Study · The Word of God

Bible Teaching Tips. (Tip #1)

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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.

Whoops.

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:

  1. Do not assume the one being taught “knows the story” (unless you have already covered it).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

When do you find it helpful or harmful to assume? Do you think it’s better to assume too much rather than too little? Please share your insights below so we can learn how to better share God’s word with others.

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22 thoughts on “Bible Teaching Tips. (Tip #1)

    1. Me too! Sometimes we have to assume we are teaching at a certain level, but when it comes to the God and the Bible I do t think we will ever know it all. I think my greatest concern is insulting someone so deeply that they never want to learn more.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My husband is the one with the “book smarts” and his grasp of concepts I cannot understand enrich my knowledge of the Bible. Much like my “street smarts” and passion enrich his understanding of the heart.

        Your teaching tips are helping me to grasp the idea of “context” and now my conversations with my husband can go deeper. I did not grow up in church, so I have had to do a lot of seeking on my own over the years. I have taken a class or two, but I do a lot of study on my own. And, yes, there was a time I shut down and did not want to learn anymore, because I felt whacked over the head with theology and doctrine. Thank the Lord He moved me out of that place.

        Thank you for the time it takes to put this out there!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you Elihu’s Corner for making this important point. When I teach the 5-8 grade Wednesday night bible class I often stop to ask if they understand a term or situation. Putting the bible story in historical context is so important! Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wonderful! It’s such a great experience to see God’s gracious hand! We are doing ok. We still feel a bit like fish out of water here in TX, but God has provided for our needs each step of the way. May the Lord continue to bless your work!

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  2. Thank you for that I taught three year olds in Sunday school and that was hard to know what kinds of words to use so they would understand the message sometimes. We don’t always have to use the biblical words and assume that they know it. I always tried to think of . A way to tell them so they would understand. Something that they could relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Albert Einstein said something to the effect “If you cannot explain it to a five-year old, you don’t really understand it.” I cannot tell you how humbling it has been for me to have three children and discover how much I didn’t know!! Teaching my kids has been quite educational. I’ll bet you are doing a great job.

      By the way, don’t allow anyone to minimize the importance of teaching those three-year-olds. It’s of great value; we never truly know at what point kids begin to retain knowledge. Thank you for your efforts to educate the young!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the tips.
    I believe sometimes assuming is good specially when we are leading a group. Because we don’t want to ask simple and silly questions to him/her in front of others.
    Same assumptions will turn to be harmful when we ask those silly (for many) and simple question to few and embarrass them. For example, we think Pharisees is a common term in New Testament and we believe everyone knows who they are.
    It’s better not to ask a person who is pretty new to the group, “do you know who is a Pharisee?”. May be he doesn’t know which can lead to belittling or may be he knows and he will end up thinking “so weird that he asked this question in front of others”….both can lead a person to leave the group.
    We gotta be wise…..

    About kids, I guess teaching them is a good way caus they don’t carry much of pride in them.;)

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    1. Very true! In a group setting, I don’t think it prudent to call out the new person in that way. I might put probing questions to the group as a whole and see if that new person answers. They might not answer, but that could be simply a reaction to being in a new environment with new people. Regardless, if one of the regular students answers or if I as a teacher fills in the blank, the new person may have gained something new without being made to feel foolish. Yes, these things must be executed with care. I’m so glad you made that point.

      Liked by 1 person

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