What is the purpose of Bible class?
The new Spring quarter at PUC began today. One of the classes I am teaching is EDUC 368: Teaching K-12 Bible. To my knowledge there isn’t a textbook on how to teach Bible class. There are some standards for teaching and a curriculum guide, but in general a teacher in my position can go in a number of directions, maybe all of those directions good. Instead of rattling something for this particular blog, I have a question for you. And I would like to hear from a lot of you, whether you have or have not taught a Bible class. The question is this — What is the purpose of Bible class?
I’ll even start your answer for you – “The purpose of Bible class is to . . .
PS – Would the purpose for teaching a 3rd grade Bible class be different from teaching an 11th grade Bible class?
PSS – Here are some possibilities for a purpose for Bible class (in outline form) –
Bible stories and facts
SDA history (or if you are Lutheran, then Lutheran history)
Spirit of Prophecy – knowledge, appreciation, memorization
Indoctrination (Is this necessarily a bad thing?)
Local church involvement
…experience God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in a personal relationship, safe place where struggles can be shared, a time for contemplative prayer, and a study of the Bible for knowledge and for learning more about who God is and how He sees us. Easy peasy – ha!
I love this list you have shared. I wonder, though, if students, and parents, are ready to “experience” God. Some seem frightened by experiential spirituality and even contemplative prayer. My own upbringing lacked the Holy Spirit component. I knew every Bible story frontward and backward, chose to be baptized at 12 years of age, but I don’t recall experiencing God’s power and freedom. Can we do that in Bible class?
I am very sure we can and I intend to prove it by God’s grace and with His guidance. I will be working with third and fourth graders next year and I’m tremendously excited. The Waldensian children seem to have experienced this and if we can refocus kids off artificial stuff I am pretty sure the Holy Spirit will speak to them as well. As for contemplative prayer, I’m pretty sure the devil would love for us to give up the real thing for fear of the false.
Kim, I read a text this morning that would very much seem to endorse your plans. In 1 Corinthians 4:20 it reads –
“For the kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.”
People, including young people, don’t walk away from this kind of power. If people are drifting from the church, I think it is because the church, and even God (at least the church’s interpretation of God), appears to be so power-less, rather than power-full. I sure want to encourage you as you continue on this journey. I want to stay in touch with you as this story unfolds. I am sure everyone reading this feels the same way.
After thinking for a few minutes on this, I would have to say this;
Your question would be a good way to start out the class, by finding out what each student wanted to get from Bible Class, you would better know how to proceed. I could come up with my goal for a bible class, but would placing my goal onto paper and into a class plan book achieve that goal? Now, I’m not a teacher, so what I have to say only pertains to what I would teach my children given a 2nd chance at that. Understanding the bottom line of how this all began would have great importance of determining how to move forward in our lives. There is so much we as older adults have learned and need to unlearn, just looking at that could be a good start.
How’s that for a short answer? 😉
A great reminder, Karen! It would be an important question to ask students. What do they think the purpose is, and maybe what do they want the purpose to be? Thank you, thank you.
I like your comment. I think that Bible class can be most effective when the students are able to draw meaning that relates to them on a personal level.
I like your idea that the teacher would start out class expecting that the students have a goal of what they want to learn from Bible class. The teacher will know how to proceed with the lessons and plan around those goals and the students will be more invested in learning if they feel like the content is what they want to learn!
…draw students and their families into a closer relationship with our Creator God. Also to whet their appetites for more knowledge of God and to provide opportunities to develop active spiritual lives. Then to provide a framework for understanding the basis for core Seventh-day Adventist beliefs.
Great points, Carrie. I like each of them. Your use of the word “draw” students into a closer relationship with God affirms the idea that their desiring to know God comes from choice, their choice. And I like the phrase “whetting their appetite.” A Bible class that does that would be a wonderful part of every school day.
Don’t be boring.
In the last two minutes, while sitting at this computer, Ive been given some convincing evidence that LL Bean and Jockey underwear can change my life. Also I’ve been shown that I can order from Chili’s without leaving my chair.
