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When Cheryl began a study with three women, she dismissed the notion of just sitting down and reading By This Name together. To her it seemed so basic and uninteresting. Surely a lecture format with some good discussion thrown in would be a more compelling method for teaching the same material.
Cheryl was not alone in her thinking. GoodSeed staff are often asked:
“Why do you just read the book together? Isn’t that boring? A turn-off to well-educated students? What about breaking things up with times of discussion? Why not just give it to them to read on their own?”
In our day and age, the idea of sitting down across from the person you’re about to lead through a Bible study and simply reading the content of a book together seems… anti-climactic to say the least.
But in Scripture, we find the precedent of reading aloud from the Word of God and carefully explaining its meaning:
“They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8 ESV).
And in the New Testament, we find Paul instructing Timothy: “Preach the word … correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV). While it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict about sin and work in the students’ hearts to bring them to faith and continued growth, believers have an important responsibility in their presentation of the Word. Namely, believers must teach carefully.
In the same way that Paul had instructed Timothy, one of the underlying goals of GoodSeed is to be careful in our instruction. It was out of that desire that Dynamic Reading was developed.
A few weeks after her study began, Cheryl attended a meeting where John R Cross was the speaker. That night, she was introduced to the idea of Dynamic Reading and Dynamic Leading. This new method was quite different from her preference, but she understood there could be huge benefits to making a change. Although a little skeptical, she decided to give it a try with her group. From then on, the women took turns reading through the book, applying the Dynamic Reading principles. They stuck to the material and, other than answering questions to clarify what they were reading, they didn’t take much time for open discussion. Was it effective?
We’ll finish Cheryl’s story in a minute, but first, let’s talk about what Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling is. We’ve labelled the method dynamic because it is about continuous change, activity or progress.
Simply put, Dynamic Reading consists of taking turns to read aloud through the Bible study content. The leader works to stay on topic and moves through the material quickly. The leader reads the commentary while the learners take turns reading the Scripture passages.
In Dynamic Leading, the leader intentionally uses other teaching aids like the highlighter, workbooks, video clips and visual aids to further enhance understanding, retention and interest.
Highlighter: The leader tells the learners the important points to highlight or underline and they do so throughout the study.
Workbook: At the end of each section, the leader pauses to allow the learners to check their understanding of the content by filling in a workbook. The leader will review their answers to ascertain understanding before progressing in the content.
Video clips: In lieu of reading aloud the content, certain sections are covered by video clips.
Visual aids: The leader uses visual aids to bring to life important biblical concepts.
The third aspect of this style of guiding a study is Dynamic Modelling. This is where the leader deliberately guides the study in such a way that learners can simply mimic or model the teaching style, so they themselves can become leaders of others.
The impact of Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling results in five key benefits for the learner, summed up in the acrostic CAROT:
Many educators understand that the more ways a teacher can engage the students, the higher comprehension tends to be. From our experience, hearing the text, seeing it before you, and physically underlining key points engages three of a person’s senses. This improves understanding dramatically, compared to the lecture format where a person is a passive listener. Another key benefit of having the learners read Scripture out loud, is that they engage firsthand with the Bible passages. This allows the Holy Spirit to use the Word to increase their understanding and impact their lives in very personal and direct ways. The use of visual aids further increases the student’s comprehension.
Marie, who had been trained in Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling at a TERM Seminar, found that engaging multiple senses made an important difference when she taught Bianca, a 60-year-old friend. Between the visual aids and reading the material together, Marie saw the Bible’s message come alive for Bianca and with each session, her friend was understanding more and more of the Bible’s message.
With reading the text, the leader doesn’t have to worry about missing an important point, or stumbling to gather his thoughts together. By simply reading aloud, he can be confident that at the end, everything that needs to be communicated will be communicated in the clearest way possible. The text of the book is the script to follow. This also means that the leader doesn’t have to be a very gifted communicator or spend hours in preparation or memorization; even new teachers will be able to lead.
