For years, many have believed that entertainment (for lack of a better word) was the key to engaging children and teens in learning about God. Churches invested thousands of dollars in the very best sound systems, lighting and other necessities of a ministry focused on creating just the right environment. Yet, ask older kids and teens what they are learning in these entertaining Bible classes and they will tell you they believe the hype resulted in little meaningful addition to their knowledge and understanding of the Bible or an increased ability to actually live their faith.
The truth is that students are engaged in learning anything – including the Bible – when classes encourage one crucial element. What is the element that is often ignored in Bible classes to children and teens? Curiosity! That’s right. If you can encourage the curiosity of children and teens regarding the things you want them to learn, your results will be much better and longer lasting than what the most entertaining classes provide. (But don’t be mistaken – when students are curious, they are also more ”entertained” than they are with standard entertainment.)
Curiosity in students also provides other benefits. Research has found that when students are curious about a topic or subject not only are they more engaged with the material, but their motivation to learn even more increases and they feel more fulfilled when they do learn something new. Curious students also tend to be more humble in their recognition of their gaps in knowledge, understanding and experience – a huge benefit when trying to teach young people. Students in an environment that encourages curiosity also had less conflict and were more respectful of each other.
What kills the curiosity of Bible students? Not the fact that God and His commands are unchanging. Rather, it is Bible classes that are routine – even when that routine is entertaining – and boring to students. Students are curious when they are encouraged to explore and dive deeply into the aspects that are of particular interest to them. They also benefit from open ended, meaningful activities that allow for student creativity and/or explanation. There is no need to change the message of what is in the Bible, rather how that information is explored by students.
The other key is to continually remind students that the Bible is so full of the things God wants us to know and is so rich that they will never completely learn and understand everything in it during their lifetimes. This understanding is not meant to discourage them from trying, but rather to encourage their curiosity. Studies found that when students felt they had learned everything there is to know about a subject, their curiosity about it ceased. To create lifelong, enthusiastic learners of what God wants them to know and do, we need to keep young people curious about the Bible, God and living the Christian life.
In our next post, we will share some practical ways to encourage student curiosity in the material covered in most Bible classes.