Introducing kids to Inductive Bible Study is really exciting, but it can also be a little tricky. For new students, this isn’t like anything they’ve done before. You’re casually throwing around words like observation and cross-references and word study, and then telling them to mark on Scripture! Between the vocabulary and the instructions, it can definitely result in an overwhelmed student.
So, when you see that uncertain look on a child’s face, here’s what you do. It’s time to bust out some encouragement and exhortation. Here are some strategies for your toolbox:
Try relating the learning process of Inductive Bible Study to any other learning process that particular child has been through, such as dance, sports, art, a foreign language, or the examples below. Tethering your confidence in them to something that they already have a sense of mastery over can be very powerful.
It might sound something like this:
“Do you play a musical instrument? (Yes.) So, when you had your first lesson, did someone tell you all the parts of the instrument, how to play different notes, how to read sheet music, and then you played your favorite song? Of course not! You learned a little at a time, and built up from the basics. It’s the same with Inductive Bible Study. Just focus on these two things in your homework this week, ________ . And next week, we’ll add something else. Bit by bit, you’ll get there. Just give yourself a little time!”
“Remember when you were learning to read? Did your mom show you the alphabet, recite it, explain about sounds, and then hand you a book to read? Uh, no! You had to take time to learn the alphabet, and then how sounds go together, and then how to read. It’s a step-by-step process, just like learning Inductive Bible Study. And I know that if you could learn how to read, you can learn how to do this. So, for this week, just focus on these three things, ______ . Next week, we’ll see how you did with it and go from there.”
It’s a good idea to let the child know that even though they may not be sure they can handle it, YOU know they can. Kids generally have more confidence in adults’ expertise, so you can speak words of reassurance they need. If you are the parent, the child already trusts you. And if you’re a teacher, you will be amazed at how readily kids trust in your authority and leadership.
Talk (and listen) one-on-one
If it’s a classroom setting, take a few minutes during a break or at the end of class to talk to the child one-on-one. This is so important, so don’t miss it. Sitting down beside an unsure student shows that you value her and have confidence in her. Looking someone in the eye while encouraging them is like highlighting and underlining your words, and then putting them in bold print!
The one-on-one time also gives you a chance to listen. Now, some students are going to withdraw in this kind of situation, but that’s okay. Whether the child tells you a little or a lot, you want them to feel heard, and you want to learn something about them from their words. It gives you a context for encouraging them in a meaningful, specific way. For example, “Remember when you started at your new school, and everything felt new and kind of scary? But you did it! You made friends, learned a lot, and pretty soon, your new school was like home.” Or, “I’ll bet when your big brother high-fives you, it makes you feel really good, doesn’t it? It means you accomplished something great. As you go along and learn things in here, that is exactly how it will feel, and I will high-five you anytime you want!”
Take off as much pressure as you possibly can. Let them know that if they are working on their Bible study and get confused or frustrated, skip it. “Really, just skip it. We’ll cover it together next time, so don’t even worry about it. And if you don’t finish (or even start) your homework, that’s okay. Just keep coming so we can learn together. I never want you to feel bad about not getting homework done if you were trying. We are all in this together.”
There. Now doesn’t that feel better?
Was there ever a time you felt overwhelmed by something new, and someone encouraged you in a unique way? Please, share with the class below!