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How to Motivate Adults to Learn

Here are tips for ministry leaders on how to motivate and not manipulate.

One of the most critical problems in adult Bible study groups today is the failure to motivate learners to incorporate biblical truth into their lives. Research indicates that the worldview of countless Christians — a philosophy of life that forms the basis of how you think and how you act — is no different from the worldview of non-Christians.

Many experienced Bible study facilitators or teachers would agree that a person's "MQ" — "motivation quotient" — is more important than his IQ, or intelligence quotient. Teaching tends to be most effective when the learner is properly motivated.

A clear understanding of motivation and how to motivate learners is important because adult leaders need to recognize the difference between motivation and manipulation. The key to motivating learners is to make them thirsty for biblical truth!

Once you have determined that adults are thirsty, the effective motivator will ask, what kind of water do I have to satisfy their thirsts? When we honestly and openly can offer spiritual "water" to spiritually parched people, we are not manipulating. We are motivating! How can we become motivators rather than manipulators?

Some ways Bible study leaders can motivate learning in their group . . .

1. Get learners involved

Use a variety of teaching methods that appeal to the varied learning approaches of the learners. Enlist selected learners in advance to assist in leading portions of the Bible study session. Adults can provide a mini-lecture that sets the biblical background for the session. Leaders also can enlist a learner to facilitate a group activity.

2. Give them responsibility

Organize your Bible study group into various teams to accomplish the total work of the group. Provide written descriptions of various tasks available and written job descriptions of the team's assignment. Encourage every person to join a team that best reflects the individual's spiritual gifts, desires, or talents.

3. Be enthusiastic

Learner motivation is closely linked to leader motivation. A leader who shares what God is teaching them from Scripture may inspire others to delve into the depths of Scripture for a fresh word from God.

4. Use positive language

What leaders say and how they say it may be all a leader needs to motivate learners. Research suggests that the typical learner is exposed to three times as many negative statements as positive statements -- from teachers and peers alike. When learners make comments, affirm them with statements such as "Thank you for sharing." Affirmation does a lot to encourage further participation

5. Write words of encouragement

Write brief notes whenever a learners in your group comes to mind. Use warm, affirming words written in your own handwriting. Special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries are good times for notes. Write notes to members to let them know you appreciate them. Say, "You are an encouragement to me and others in our group" or "Thank you for your participation in our group. You encourage me to be prepared to lead our session."

6. Know your people individually

When leaders know their learners individually and discovers their specific needs, likes or dreams, motivation techniques can be tailored accordingly. Leaders who can key in on specific motivation actions often can adjust their teaching plans and processes accordingly.

7. Show relevance

Studies also show that learners are far more motivated when they understand how the content of the study can be used or applied to life. Can we motivate people to learn? Truthfully, motivation comes from within. But when leaders create a climate that makes adults thirsty for the Word, learning becomes exciting and learners want to participate.