This is another “sort of” book review – similar to last week, it is about teaching in the Christian setting. Several years ago I read it for a class on Bible teaching, and we had to record 10 different thoughts from the book that we found particularly noteworthy or helpful. These thoughts should give you a general idea of what the book is like. It was more academic and detailed in regards to preparing lessons about the Bible. I found it worthwhile, and recommend it to you – if you are a Bible teacher or would like to be one.
Effective Bible Teaching by Wilhoit and Ryken
Personal ownership of what you are teaching is the minimum requirement for effective Bible teaching. A teacher must arrive at their own personal understanding of a passage. There is nothing wrong with using curriculum, but the teacher cannot simply parrot the lesson. The teacher needs to be sure they understand it for themselves, and have the skill and discernment to notice any problems with the curriculum.
Teaching is a responsibility that should be taken seriously. Teachers cannot avoid influencing their students even if they try, as influence can be indirect and unintended. Thus, it is especially critical for Christian teachers to be living out the faith and growing in it. Students will generally not rise above the spiritual level of their teacher.
A common failure of teachers is to try to cover too much territory in one lesson. Many Bible lessons lack impact because the lesson is not built around a single focus. Find the “big idea” in the passage and keep the lesson focused on it.
Related to the previous point, teachers need to make sure they have a unifying framework that ties the details together. It is easy to miss the forest for the trees. I really agreed with this statement: “Educational research has shown that before people can grasp specific details they need a general framework to which they can relate the specific pieces of data.” (page 109).
Avoid moralizing or allegorizing the passage. Instead, we need to enter the world of the biblical text and find ways to “bridge the gap” between then and now. One way to do this is too look for the common human experience in the passage. Times change, but humans experience many of the same problems, emotions, and moral realities throughout time.
Leading a Bible study using the inductive method is very beneficial. One reason is that there is a big difference between being told something and discovering it on your own. Educational research has shown that figuring something out for yourself is much more meaningful than simply being told it.
Learning to write good questions is an important part of preparing a lesson. Overly obvious questions waste the student’s time and are also boring. The goal is to get people to look for specific things in the passage which will help them discover the message. Questions should be focused, have purpose, and be thought provoking.
In teaching individual parts of the Bible, it is important for the teacher to be aware of what the Bible says elsewhere on a given subject. “A lot of bad Bible teaching has occurred through the centuries when teachers have seized upon single passages as giving us the whole truth about a subject.” (page 182)
The Bible is a book that is confrontational, and makes response almost inevitable. It awakens controversy like almost no other book does. People either believe it or reject it. Therefore, an important question for a teacher to have in the back of their mind as they prepare a lesson on a passage is: What conventional attitude or behavior that people commonly accept is challenged by this passage?
“Experienced teachers step into the classroom knowing what they will do and what they will omit if time starts to run short.” (page 56) Cover the essential material first…which means the teacher needs to know what the essential material is ahead of time!