How do feel when you’re around someone who dominates the conversation, someone who doesn’t let you “get a word in edgewise”? You can’t participate in the conversation; a dialogue becomes a monologue. Sometimes Sunday School can be like that. What would be different if we expect members to participate? When you, the teacher, expect members to participate, you will:
- Expect them to prepare. Give the members resources in advance to study the lesson and be prepared.
- Sit down. When you stand in front of the members, you communicate that you expect them to sit quietly and listen.
- Sit in a circle. Place chairs in a circle where everyone can see each other rather than in rows facing the teacher.
- Ask questions. If the teachers talks all the time no one else can participate (except to listen).
- Ask “better” questions. Thought provoking questions that cannot simply be answered with “yes” or “no” will encourage thinking and participation. Questions that move beyond mere facts to interpretation and feeling encourage participation.
- Allow “wrong answers.” Some answers will be clearly unscriptural and will need to be gently corrected. But if you correct members every time they don’t see things exactly like you do, you will stifle participation.
- Embrace silence. If you ask a thought provoking question, it may take time for members to answer. Be quiet and give them some time.
- Keep the class size small. With twenty people it would take twenty minutes for everyone to speak for just a minute. Imagine if the class is even larger.
- Use smaller groups. Some members are uncomfortable speaking even to a small group. But if you allow them get in pairs or triplets for some learning activities, they will participate.
Most folks realize that kids need to be actively involved in learning. We forget that this is true for folks of all ages. If we want to see spiritual transformation in the lives of our members, we will expect them to participate in the Bible study.
By the way, we can also expect members to participate in caring and praying for one another as well as in inviting and welcoming new persons. But those are topics for another day.
Bob Wood is the Church Growth Ministries Team Leader, Baptist State Convention of Michigan. He seeks to help churches build up believers and in doing so build up the body of Christ.