Today’s teaching tip is one I find helpful when teaching children and those who may not be very familiar with the Bible. Are you ready?
Today’s tip: Don’t over-assume
This year, the kids and I have started reading from the Bible text each day instead of just “Bible storybooks.” I throw in a reading from a Children’s Bible Storybook every few days for the benefit of my 5-year-old, but for the most part, we read straight out of the Bible. While my children are fairly astute, I know they do not comprehend the meaning of the text with quite the same depth as I. It’s not a statement of pride or arrogance, but one of fact. It would be akin to assuming that my 5-year-old can discern the nuances of engine noises without having ever driven or worked on car. I cannot expect my kids to possess the same level of understanding that I have acquired over a lifetime of education. With that in mind, I need to be both careful in my assumptions and thorough in my teaching.
In teaching a home bible study with adolescents and/or adults, it’s also necessary to be wary in your assumptions. In college, I was engaged in a one-on-one study with a good friend of mine, and I assumed that since my friend kept a bible on the table (and believed in God) that he was likely knowledgeable about the basic scriptural accounts.
At one point in our study, I was in the middle of establishing a point and said, “It’s just like the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, you know?”
“No, I don’t.” he replied, with an edge of irritation in his voice.
I could feel the heat of embarrassment creeping into my face. “Oh. Ok… well, let’s read it then.”
I was trying to advance to point M, and my friend didn’t even know about point B or the other orderly and intermediary points along the way!
When you read a biblical text to your children, engage in a Bible study, or teach a class, please be mindful of the following:
- Do not assume the one being taught “knows the story” (unless you have already covered it).
- Do not assume they understand cultural terms. Think words like “synagogue” or “Pharisee” or “Scribe.” Knowledge of the characters and settings is important to comprehension. For instance, “who cares what the Pharisees think about Jesus?” If you know how authoritative and influential the Pharisees were in their teaching, their vicious response to Jesus makes far more sense! Jesus was a threat to them.
- Do not assume they understand spiritual terms (unless you have already covered them). I asked my kids yesterday if they knew what “hallowed” meant. They are currently memorizing Matthew 6.9-13, which begins, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name…” It was pretty cool to see the light bulbs flash after a brief explanation. For years, I had heard the terms like sin, righteousness, grace, sanctification, holiness, and yet I didn’t really apprehend their meaning until I was in my teens and early twenties because so few teachers took time to explain such things.
- Ask questions to assess your student’s knowledge. I can’t remember every lesson I’ve taught my kids, so I often ask, “do you remember ___________?” If they do, I’ll ask them to retell the account or explain the term for the benefit of my other kids. If they do not, it’s time to re-teach (or teach for the first time). Doing this doesn’t insult them, and it forces them to dig around in their own mind for answers. Posing questions also allows me an opportunity to evaluate what they actually know.