Engage the Senses

Engage the Senses

In teaching the Bible, one of our objectives should be to line up with how God made people to learn — through our five senses. As Bible teachers we usually don’t have trouble employing methods that require students to engage their sense of hearing. Many will add visualization, thus engaging the sense of seeing. But, what about the other senses?

Bible Verses Referencing the Senses

“faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom. 10:17)

This verse lets us know how critical the sense of hearing is to engaging people. Remember, however, that it is not the only sense.

Touch me and see” (Lk. 24:39)

Thomas was encouraged to touch Jesus’ scars to help with his doubts. Hearing that Jesus was alive needed to be coupled with touching in order for Thomas to believe.

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)

Job’s faith had been grounded in what he heard about God. His trials, seeing God in action, strengthened that trust even more.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Ps. 34:8)

The choice of words in the above verse may be meant figuratively but the concept of engagement is there.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Cor. 2:14)

Again, the use of the word “aroma” suggesting the sense of smell may be meant figuratively in the above verse, but it implies a more holistic approach to the way we communicate with others.

Principles about Engaging the Senses

  1. Do not minimize the sense of hearing to grow people in their faith yet do not rely solely on it.
  2. While faith may begin with hearing the Word, it is often reinforced and strengthened by engagement in other ways.
  3. People may be at different places in their faith, requiring them to experience the Word in different ways.
  4. The more directly and purposefully involved in the learning process, through the various senses, the greater will be the learning and retention of what has been learned.
  5. If you can’t find an appropriate actual object for students to touch or recreate a scent or taste as in the Bible lesson, etc., at least use descriptive vocabulary to provide a word picture that will help students understand.

Practical Issues in Engaging Students Through the Use of their Senses

  • Carefully think through the logistics when engaging the various senses so it is a good experience.
  • Always keep safety in mind.
  • Be sensitive to students with allergies.

Do’s & Don’ts in a Visual Society

We live in a visual society. Just consider the popularity of sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Many people tend to prefer pictures, infographics, and videos over text.

We also live in a society where people engage through screens of various sizes — smartphones, tablets, laptops, PC monitors, etc. This is the only kind of life many of the younger generation have known.

But really, the need to teach visually isn’t anything new. God made us to learn with our senses. Using audiovisuals has always been a good idea. It’s also the way God has communicated with people. Bible teachers need to get on page with God, not society.

Tips for Bible Teachers to Teach in a Visual Society

1) Do visualize the content where you can yet do so purposefully.

The objective isn’t merely to appeal to people’s senses or to entertain but to engage people in the learning process. It would be better not to use a visual or video than to use one that’s inappropriate or misrepresents.

2) Don’t limit yourself to any one medium.

Think in terms of pictures, videos, and objects. A visual image can be used to represent a truth that will help with recall later through the week when they see that image or picture of the image.

3) Do use both on screen and off screen pictures.

Just because people use screens a lot doesn’t mean it is the only way you should teach. A low tech approach, done well, can sometimes communicate just as well.

4) Don’t get discouraged if you cannot use screens in your setting.

Changed lives result from the work of God in people’s hearts not our methodology. With that said, we still should do whatever we do well. Read the following articles for help engaging students even with low tech means:

5) Do still communicate verbally and relationally.

Even if the visual depicts a scriptural scene or truth, it’s important people acknowledge the Bible as the source of truth. Visuals should never be a substitute for the Word — “faith comes from hearing the message” (Rom. 10:17). Also remember that the Word became flesh and dwelt among people (Jn. 1). The incarnation of Jesus suggests sharing be both verbal and relational.

For Other Tips:  Tips for Choosing & Using Audiovisuals Worksheet Download

Teaching Ruts

Stuck in a Teaching RutAre Bible teachers in your church in a rut? If so, their routine pattern of behavior may have made them dull or boring teachers. As a result, they may be less effective as their ruts not only affect their own view of teaching but also their students’ attitude toward learning. Getting out of a rut, however, is no easy task. How much better with assistance!

Breaking Out of Teaching Ruts:

To break out of a rut, Bible teachers can’t keep doing the same thing over and over. They need to step out of their comfort zones, and incorporate more variety into their teaching. Encourage, challenge, and provide resources for teachers in the following ways:

1) Since variety grows out of creativity, lay the groundwork for them to be creative Bible teachers. Without this foundation, anything they do may be short-lived, a temporary effort.


2) Challenge teachers to vary the way they use their current methods. Making changes to something with which they are already familiar will not be as threatening as trying something totally new.

For examples read:

3) Encourage teachers to occasionally try methods they’ve never used before. Be sure however, to provide help on the “how-to” as failure will get them right back into their rut.


Teacher Training Over the Summer Months

With people going on vacations over the summer months and children home from school for many, you might be prone to disbanding teacher training efforts for the season. Some churches discontinue their Christian education programs for the summer, like Sunday School, small groups, children’s Bible clubs, etc., so you may decide it’s a good time for a break for all things related to teaching, including teacher training.

Before totally abandoning teacher training over the summer months, consider some alternatives that do not require people to attend special meetings but yet serve as a means of continued support and encouragement. The following resources from Ministry Tools Resource Center provide training that teachers can do on their own time, in their own setting, and at their own pace — a good formula to summer teacher training.

Click on the images below to check out what is available in each of these categories:

Bible Teachers Training Devotionals
Teacher Training DEVOTIONALS- ranging from 6 to 30 individual devotions
Bible Teachers Training Workbooks
Teacher Training WORKBOOKS- ranging from 50-100 pages
Bible Teachers Training Worksheets
Teacher Training WORKSHEETS- ranging from 1 to 10 pages