Your job as a Sunday School teacher or small group leader is not to show everyone how smart you are, how much you studied, or your skill as a communicator. Your job is to help those in your care take steps toward becoming more like Jesus. Your Bible study time together should prepare group members to live obedient, joy-filled lives. Increasing participation is a step in that direction!
In my experience, the problem is seldom the curriculum or the Bible passage chosen. It is seldom the amount of time spent together. Instead, it is something that is missing or in short supply: participation by group members. The problem is usually a Bible study plan in which the group leader does all the thinking and talking.
The more group members participate in the Bible study time, the more they make the experience their own. They tend to listen more to what God is saying to them. Participation raises interest, conversation, and retention. Group members understand better what is taught and how it applies to them. As a result, they are more likely to live out the truth.
In many cases, we have trained group members to “sit still while we instill.” Such approaches quench participation. Instead, disciple-making group leaders adjust their plans. They add participation-generating plans like these to their Bible studies:
- talk no more than 50% of group time
- ask great questions
- ask questions or make statements allowing time to think about or apply that truth before responding
- give questions/assignments to subgroups (pairs, triads, quads–no more than 6)
- enlist people to help with sections of the Bible study
- involve more of the senses than hearing
- give the group an assignment while together or during the week (for the next group time)
- ask individuals to debate or act out a biblical scene or a modern scene related to the Bible study (and then debrief)
- ask participants to practice the truth during the week and report on it
- enlist group members to read scripture and pray related to the topic/truth for the day.
Raise the level of engagement and you will increase interest, retention, and hopefully obedience. Keep efforts focused on God and His Word. While it will take more time to plan and carry out plans like these, the results will be worth every minute invested!
Make plans this week for increasing participation. Start slowly and build up. Watch as interest and disciples grow. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!