In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus sat among the thousands of people gathered. He looked out at the crowds; he saw that they were hungry. He saw that there was a great need that He could meet. And only He could meet it. It would take a miracle. While he could have fed the thousands by merely commanding food to appear in their hands, or snapping His fingers and commanding everyone’s stomach be full and the need for food to be removed, He chose to do it differently. He blessed what little food was available—five loaves and two fish, and gave the disciples the task of delivering what seemed to be an insufficient amount to the masses. When they were done serving, they had plenty left over. It was a miracle, but it was Jesus’ typical way of involving His followers in everything He did. He did the same thing when He turned water into wine by asking the people to fill the jugs with water (John 2:1-11). Jesus almost always included the people in what He was doing. Through these experiences, they learned far more than the fact that Jesus was all God and all man. They experienced their faith. They walked away having played a role in what God was up to.
When it comes to leading and teaching groups, we can learn a lot from Jesus’ process. Creating experiences is crucial to helping people learn and apply the Bible to their lives. Look at these two reasons you must create an experience with your group:
1. Experiences help learners more thoroughly understand the material. The disciples could have watched in awe as Jesus fed all the people. But by handing the food out themselves, they were able to see first-hand the power of what Jesus was doing. They were able to get up close and personal with those they fed. This experience went beyond watching a miracle to helping the them walk alongside the hungry. When the disciples reflected on this event, it would be very difficult to forget the many faces and stories Jesus allowed them to impact for His kingdom.
When your group experiences the session, they will have a better grasp on what you’re teaching and tend to remember the material long-term. Even more importantly, they will understand how to apply what they learn to their lives. It’s about more than just words spoken and concepts discussed. Through creating an experience, practical application has already been practiced and understood.
2. Experiences help create community. Think of some great experiences you’ve had: visiting a theme park, walking through a tragedy with others, spending time with your family at a special place. You draw closer to one another when you experience something together. Whether it is good or bad, when you walk through circumstances with others, you tend to have a deeper relationship with them. By creating experiences with your group, you’ll be fostering a deeper level of community. Using experiences as the foundation, you’ll be able to help your group grow together more quickly than with more traditional models of teaching. As they walk through experiences together, they will interact in ways that push them beyond surface-level learning.
Jesus used experiences to help those who followed Him learn and understand what He was teaching. By following His lead, we can help our groups grow together and better understand how the Bible meets their lives every day.