One of the problems young people often have with the Bible is that it appears to them to contain a bunch of random stories and information. They aren’t quite sure what to do with the information they have managed to remember and any new information they are taught. Failing to see how all of these ideas connect in meaningful ways can leave them struggling to remember and use the information the way God intended.
A few weeks ago, I shared mind mapping with you as one way for young people to start making those connections. There is a version of that, called concept mapping, which is more complex, but can give additional help to older children and teens. (Note: Some people use the terms interchangeably.)
Concept mapping starts out with a theme. Often a question is given surrounding the theme. So for example, you may say, “What do we know from the Bible about —————-?” The concept mapping will surround the theme and the question, although it can then generate other concept maps.
Students start by remembering and then researching the topic. What Bible stories or scripture passages do they remember about the topic? Then have them use study aids to find more connections. As they finish this first round, encourage them to dig deeper. Are there other stories or passages that are connected to the topic, but in a less obvious way? You can even have guest “Bible scholars”….members who are very familiar with scripture that can perhaps give them hints or suggestions when they get stuck.
After students believe they have found everything in the Bible about the topic, it’s time to organize the information in some way. This can take a variety of forms depending upon the personalities and organizational skills of students.
As they begin organizing the information, you want them to start seeing connections. For some topics there may be a type of flow chart as understanding of a topic builds from the Old Testament to the New Testament. You may find some sort of arcing as Old Testament stories foreshadow or scriptures prophecy about things in the New Testament. They may have arrows indicating thoughts, attitudes or actions God wants us to take because of a bit of information.
Once students have finished organizing all of the information, it’s time to review the completed diagram. What patterns or connections can students see better now that the information is more visual? Do they see topics for future concept mapping exercises?
It’s important to note that some students will absolutely love this way of analyzing scripture, because they are analytic thinkers or love organizing things. Other students may struggle, but still benefit when this is done as a group exercise. The key for both groups is your enthusiasm at helping them see how all of these seemingly random bits of information in the Bible connect to each other. It’s not an exercise you want to use every class, but periodically it can help students organize, remember and understand key pieces of what God wants them to know and use.