? They are especially important to remember when we plan and design presentation slides. As we have discussed in previous articles, your goal is to have your audience focus on you and your message–your slides are there to support that goal.

In this article we are going to talk about using backgrounds and fonts appropriately to keep your slides simple. Continue reading

4 Tips for Creating Great Slides With Titles & Bullets

Teach the WordDr. Sue Holtz is our feature article author this month. Dr. Holtz serves as the director of technology integration and support at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. She received her doctorate in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University in 2004. The topic of her dissertation was Nurturing Cooperative Learning Online. Her background is in teaching business communications at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also taught technology courses at various colleges.

Last month we talked about planning your presentation. This month we are going to talk about bringing that presentation to the screen. A recent trend in presentations is to move away from slides with a title and a bullet list, to slides that contain a graphic image in the background and a word, phrase, or number that the presenter wants to emphasize. Presentations like this can be very powerful because they allow the audience to focus all its attention on listening to the presenter, rather than reading bullet points while trying to listen. This type of slide is often used in TED talks. I had the opportunity to be in attendance for a presentation that followed this model. It was amazing how much easier it was to listen to the presenter! To learn more about this model read, or research, Weissman’s Presenting to Win![1]

If you are not ready to make that drastic of a change to your presentation style, the next few paragraphs will provide some tips for creating great slides with titles and bullets. Continue reading

How to Avoid the Five Cardinal Sins of Presentations

Teach the WordThis is the first article in a series by Dr. Sue Holtz, who serves as the director of technology integration and support at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Dr. Holtz’s background is in teaching business communications at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also taught technology courses at various colleges.

“What’s the point?”

”How long is this presentation going to last?”

“Man, is it hard to read the tiny words on his slides; thankfully, he is reading the slides to us.”

“And what about those dancing bears and flying bullet points?”

Have you ever had these thoughts while watching a PowerPoint presentation? Do you wonder if anyone has ever had these thoughts while you were presenting?

Over the next few months, we are going to talk about some of the dos and don’ts of using slides in presentations and sharing tools to help you create and use your slides well. We will also talk about ways to get the members of your audience involved and hold their attention. The tips will be valuable to you whether you use PowerPoint, KeyNote, or Prezi. Continue reading

Teach With This Trait in Mind: Immediate Application

Teach the WordThis is the final 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.

Why study the Bible?

The Apostle Paul gives a great answer to Timothy:

“From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Note one word in that answer. The saving Scriptures are useful. Scripture is not mere theory.  Scripture is not just something we contemplate with deep thoughts. God’s revelation directly addresses our lives. It’s helpful. It’s beneficial. It is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. Continue reading

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

Teach With This Trait in Mind: Task-Oriented

Teach the WordThis is the third 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.

Sunday morning adult Bible class is not the time to teach people how to use a new computer program.

But if it were, you might insist that every class member bring a computer. Why? You can talk in theory about how to create a new document in Microsoft OneNote, but learners will better remember what you teach if they can try it out immediately. Putting learning to work promotes learning.

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’s focus? Adults are task-oriented. Said another way, adults benefit from active learning. While adults are certainly capable of acquiring information by sheer force of memorization, they appreciate putting a concept into practice as soon as possible. “Give me a truth. Then let me do something with it to ensure that I understand what you have just taught me.”

What kinds of activities can one do in a Bible study? “Task-oriented” makes sense when teaching someone how to use a computer program, but how could my teaching of a Sunday morning Bible class be different if I keep this particular trait in mind?

  • Make me practice: If brief lecture teaches how to open a new document in a computer program, sitting down and actually trying to do it solidifies that teaching. With Bible instruction, think about how a learner can “try out” a particular doctrine. Imagine that we are in Revelation chapter 2, having just learned how Ephesian Christians were gifted at distinguishing false apostles. Learners are now asked to read through three paragraphs from modern heterodox doctrinal statements. Their job is to identify the false doctrines.
  • Virtual role-play: Some outgoing individuals may be ready to do an actual role-play. But generally speaking, virtual role-play may be the safer choice. Allow your class to break up into smaller groups. Create a scenario to solve that requires understanding of a particular Bible teaching. For example, Numbers chapter 25 highlights the seriousness with which God handles sexual sin, as Phinehas drives a spear through an immoral couple. Have your various smaller groups work through this learning activity: Imagine reading this account through the eyes of a non-Christian friend who has never heard this story before. What questions might that friend ask, and what answers would you give to those questions?
  • Target learning styles: Some learners acquire significant quantities of information simply by listening. Others love to be active in some other way. You are studying Hebrews 6:19, which refers to our eternal hope as an anchor in the Most Holy Place of the temple. Give everyone a piece of paper. Invite them to draw what they understand Hebrews 6:19 to be picturing. (Then, if you have the ability to project live images to a screen from a mobile device, you can share with the entire group some of the images the artists—and nonartists—came up with.)
  • Count-down: The task-oriented nature of adults appreciates that sense of accomplishment that comes when a clearly defined task has been completed. How does one clearly define a task? One technique involves requesting a specific number of answers to a particular question. For example, Revelation 1:7-9 refers to opposition against Christianity. Rather than ask, “What are some threats Christianity faces today,” offer this: “Make a list of the top five threats to Christianity today.”
  • Question design – Encourage conversation: If one is learning how to operate a computer, there is quite naturally physical activity that is required. Bible teaching doesn’t lend itself as naturally to muscle movement. But one can appeal to the task-oriented nature of adults by promoting mental activity. What is one way a spiritual shepherd can help learners be mentally engaged? Give them opportunities to talk. Encouraging conversation within small subgroups in your class can be an efficient way to make this happen. The best kind of questions for small groups? Open-ended questions. What is an open-ended question? It’s a question that has multiple correct answers. After considering the physical poverty but spiritual wealth of Christians in Smyrna, small groups might consider this question: In what different ways have you found that having more earthly possessions can make it harder for you to live as a Christian?