That is the sort of continual assault that we are subjected to.
So as far as the purpose of a bible class, I have to go with “to pique the interest of the students”.
The material is there with the Bible’s rich historical heritage, wonderful stories and material world meets spiritual world tension. But the competition for our attention is mighty.
I love this response, Tom.
Don’t be boring says so much, and it is totally true! The Bible, more than any other subject, should be appealing and inviting and inspiring and relevant and empowering.
Your points are right on!
This is great. I wish all Bible classes were interesting. However, all of my Bible classes were sadly, for the most part, extraordinarily boring. Maintaining the interest of students, especially in the upper grades who have heard these stories over and over again needs to be a priority for teachers. This is a very important subject because it teaches so many things to us like who our maker is, good morals, health tips, examples how to live full lives and so much more. Unfortunately, as a student, Bible classes have lost the luster they should have. They are repetitive and dull, so much so that it can be difficult for me to open up my Bible on my own time. It is time to change this so that all students can be inspired to learn more about who their God is.
I really appreciate your thoughts on this topic, Maddi. You make such a strong case for the need for us to give Bible class our best, and for us to be authentic with our students. I think they can learn to wrestle with things as they see us truly wrestle with things.
I like how you mentioned the purpose of bible class being “to pique the interest of students.” In addition, I think it is important to mention the importance of knowing and meeting the needs spiritually of your students.
I like how you mentioned the purpose of bible class being “to pique the interest of students.” In addition, I think it is important to mention the importance of knowing and meeting the needs spiritually of your students.
The purpose of Bible class is to teach young people how to have a practical, personal, living relationship with Jesus- in other words what it means for Jesus to live in them. This requires, in my opinion, a teacher who has experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit (the way that Jesus comes to live in us) and who is able and willing to share transparently (and appropriately) so that young people choose the same. My life has been transformed (though it still has room for ongoing transformation!) by participating in 40 days of prayer as outlined by Dennis Smith’s books by the same title. It is impossible to ask for the baptism of the Holy Spirit for 40 days with a partner without something happening and I don’t think young people should wait to be 50 before they experience it. I have seen some seriously transformed lives through this process and I don’t think there is time for much else. Of course this process is embedded in the word of God.
First, I celebrate with you the special relationship you have come into with God through the Holy Spirit.
I was recently reading the passage in Acts (Acts 8:15-17) where Peter and John, hearing that there were new believers in Samaria, go there to support them. The Bible describes it like this –
This element is so plain in Scripture, yet as an SDA body we have seemed to miss this altogether. If I hear you correctly, you are saying that we need to stop missing this element and even to include it in our Bible classes. Wow! What if our Bible classes became full of the Holy Spirit’s power?
To find out who God is and who we are and how we can have eternal life!
You say a lot in a short amount of space. Knowing God (truly knowing Him) and knowing ourselves (now we see as through a glass darkly; our picture is murky) pretty much wraps it up.
The purpose of Bible class is to create an opportunity to explore, as a group, each of our relationships to each of the persons of the triune God. I believe, to be most effective, the teacher would be in a growing, intimate relationship himself. Here is an example: If the class subject was about cycling, someone could teach about the history of the bicycle and the physics of what it takes to able to ride a bicycle; however unless the teacher has ridden a bicycle he would not be able to give his own personal testimony. For example what it was like the very first time he rode without any help and the times that he lost his balance and fell and someone that cared about him helped him to get back up and to keep going and experience the freedom and joy of cycling. So, the goal would be “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith ; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend the love of Christ which passes Knowledge; that you may be filled with the fullness of GOD”
I love the cycling example. How can we share what we don’t have ourselves? This can be intimidating to some, the idea of being a spiritual model, but it becomes easier as we keep our focus on Jesus.
