Helping Bible Teachers with “Problem Students”

Perhaps you are a Sunday School Superintendent, a Director of Christian Education, an age level coordinator, or other type of ministry leader responsible for assisting teachers. Suppose one of your teachers came to you about a “problem student.” Would you know how to help them?

To best help, you need to guard against quick fixes or merely applying band-aids. To do that you both need a good assessment of the problem so the right solution can be applied.

Questions to ask Bible Teachers with “Problem Students”:

1)  What is the problem?

Maybe the teacher has a student who monopolizes discussion or belittles other people for their comments, affecting group dynamic. Perhaps a student with special needs, like ADHD, constantly disrupts the lesson. Or, a student might have a pattern of misbehaving in certain ways that frustrates the teacher or is harmful to himself or others.

2)  For whom is it a problem?

This question helps you determine the severity of the problem or urgency of resolving it. Sometimes the problem could be due to a teacher’s unrealistic expectations or personality more than it is the students. Perhaps the problem mainly affects an individual student, keeping them from engaging in the lesson, learning, building friendships, etc. But, the issue could be affecting the whole class, disrupting learning, causing disunity, and the like.

If it is primarily a problem for the teacher or an individual student, it matters and must be worked on but it often can be dealt with over the course of time. Exceptions would be if the individual students is doing something harmful to himself. If it is a problem for the whole class, the problem must be immediately resolved.

3)  Why might the student be acting this way?

When teachers get to the core of what is wrong, they tend to actually help the student, not simply control behavior. They tend to disciple students toward Christ-like attitudes as well as conduct.

To determine the cause of a student’s problem, teachers might need to simply be more observant of what seems to trigger the problem. Or, the teacher might need to sit down and talk with the student and/or the student’s parents if a child. Sometimes researching possible causes could provide insight.

4)  How can you help the student?

Getting to the root cause of problems often leads to the best means of helping the student. Otherwise teachers might simply be taking actions that are counterproductive, making the situation worse, or just ineffective, having no impact. Sometimes the problem may appear to stop just to resurface if the teacher is not addressing the cause.

All students, regardless of their problems, need teachers to love them unconditionally with the love of Christ. They all need to be treated with dignity and respect. The student’s problem should not define their worth.

5)  How can we help you help the student?

This is where the Sunday School Superintendent, Director of Christian Education, or other ministry leaders extends support — counsel, feedback, prayer, resources, training.

Click on the links below for ideas to help your teachers with their “problem students”:

students who are monopolizers, belittlers, distractors, passive

students with specific behavior issues

students with special needs

students acting out their hurts


Personalize the Application

John the Baptist's ApplicationThe application of truth does not always look the same for everyone. We see a good example of this in Luke 3:7-14 where John the Baptist was preaching a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He admonished the crowd to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3:8).

Here’s what Bible teachers can learn from this account:

The Broad Application Applies to Everyone

There was a part of John’s message that every single person needed to apply to their lives.

Everyone needed to repent so their sins could be forgiven. They all had a need to turn from their old ways to God which began with a change of mind, acknowledging that their ways were not God’s ways.

Everyone also needed to bear fruit that reflected their repentance. If they truly repented in their hearts and minds, their behavior would change. They would not stay the same.

In Bible teaching, there will usually be a broad application of the lesson that applies to all students. Maybe it will be to repent or maybe it will be to show love for God, or to love others, or to trust God, or to serve God, or to worship God, or to be a witness, or to share with others, etc. Those are broad responses that every student should put into practice. But, because each person’s circumstances vary, the specific outworking might vary.

The Specifics of the Application Need to be Personalized

For many in John the Baptist’s audience, the specific application was the same. When told to produce fruit in keeping with the broad application of his message … repentance … the crowd asked “What should we do then?”

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

But there were some for whom the application was even more personalized due to their occupations.

To the tax collectors he said, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to” (Lk. 3:13).

To the soldiers he said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay” (Lk. 3:14).

Bible teachers must recognize that though the broad application of the lessons fits everyone, the specific ways of carrying it out might not be the same due to a person’s background, occupation or other circumstances. If the struggles, temptations, and opportunities faced by students varies, it would only stand to reason that the specifics of the application would as well. What purpose does it serve to ask a student who does not struggle with sharing to share? Maybe the person who already shares does so begrudgingly. Wouldn’t it be better to address heart attitudes with this person? Or perhaps the student shares only when it is convenient or comfortable. Wouldn’t it be better to deal with the sacrificial aspect of sharing with that person?

Tap into the specifics of students’ lives and they will be more likely to apply the truth. If teachers do not guide students to personalize the lesson to their lives, application is less likely.

More on Application:

Tips for Teaching on the Book of Revelation

1) Creation & the Fall  2) The Law  3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross  5) Salvation  6) The Church  7) Revelation of Jesus Regarding the End Times

1) Creation & the Fall 2) The Law 3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross 5) Salvation 6) The Church 7) Revelation of Jesus Regarding the End Times


In a previous post we established that God’s intent for those who hear the words of the book of Revelation is that they be blessed (Rev. 1:3). This implies that we should therefore teach the book in ways that line up with His desire.

Following are some tips to help you do that:

1) Keep the lessons from the Book of Revelation interesting.

The book of Revelation contains basically three sections according to Revelation 1:19. John was to write down:

what he saw (Rev. 1)
what was current (Rev. 2-3)
what would happen in the future (Rev. 4-22)

Within these sections are so many details that a teacher could get mired down in the details and symbolism, making it a very academic, boring  or tedious study. Avoid pure lecture. Be creative in your presentation.

