Share Learning, Not Ignorance
Dr. Dennis E. Williams
People learn better when they are actively involved in the process of learning. But how can you encourage them to share their learning without merely sharing ignorance?
The leader can structure a Bible study to encourage clear thinking. Take a study of Acts 5:1-11, for example. The leader can divide the group into two subgroups. One group might discuss what sin Ananias and Sapphira actually committed. The other group might look at the church’s response to their sin.
The leader should clearly articulate how much time the group will have to do this, and precisely what they should accomplish during the time. The assignment for each sub-group is quite specific and requires them to study only the facts. The groups are not encouraged to interpret any facts before they study them. Often, it is when these two steps are done backward that shared learning deteriorates into shared ignorance.
Bring the two groups back together and have them share their observations. Encourage them to listen carefully-especially to what the other sub-group found. Then ask for ideas about what the passage can teach them as a group and as individuals. This can be a brainstorm session in which each idea is written down. After the list of ideas is complete, the leader or a designated group member can guide the group through an evaluation of each suggestion. This exercise will help the group come to conclusions together about the importance of what they have discovered. The group will often narrow the list down to the most specific interpretations they’ve found.
Finally, the leader can ask each member to choose one or more items from the list that represent a crucial need for application in his or her own life and then challenge that person to live it out in the next week. Note that the challenge is one that the group itself has developed, yet it focuses on individual needs.
The leader’s role is important-but it means nothing without the participation of group members. The leader is there to monitor the discussion so that important concepts are emphasized and inappropriate concepts are corrected.
These simple suggestions can go a long way toward making group time work productively and significantly in members’ lives. The group does not share ignorance, instead it brings a variety of ideas into a process that ensures real learning and significant application for each member.
A Six-Step Method Of Bible Study
By Susan Bishop
“I wish I could study the Bible because I want to, rather than because I feel guilty if! don’t.” With that comment Marsha heaved a sigh and looked around the circle. Many nodded their heads. They knew it was important to have a specific place and time for Bible study, but the third ingredient was missing: how to go about it.
The group talked that day about the very real need for a Bible study method that was enjoyable. The plan they came up with, jokingly nicknamed “RCDCQP,” is a simple, six-step method. It can be completed in as little as one sitting or as many as five, depending on the amount of time you have each day. Each letter stands for one step.
As an illustration, let’s use Isaiah 26:3. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” This verse is written in the Record section in the example. If you like to compare translations, write down other translations as well.
Circle the key words in the verse. In Isaiah 26:3, you could circle keep, perfect, peace, mind, steadfast, trusts.
Use your dictionary to look up all the words you have circled. For example, the dictionary lists several definitions for keep, but the ones that best fit the usage in Isaiah 26:3 are, “to cause to remain in a specified condition; to guard or protect.” Write that definition down next to keep. Proceed through your circled words until you are finished. Sometimes the dictionary will give a synonym of the word. Look up that definition also and write it down. Record only the definitions that help you understand the meaning of the verse.
Use your concordance to look up the words you circled in step 2. Pick only the verses that help you understand the study passage better. Write the reference and next to it a phrase telling what the verse says to you. If you have a study Bible, use the cross-reference texts in the margin. As you practice cross-referencing, sometimes a related verse will pop into your head. Record it as well.
Five: Questions or Comments
Any time a question or comment comes to mind, write it down. If you have no questions or comments in this section by the end of step 4, use the following questions to get started: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
This step ties all the other steps together. Look over the dictionary definitions and the cross-reference texts again. Now, instead of the word keep, for example, use the definition of keep. Tie it in with the definition of perfect and peace and you will be amazed at the meaning coming through a single verse.
For example, Isaiah 26:3 could be stated like this: “You, God, will guard me from disturbing thoughts or emotions and cause me to remain mentally and emotionally whole and healthy if I will keep my feelings, my thoughts, the way I behave, and the way I reason all focused on You. As I do this, I will trust You and feel that I can depend on You.”
Using Dialogue To Encourage Application
By Tom Lovejoy
When the apostle Paul arrived in a new city he would customarily meet with the religious leaders and “reason with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). In the original language, the verb in this phrase is dialegomai, from which we derive our word dialogue.
Paul would engage in question-and-answer discussions with the Jews. In response to the dialogue, some would be persuaded and would join Paul, and some would remain antagonistic. No matter what, the response always involved action. This is a characteristic of good dialogue: It always produces a response in attitude, action, or both.
Good dialogue requires diligent preparation by the leader. Like Paul, the leader must have studied and internalized the passage and applied its truths to his or her own life. He must have prepared questions in advance and be skilled in formulating extemporaneous questions in response to ideas and suggestions offered by the group. He must do as little talking as possible and prayerfully listen to group members, seeking to be sensitive to real needs which may be unspoken.
Application Through Dialogue
Properly guided through a Bible study, group members will arrive at an understanding of a Scripture passage as it relates to attitudes or behavior toward God, family members, our Christian friends, or those in our lives who do not yet know Christ as Savior and Lord. The dialogue leader can stimulate group members to apply biblical principles by asking questions that prompt individuals to discuss them and put them into action.
Here are some sample questions:
* In your own words, how would you summarize the main truth in this passage?
* Is there anything in your situation that is similar to the situation addressed in this passage?
* How does the principle you have just stated apply to your situation?
* Can you remember anything that has happened in your own life that might illustrate how this principle works out in reality?
* How will you apply this truth or principle to a circumstance or person in your circle of influence this week?
* Will you write down one commitment to God that you are willing to make regarding a change in attitude or behavior this week?
* How can we pray with you that God will provide the resources you need this week to keep your commitment?
* Will you take some time at our next meeting to share with us the results of the commitment you are making tonight?
This article “Share Learning, Not Ignorance” compiled by Deena Davis is excerpted from Discipleship Journal’s Best Small-Group Ideas Vol. 1.