Jim, I think this reality needs serious consideration–meaning the whole need to know how to ride the bicycle concept. It often feels like Bible class is sandwiched in between the rest of the curriculum to meet our SDA requirements. In some schools the attitude is, “anyone can teach Bible” or “give it to the pastor.” But coming into the Bible classroom or starting Bible class as just another curriculum to complete is a huge barrier for authentic, dynamic Spirit filled moments with our students. It seems imperative that the teacher has a personal growing relationship with God (as many of the previous posters have expressed) before we can lead our children into the presence of our amazing God who longs for us to know Him.
So why do we teach Bible Class? Did Jesus teach Bible? Did he teach God? What did He teach? Why? Didn’t Moses recommend that we teach our children about God as we go about our daily living? ~ as we walked and worked in our days ~ as we sat and visited ~ as we lived. God gets put in a box in Bible class ~ let’s let Him out!
Your description of letting God out of the box in which we have placed Him got my attention. It is so true. We prop Him up, dust Him off, put Him away when inconvenient, and then get Him back out as needed. We forget how incredibly powerful and awesome He is. Our students need to experience that.
I feel badly about beginning with a negative note. This is not a space for a rant or magnifying the problem, but rather a space for solutions and positive energy towards what is the most important theme in Christian education. Please accept my apology and trust, I will remain true to the intent in the future. I love teaching Introduction to Christianity and have resonated with so much of what has already been stated. One of my Chinese students this year has commented in his writing to me that he is so grateful not to be forced to believe in God and he is finding great satisfaction that his heart is being naturally drawn towards God in a real and tangible way. He now wants a relationship with God that he never wanted before.
A couple of people have brought this up, and I’m sorry to get off topic, but it is something that is really bothering me; who should be teaching Bible class? Are we as teacher really adequate to teach this subject? This is so much more than any other subject we could be teaching. How do we do it? More importantly how do we do it right? A couple of weeks ago my five year old cousin asked me to read him a story, I grabbed a Bible story and opened it up, it was the story of the crucifixion. I started reading; it didn’t take long before he was asking me all sorts of questions, questions I wasn’t sure how to answer in a way he would understand. I felt so hopeless and inadequate. Who should be teaching Bible class?
I think the best Bible teachers
1. love God/Jesus
2. want to serve God
3. are enthusiastic about teaching the Bible
God can use a variety of people to help teach His message. For example, many of Jesus’ disciples were uneducated fishermen and one was a tax collector. We wouldn’t think that fishermen and tax collectors were qualified to preach about God but they were, because they followed God’s will. Another example is Paul who used to persecute followers of Jesus but after his conversion he became a zealous advocate for Jesus. Even people with a rough past can show how merciful and loving God really is.
More education does not necessarily mean more qualified. Some people with extensive Biblical knowledge may not know how to effectively communicate their knowledge with younger audiences or miss the main point on some issues.
With your cousin, that particular Bible story was probably too intense for his age. The creation story in Genesis or Arthur Maxwell’s The Bible Story books would probably been more appropriate for him.
Sometimes the Bible itself can be difficult to teach. That’s when supplementary reading may be helpful. For older audiences, Biblical commentaries are helpful for understanding the meaning of certain Bible verses. Also pray for wisdom and understanding before a Bible study. The Holy Spirit can help you understand texts that you couldn’t on your own.
Welcome to teaching, parenting and talking to new believers! We never know all the answers and we never will. God calls us as we are. Take time to search with the little guy/or any other believer for the answers. What a beautiful oportunity to teach how to search and ask God for guidance. Sure your cousin is three but he isn’t to young to learn just as you aren’t to old to learn.
Awesome analogy! Leading by example is sometimes the best way to teach other students, and what better example than to try to be like Jesus.
Invite students to experience God by a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Teachers can model it and announce the invitation in winsome manners.
Learn how to read the Bible. First for nurturing my relationship with Jesus Christ. Second, for understanding what His will is for me in my choices each day. It is a time to discover the principles He wants to live by. A major theme of Ellen White is the power of Christian principle.
