I recently read a great article about engaging your class participants with the content of your lessons by creating a “question friendly” environment. I want to share some of the tips with you here.
I am a huge advocate of discussion based learning environments. I think that Sunday School is the perfect setting for this approach. Discussions provide opportunities for people to interact with each other, share concerns, tell their stories in the context of the issue, and wrestle together with the lesson content. Besides, who wants to get lectured to? 😉
They also provide the teacher or leader with a tremendous opportunity to give affirmation. “That was a great point”, or “I am so glad you asked that question” are examples of ways to encourage comments and affirm people who are really engaged with what you are sharing.
Here are a few great tips from Mike Mack’s article:
Here are six tips for encouraging a questioning attitude in a training meeting.
- Model a questioning attitude. At the beginning of a training meeting, ask leaders specific questions about their groups, what they need to learn to be a better leader, what plans they have for their groups. Throughout the session ask lots of questions. As you do training, for instance, ask how they have handled a situation in the past. Then throw out follow-up questions to everyone to continue allowing their minds to work. Other ideas:
- Ask participants to solve a challenging small group problem.
- Use a real or fictional small group leader who has a problem any group leader could have.
- Have groups of three to five work on solutions together and then share possible solutions. Use this activity as a springboard to a discussion about solving that particular problem in real life.
When people are active learners and feel like they learned something themselves rather than being spoon-fed, they retain the learning much longer.
- Pass out index cards at the beginning of the meeting. Ask everyone to write down a good question before the first break. They can choose to remain anonymous. Answer some of the questions at a break. Nothing helps people learn than to know their questions are being answered. This also shows you really care about what they need to learn, not just what you want to teach.
- Foster an atmosphere conducive to questions. Let leaders know their questions are welcomed. Respond with “Great question!” or “I’m glad you asked that.”
- Allow yourself to diverge from your agenda.When someone asks a question, it is usually more important than your set agenda. (But use discretion, of course. Some questions involve such a small number of participants that if you answer it you’ll lose them.) If the question refers to something you plan to cover later, go ahead and jump ahead and answer the question, at least partially. If you wait until later, the inquirer may no longer be eager to learn it. Don’t miss the teachable moment!
- Keep it simple. If you take twenty minutes to answer one straightforward query, participants may be reluctant to ask more questions. You don’t have to teach all there is to learn (or all you know) on a particular subject at this time. Plus, if you say all there is to say, you limit their abilities to ask additional questions on the subject.
Remember that our next leadership training meeting will be the first Wed in December. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Let’s make an effort this week to call and contact everyone on our rolls who was out last Sunday. It was a holiday weekend, and lots of people were sick. I am thankful for the strong attendance we did have, but we have a chance this week to reach out and show some people that they were missed. Make the most of it!
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