Creative Bible Teaching
“hook, book, look, took”
“hook, book, look, took” sound corny. He was also right when he predicted that I would use these four words to effectively teach the Bible.
FOCUSING THE MESSAGE
focus and staying focused are critical to many aspects of life. Consider Peter, for example. In Matthew 14 we read of Jesus walking across the water to His disciples’ boat. Peter’s response was to step out of the boat and walk on the water to Jesus. Verses 30-31 say, “When he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.
Four Fold Approach to Needs Assessment
First, begin by listing some of the physical, cognitive, psycho-social (emotional and social), and spiritual needs you have observed in the group.
Second, describe the group. In what kind of ministry situation will you be teaching? How large is the group?
Third, list some of the specific characteristics of group members you have observed. What are their interests? What abilities do they possess? What limitations have you observed?
basic human needs have not changed
It is important for the creative Bible teacher to remember that basic human needs have not changed significantly over the millennia that have passed since the Scriptures were written. J. Daniel Baumann puts the fact of human commonality in this way:
The student is at the heart of the teaching-learning process
The student is at the heart of the teaching-learning process. The ultimate objective in teaching the Bible is not Bible knowledge, though that is very important; it is applied Bible knowledge in the student’s everyday life.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow classified human needs into five categories. 1) physiological (needs for food, water, and air drive human behavior) 2) Safety/security (need for a stable life, free from threat) 3) social or belonging needs (need for friendship, affection, interaction, and relationships). 4) Esteem level (need is for personal feelings of achievement and affirmation/personal sense of worth is sought). 5) self-actualization (a sense of satisfaction that one is realizing his personal potential).
Researcher Fredrick Herzberg has validated a less complex approach to understanding needs that consists of just two levels.
1) Hygiene needs are the fundamental needs that human beings face that, if not met, hinder greater effectiveness and success. Hygiene needs correspond with Maslow’s first three levels. Unmet hygiene needs tend to demotivate and disengage learners.
2) Motivators are needs that, when met, increase personal effectiveness and further success. These needs correspond with Maslow’s esteem and self-actualization categories but are not limited by Maslow’s definitions. Motivators may differ between students and therefore, teachers must understand the needs of individual students and the factors that motivate students.
Education is based upon an assumption that what is learned in the classroom can and should be applied outside the classroom.
By definition, learning requires that the student be able to meaningfully transfer a concept from one setting to another.
HBLT: Lesson Plans
Whether we are making a dress or making investments, a well-thought-out plan is essential. Most human endeavors require planning. As a general principle, things done right are done with a plan. Generals need battle plans, coaches need game plans, and teachers need lesson plans. This chapter is about lesson planning. It is about doing things right when it comes to teaching the Bible.
HBLT: Plan for Spontaneity
In teaching the Bible, planning must be done for spontaneity to be meaningful. Otherwise “spontaneity” is more likely to be small talk.
HBLT: Spontaneity is not generally God’s way of working
But spontaneity is not God’s way of working in the vast majority of situations. Remember what Paul said in response to the Corinthian church, whose spontaneous approach to worship had gotten out of hand. He said, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace….everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14: 33, 40).
HBLT: HBLT Process
There are numerous ways one could plan a classroom experience. HBLT is one approach. That stands for Hook, Book, Look, and Took.
HBLT: Lessons must lead to a point
The important point is that all are brought to the place of a response. The lesson must lead to the point of action, which indeed Paul’s did.
HBLT: The Hook
You must seek to entice them away from their private thoughts and share in this time of learning. And so you use the hook.
Qualities of a good hook:
o It gets attention
o It surfaces a need: Students are more likely to pay attention and participate in the learning process when they sense the class is related to a personal need.
o It sets a goal: Called the direction step, the hook must provide something to answer the question, “Why should I listen to this?”
o One more thing: A good hook is one of the secrets of effective Bible teaching. When you capture interest, set a goal, and lead your students into the Word, you have a good start on a creative class.
Book: In the Book section the teacher seeks to clarify the meaning of the passage being studied.
… A good lecture is the fastest way to cover content and make points. Or one can use charts, visuals, and so forth. Whatever the method, the purpose in this part of the lesson remains constant: to give biblical information and help students understand it.
Look: The Look When the students understand what the Bible says, it’s time to move to implications. Their knowledge must be tempered with “spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). So the next step the teacher must plan for in the lesson preparation process involves guiding the class to discover and grasp the relationship of the truth just studied to daily living. … “But what does this mean for the pattern of our daily lives?” This is the issue explored in the Look section of the teaching plan.