2) Keep teaching on the Book of Revelation relevant.

The book itself points to its relevance. Though most of the book pertains to the future, it should affect us today.

  • Application brings blessing.

The book begins by noting the blessing to those who read or hear the words of this prophecy and “keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3). This suggests that there is something applicational today in what is to come. At minimum it should stir up hope, encouragement, faith, and adoration of the One described in this book. We should be changed in some way. It should motivate us on to live holy lives, making the most of the time we have today for His glory.

  • Acceptance of its invitation brings life.

Hearing the message of this book should produce a thirst within people. Those who are thirsty can “take” or accept the life He offers rather than experience the judgments of this book. — “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:17)

  • Anticipation of His coming brings hope.

Since so much of the book is future, we have something to look forward to. The day will come when Jesus returns and rights the wrongs in this world. With the writer of Revelation we say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20)

3) Keep your interpretation of the Book of Revelation accurate.

This book ends with a warning. — “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Rev. 22:18-19)

Guard against teaching as absolute that which might just be your opinion. If you aren’t sure about the meaning of something, don’t make something up. And, don’t get dogmatic about things God’s Word clearly states elsewhere cannot be known such as dates (Matthew 24:36; 1 Thess. 5:1-2).

4) Keep class discussion about the Book of Revelation friendly.

You could have students who interpret Revelation and the end times quite different than you. You would do well to familiarize yourself with the four basic views from which people might approach a study of Revelation. Here is a resource in one of our affiliate stores that can help you in this understanding through the use of a chart:  Understanding the Book of Revelation by Rose Publishing

Be honest about how people through the ages have debated the interpretation of this book and other passages on the end times. Don’t be afraid to present the different views along with what you and your church believe. Don’t get so obsessed with a certain position that the discussion turns divisive and people lose sight of the realities most can agree on and hence miss the blessing the book of Revelation brings with it.

Teaching on the Book of Revelation

Bible teachers might dread the thought of teaching the Book of Revelation. Yet, God’s intent for this book is blessing:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Rev. 1:3)

Notice that this verse does not says, “Blessed is the one who fully understands the words of this prophecy.”

If we focus on what we can understand, it should build within us a faith that we can trust God for the rest. We can be okay knowing that we have a faithful, sovereign God who is all-knowing and all-powerful to bring all this into reality.  If teachers pass on this understanding, they have done well in teaching Revelation.

Following is a summary of the book which should give you something on which to hang the details.

The Book of Revelation describes itself as a revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John … (Rev. 1:1, NASB)

Jesus takes center stage from the start of this book as John sees Jesus in heaven in His full glory (Rev. 1). After some words to seven churches (Rev. 2-3), we encounter Jesus again in chapters 4-5 as the One who was worthy to break the seals of the scroll, ushering in the end times.

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Rev. 5:9)

As the book progresses we are privileged to peer into the future of Jesus’ final triumph over Satan, death, and evil with a description of how He is making everything new. John concludes, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

The Book of Revelation primarily deals with post-Church.

1) Creation & the Fall  2) The Law  3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross  5) Salvation  6) The Church  7) Revelation of Jesus Regarding the End Times

1) Creation & the Fall 2) The Law 3) The Old Testament Prophets 4) The Cross 5) Salvation 6) The Church 7) Revelation of Jesus Regarding the End Times

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) provide the history of Jesus’ life and death on the cross. Acts through Jude explain what our response should be to Jesus in order to be saved and how we are placed into the Church, described as the Body of Christ, as members of one another. Many of the New Testament books are letters to churches about what it means to be His Church. Then in Revelation 1-3 we read Jesus’ messages to seven churches. After that, we find no more mention of the Church other than reference to the elders in chapter four who many believe to represent the Church.

The Rapture in which Jesus comes to take those who trusted in Him is not specifically mentioned in the book of Revelation.  We must look to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for teaching on what has been called the Rapture.

After a visit to the throne room of God (Rev. 4), we observe how the Lamb (Jesus) is worthy to open the scroll ushering in the end times (Rev. 5). The events unfold:

Seven Year Tribulation (Rev. 6-16)
Millennium (Rev. 20:1-6)
Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 20:7-10)
The Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15)
The New Heavens & Earth (Rev. 21:1-22:5)

Prior to the Millennium (1000 year reign of Jesus on earth), in chapters 17 through the beginning of chapter 20, we read of the judgment of the Babylon world system, the uprising of the beast with the kings of the earth against Jesus, the beast and false prophet being thrown into the Lake of Fire, and Satan being bound in the Abyss. After the Millennium, Satan is released from the Abyss (Rev. 20:7) leading to the battle of Armageddon which Jesus wins. Satan is then thrown into the Lake of Fire for good (Rev. 20:10).

Within all these chapters of Revelation we find a more detailed description of the above events, some of which should be taken literally and some that must be viewed figuratively. Often that which should be interpreted figuratively is indicated with the word “like” or “as” in order to describe something outside of our current experience so we might at least get an idea of what it is like.

A thorough study of the end times, eschatology, would require a look at more than the book of Revelation. Other passages in both the Old and New Testament must be brought together with the book of Revelation to get a more complete picture. But, for the purpose of this post, we are focusing primarily on the book of Revelation.

The next post will provide some tips for teaching the Book of Revelation.