Philip has taught the material numerous times to prison inmates. He has found the Worldview Rethink leader’s guide very helpful. Sometimes he feels like he’s “cheating” because of all the built-in helps makes it easy for him. He just has to read well.
Students tend to retain knowledge better when they’ve read the material, heard it, highlighted it, watched a video about it, seen a visual aid depicting it and reviewed the material in their workbook. And it is easy for students to later go back over the material for themselves.
Madison shared, “My husband and I talked about the visual aids… Especially the one with the Passover. Even though I’ve read it many times, the 3D visual aid made it so clear—just as the lamb died in the place of the firstborn, so Jesus died in our place, as our substitute. It was a powerful connection for me.”
The material is already written in an objective, non-arm-twisting manner. But the added advantage with reading aloud is that it puts the authority outside the room. Because the authority is not the leader but the author of the book, it significantly reduces the possibility of confrontation with the learner. For example, if the participant disagrees with a point in the book, he is more willing to bring it up and discuss it as he is not confronting the leader but the author. Reading this way also removes possible offense when a student is confronted with sin or a truth that contradicts what he currently believes. If a discussion over a point develops, the discussion is about what the author wrote, not what the leader said.
Remember Cheryl? At the end of the study with her three friends, the women celebrated their new faith in the work of Jesus. As they discussed what they’d learned, one of the women brought up the change in Cheryl’s approach to teaching the material. “At first, when you taught us, it was very confrontational. You were so passionate about what you believed and it was hard not to be defensive.” If fact, she confided that she’d been on the verge of dropping out before Cheryl changed her approach. The other two women chimed in their agreement on this point. However, the women pointed out, once Cheryl changed her method to Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling, the material seemed more objective and easier to follow. They found that once Cheryl’s impassioned views were removed from the equation, they were more receptive to the Bible’s message. Cheryl was surprised but very thankful for their comments. She had always taught passionately but never realized it could be off-putting for some. Now she is convinced that the Dynamic approach was key to the women’s openness to the gospel.
Students are easily able to “teach as they are taught.” Just as their leader guided the course, so they can simply follow likewise and lead others. As long as they can read, they can lead. They don’t have to be especially knowledgeable or gifted in order to pass this message on to the next person.
In our experience, after a student has completed a study, he or she will often ask the leader, “Can you also teach my family?” At this point, the leader has another opportunity to further equip the student. The leader can reply, “I’d love to teach your family. But how about we teach it together? Just as you’ve seen me use Dynamic Reading, we can lead a study together.” And exactly as the new believer was taught, he or she can now lead. This gives added confidence and encouragement to the newly appointed leader.
As with any planned study, leading in this way provides discipline and structure to the learners. With increasingly busy lifestyles and decreasing attention spans, many find it challenging to finish a course of study on their own or in a timely manner. Studying the message of the Bible as a group provides the discipline and structure that many find useful in helping them finish the course.
The following stories are testimonies of the results of Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling:
One woman who attended a weekly study through By This Name, would go home each evening and simply read the sections of the book she’d studied with her unbelieving husband.
In Southeast Asia, Gavin and Sophie had lectured the material to many groups, but a time came when they needed their students to take over the classes for them. But when the need was put forward, things ground to a halt. None of their former students felt capable of communicating the material on their own as they’d seen Gavin and Sophie do. So the couple switched to the Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling method, even though it was culturally unusual. As the students saw how easy the material was to teach using this method, they became more receptive to the idea of become teachers themselves. When the course had completed, Gavin and Sophie had six volunteers willing to become teachers and lead the next class of students.
Another couple, Barry and Melissa, approached their study with transferability at the forefront of their minds. Midway through their study, they asked if any in the group had considered leading a study in the future. If so, they could try leading the current group by co-teaching with Barry. A man raised his hand and came to the front. He was nervous for several minutes but soon got the hang of Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling and he was off! When the study wrapped up, three couples were so encouraged by how easy it was to lead that they got the necessary resources and prepared to lead studies in their own homes. As they had seen Barry and Melissa do, they were excited to try in their own homes with their family and friends.