Took: The Took But, like a vaccination, the Word of God is of no effect until we can say it “took.” Response is required. Normally, response to teaching will take place outside of class, in weekday life. … But because the resolution is vague, because we haven’t gone beyond the generalization and implementation phase of learning to actually plan how we’ll change, no change takes place. The creative Bible teacher knows this. The goal is transformed lives—change. Therefore, creative Bible teachers help students respond by leading them to see God’s will and by helping them decide and plan to do it.
HBLT: A trip through time
Another way to understand the Hook, Book, Look, Took approach is to picture it as a teacher-led trip through time. Movement of the lesson proceeds from the present (Hook) to the past (Book), back to the present (Look), and into the future (Took).
Ch 10: Making the Bible message relevant
• How could he make the Bible message relevant to a junior high boy two thousand years removed from its culture and content?
• Because each human being is a unique personality, living a life that is distinct, no one outside can determine with assurance
the implications of a truth for another. And certainly no one dares claim to know the response another must make, a response that God alone has the right to direct.
CH.10: Finding an application that works
• The problem is how to make an application that works. The purpose of application is to make truth usable, to get it into the experience, into the life, of the learner.
• But human beings don’t operate that way. Minds don’t automatically sort content and relate it to experiences. Content, taught as information, is filed away all right. But without training, the student is unlikely to see its relationship to his life.
• the chances are that unless you’ve been taught the doctrine with a view to its meaning for life, you can’t apply it. And if you don’t understand what it means for your life, you cannot possibly use it!
• idea that filling the mind with information will allow individuals to develop the ability to use that information has been thoroughly tested. And the tests show that this idea simply is not true. What can we say, then, about the Bible teacher who covers only content and expects lives to change?
• Methods have to be used that will bridge the gap between content and application. Generalization is a tool: “Generalization is better. A better teacher, realizing that he must get beyond content, may move to generalization.” This method can help lead from facts to principles. “He led them from facts to principles. This leading of students from facts to principles is important in effective application. But it, too, falls short.”
• Illustrations help in application. One way we can see a principle in operation is through an illustration.
Ch.10: Self Guided Application
• The Problem of Self-Guided Lesson Application The problem with these self-guided approaches to application— content only, generalizations, and illustrations—is that they assume that if one knows what is right or if one knows the biblical truth to be lived, practice will follow.
• Creative Bible teachers want to go a step further. They want to change lives. They want results. Although they can’t make students apply the passage, they can go further in making application more concrete.
Ch.10: Six reasons why self guided application methods tend to fail
Findley Edge, in his now classic book Teaching for Results, identifies six reasons that self-guided application of Bible lessons tend to fail. These can be summarized as follows.
1. The problem of meaning—The students may not understand the meaning or significance of the passage, so they are unable to make application in their personal life.
2. The problem of relationship—An individual may not see the relationship between a particular life situation in which he finds himself and any spiritual teaching.
3. The problem of prejudice—Prejudice
sometimes makes us unwilling to apply Christian ideals….When prejudice and spiritual truth come into conflict, people often hold spiritual truths in their minds while their lives are guided by prejudice.
4. The problem of information—Often an individual has insufficient information to understand how the Christian ideal would operate in many normal relationships of life.
5. The problem of personal and social pressure—The individual may be unable or unwilling to make his own specific application because of pressures from society or from within his own life. Being human, we are all subject to the weaknesses of the flesh.
6. The problem of complex situations—There is no clear distinction between right and wrong in many of the complex situations of life. The Christian does not face much difficulty in making decisions when the issues involved are either black or white. But the Christian does have difficulty in making decisions when the issues are gray.
CH.10: Teachers must be more specific
• “The conclusion seems inescapable that teachers must become more specific in their teaching. Generalized teaching is the basic reason for the teacher’s failure to secure more carry-over from his teaching.
If we are going to teach for results, we must make teaching personal. The assumption that the teacher can teach general principles and leave the class members entirely unguided to make their own application seems not to be a valid or safe assumption.”
Ch.10: A Better Way
• A Better Way Content proclamation, generalized application, even excellent illustrations are not enough. None is really effective. None does a really good job of opening up students’ lives to the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. Of the three,
plus illustration is best.
• ENGAGING STUDENT RESPONSE THROUGH GUIDED SELF-APPLICATION: Application, then, must be flexible enough to include all, yet individualized to touch the life of each.
Ch.10: • Prerequisites of Effective Application: Truth must be related to the individual’s life
• This clarifies the task of the creative Bible teacher. It’s not to simply illustrate truth used in “life.” It’s to help each student discover how truth studied may be used in
• Relevant areas must be explored. This seems to be the best way to help students to self-discovery. And such a course demands class participation. The search for relationship of truth to life must be an active thing. Each of the learners must be involved. And participation stimulates thinking. It initiates the search.
• Results of Guided Self-Application: But for the Word of God to produce growth, we must be involved. We must be involved in actively searching for implications, in actively responding to every word from God.
Ch.10: The pattern described.
Stated simply, the pattern is this: Generalization / Implications / Personal Application / Decision to Act.
In generalization, discussed earlier in this chapter, the pedagogical idea is discovered. Using a variety of methods, the creative Bible teacher guides students in study of the biblical passage. This is the function of the Book section of the lesson, as we discussed in the last chapter. When the principle of the passage is clearly defined, the teacher then leads the class beyond the generalizations to implications by transitioning from Book to Look in the lesson plan. Rather than just giving illustrations, creative Bible teachers encourage their students to give illustrations themselves. Creative Bible teachers use methods that guide their class to think through the ways the biblical principle might be worked out in their lives. By the use of open-ended stories, life situation dramas, thought-provoking questions, case studies, and other participatory methods, the class session is designed to stimulate or guide students to think concretely in a new area or to think more deeply about an idea already understood.
Ch.11: Building a Bridge
Teaching the Bible is like building a bridge from the modern world to the biblical world, and back again. This two-directional span enables students to explore the meaning of the ancient texts of Scripture and their application for contemporary living.
Ch.11: Building a Bridge
• What is a Method? In simplest terms, a method is a learning activity. Methods are selected for the purpose of engaging students in the learning process.
• In chapter 8, we discovered that learning can occur in three domains—the cognitive (head), the affective (heart), and the behavioral (hands). Methods are the means by which teachers engage learning in these domains.
… Teachers will want to match the appropriate methods to the domain of learning they are seeking to address. With this awareness, it can be said that a method is a learning activity that stimulates or engages student learning in a particular learning domain.
Ch.11: Categories of Methods
Cognitive methods. One way we could categorize the methods available to creative Bible teachers is by learning domains. Let’s consider the cognitive domain.
o Cognitive domain. What methods are most effective in stimulating thinking? Well, that depends on what level of learning transfer we are hoping to achieve (see figure 10 in chapter 7). At the rote memory level, methods that emphasize memory recall are desirable. Songs, puzzles, simple games, acrostics, and other memory are useful. But the teacher must understand that these methods only enable the student to recall information. … Cognitive methods can include brainstorming, small group discussion, case study analysis, debates, forums, interviews, neighbor nudging (a brief discussion in groups of two), panel discussions, question and answer, provocative questions, open-ended stories (stories the group gets to complete), parables, skits, role plays, and lecture.
Ch.11: Affective Method
Affective methods. A second category of methods includes those that are most readily suited to the affective domain of learning. Remember, the affective domain deals with human emotions, values, attitudes, convictions, and motivations. Methods that help a teacher tap into this area of student learning tend to require the use of story. For example, Jesus used parables to deal with the matter of His learners’ value system.
… the most potent methods for teaching in the affective domain are those that involve modeling the truth. It has been said that “more is caught than taught.” Jesus used modeling to teach servanthood by washing His disciples’ feet.
CH.11: Behavioral Method
o Behavioral methods. The third category of methods are best linked to the behavioral domain. These methods help the student change a behavior, develop a new desirable behavior, learn a skill, or enhance an already existing skill.
… Wise teachers will move beyond telling to guiding and supporting desired results. This support or reinforcement may come in many forms, ranging from appropriate rewards to verbal recognition. Behavioral methods include examples, workshops, experiments, rewards, programmed learning, apprenticeships, accountability partners, role-plays, star charts, public recognition, practice sessions, and support groups.
Ch.11: Criteria for Choosing Teaching Methods
How does one select the best method for the teaching situation? We would suggest that each potential teaching method be filtered though a four question grid.
o Learner. The first question that must be considered has to do with the learner’s age and ability. By asking “Who are my learners?”
o Lesson aim. The second question that must be considered when selecting a method is “What is the lesson aim?”
o HBLT structure. The third question that creative Bible teachers ask in selecting methods is “In what part of the lesson will this method be used?” This is important because some methods are useful in gaining attention in the Hook section, whereas others work most effectively in
communication in the Book section.
o Resources. The fourth grid that potential methods must be sifted through is “What resources will I need?”
