Memorable Teaching Moments (or, “Why I wore swim fins to Bible study”)

By Lynn Pryor

“Who was your favorite teacher in school? And more importantly, why was he or she your favorite?”

This is not really Lynn Pryor

This is not really Lynn Pryor

I asked that question at a conference once, and the responses came quick. I heard stories of a third grade teacher from 40 years earlier. A college physics professor. A high school English teacher who made reading come alive.

As they shared their stories, a common theme became apparent. They remembered fondly teachers who did something creative to engage their students. They made learning fun.

What would our groups look like if we injected a little “fun” in the way we discovered biblical truth?

It’s easier to read background material and spit it back to the group (i.e., lecture). It’s far better to bring them into a discussion and let them discover on their own the meaning and application of the passage. But if you periodically added a different element, something a little “off the wall,” it would help them see the principle or application in a whole different light … and remember it better.

There is a host of ways to insert creative teaching, but let’s keep this short. Let me share one approach I find helpful and memorable.

Use objects to communicate.

  • In a discussion of John 8 (the woman caught in adultery), I passed out rocks. “As I read this passage, look at the rock in your hand. What thoughts come to mind?”
  • In preparing a study of Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4), we discussed the obvious idea of bringing water bottles. We came up with a better idea, though: serve snacks at the beginning but offer no water or drinks. Consequently, the group was more attuned to thirst and the value of water.
  • I’ve worn an odd assortment of clothes (including swim flippers) during a study of Colossians 3, where Paul called us to take off the clothes of the old nature and put on the new. (My point: We look really odd when we try to wear the new nature in Christ but also choose to wear and flaunt pieces of the old nature.)
  • I’ve taught about Samson using the jawbone of a … well, it was a cow, but it could’ve been a donkey.
  • I even brought a lamb to my group when we were discussing the Passover. That was over 20 years ago, and people in that group still remember the study.

We all learn from discussions, but objects engage our senses—sight, smell, touch—and consequently engage our thinking on a different level. So look at the passage and see what objects come to mind.

This is not something to do every week. Nor is it something to be forced. But when you can use a physical object to communicate, you grab their attention. The group is pulled into the passage, and because they will remember the point of the study better, they also remember better what they should do with it.

Creative teaching leads to transformational learning.

I’m always looking for good ideas, so how have you used a physical object with a particular passage of Scripture?

(This is.)

(This is.)

Lynn Pryor is the Publishing Team Leader with Bible Studies for Life and a veteran of a gazillion Bible study groups. A Texan who has made Tennessee home for almost 20 years, Lynn’s passion is engaging people in small group Bible study. In addition to two young adult sons, Lynn and his wife have a dysfunctional beagle.

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