4 Ways to Make Your Teaching More Engaging

Emily Katherine Johnson
February 25th, 2021

1. Use visuals and use them well 

Grabbing and keeping the attention of students can be challenging.  The use of visuals help. The presence of visual aids alone is powerful, but using visual aids just to say you had some slides is not worth your time. A black slide with white words will not keep their attention, but a picture will really stick with them. Be creative, especially in your Bible teaching, to find a picture that relates to what you are talking about. If the text talks about any type of geographical movement, show them where that is on a map. Add icons that greatly connect to your points for even stronger learning. 

2. Change your method every 3-5 minutes

I personally find it enjoyable to prepare a really great talk, but have come to learn no matter how well designed my expositional teaching is, students learn very little from the same teaching method for any longer than 5 minutes. What are some methods you can use to mix things up in your teaching?

  • Showing a video
  • Large group discussion
  • Small group discussion at tables
  • Personal reflection
  • Practicing teaching something they just learned to someone else
  • Reading out loud
  • Listening to a song
  • Building something with their hands
  • Moving around the room
  • Playing a game
  • Read a passage in small groups and answer questions

This feels like extra work and preparation, but keeps students so much more engaged because they don’t have time to start checking their phone. 

3. Share your story 

I have seen few things make students really lean in like hearing an adult they look up to share their story, especially sharing something vulnerable. Students are desperate to hear an adult say, “Hey, I struggled with who I was when I was injured playing a sport in 8th grade,” “I felt left out a lot in high school”, “I really wish I had told this friend about Jesus in middle school”, or  “I honestly thought my life was over when a guy broke up with me that I went way too far with.” As people who are involved in a student’s life, I think this is one of the best ways we can share the Gospel and how it is lived out by various members of the Church.

4. Don’t overlook the basics

For me, teaching many students who have “grown up” in church, often caused me to move quickly past things I was sure they kno\ew; but, I have found it greatly valuable to slow down and ask if they really know. Questions like “What is a disciple?”, “Are demons real?”, and “Why do we read the Bible?” have led to great discussions in small groups. I also led a group in which we physically walked through some key moments in the metanarrative of Scripture and they absolutely loved it! We started in one part of a large room and talked about what happened in the Garden of Eden. I had a couple of them act out being Adam, Eve, the Snake, and the Tree. We kept moving and acted out the flood. We moved to another spot and learned about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. We moved to another spot we called Egypt and ran across the Red Sea. (Yes, watching them act out the 10 plagues was hilarious!) We wandered and wandered to a spot not that far away that we called Canaan. While these things were small and simple, physically walking through a space every week for a semester really cemented these stories chronologically in their minds.  So much so, that when our pastor mentioned the Israelites in the wilderness, they all looked at me across the Sanctuary like it was an inside joke we had. 

In conclusion, when it comes to teaching students, we want to go deeper than children’s ministry. They can think abstractly and need to apply what they are learning to how they live their lives.  However, we also need to keep things engaging and fun. We can never stop teaching the basics of the Christian faith and can never stop telling stories. 

Emily Katherine Johnson

Emily Katherine works with WinShape College Program equipping college students to make disciples on their campus while also volunteering as a high school small group leader. EmK graduated with her Master of Divinity in Christian Education and loves equipping believers to make disciples in a fun and engaging way. She published "Let's Be Real" her memoir of faith and grief in 2020, the same year she married her husband and best friend during a COVID wedding. You can find blog posts, book reviews, and her schedule for booking at emilykatherinejohnson.com

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