I would devote more to time to Bible lab if I were to teach again. Bible lab is providing time for service projects that demonstrates the agape love of Jesus. We talk to much about the Bible when we need to demonstrate the power of the principles and values of Jesus.
Your comment reminds me that my K-12 Bible class needs to experience the Bible labs format this quarter. I need to work on that.
I don’t see anything you said that was negative, and nothing that qualifies as a rant, although a good rant can’t be helpful at times. I have appreciated your thoughts so far and I encourage you to continue sharing. As you say, this really does need our serious consideration.
I teach at the high school level, and more recently, only Junior and Senior Bible classes. At our school we have chosen the purpose of Junior Bible to teach students how to study the Bible for themselves. We do exegetical studies of Romans, Galatians, James, Daniel and Revelation. Though we want our students to understand how the SDA church has interpreted scripture, we also want our students to be able to think and defend their beliefs on their own, not be mere reflectors of our way of thinking. Junior Bible also has a significant amount of community service as part of the curriculum. As for Senior Bible, it’s purpose is more counseling in preparation for life after high school; personality/career surveys, college advice, job seeking skills, relationship advice (dating and marriage and parenting), as well as a survey of other world views. Our main purpose for our higher division high school classes is to get our students to think on their own about eternal purpose.
While you didn’t mention it specifically, it seems very choice theory to teach Bible in a way that affirms students in their personal spiritual journeys — knowing which ideas to embrace NAD why they Re choosing to embrace them. It is tempting to fear students thinking on their own, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.
The purpose of Bible class is to show the students that God loves them! He loved us so much that he came to die for us (John 3:16). In fact God loves us so much that he gave us the ability to chose–for good or evil. Hopefully, when we grasp the true concept of God’s love, we will choose to love him back. Until we have figured this out all the theology in the world will not make a difference in how we live our lives. It will be a head and not a heart religion.
You have stated this point so well, Lynnae. Knowing and accepting that God loves us, really, really loves us, is the essential from beginning to end. Our kids need to catch a glimpse of this truth; as adults, isn’t this the place we keep coming back to as we work through challenges and questions?
I agree with the emphasis of God’s love. I feel that that aspect is often neglected in areas of Bible class (and other religions). At times the focus is on the technical aspects of rules and trying instill a sense of perfection in students. The only thing that matters, the underlying aspect of it all, is God’s love. When that is emphasized and accepted, everything will fall into place.
The purpose of Bible Class is to help students strengthen their spiritual beliefs, and to help develop spiritual growth for those who are not already Christians. Being a good example for these children is important to set the standards.
Bible class, like any other aspect of teaching, should have some form of excitement and exploration. I have heard on several occasions that reading the bible can be boring. Like many books there are sections of the bible that may not strike us as exciting reading material, but I think it is important for teachers to find passages that can relate to their students. When reading material is personal and relatable the reader is more apt to want to read. Relatable is a relevant term depending on the age group being taught. The story of Jonah and the big fish may be a hit with the younger grades whereas the older grades can understand more complex concepts. However one chooses to teach bible class there should always be an important message intertwined within the lesson.
I like your use of words like “excitement” and “exploration” and “relatable.”
I believe that the purpose of Bible class varies on the age that you are teaching. When it comes to the younger grades, it is important to stress Jesus’ love and to have them learn the stories in the Bible and how God can help them in life. As students grow older it is important to create a Bible class that helps students create their own walk with Christ. This can be done by teaching the many stories and lessons that are in the Bible. Teaching Bible history is important because it gives students a background to the religion being taught. I think that the ultimate reason behind Bible class is to give students a safe environment to learn about our heavenly father and to learn how to grow in a relationship with him.
I like your emphasis of children learning “how God can help them in life.”
I like, too, how as children grow older Bible class should help them “create their own walk with Christ.”
I think the purpose of Bible class is to spark the interest in students about what reading the Bible. Obviously reading the Bible is not the only area in which a christian should work on. But there will be students in Bible class that come from different walks of life therefore I think if teachers can make reading the Bible fun that would benefit the students. And maybe as a teacher you might not even have your students read the bible but instead teach them though actions or projects that helps anyone come closer to God.
