This post answers the seventh question asked in Questions about Making Disciples Through Sunday School:
Are some teaching-learning methods more likely to increase retention, involvement, and discipleship?
The twenty questions there focus on how Sunday School can help the church carry out Jesus’ command in the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).
If you look through some of the blog posts listed at the bottom of this one, you will find my definition of the best teaching method. It is the one that communicates the truth of God’s Word in the best possible way to a specific group of people at a particular point in time. The method chosen should begin with sensitivity to God’s leadership in understanding the truth He is communicating in the chosen passage of scripture. The first question is this one:
What method will best communicate the truth?
The method chosen also takes into account the learners. What are their preferred learning styles? What are their affinities? What message do they need to hear? How will they hear it most clearly? So, the second question is this one:
What method will best communicate the truth to these learners?
The chosen method also takes into account circumstances surrounding those learners. What issues, stresses, and events are learners dealing with lately? How does God’s Word speak to the circumstances of the lives of individuals and the group as a whole? So the third question is this one:
What truth and method does God want learners to encounter in this lesson (even if it is not the one assigned)?
Aside from choosing the best method, some methods more naturally lend themselves for retention, involvement of learners, and making of disciples. Lecture communicates a lot of content but is very low in what most learners remember after the lesson. It is also low in learner involvement–usually only the teacher is involved in lecture. The method of question and answer is better for retention and involvement. Learners and teachers participate. The best questions require deeper thinking and more than yes/no answers.
Discussion, likewise, increases retention and involvement and often includes question and answer. The best discussions focus on God’s Word rather than opinion. Dividing a group into smaller groups increases involvement–often enabling more to participate and to feel comfortable doing so. Some learners will remember more from the small group part of the lesson than from the combined group.
Since 60% of learners today are visual, adding pictures, charts, maps, and video can spark interest and increase retention. Addressing more of the senses can heighten involvement and retention of learners. So adding a handout that requires writing, asking participants to act out a passage or scenario, or leading them to taste elements of the Passover adds retention and involvement.
In Part 2 of this series, I will list a bunch of teaching methods which can move learners toward greater involvement and retention. The bottom line is that the more they are involved, the more they are likely to retain (remember) and the more they are likely to do as a result. Discipleship takes steps forward as learners become more like Jesus through a growing relationship that obeys what He commanded (Matthew 28:20). What steps can you take this week to use teaching methods which increase retention and involvement of learners?