A Bible Study Format for Adults

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I am immersed in the world of Children’s Ministry, but sometimes I am reminded that there are adults in the world.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to lead some breakout workshops for adults at a family camp. I will admit that I was a little nervous because I am more “at home” in front of a thousand kids than I am in front of ten adults.

Thankfully, I just happen to be taking a class this semester called “Adult Learning Foundations” at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. As I was preparing for the class with the readings, I came across some very helpful points.

First of all, adults learn differently than children. And secondly, adults are at a stage in life where they learn best by being active contributors to the learning experience (rather than passive receivers of information). Kids learn well that way too, but there is a sliding scale (a continuum, if you will) where kids need more directives than adults due to their stages of maturity. As kids grow up, they need less and less directives and more and more responsibility to participate and contribute to the learning process.

Adults are adults. So they are ready to learn by essentially teaching themselves in collaboration with other adult learners. The teacher’s role is then more of a coordinator – a co-equal who knows how to both lead and learn alongside of the students.

Ok. Done with the theory stuff. Here’s what I did at the adult workshop I was asked to lead (informed by my readings):

I decided to lead the adults in an interactive Bible Study on the book of Jonah. We had about 20 adults in the room, so I split the group up into four smaller groups, with each group at a circle table. I began with some instructions for our time together and then joined one of the tables as a participant of that table.

I gave each table the job of reading and inspecting one chapter in the book of Jonah (there are four chapters in the book). I told them to read through their chapter as a group and then ask five simple questions of the text. I got these questions from a friend who in turn got them from a Bible Study program of which I do not know the source. Apparently the original program had six questions and so I came up with five questions based on the original six. If these look familiar to you, please let me know the source of these questions:

1. What does the passage teach us about man (humanity)?
2. What does the passage teach us about God?
3. What is something new you learned from the passage?
4. What do you not understand about the passage?
5. How might you apply the passage to your daily life?

The groups spent about 30 minutes working through these questions. Then we spent about 15 minutes going around and sharing with one another what we all discovered in the passage. Each table had a chance to share one response to each of the five questions with the entire group.

It turned out great! We all shared our questions and new things we learned in the reading. I think it was because every adult participated and inspected the Scriptures on their own. They also had a chance to collaborate with others in their inductive reading of the passages. I think this is a great way to allow God to speak to us through Scriptures: both individually and collectively. The great thing is that different people see different things in the same text based on their own life experiences and the things that the Spirit illuminates to them in the reading of the passage.

For me as the teacher, I was able to cooperate and learn alongside of the “students” and enter into the process as a learner myself. I received very positive feedback and I plan on using this method many more times in the future and learning how to better implement it.

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Jesse

Jesse Joyner travels nationwide performing a comedy juggling act for family and kids events. He is also working towards his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Kezzie.

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