Teaching a Bible class to kids or teens can be challenging. Volunteers often have less than an hour a week to plan a class that will engage students, teach them important things God wants them to know, help them understand what they are being taught and motivate them to use what they have learned in their lives. The challenge becomes even more difficult when students aren’t motivated to learn what God wants them to know.
There are a lot of things you can’t control that impact the motivation your Bible students have to learn about God. You can’t control how they are being raised. You can’t control their hearts and minds. Thankfully, however, there are some things you can control that impact student motivation.
The University of Virginia actually has a “motivate” lab that studies motivation. They have found there are three learning mindsets that impact students’ motivation to learn and apply new material. While the studies were done with secular education in mind, what they found can also apply to a ministry Bible class.
The first of these mindsets you can help control is a sense of belonging. Do your students feel as if they belong and are a valued member of your class? Do they feel like they belong and are valued in your ministry and church? Do they feel they belong and are valued in the global church/God’s Kingdom?
Notice, the statement is about how they perceive whether or not they belong or are valued. Merely telling them what you believe is true may or may not impact whether or not they actually believe it. We have posted many times in the past tips for helping students feel welcomed, loved and valued. You can search and read these posts for more guidance. You may also want to have conversations on the topic with your students – especially if they are older. They may give you insight to the needs of your particular students.
The second mindset that impacts students’ motivation to learn is a growth mindset. Do they believe it is important to grow spiritually? Do they believe they have the ability to grow spiritually? Are they willing to put in the effort needed to do the things that will help them grow spiritually? Are they willing to listen to constructive criticism about their attempts to be who God wants them to be? Are they willing to persevere when it seems like they are making mistakes, sinning or are stalled spiritually?
If the relationship between a growth mindset and motivation sounds extremely circular, it actually is on many levels. Your students need to be motivated to have a growth mindset and they need a growth mindset to be motivated to grow spiritually. That’s why your role is so vital in keeping that cycle going.
Finally, researchers found that students with a sense of relevance and purpose about what they were being taught were more motivated to learn about the topic. This has huge implications in teaching the Bible. Don’t assume your Bible students understand the relevance of a Bible story or even one of God’s commands to their lives. Spend the time to make sure they understand the relevance and purpose of every biblical concept you teach. Help them find their relevance and purpose in being an active, productive member of the Church. Don’t wait until they are teens or adults. Start when they are tiny in age appropriate ways.
Wanted motivated Bible students? Work on these three big areas. As you help students work through them, you should begin to see increased motivation to learn more about what God wants them to know.