Bible Teaching Methods: Methodology for Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers

This Month's Bible Teaching Method:

Work Group

A small group within the class works toward the accomplishment of a common goal through the cooperation and contribution of the different members of the group.

In Choosing Teaching Methodology consider your group factors:

Click on a factor or scroll down.

Teacher Training Worksheet Based on These Group Factors:
Tips for Choosing & Using Methods

Group size 
Each individual work group should be limited to no more than 5-6 members to allow for maximum participation of each person. A class can be divided into any number of work groups so this method can be used within a medium to large size class.

Resources needed 
Materials needed will depend on the goal to be accomplished. Research materials may be needed. Any supplies that are necessary to accomplish the task will be needed.

Objective targeted 
Work groups provide opportunities for students to gain knowledge and/or to put knowledge they have already gained into practice. Because work groups require cooperation among its members, attitudes will indirectly be challenged.

Use modeled 
Work groups are probably more common in the workplace and in higher education than in the church educational setting. Work groups have been formed as an outgrowth of a committee to accomplish certain tasks.

Proximity of others 
How disruptive work groups would be to neighboring classes could depend on the nature of their task and how many groups are meeting.

Finances needed 
Some cost could be incurred if research materials must be purchased or rented or if the task(s) requires supplies for its accomplishment.

Age level 
Work groups are best with teens and adults but can be used with upper grade school students if given sufficient supervision.

This is a student-centered, expressional method that requires much dialogue between students in the group.

Time required 
This method will often take an entire session and sometimes require extra time outside of class or in subsequent sessions depending on the task.

Openness of group 
Students who tend to be more reluctant in contributing could struggle to fit in. This method will be hardest for those who tend to be more insecure, feeling as though everyone else knows more than they do or that their contribution is insignificant.

Room size 
The room must be large enough for each group to work on their task. The required room size will depend on the nature of the task(s) and/or the number of groups.

Skills needed 

Teacher Responsibilities: Though work groups are a student-centered method, the teacher should not use this method as a time to slack off. The teacher is still an integral part of the process, simply not the center.

  • The teacher determines when a work group will be useful in reinforcing the learning. Sometimes it will be a planned method that is formally structured as an outgrowth of the teacher's study and preparation. Sometimes it will be a spontaneous assignment of a task to a group of students to take learning to the next level and then report to the rest of the class, usually an outgrowth of class discussion.
  • The teacher provides the content needed for students to accomplish the task(s) assigned to their work groups.
  • The teacher instructs students on the ground rules and process.
  • The teacher determines how to divide the class into groups. Subgroups can be formed using random strategies like counting off or picking a color. Subgroups can be pre-determined by the teacher. Subgroups can be students' choice. Group composition and/or the complexity of the task could be factors in determining how to group students.
  • The teacher moves from group to group to offer clarification or assistance where needed. The teacher should help by making observations and asking questions rather than telling students what to do.
  • The teacher gathers the group back together and guides the process of having groups report, demonstrate, or discuss what they have accomplished.
  • The teacher summarizes and then helps students determine if further study is needed or how they can use what they have done.

Ground Rules: While you want to allow freedom of expression and not put on too many constraints, some ground rules are necessary for effective use of this methodology. The following ground rules will help avoid or prevent conflicts and will help students know how to deal with disagreements, dawdling, digressions, and dominant personalities.

  • Common goal among group members
  • Participation of all group members
  • Respect for all group members
  • Accountability of all group members

Suggested Process: Providing a structure for the way they proceed will help ensure successful accomplishment of the goal.

  1. Cohesiveness developed
    The groups needs a sense of familiarity and feeling of safety with one another. Good interpersonal relationships among members tend to increase group productivity. If group members do not all know one another they should take turns giving their names. Have them start their time by briefly sharing something about themselves. The teacher may suggest what they should share, something pertaining to the task at hand if possible.
    The group needs to know what is expected of them. The teacher should provide instructions prior to dividing the class into groups and then give a brief recap once students are in groups. Clearly laying out not only the ground rules and process but also the reasoning behind them could help in a number of ways. 1) The more impatient members who want to rush right into action and bypass much of the process will be challenged to bridle their impulses. 2) The group will be reminded that all group members are important and that no person is to be ignored and no contribution is to be ridiculed.
  2. Coordinator determined
    Most groups need someone to coordinate the process and help keep them on track. You can let a leader naturally surface in the group. You can assign a leader. You can let them choose a leader themselves by consensus or majority vote. The same facilitator can lead the whole process or you can delegate different leaders for different aspects or phases of the task. Group composition and/or skills required could enter into the decision on how the coordinator is determined.
  3. Contributions in planning deliberately sought
    Using the brainstorming technique can help secure maximum participation. Everyone would give their ideas which are written down and not brought under scrutiny in the brainstorming stage. Encourage respect for one another and their ideas.
  4. Consensus determines the final plan
    After all contributions have been heard the group should examine them in terms of how they will help accomplish their goal. If consensus cannot be reached then a vote could be taken. The decision would then be based on the majority. Measures like this prevent a dominating personality from making all the decisions.
  5. Contributions to accomplish the goal delineated
    The plan to reach the goal needs to be broken down into small phases or aspects. Often the details are best accomplished by individuals or pairs rather than as a whole group. Seek maximum participation in having different members of the group responsible for the varying parts. Because learning styles and gifting differ among group members, the ideal would be to determine each member's contribution according to what fits them the best, though that is not always possible.
  6. Collaboration deemed essential
    Communication and cooperation among members is essential to working as a team. Though individual members may have specific tasks to accomplish, group cohesiveness needs to be maintained. Members need to make observations and clarifications with one another. They need to hold each other accountable for keeping to a timeline and for quality in their work.
    Individuals need to bring their individual parts in line with the common goal. This may mean shared resources. Members should be encouraged to seek each other's opinions regarding their specific tasks. They need to be supportive of one another.
  7. Compilation that depicts team work
    If subgroups or individuals within the work group were responsible for certain aspects, it all needs to be brought together in the end in a format ready for reporting or demonstrating to the rest of the class. The objective of this method is to work together toward a common goal and that should be reflected in a unified end result.
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(Last updated 10/01/16)