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

This Month's Bible Teaching Method:

Chain Reaction Forum

The class is divided into small groups that are each assigned a different aspect of a controversial issue for which they develop a list of questions. After a set time the entire class reassembles. One member of each group asks a panel of knowledgeable people their questions. Another member of each group asks clarifying or thought provoking questions after the initial response of the panel. After all groups have asked their questions, a designated member of each group summarizes what was discussed pertaining to their aspect of the topic.

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Tips for Choosing & Using Methods

Group size
To use this method you need a class large enough to be divided into several sub-groups with a minimum of 3-5 participants in each group. The chain reaction forum is ideal for larger classes.

Resources needed
Small groups will need paper and pens/pencils for making a list of questions. Three to five people knowledgeable of the subject must be recruited for the panel. A table for each group to sit around is beneficial but not absolutely essential.

Objective targeted
Using this method will help increase knowledge of a subject from a variety of angles in a systematic way.

Use modeled
This method rarely gets used in the church setting but could be quite effective in dealing with certain issues like abortion, creation, euthanasia, and the like.

Proximity of others
When students break into smaller groups to develop questions, you will have a louder volume due to a number of people talking at once but it still should not be excessive.

Finances needed
Cost should be minimal unless you are paying people to be on the panel.

Age level
Chain reaction forums work best with youth and adult ages.

This method tends to be interactive and group-oriented in the first phase. During the question/answer segment, it will be two-way communication.

Time required
Plan on this method taking the entire session, easily from 60 - 75 minutes. If your time is limited you could have groups develop their questions in one session and then have the panel phase in the next session. In doing this you run the risk of some students not being present for both sessions and you also lose some continuity.

Openness of group
Because developing questions requires that your students must think, some students who are used to having the teacher think for them may be frustrated by this process. Most students will enjoy the panel discussion unless they were unwillingly put on the spot to be one of the three from their group to participate in the panel phase.

Room size
You will need a larger room for this method. Students must be able to break into groups and you need to be able to set up a panel in the front.

Skills needed

Pre-Class Preparation:

  • Choose the topic. Make sure it is controversial, relevant, and multifaceted (3-6 aspects).
  • Choose panel members. Recruit 3-4 people who are knowledgeable of the subject. Make sure you choose people who can bring varied perspectives to the discussion. Inform the panel members of the various aspects for which questions will be developed. Also inform them of the procedure and their arrival time.
  • Choose the room setup. Where possible, set up the room so small groups can sit at tables. Put a written description of the aspect assigned to each group in the middle of their tables.
  • Choose the criteria for dividing into groups. You can randomly assign groups by numbering off or having them choose a color from a container. If you ask them to choose colors, you can have the tables marked by color so they know where to sit. You can pre-assign who will be in which group. You could do this by putting a placard on each table with a number and instruct students to go to the table of the number you assign to them. Or, you can let students choose which aspect of the topic interests them the most. If you do this, you will run the risk of having uneven sized groups, perhaps no one interested in some aspects, and/or of students choosing to go with friends more than the subject matter.

Procedure In Class:

  1. Introduce the topic.
  2. Instruct the students on the procedure. First give a general, over-all picture of what will be happening. Then give specific instructions for the first phase, that of breaking into groups and developing questions. They must first choose a person who will record and ask the questions, another person who will ask the follow-up questions, and a third person who will provide the summary for their aspect at the end of the session.
  3. Insure that students know what they are to be doing by floating from one group to the next. Clarify instructions. Help as needed but do not do the work for them.
  4. Inform students of when time is up. Giving a 1-2 minute forewarning is helpful.
  5. Introduce panel members.
  6. Instruct on and then moderate the procedure for this phase.
    • The assigned member of the first group asks their questions, one at a time, to which the panel responds. The assigned member of that group asks any clarifying or provoking questions to which the panel responds. Panel members are allowed brief final comments.
    • Each group follows this same procedure.
    • After all groups have asked their questions, the assigned person for each group summarizes their aspect of the topic based on discussion of their questions.
  7. Include an overall summary at the end of the session to tie everything together and perhaps to suggest where to go from there.


  • Evaluate the session as to whether your purpose was accomplished and how it could be improved the next time.
  • Express a special thank-you to panel members. This could be done in writing, by a phone call, with a monetary or other type of gift, or by taking them out for a meal.
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(Last updated 8/01/17)