Ken Braddy believes an effective group Bible study is like a rocket with three stages.
“Rockets have multiple stages that help get the capsule into space and make the mission successful,” the Sunday School director for LifeWay Christian Resources said in a recent webinar. “I believe there are three significant stages in Bible study as we lead groups to understand and live out God’s word.”
The “Three Stages In Creating Out-of-this-World Bible Studies” webinar was one of 10 set for a “Training Thru ’22” series.
Braddy noted the three stages are motivation, examination and application, and he asked participants to vote in a “chat box” for which one they thought was most important. He said nearly everyone selected either examination or application — but he believes motivation is the most significant.
“We cannot assume that people are interested in what we teach,” he explained. “We have to focus their attention on Bible study. The teacher has a role to play, and it’s to create energy in the beginning.”
Braddy listed 10 possibilities for engaging interest including telling a compelling story, introducing a current event, playing a song, watching a video clip and relating the topic to the learner’s life.
“Recently I played John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ for our class, and we did it twice,” he said during the webinar earlier this year. “By the second time we were singing along.
“Then I turned to Ephesians 5 where Paul talked about rules for Christian homes. This was a good way to get everyone interested in that day’s theme about making our homes beautiful as God intended.”
The examination stage is the longest part of Bible study, Braddy related.
“We’ve not done an official study, but an anecdotal one, and teachers tell us the average time they have to teach is 30–35 minutes,” he said. “Some have a little more time and others have less. Whatever the case, this isn’t a long block, so we have to be very strategic with our time and devote most of our time to examining the text.”
Though biblical exposition time can be limited, Braddy encouraged teachers to resist the temptation to do all the talking.
“I explained this in last month’s seminar — ‘How to Ask Great Questions and Lead Engaging Discussion,’” he said. “I think a teacher must be a ‘guide by their side’ rather than a ‘sage on the stage.’ Discussion enhances learning.”
Braddy distinguishes eight learning approaches: relational, verbal, visual, reflective, logical, physical, natural and musical. Teachers should use two or three in each session, he believes.
“I’m a logical learner,” he acknowledged. “I like PowerPoints and charts and handout sheets for the class to fill in key words. But teachers shouldn’t stick to only one learning approach.”
Speaking about the application stage, Braddy suggested teachers “stop short” if there’s not good application to real life.
“This is the second-longest section of typical teaching time,” he noted. “In a 45-minute session, I think we’d give five minutes to motivation and 30 minutes to examination. This leaves 10 minutes for application to life.”
Braddy said he emphasizes application by doing a “check-in” at the next session.
“I often ask, ‘How did it work for you last week when you tried to apply our lesson to your life?” he related.
Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum emphasizes application, Braddy said. The series was redesigned 10 years ago to facilitate discussion.
“One of the experts we consulted suggested we consider ‘walk, run and soar,’” he recalled. “So in the ‘Live It Out’ section of the lesson we have something ‘unchurched Harry and Mary’ could do, such as memorize a verse; something a maturing believer might do, such as encourage someone in the church; and something a mature believer might do, such as doing a Scripture search for specific needs in their lives.”
Churches can download four BSL lessons free at Biblestudiesforlife.com.
“This has been a difficult two years for our churches,” Braddy acknowledged. “No one asked for the pandemic. Earlier we heard in the range of a 60% return to church, but now we’re hearing about 80 to 90% return. We’re coming out of this trying time.
“We love you teachers for hanging in there. Only you and the pastor open God’s word and teach people how to live, so keep up this good work.”
The fifth webinar in the series, “Ken’s 10 — Top Tips for Leading Group Bible Study,” is scheduled for May 19. Participants may register at Lifeway.com/training22.
Braddy also publishes articles about Sunday School and other group Bible study at kenbraddy.com.