Ch.11: Creative Methods for Creative Bible Teachers:
A few methods that every Bible teacher should seek to develop and eventually master. We suggest the six foundational methods of creative teaching.
Ch.11: Creative Methods for Creative Bible Teachers: Storytelling
1. Storytelling. “That reminds me of a story.” When the preacher says that in the morning sermon, everyone seems to listen. Many sit up in their seats.
… Those who teach children especially need mastery of this method. Although children can be taught truth in other than story form, most curriculum is laid out as stories, and stories are a basic element of teaching children.
… Why are stories so important to teaching? Because stories relate. Stories entertain. Stories instruct. Stories illustrate. Stories motivate. Stories challenge. Stories model. Stories touch the heart. Stories teach. Stories change listeners. That’s why teachers must learn to tell stories as part of their teaching repertoire.
a. Suggestions for Storytelling:
i. ♦ Don’t tell a story without practice.
ii. ♦ Do not analyze the story. Let the story speak for itself.
iii. ♦ Don’t make it a sermon. Stories enhance sermons; sermons do not enhance stories.
iv. ♦ Keep it vivid. Use words that paint mental pictures.
v. ♦ Make sure it is appropriate. Age group and context are important considerations.
vi. ♦ Visualize the story. Rather than memorize, visualize. See the story in your mind’s eye.
vii. ♦ Consider student vocabulary level.
viii. ♦ Beware of tangents. Tangents tend to confuse.
ix. ♦ Avoid too many details. Excessive detail also tends to confuse.
x. ♦ Don’t show and tell. Use props sparingly. Let your words do the communicating.
xi. ♦ Resist asking for feedback. Let the story simmer in your listeners’ minds.
xii. ♦ Do not illustrate a story. Stories within stories may work in writing but not in teaching.
Ch.11: Creative Methods for Creative Bible Teachers: Provocative Questions
2. Provocative questions. “Who do people say I am?” asked Jesus of His disciples in Mark 8:27. After several suggestions, Jesus asked a second question: “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29, italics added). Jesus used thought-provoking questions to encourage student learning. The first question had no wrong answer. All His disciples had to do was provide a response consistent with public opinion. The second question pushed His disciples a step further in their thinking. They now had to make a decision regarding Jesus. Through the careful use of questions, Jesus moved His disciples from general implications to personal application.
Ch.11: Creative Methods for Creative Bible Teachers: Case studies
3. Case studies. Case studies are stories of a kind. They provide students with information about a situation or incident in a person’s life. The student is given the essential details of the case and a set of questions to consider. Usually in groups, students interact about the case based upon the questions that were provided.
a. In using case studies, a four-step approach to analyzing the case will make the entire discussion process more effective and will also increase the learning benefits. Here are the steps we suggest in using case studies.
b. 1. Read the Case Thoroughly. To fully understand what is happening in the case it is necessary to read the case carefully and thoroughly. This may mean reading it more than once before beginning any analysis.
c. 2. Define the Central Issue. Define the central issue(s) involved in the case. Occasionally, a case will involve several issues or problems. It is important to identify the most important problems or issues in the case and separate them from the more trivial issues.
d. 3. Categorize the Issue. After identifying a major underlying issue, it is often helpful to categorize the issues or problems (e.g., spiritual problem, relational problem, circumstantial problem, medical problem, etc.).
e. 4. See the Problem Biblically. Identify how the passage applies to the problem or issues under review. How does this passage relate to this case? Or how is this case related to this passage?
Ch.11: Creative Methods for Creative Bible Teachers: Discussions
4. Discussion. The skill of facilitating a discussion is of great value to the creative Bible teacher. The requirements of an effective discussion facilitator are more diverse than commonly perceived, however. Devising questions, keeping the group on the discussion topic, dealing with people who monopolize the conversation, working with difficult personality types, and reaching group consensus are just a few skills that discussion leaders need to develop.
Ch.11: Creative Methods for Creative Bible Teachers: Buzz Groups
5. Buzz groups. Buzz group are small groups that have been assigned a passage of Scripture and a list of questions to discuss together.
Ch.11: Creative Methods for Creative Bible Teachers: Lecture
6. Lecture. Lecture? Yes, lecture! Lecture, when done well, with adequate illustrations, examples, visuals, stories, and structure is still a good method for creative Bible teaching. The lecture method has fallen on hard times. Educators have rightly pointed out that lectures can hinder student cognitive development. But it is still true that lecture can be an effective method of teaching and changing lives. Lecture is still the most widely used means of teaching and, according to some studies, it may be the most effective means.