Adults are eager to do something. It can be a challenge to satisfy that longing, but what a wonderful thing when that longing can be satisfied through active engagement with Bible truth.

In next month’s issue — Adults are . . . Problem-solving

Teach With This Trait in Mind – Experienced

Teach the WordThis is the second 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.

How many teachers do you have in your Sunday morning Bible study?

Before you start trying to figure out whether you have any grade school or high school or college instructors in your class, let’s agree that every person is a teacher. You have the privilege of holding ultimate responsibility for the teaching that occurs. But you know that the group of Christians with you possesses fine knowledge of Scripture and a storehouse of life experiences.

We are looking at five key characteristics of adult learners. They are self-directed, experienced, task-oriented, problem-solving, and interested in immediate application. The characteristic in focus today? Experienced. Adults are unique in that they have had so many different life experiences. They have been single. Many have gotten married. They have had children. They have gone to college. They have had many jobs. They have suffered tragedy. They have been to many worship services. They have had witnessing opportunities, both pursued and missed. They have sinned. They have been burdened with guilt. They have cried tears. They have found relief. They have been converted. They have been lifelong Christians. They have had more than one pastor. They have lived through war. They have faced ridicule for their faith. The list of life events is almost endless. The only limitation is one’s own memory.

These experiences are treasures to be tapped. But how? How could my teaching of a Sunday morning Bible study be different if I keep this particular trait in mind?

  • Increase talk time: Not only do adults have multiple experiences but most enjoy talking about themselves. This can be a symptom of selfishness, but it surely doesn’t have to be. What can be a challenge in Bible study is that there are only so many minutes for people to talk. If everyone has the chance to share a particular life experience, that’s all that will happen—when will we talk about the word of God? One way to permit more to share experiences is to divide the class into smaller groups for a time. Ask a question that taps into adult experience, but then ask groups of 4 to 6 to share those experiences among themselves. After that five-minute activity, you can decide whether it serves the larger purpose to have a few sample experiences shared with the entire group.
  • Surrender the floor: Examples from life illustrate truth. Always be ready with one of your own to share before trying this, but consider presenting a concept and then asking if anyone has a good example that illustrates the point. You don’t want this to take a huge amount of time, so discretion in implementing this is key.
  • Prep with help: Giving yourself enough lead time will be the critical piece to this puzzle, but if you can pull it off, involve fellow Christians in your Bible study design. You are preparing a Bible study on 1 Peter. Persecution of God’s children is a focus, but you want to be sure you develop questions that get at what is really going on today. Send an e-mail to five of your members. Tell them you’re prepping a Bible study that will touch on persecution. Then write, “To craft better questions, I want to understand the kinds of pressure that Christians are under today. Could you share with me examples of how you personally, or perhaps a family member or friend, have felt pressured or have been ridiculed because of your Christian faith?”
  • Question design – Tap the treasure: Craft questions that directly ask adults to talk about their experiences. For example, a recent Bible study on Revelation chapter 2 occurred the week after the 2015 visit of Pope Francis to the United States. After looking at Revelation chapter 2 and its reference to testing those who claim to be apostles, this question was asked: “Have you had any conversations this week regarding the visit of Pope Francis? Share your own impressions of his visit or the impressions that others have shared with you.” Individuals spoke about this within smaller groups, and the buzz was evident. Almost everyone seemed to have something to say. This was real life, and it was also an opportunity to see playing out in real life the very same strength that Jesus saw in the Ephesian Christians. Not much later another question followed: “Describe the sin that concerns Jesus as he thinks about the Ephesian Christians. In what different ways do you find that same temptation challenging you?” That question tapped into adult experience too—when have they seen themselves in danger of “losing their first love”? In many ways, that is the goal of our questions—to help people better understand how the living word of God speaks to their very real, living experiences.