The purpose of Bible class is to teach students about God so that their knowledge and relationship with Him can grow. Everyone, child or adult, deserves every opportunity to learn about God’s love and salvation. Once a foundation is made towards a personal relationship with God, the closer to Him we become.
The purpose of Bible class is
Hi Sonya, I agree that one of end goals of Bible class is to produce a change in our students.
I believe the purpose of Bible class is to foster a real life, tangible relationship with Christ. It should stimulate an interest in the spiritual that will draw our students to Christ as their Savior. Bible class should not be just another subject taught like all the others but a special time set aside in the day to refresh spiritually. A mini “Sabbath” every day!
Lisa I totally agree with you about the purpose of the Bible class to foster a real life tangible relationship with Christ. To look at Bible class like a mini Sabbath where we can draw close to God
is a wonderful analogy.
I believe we teachers should first demonstrate our own love for God/Jesus, and possess the desire to want to draw our students to Jesus. The class should be open, accepting and nonjudgmental to aid students in developing their personal love relationship with Jesus in preparation for soul winning .
I think the purpose of Bible Class is to teach students what God wants us to learn about Him. Holy Bible is the truth and Jesus is the living proof. I hope that in Bible Class students will be able to 1) gain knowledge by reading Bible, sharing what they read, and applying the principal in their lives, 2) recognize/accept Jesus as their personal Savior, and 3) experience transformation by serving others and following Jesus’ principal.
Kumiko I like the fact that you included in your list of hopes that the students are to experience transformation by serving others. I think service is one of the greatest ways that our lives can be be transformed. There are countless stories of students and people who were changed by serving others.
The bottom line of what is the purpose of Bible class to introduce young people to a personal relationship to Jesus Christ through a walk through the Bible. We do this by sharing our own relationship withJesus and what he has and is doing in our lives. Also by having a caring relationship with our students. Students need to know that we care about what they care about and being involved with their lives. For example, we live in a farming and ranching community and several of our students have cattle, and two girls show cattle, so I went to one of their shows. When the girls saw me they came running shouting my name. They had huge smiles on their faces. I made their day. Jesus spent three years just building relationships in order to show us what God is like.
Mary I really like your statement about how Jesus spent three years of his life building relationships with his disciples in order to show us what God is like. It just struck me right now that 3 years is just enough time to get to know someone well enough to decide if you are going to marry them. I think Jesus spent enough time with his disciples here on earth to the point that they were willing to spend the rest of their lives in love with him.
The purpose of bible class is to make disciples and friends of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ last command to his disciples known as the great commission in Matthew 28:16-20 says “ All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This great commission involves teaching them about who God and Jesus is and all things that Jesus has taught us and commanded us. These commands involve being connected in a healthy relationship with Jesus. Of all the things God wants from us the thing he wants most from us is our hearts and our friendship. We need to teach students how they can have a real relationship with God. We need to teach our kids how to connect to Jesus so they can enter into a relationship with him and flourish as human beings who are growing into the likeness of Jesus.
The purpose of Bible class is, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, introduce the students to Jesus and facilitate and nurture their thinking processes as they realize the relevance He has in their lives.
+ Introduce the students to Jesus.
+ Help them to see the relevance of His influence in their lives.
The purpose of Bible class is to share the Love of Christ and His desire to have all of His children in heaven with Him when He comes to take us home.
The purpose of Bible class is to read the Bible to understand who God is, who I am, and how God wants me to live. While learning about God, ourselves, and how to live, we are learning how to study and interpret the words and thoughts expressed in the Bible. So learning how to learn from the Bible is a process that comes from reading it and discovering the principles of interpreting the Bible.
So glad you are weighing in on this topic, Ed. The four points you emphasize are helpful and important –
+ Read the Bible with a Holy Spirit led spirit of discovery.
+ Understand who God is.
+ Understand who I am.
+ Realize and appreciate how God wants me to live.
