Encourage Beyond Just Words

Bible teachers need lots of encouragement. Words alone, however, are often insufficient to make them feel encouraged enough to continue teaching. This acrostic provides a variety of ways that help teachers truly feel encouraged.

Enlist teachers according to spiritual gifting & passions

— helps with inward motivation
(see: Finding Your Best Fit in Ministry)

Negotiate responsibilities to fit their schedules

— helps alleviate pressures

Challenge them to do their best as unto the Lord

— helps generate a higher purpose

Offer support and assistance when needed

— helps them feel like they aren’t alone

Understand their struggles and challenges

— helps them feel like they personally matter, not just their teaching

Revisit their commitment to teach regularly

— helps them not feel stuck or coerced into teaching

Affirm them in their teaching

— helps them feel appreciated and needed

Gird them in prayer

— helps empower and encourage them beyond anything you can provide

Equip them through teacher training opportunities

— helps them feel better prepared and able to do it

Adults Studying the Bible: Equipping Them Helps

A Barna Research Report reveals that just 19% of adult Americans are “Bible engaged – who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God.” (From: The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014) We’ve already looked at how Bible teachers can have a role in raising that percentage for their classes by creating a thirst within their students for the Author of the Bible and by emphasizing the usefulness of God’s Word for everyday living. There is at least one more thing we can do — equip them.

Many adults would hide behind excuses for not engaging with the Bible like: “I don’t know how to study it.” “I can’t understand it.” “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.” Let’s strip people of these excuses by showing them how. Then, if they still don’t read or study the Bible on their own, we know it is a deeper issue.

What Can Bible Teachers Do to Better Equip Adults to Study the Bible on Their Own?

1) Start by gaining a proper view of being a Bible teacher.


DISCIPLESHIP: Isn’t teaching a lesson enough? Worksheet (Click to learn more.)

Bible teaching is about more than spoon-feeding people once a week. Rather, it is about discipling and equipping them to nurture their relationship with the Lord at all times, on their own, not just when they are at church or in a small group Bible study. Ephesians 4:11-13 provides the teacher’s job description, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

2) Help students identify the lies they might be believing.

Adults can get stuck in their ways. They can be resistant to change. They have learned the art of making excuses. If they don’t begin the journey of getting to know God better through His Word, they will miss out on so much of the good God has for them. So, teach them to identify and “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God …” (2 Cor. 10:5).

3) Be realistic in your expectations so you can be encouraging rather than hindering in the process.

Not everyone is a scholar. Not everyone learns the same way. Guard against a “one size fits all” approach in discipling your students toward personal engagement with God’s Word. Meet people where they are and help them begin in small ways that work for them. Always keep the real purpose before them of using Scripture as a tool to better know God and grow in their relationship with Him. It would be better if people meditate on just one verse in which they find connection with God and usefulness to their everyday lives than to read chapters with little to no impact in these ways.

Let’s guard against promoting personal Bible study in a legalistic way. Getting to know God should not be seen as a burden. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:29-30). As their passion for the Lord grows, they will be more willing to be stretched in their study of the Word in ways that take them further and deeper.

Teacher Training Tool: Discipling Students in the Word of God Worksheet

Adults Studying the Bible: Finding It Useful Helps

Scripture is God Breathed and Useful

(Click to enlarge in Pinterest & repin.)

Adults are faced with so many hard decisions and choices throughout their lives. Each stage of life brings unique challenges so we are in constant need of wisdom and discernment.  God’s Word is full of the insight we need for everyday living yet how many adults turn to the Bible as their source of help? As mentioned in the previous report only 19% of adult Americans are “Bible engaged – who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God” (from The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014).

Bible teachers have a role in raising the percentage of people in their group who regularly study the Bible.  We already considered how they can do this by creating a thirst within their students for God Himself. Now we want to think about how an emphasis on the usefulness of the Bible in everyday living can help. Think about it: If something isn’t perceived as helpful, already busy and stressed out adults are not going etch out time for it.  We need to teach and demonstrate how the Bible is indeed worth their time. We need to help them understand how God’s Word is unique and indispensable to our lives. Rather than get into details of Scripture’s usefulness in this post, let me suggest you read the following:

What Can Adult Bible Teachers Do to Promote the Usefulness of God’s Word?

1)  Hold the Bible up as the authoritative standard.

Notice how 2 Timothy 3:16-17 about the Bible’s usefulness begins:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for …”  The Bible’s usefulness grows out of its origin.  Because Scripture was inspired by the Almighty Creator who knows the beginning from the end and is wholly righteous in all His says and does, the One of whom there is none greater, we can trust what it says to be right and good.

Adults are not an authority to themselves. Their life experiences do not qualify them to know more than the Almighty God. His ways are always higher and better (Isa. 55:9) and will provide the guidance they need to navigate through life (Ps. 119:105). If they don’t accept this reality, they will not sense the need to learn from His Word.

2)  Use the Bible in your teaching to answer questions, as the basis for your discussions.

Nothing cuts straight to the core of what’s happening in real life like the Bible. — “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)  It teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains us in righteousness, and thoroughly equips us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Yet, how easy it can be for small group discussions to turn into a pool of personal opinions and experientially based conclusions.  If we don’t actually turn to the Bible for answers in our classes, what kind of example are we providing for real life?  If we are constantly studying popular books or watching videos that provide little Bible teaching, what is that communicating to people about the usefulness of God’s Word?

Adults Studying the Bible: Wanting to Know the Author Helps

Adults would greatly benefit from a regular diet of God’s Word. Yet, if you were to survey your church’s adults, what percentage of people do you think consistently study God’s Word on their own?  Sadly, in many churches, that percentage would be quite low.  A Barna Research Report, The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014, revealed that just 19% of adult Americans are “Bible engaged – who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God.”

This should be a great concern to church leaders and Bible teachers who want to disciple people to grow in their relationship with the Lord. What can be done to raise that percentage with your group?

Previously I shared a friend’s story of being a Christian for about forty years before she started regularly spending time in God’s Word. What made the difference? — She finally realized that Bible study was a way to get to know God Himself, not merely a spiritual duty. Read more at: Adults Studying the Bible on Their Own

What Can Adult Teachers Do to Create a Thirst for Knowing the Author of the Bible?

Whether teaching from the pulpit or in a small group or classroom setting, adult Bible teachers can have a role in raising the percentage of people in their group who regularly study the Bible by creating a thirst within them for God Himself.  Here are two components of that:

1)  Let it begin in your own heart.

This is what God told the Israelites was needed for their children and their children after them to fear the Lord (Deut. 6:2).  He said,

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when . . . (Deut. 6:4-8)

If we want to pass on a passion for God and His Word, it needs to be a reality in our own lives. Some things are “caught” more than they are “taught” and this desire to know and love God through His Word is one of them. This kind of zeal is something we can’t fake. It comes out in the illustrations we use, the way we talk about the Bible, how we turn to Scripture as our first response when seeking answers, etc.

2)  Keep the focus of your Bible teaching on connecting with God.

Click image to enlarge in Pinterest & repin.

Click image to enlarge in Pinterest & repin.

Because they are adults who are supposed to have longer attention spans than children and youth, we might be tempted to think teaching them is about getting as much content in as we can. Head knowledge, however, can’t be the goal if we want to spur students on to study on their own.

We need to help them to connect with the God who empowered Moses, Daniel, David, and the Apostle Paul, who wants to work in and through them as well.

If we don’t make it about getting to know the God behind the stories and truths, we will do little to create a thirst for getting better acquainted with Him on their own.