Jen Wilkin on 7 Things to Avoid When Teaching Women’s Bible Study

Teaching a passage of Scripture to those who have studied it is far more demanding than teaching one to those who have not. My hope is that by giving Bible study participants homework, it will challenge their thinking enough that by the time they hear me teach, they won’t just take my word for it. Knowing that they will think critically about my teaching holds me accountable to avoid seven common teaching pitfalls.

1. Hopping Around

Have you ever settled in to hear a teaching on a key text, only to have the teacher read through the passage briefly before spending forty minutes ricocheting around the entire Bible? A student who has spent a week parsing a chapter of Ephesians will not be satisfied if the teacher uses the key text merely as a launch pad. She will want to linger there, as she should. She will have discovered that the text at hand is worthy of forty undistracted minutes of the group’s time, that those forty minutes will probably not be enough time to resolve her questions on that text alone.

Good teaching will necessarily involve the use of cross-references, but not at the expense of the primary text. We teachers are prone to wander, particularly when our primary text is a difficult one. The teacher who strives to build Bible literacy needs to stay put. Her primary goal is not to show how the key text relates to a thousand other passages, but to teach the key text so thoroughly that it will come to mind automatically when a student encounters similar themes elsewhere in her study.

2. Feminizing the Text

Women who teach women the Bible are constantly faced with the temptation to take a passage and overlay it with a meaning unique to womanhood. Any time we take a passage that is aimed at teaching people and teach it as though it is aimed specifically at women, we run the risk of feminizing a text.

This is not to say that we can’t look for gender-specific application points from a text that speaks to both genders. Rather, we have to guard against offering interpretation and application that rob the text of its original intent by focusing too exclusively on a gender-specific framework. The book of Ruth is not a book about women for women, any more than the book of Jude is a book about men for men. The Bible is a book about God, written for people. By all means, teach Psalm 139 as it relates to women and body image, but resist the urge to teach it exclusively so. It is not the job of the female teacher to make the Bible relevant or palatable to women. It is her job to teach the text responsibly. A female teacher will sometimes bring a different perspective to the text than a male teacher because of her gender, but not always. A student who has spent time in the text before hearing teaching on it will know when the text is being feminized.

3.Wild Extrapolation

In the interest of “bringing the text to life,” teachers sometimes succumb to the temptation of adding a little paint around the edges of the canvas of Scripture. I admit that it is interesting to speculate about the unrecorded thoughts and motives of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is perhaps even beneficial to a point. But at some point it moves from being helpful to being distracting, and potentially to being extra biblical.

If you have ever watched a movie adaptation of a familiar Bible story, you will understand this point—the more literate you are about what the Bible actually says about the exodus, the less you will be able to enjoy Cecil B. DeMille’s extrapolation of it. Imagining beyond the text holds great appeal for an audience, but limited appeal for a student. Familiarity with a text prior to hearing it taught moves the participant from audience member to student. A student who has spent a week immersed in the text you are teaching will know when you go “off script.”

4. Overdependence on Storytelling or Humor

In order to be relatable and engaging, teachers employ storytelling and humor as rhetorical devices. This is not wrong. Humor and storytelling humanize the teacher, help keep listeners engaged, and make teaching points memorable. It is not okay for a teacher to be unrelatable, boring, or forgettable. But it’s also not okay for a teacher to become over-reliant on humor and storytelling, or to use them in a way that manipulates or distracts from the lesson. If they don’t reinforce the teaching, they will compromise it.

If someone were to break down your teaching into a pie chart, how much of the pie would be taken up with these two elements? If you asked your students to tell you one thing they remembered from your lesson, would they recall a key point or a funny story? Audiences love humor and stories, whether they support the message or not. Students love sound content made more memorable by a well-placed illustration or quip. A well-prepared student will know whether her teacher uses these rhetorical devices as filler or as reinforcement.

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Source: Church Leaders