God really does want everyone of us; all of us on the planet.
The purpose of Bible class is to inspire students to want a personal relationship with Christ and to show them how. Our students learn more from us by our example than they do by what we say in class. We need to have the relationship first so we will be bubbling over with the Spirit and want to share Bible lessons with our class. I can’t remember a Bible class that was anything more than a story telling time. I don’t even remember being encouraged to read the Bible and I took 13 years of Bible classes. Only one teacher made me think about how my religious convictions might be used in ‘real’ life and that was a Christian Ethics class. That is a sad commentary for my teachers. I learned the Bible stories and could recite texts quite well. I was great at playing Bible trivia but Bible should not be just trivia. It should be an integral part of who we are and all of the choices we make every day.
More than trivia. I like that.
It really does start with our vertical connection and enthusiasm for the divine as teachers, which then prompts us to want to share our experience with our students.
I really resonate with the idea of helping students see the tangible connection between their religious convictions and real life.
I like what you said about inspiring students to WANT a personal relationship. I think that there is a huge difference in telling students to have a personal relationship and making them want one. A teacher that can help a student to want a personal relationship has done their job in inspiring their students. I think that it is sad how many teachers think that teaching trivia is a substitute for an active personal relationship.
I think that the purpose of Bible class is to educate and inform students about SDA beliefs and why we believe what we believe. We shouldn’t push our beliefs on others, but have them come and reach a decision on that themselves. I think that this is difficult to do with younger students, but I think that religion is something that we must decide for ourselves, otherwise it will not have much meaning.
I completely agree with your comment that “religion is something that we must decide for ourselves, otherwise it will not have much meaning.” I feel like that was my main problem with the vast majority of Bible classes I’ve taken – I was being told what was truth, and was much less encouraged to weigh things for myself. Obviously at an SDA school SDA beliefs need to be taught, but I agree that we can’t “push our beliefs on others.”
I agree that it is important to not push others into believing what we belief. Of course at an SDA institution, it is important to inform the students about SDA beliefs and why we believe in them. I also find it important to allow them opportunities to further explore the beliefs and what the Bible says. I think it would be great to encourage them to do their own research, so they do not feel they must accept everything the teacher says as completely true. This way, they would be more aware that it is ultimately up to them to decide whether or not they believe what the Adventist church teaches.
After going to Adventist schools from kindergarten until now – year 5 of college, I have taken so many Bible classes, taught with a variety of goals in mind and taught in so many different ways. The Bible classes that were the most significant to me in school were the ones that encouraged me to grow my own personal relationship with God, form my personal faitth, and develop my personal beliefs. We were told what the Seventh-day Adventist church believes, but we were then encouraged to figure out what this means for us personally. I’ve seen a lot of critiques of this – the idea of “spirituality over religion,” but as in all disciplines, if we can’t get our students to engage in and internalize the content, it will never become “theirs.” And arguably, this is more important in religion courses than anything else.
I agree with you that the most important Bible classes that I had helped me to grow in my personal relationship. Sadly though for me, those classes didn’t come until high school. I think that elementary school teachers should also be worried about having their students have personal relationships with Christ. Elementry school students, especially in the upper grades, have the ability to read the bible and obtain more than just information. I think that if teachers focus more on the purpose of a Bible class they will begin to teach towards that purpose.
I also agree that these classes didn’t come until I was older. I think that this could be attributed with my mindset though, since I was young, I only cared about getting good grades and making my parents happy. So I didn’t really focus on the meaning of what was being taught, but rather just on getting a good grade. If the primary focus of Bible class is to build a relationship with God, can you put a grade on that?
Thank you, Tim.
I agree that these classes didn’t come for me either until I was older. It could’ve been because when I was younger, I was more worried about getting good grades and pleasing my parents rather than understanding the meaning behind Bible class. I only focused on the facts and stories rather than how I could apply them or how they could impact my way of thinking. If the main point of Bible class is to grow/start a relationship with God, can you really grade this? Can you put a grade on your relationship with God?