So much can be said about life experience. The writer to the Hebrews encourages, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). Whenever you can tap into such Christian experience, do it!

In next month’s issue — Adults are … Task-oriented

Teach With This Trait in Mind – Self-Directed

Teach the WordThis is the first 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.

THE INTRODUCTION . . .

Teaching involves a lot of common sense. For centuries, gifted teachers have figured out what works, and many have done well even without formal training. At the same time, we are ready to work at our craft. We want to do the best we are able so that God’s word is communicated clearly and with methodology that does everything it can to engage our fellow Christians in understanding God’s truth.

Teachers focus on two key things: their subject area and their audience. The trick is to find the best way to communicate a certain body of material to a particular audience. This can be incredibly complicated. There are so many aspects to our subject material, and no two members of our audience are exactly alike (not to mention that no two teachers are exactly alike either). To imagine that one can master teaching by simply embracing four or five bullet points is to underestimate the challenge that teaching is. At the same time, if we can put together a few key concepts that get us to think and possibly spark ideas for how we can teach even better then . . .

In the next five issues of Teach the Word, we are going to look at Five Traits of Adult Learners. As we look at the five traits, the overarching question will be this: How could my teaching of a Sunday morning Bible class be different if I keep this particular trait in mind?

Here are five key characteristics of adult learners:

  • Self-directed
  • Experienced
  • Task oriented
  • Problem solving
  • Interested in immediate application

Would you agree, generally speaking, that adults are like this?

TRAIT #1 — Adults are … SELF-DIRECTED

What does it mean that adults are self-directed? Simply said, adults like to have a role in deciding what it is they want to learn. As children, subject matter is pretty much chosen for us. When we move into high school and college, we get more and more choice—electives, majors, etc. Adults? “Give me a role in deciding what to learn.”

That doesn’t mean adults don’t care about what is important for them to learn. We also don’t want to give the impression that humans get to independently decide what God should be saying. But with the word of God as our one nonnegotiable, we do however want to give adults some flexibility in deciding what we’re going to talk about.

How would this look in a Sunday morning Bible class?

  • Curriculum input: Pastors can involve a core group in selecting Bible study topics for the year. The pastor might make a proposal and members will respond. A larger group might take survey.
  • Raised hands – A friendly environment: Self-direction shows itself whenever a fellow Christian raises his or her hand and asks a question. How can you ensure that participants feel comfortable taking the initiative? A friendly and open environment is key. How do you know whether you have one? Offer opportunities for anonymous feedback periodically. Find some participants who you feel would be up-front, and ask them some pointed questions about how things are going.
  • Raised hands – Good pacing: How often does your Bible class feel rushed? There are times when it is best for you to summarize things with concise lecture. But a constant feeling that having you talk is the only way to get through the material can lead participants to feel guilty about asking questions. Having a clear starting and ending point for a class, but designing it in a way that gives you flexibility to skip questions where needed without everyone feeling like they just missed out on something really important (perhaps one has a smaller number of questions to start with) . . . this approach to class design can convey a sense of open space for learners, open space that can be filled with their thoughtful questions.
  • Raised hands – Ask for questions, and wait: Consider dividing the day’s material into three or four subparts, at least in your own mind. When you get to the end of a particular portion, ask, “What are your questions?” Then allow there to be silence. There are different general rules for how much time to allow, but consider eight to ten seconds. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but just as that period of time is about to end, a hand might get raised. Another adult is displaying the tendency to be self-directed.
  • Question design – Open questions: Here’s the big one. This may be the hardest one to put into practice, but it does provide a huge opportunity to tap into the “self-directed” quality of adults. If you can design questions for your Bible study that are open in nature, you provide space for adults to decide which direction they would like to go. What is an open question? Here’s an example: After reading Revelation 1:7-9, offer this task to the participants: Make a list of the top five spiritual struggles you find yourself grappling with personally in your day-to-day life. In what different ways is Revelation 1:7-9 an encouragement for those facing threats and struggles? Now here’s the same topic but with a closed question: List the words in Revelation 1:7-9 that give encouragement to those struggling. Both the open and the closed question get people into the Word. Great! But the open question gives adults a chance to chart their own course—to be self-directed—in two specific ways. First, they evaluate and verbalize their own spiritual challenges—they’re picking the topic for discussion. Second, they figure out how the encouraging words of Revelation 1:7-9 apply specifically to the struggles they listed . . . again, following a path they themselves set.

Surely wisdom is key for managing adult “self-direction.” But when that instinct can be put to good use, use it!

In next month’s issue — Adults are … Experienced