In each case, the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2 was put into immediate practice: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NKJV)
How to Use GoodSeed Tools in Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling
GoodSeed resources are deliberately designed to take advantage of the benefits of Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling. In building the architecture of the books, rather than the Bible being viewed as a series of disconnected stories, learners gain an appreciation and understanding of the Bible as one unfolding message of God’s plan of redemption.
There are two basic approaches you can choose from.
Option 1: Using the books
The first option is for you and each student to obtain a copy of the book you plan to work through. We recommend By This Name. You can also use The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus if your students have a Christianized worldview where they already associate the word God with the God of the Bible. Or choose All that the Prophets Have Spoken if your students have an Islamic worldview.
Then it’s simply a matter of sitting down with your students, each with their own book open before them. You will read the commentary, while the students take turns reading the verses. This is significant as it allows the students to engage directly with Scripture for themselves. In some groups, the students will voluntarily pipe up as the verses are to be read. In other groups, a pre-arranged reading order is set. Feel free to use whichever approach works better in your situation. One thing to be careful of is not to make those who are uncomfortable with reading feel awkward. Whichever reading format you choose, make sure it allows each student to learn comfortably.
When you read, try to read in an engaging voice. Be dramatic as the narrative is dramatic. Read the humorous points in the right tone; conversely, when the content is serious, maintain a sober demeanour. This tends to hold the interest of the students better. In addition, the change in voices from multiple readers acts as another element to hold student attention.
All these books come with video clips that supplement the text. Leaders can get to the videos via the internet links built into the book or they can use the DVD. These videos will provide impact and greater visual interest and thus improve student understanding.
Following this option will enable you to accomplish CAROT to a certain degree.
However, there is a great deal more that can be accomplished in the areas of comprehension, accuracy, retention, objectivity and transferability when you choose the second option.
Option 2: Using the Worldview Rethink Curriculum
We recommend using the appropriate Worldview Rethink Curriculum and visual aid toolboxes. They are available for By This Name, The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus and All that the Prophets Have Spoken. Each curriculum comes with a leader’s guide. Built into it are many helps which will direct you in highlighting, using visual aids, using the workbook, answering students’ questions and so forth. You can teach straight out of the leader’s guide.
In the guide, there are also instructions for teaching with co-leaders. Having two leaders makes it even easier to teach and provides even more variation in voices as both of them switch back and forth in reading. This helps to keep the study lively. It also makes it easy for a husband and wife to teach together.
Importantly, the use of the visual aids can significantly enhance the impact on your student. We sometimes refer to the visual aids as “velcro for the brain.” Seeing a visual aid helps biblical concepts come alive and make profound sense. They also give the student a visual picture in their minds to hang biblical concepts on.
For instance, in our three main books, the story of a revolting rat is used to illustrate how God views our sin. When the rat visual aid is first pulled out in a study, students often visibly recoil, feeling their own sense of distaste for the nasty rat. From then on, each time the rat is pulled out to remind students of sin, the students instantly call up the backstory to that repulsive creature and apply that same sense throughout the book. So much meaning and depth about how God views sin is summed up in that one visual aid, giving the concept of sin a much greater impact than if the student simply read about it.
In the prison ministry studies he’s led, Philip has seen the benefit of using visual aids with inmates. He finds the Tabernacle model very helpful. And he believes the rubber rat is one of the best visual aids. “It’s been one of the most powerful representations of sin,” Philip notes. “It’s driven home how God views sin.”
Using Worldview Rethink, your students will reap the greatest benefits from all five aspects of CAROT. Read more stories from those who have used this method and also from those who were taught with this method and are now leading their own groups.
We must rely on the Holy Spirit to work in each individual’s life as they go through the study. However, the Holy Spirit’s work does not exempt us from the responsibility of being careful teachers. We need to communicate in a way that best enables a clear understanding of the Bible’s central message.
If you haven’t led a study using Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling, we encourage you to try it for your next study. And we pray that the Lord will bless your efforts as you seek to share the gospel message “with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV).