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

This Month's Bible Teaching Method:

Buzz Groups

The class is divided into clusters of 3-6 students in each and assigned a subject to discuss. Typically a person is assigned in each group as a recorder to take notes and report conclusions to the large group after discussion in small groups.

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Group size 
This method can be used with any class large enough to be divided into at least two to three subgroups. This means your class should have six or more students. Buzz groups are particularly useful in very large classes when you want students to engage in discussion but the size of the group prohibits maximum participation.

Resources needed 
Each group will need paper and pens/pencils for the recorder to keep notes. You may possibly provide a handout with the problem or question written on it. You may wish to list the topic and/or guidelines on a chalk or white board or on a flip chart.

Objective targeted 
The primary objective of buzz groups may be to gain information or to affect feelings dependent on the nature of the question or problem presented. If the issue is debatable or controversial, you are seeking to stir up their attitudes and feelings as people give their opinions. If the issue is more factual, you are simply asking them to pull their knowledge together to arrive at a conclusion. They may be solving a problem or coming up with a list of ideas.

Use modeled 
Buzz Groups have been used in education, particularly in large assemblies to enable discussion. The method has undoubtedly sometimes been used in the Church to enhance lecture though perhaps not called by this name.

Proximity of others 
Depending on the number of groups you have, this method can get a little loud as you hear the "buzz" of many people talking at once. Judgment must be used if you are in close proximity to another class with minimal sound proofing between you.

Finances needed 
Cost to use this methodology should be minimal.

Age level 
This method may be used with grade school particularly at the junior age level, with youth, and with adult classes.

Buzz groups are interactive with communication going in multiple directions. As a group discussion method, it is student-oriented and expressional.

Time required 
Plan on a minimum of 10-30 minutes. Depending on the topic, purpose, and age of the students, discussion may take a longer period of time but generally would last only about four to ten minutes. Be sure to figure into your schedule sufficient time for giving instructions, breaking into groups, the discussion itself, and having groups report back to the whole class.

Openness of group 
If never done before, this method may seem threatening but once students get into their discussion they usually lose their resistance to it. Breaking into small groups takes away some of the threat people feel in participating in discussion. People are usually more prone to speak up in a smaller group than in a larger group.

Room size 
A medium to large size room is best to allow for breaking up into small groups with enough distance between groups so as not to distract one another. A room factor to be considered is whether you have moveable or immoveable chairs. Moveable chairs are preferable with this method. If you do not have this kind of flexibility, you may need to limit the number of students in each group.

Skills needed 
  1. Give:
    • Give the class content on which to base their discussion. This can be through lecture, film, a reading, or other means of presenting information. You may occasionally start the class in buzz groups as a warm-up exercise or ice-breaker without giving input but normally this method would be used later in the session.
    • Give the topic for discussion. All groups may discuss the same topic or you could have each group look at a different aspect of the same issue. Providing the question or problem in writing helps alleviate questions about what they are to discuss. You could write the question on the chalk or white board or on a flip chart. You could give each group a handout.
    • Give clear guidelines including the goal for using this method, how to proceed, time limits, and what is expected of them in the end. Also instruct them on selecting a recorder who will later report. Typically this is the same person but it does not have to be.
  2. Guard:
    • Guard against wasted time. Know ahead of time how you will divide the class into their groups. Sometimes you may want to number them off. Other times you may want to implement a color coding system to determine groups. And, at times you may want them to simply gather with those closest to them. Instruct students to quickly get into their groups and begin immediately. Also know ahead of time how to locate the groups so you can provide instructions that will limit confusion. You will need to be patient with students and plan for it to take some time but you can minimize the time by pre-planning and good instructions.
    • Guard against discussion dominators. When someone monopolizes, others will often not even think about what to say. Before beginning the discussion you may want to ask students to spend one minute in silent reflection on the issue before anyone speaks.
  3. Go:
    • Go from group to group in the beginning to clarify instructions if needed. You may need to help them get started if they are struggling by asking a few leading questions.
    • Go from group to group throughout the discussion time to listen and observe but do not intrude or interfere. Your job is to keep things going, not to provide answers.
  4. Gather:
    • Gather students together at the appropriate time. Know when to stop the discussion. You may set a time limit of four to ten minutes or more depending on the age of the group, the topic, and your time frame. Or, you may determine when it is time to stop by observing when groups seem to be slowing down. It is not essential that each group exhausts all ideas as you will be pulling thoughts together from all the groups.
    • Gather students together by first giving a one to two minute warning signal of which you informed them prior to breaking into their groups. You may switch the lights off and on or make a noise of some sort.
    • Gather students into the large group setting again for the purpose of pulling their thoughts together. Although it is not always necessary to come together as a large group in the end, it can prove to be helpful. If time is limited or the class is large, you may not have every group report but may instead ask for a few volunteers. You could ask groups to share only that which would not be repetitive from earlier reports. You will then summarize the reports and suggest where to go from there whether that be additional study or a life application.
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(Last updated 6/01/17)