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

This Month's Bible Teaching Method:

Modeling

Students actively observe the teacher's life as a visual representation of truth lived out by a real person in real life.
 

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
This method is best accomplished one-on-one or in a small group but can be done in a large group through real life illustrations used by the teacher to share his/her experience.

Resources needed
Generally nothing more than what is naturally a part of a real life situation is needed.

Objective targeted
Modeling can be a good means of reinforcing truth that has been learned. The ultimate objective would be that students, after having observed and reflected on what the teacher did, do the same. Application of a truth may need to be modeled a number of times before students assimilate it into their own lives. Modeling is a motivational method, showing students that living out the truth is possible.

Use modeled
Jesus modeled kingdom living for His disciples, particularly the twelve who walked with Him through everyday life. While Jesus spent much time verbally instructing them, His actions often fueled a desire within them to learn more. For example, after seeing Jesus pray, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray." Sometimes they asked questions after observing or listening to Him. Jesus modeled ministry for quite some time before He sent them out to do it themselves.
 
The idea behind having an apprentice come alongside of a person in the workforce is not only to receive instruction but to observe the real life example of a more knowledgeable or skilled person.

Proximity of others
Closeness to another class is not an issue with this method as students are watching the teacher in real life or listening to the teacher describe his/her real life experience.

Finances needed
This method should not incur any costs unless it involves taking the students on an excursion with the teacher requiring meals, transportation, and/or lodging.

Age level
This method is effective with all ages. Infants and toddlers learn many of their basic skills through watching others so from an early age people are already learning this way.
 
The younger the student, the more you may want to give them only a part of the content and then let them see the application of that truth modeled before adding more content.
 
Also, you need to make sure you choose an experience that is age appropriate for your students. For example, if you are using this method with children, be careful you don't bore them by doing something interesting only to adults. Play is a young child's work. Let them see you model truth doing something to which they can relate.

Categorization
Modeling is very impressional as students learn by watching the teacher. If feedback and questions are encouraged along the way, dialogue may ensue as well.

Time required
Putting a time limit on this method is difficult because it depends on whether a teacher is merely verbally using himself as an illustration or taking his students with him into a real life experience.

Openness of group
This is a method that often happens without students even realizing that they are being taught.

Room size
The size of the room is not relevant to this method as it may take place outside of the classroom wherever the teacher is living out the truth.

Skills needed
 

Reinforcement of truth when using this method:

Make sure, in using modeling as a teaching method, that you structure for a situation that will reinforce or demonstrate a truth related to what students have been learning. For example, if you are teaching about benevolence, you might take your students to a rescue mission or nursing home. What will distinguish this from being simply a field trip or service project is focusing their attention on what you are doing to show the love of Christ to others as you lend a helping hand to people in need. The intent of modeling is for students to learn from your example.
 
While a teacher's life always either underscores the truth positively or sets a negative example, modeling as a teaching method is more intentional than incidental. Opportunities for students to observe certain truths lived out in real life are purposefully planned.
 
 

Requirements to effectively use this method:

Time - Unless students see you in real life outside of the normal classroom setting, modeling many of the truths for them is not possible, at least not in the most effective way.
 
Being available outside of the classroom requires a time commitment from you. The investment, however, will be well spent.
Transparency - Unless students see the real you, they may view this experience as nothing more than a contrived set up to demonstrate or illustrate how it ought to be.
 
Students often see through a teacher who is not authentic and put less value on what is said or done.
 
Ideally modeling should be of a good example. If you make a mistake in the process of modeling a truth for them, admit the failure and show them a repentant heart pleasing to God. Make amends or correct your course.
Totality - Unless students see the right heart attitudes to go along with modeled behavior, they may end up getting the wrong message.
 
Remember that though you are intentionally providing an opportunity for them to observe a certain truth in action, they will be picking up lessons from the totality of who you are . . . the unplanned things you say and do as well as the planned.
 
They will observe the negative along with the positive so planning a time for feedback and talking about the totality of what they have seen may help clear up some unintended and undesired lessons.
Truth - Unless students see the truth behind the action they may never get beyond the teacher to the God who by "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3).
 
Modeling may be called incarnational teaching wherein truth is embodied in the life of the teacher. The essence of Jesus' incarnation was that "the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us" (Jn. 1:14). As such He was able to say "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9).
 
Unlike Jesus, we are not God Himself in the flesh. We need to back up what we do with the Word of God that points people to God. Incorporating interaction with students about not only what you are doing (process) but also why you are doing it (perspective based on truth) may prove to be most helpful. Think aloud so students not only pick up what you are doing but also perceive attitudes and the thinking process that goes into what you are doing. Guide the conversation throughout the experience to provide explanations and to allow them to ask questions and get needed clarification.
 
You can also lay the groundwork by priming them on what they should be observing based on God's Word before you go into the real life situation.
Trust - Unless students see you as someone worthy of emulating, they may go no further than observing.
 
Remember that the ultimate is that after gaining their attention through your example, that they remember this direct, purposeful learning experience and are challenged to go and reproduce this behavior in their own lives. If they doubt or question your actions and even more critically your motivations, they will not be motivated or inspired to follow your example.
 
Developing a good relationship with your students will help to build trust within them. Living a life of integrity with them that flows out of Christ-likeness will earn you the right to say to them what the Apostle Paul told his pupils -- "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." This kind of teaching may have a greater impact than any other methodology.
 

Reality in using this method:

While taking the students with you into a real life situation is the most effective means of modeling, it may not always be logistically possible. Other ways of focusing in on the real life of a teacher may be:
  1. having someone video or audiotape you in a real life situation for students to watch and listen
  2. setting up a simulation as close to reality as possible and letting students observe you in that setting
  3. sharing verbally or in writing as an illustration or case study about what you did in real life, testifying of what God did in and through you
Remember, though, that the effectiveness of this method decreases the further you get from real life in real time.
 
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(Last updated 7/01/19)