As teachers, what are our three primary responsibilities?
(1) to equip and release life-related Bible learning in others;
(2) to develop a “soil” in community conducive to flourishing spiritual growth; and
(3) to multiply teachers (2 Tim. 2:2).
Three broad, basic styles cover the gamut of teaching (with many variations). All three are appropriate so select the one that best aligns with our end-game. If our goal is to maximize LifeChange in community and multiply leaders, then I believe the group needs to be encouraged to shift to more active preparation and participation (the 3rd option).
Directive – preaching or podcasts are popular examples. I have learned much from these.
Discussion – the teacher brings the passage or topic, and a series of questions to draw out. No preparation requested from those who attend. The series “Meet Jesus…” utilize this style of learning.
Discovery by Doing (“DD”) – is how I describe interactive, response-based learning. Each prepares before group and puts truth into practice, & teachers still teach with short bursts. This “flips” learning, putting responsibility on the group members to come both as a learner and a teacher. “LifeChange Companion” are an example of approach built upon active, natural learning.
What’s my aim as I encourage active, natural learning, where learners best take ownership?
For the Group:
To provide an easy-to-practice way for all to study Scripture on their own as lifelong life-learners, from Jr. High to adult learners. Propel learning out of the group into our real-life experience, accelerating learning as we connect truth with daily life.
To shift responses over time to become more active learners, increasing each member’s preparation beforehand and participation in the group. Knowledge put into practice fuels Spirit-generated experience that transforms us from the inside out.
To shift believers over time from a focus on “I need my needs met” (consumerism) and “I come when it feels right” (convenience) to “I come to serve others.” This shift from Jesus’ first tier of training (“Come & See”) to His second tier (“Come & Follow Me”) releases more rapid, sustainable growth as it develops a “soil” conducive to healthy growth that is both relational, biblical and intentional (1 Thes. 1:6-7).
For the Teacher:
Select the learning approach best suited for the group. If the group comes unprepared, default to discussion by utilizing the three questions provided. Then patiently nudge them to pre-prepare to maximize their growth. If the group is just beginning to study, for now just use the “Companion” with the ‘learning by doing” Add the additional reading noted in the chart at the end to stretch them and accelerate growth.
To provide a fruitful, easy to use way of teaching. Now leaders are freed from the weekly drive to prepare a lesson for the group so they can devote more time to their inner life. “Study for yourself and teach for others.” Study as deeply as you wish, but only bring what is helpful to release active learning in the group. In time, this style will mean less prep time for the teacher and more impact for the group. Win/Win.
This reproducible model naturally provides opportunities to multiply more leaders through on-the-job-training. Model what you want to reproduce.
Theses “Companions” also model a flexible strategy to disciple anyone at any level in any culture…one chapter of Scripture plus an outside reading to help take off our old lens and change how we think. “DiscipleMaking Companions” sow this strategy with its initial paragraph. I have written booklets to parallel each of the eight “sprints” (chart at end).
To accelerate these in learning, I have interwoven cutting edge scientific studies on how people best learn in the fabric of “Companion toward LifeChange.” This aligns with recent studies on how our brain works so that our hard work brings more spiritual return. Now we can align with high-leverage learning that shapes and forms us. Together with our hard work, these “companions” can move us as learners from Jesus’ “Come & See” training stage to the higher commitment in “Come & Follow” and then on to Jesus’ “Come & Be with Me” training.
Healthy spiritual learning is not primarily knowledge-based, but putting into action what we are learning so we see Reality more fully and accurately. This more active, natural learning style “flips” traditional learning, using the learning tool, S-T-U-D-Y. Instead of knowledge-based learning, “flip” learning to doing-based learning as each pre-prepares. Come alongside so each member might:
Hear God during the week through His Word (“S-T-U-D” in
Respond to God by doing “Y” in S-T-U-D-Y: “Your Response” prior to group). When a group is new, I let them know we will begin next week with their “Y,” so come prepared. We learn by doing.
Debrief together as we reflect on what we learned from what we did. We also accelerate learning by sharing, together in group and also to at least one person outside.
First think “layer learning,” building an accessible foundation for lifelong life-learning. Then build upon it.
How do we do this practically with the 5-week “Companions”? What are the “nuts & bolts”? When I teach, I think through the dual lens of “S-T-U-D-Y” & “Debrief.”
First, assign the passage at the end of the prior week.
Now each group member may read the passage and work through S-T-U-D-Y with the passage during the week (top line in diagram). The short summary, the questions and the quotes are all designed to help dig a bit deeper into the text during the week. Each member determines for themselves how much time and effort they invest in this season in their lives. When we gather, first take a brief time for relational connecting. Brief only because this style of learning naturally provides crucial relational connections around Scripture. Koinonia in community is a key ingredient for learning.
Second, each week I go through the same five bullet points under “Dialog” at the bottom of the page.
Teaching is initially “drawing out” what God has placed in others, then, if necessary, “putting in” if key concepts are not yet formed. Learning theory has discovered, and observation has confirmed, that our learning accelerates as we verbalize what God has done in us. This is the aim of Debrief at the bottom of the page. Then, only as necessary, I also “put in” any essential they may be missing with a short “burst” of teaching. Using the same format each week also provides a reproducible model to equip and release others to lead (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Our level of buy-in or ownership is a large factor in our spiritual health. Participation increases buy-in (“Weigh-in leads to buy-in”). So over time, I want to shift the group from less pre-preparation during the week to more prep, and from less interaction during the group time to more. ‘
This process can be a fun, relational and highly active, easily reproducible learning experience within a group setting without requiring professionally trained teachers.
We do these five bullet points under “Discuss” every week to model a consistent pattern for dynamic growth and easier reproduction of teachers (in the S-T-U-D-Y/Discuss rhythm).
Sow gratefulness to dispel the “grumpies” and attune our heart with the Lord.
Retell last week’s passage. Retelling in our own words is a great way to review naturally, and review is a key to filing info into that “must not forget” portion of our brains for easier retrieval. Also tell personal stories from your “I will…” response or from your “one thing to one person” interaction. Both these sow the doing in DID LifeChange deeply into our lives.
Read the assigned chapter around the circle out loud (1 Timothy 4:13). If a new person comes, first give them S-T-U-D-Y, encouraging them to write down any thoughts as we read around. Let each know they are free to say “pass” at any time. This makes an easy entry for new people to enter the dialog, or for those who have not prepared.
Participate together in the give-&-take of community learning using S-T-U-D-Y. Encourage voluntary sharing of what impacted each participant, with no pressure…and some may come unprepared. Emphasize the “Your Response” since LifeChange accelerates as we put knowledge into practice in our everyday life. If the group is new, I normally give a heads-up the week before that we will begin with the “Y” next week.
Pray personal & community requests and minister to one another as the Spirit leads, all for LifeChange over time. It’s important to focus the prayers of the group on personal requests, those that impact the one requesting, or on a community need that may lead to mission.
Once this style of teaching/learning roots itself deeply in a group, the teacher’s preparation takes less time and brings about more LifeChange, although it’s fine to study more deeply for yourself. As a teacher, you are still part of the group so share insights. Do it though in short “bursts” of thought.
I usually wait for others to share first. I have noticed that if I begin by sharing my insight, this may shut down others. Aim to release in each one a thirst and joy for lifelong life-learning in God’s Word. I believe this “active, natural learning” style in the 21st century resembles what Jesus did when He sent His disciples out on short term missions. He then gathered them back to “debrief” what they experienced (Luke 10:17-24).
All the world then became Jesus’ classroom.
To “DiscipleMaking Companion.”