Have you ever wondered what sort of Bible class environment can make young people beg their parents to attend? We did some research and found some secular information that applies readily to Bible classes, too.
The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle is considered a classic on creating healthy cultures in organizations. With apologies to the author, I have heavily adapted one of his lists for our purposes as Bible teachers.
As you read the list, I think you will find it reflects much of what the New Testament teaches on how we are to treat one another and how our church environments should be.
Sadly, many churches and especially Bible classes have missed the mark. Instead of people being drawn to our Bible classes like a magnet, they are often indifferent or even repelled.
So what elements should a healthy group environment – or in our case Bible class – contain?
- People are sitting in a circle as much as possible. Rows tend to allow people to hide and disconnect from the rest of the people in the class.
- There is a lot of intentional eye contact, both between teachers and students and amongst students. Try having someone tell you they love you while looking over your shoulder or at your chin. Then have them say it again while looking into your eyes. Feel the difference? You will have to be intentional though, as many of us have developed bad habits over the years.
- There is a lot of appropriate physical contact. Most people don’t get nearly enough appropriate physical touch – especially teens and even children. That leaves them touch deprived and susceptible to temptations where they might receive the physical contact they crave. Apparently, high fives and fist bumps work almost as well as hugs.
- Lots of short, energetic exchanges between teachers and students. Bible students aren’t subjected to long lectures with no interaction expected from them.
- Everyone talks to everyone. No one feels like they are an outsider or don’t belong. If you are working with teens and even some children, you may have to have lessons and reminders to help everyone break bad habits. They don’t all have to be best friends, but they should all engage everyone in conversation.
- Lots of questions are being asked and answered. These can be from teachers or Bible students. We have several free resources to help you ask the best questions to help students learn. In general though, the questioning and answering usually means learning is happening – often on multiple levels and by both teachers and students.
- Everyone is actively listening to everyone else. They are paying attention and giving feedback. If everyone is listening well, everyone feels seen and heard, even when others don’t agree with them.
- There is a sense of fun. Humor and laughter are appropriate in a Bible class as long as it is not disrespectful or the type of humor that often hurts others. The Bible has quite a bit of humor in it, so I would imagine God has a great sense of humor.
- Everyone is truly loving everyone else – especially by treating each other with respect, using good manners, being considerate, putting others before themselves, being patient, kind, etc. In short, everyone is accurately reflecting God’s love to others.
The best part of the author’s research? Groups that created that type of environment, had members who would do almost anything to spend time with the group. They were drawn to those people and that environment like iron to a magnet. Which in our case, means we can also point them to the true magnet in our lives – God. It’s worth taking the time and effort to make any changes your Bible class needs to create this environment.