3 Ideas for Teaching with Imagination in the New Year

How can you help learners move forward with hope into 2021?

Open Bible with light

As a small group leader you help learners move forward with hope into the New Year by using your imagination. Here are three suggestions to get you started.

The year 2021 has arrived. Small group leaders have the arduous job of helping their group members to leave 2020 behind and plunge into a new year. 2020 began like any other year with church and family celebrations and a hopeful list of plans and resolutions. But those came to a screeching halt when we were confronted with a world-wide menace — COVID-19. In its wake, it has wreaked havoc through sickness, weariness, joblessness, fear, uncertainty, and even death. The stress of this virus has impacted every person in your group in some way. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was not the only traumatic occurrence in 2020. Civil unrest and political divisiveness strained our country’s unity and allegiance to one another and to God. Though these events occurred in 2020, we carry with us the residue of each that will smother in our minds and hearts and drive the way we live for years to come. As a small group leader, how can you help learners move forward with hope into the New Year? The simple answer: use your imagination.

Here are suggestions for teaching with imagination to impact the lives of your learners:

Bring Your Sessions into the 21st Century 

Your Sunday school session will most likely not be about the COVID-19 pandemic or any of the traumas we faced in 2020. However, it will be about a biblical character or a biblical principle. At some point in the session, consider moving the context of the session into the classroom. The movie, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” illustrates this. In the movie, the characters Bill and Ted went back in time to bring historical people to their time. So, think about inviting biblical characters or the author of the session you are studying into the classroom by addressing the issues of the past year from their perspective. For example, share what Moses or Paul would do if faced with a pandemic. 

"Hope really does 'spring eternal.' However, even though hope is infused throughout the Word of God, it has not, in many cases, seeped into our hearts."

Christina Zimmerman

Layer Your Sessions with Hope 

Hope really does “spring eternal.” However, even though hope is infused throughout the Word of God, it has not, in many cases, seeped into our hearts. Of the components of Paul’s spiritual trilogy in 1 Corinthians 13 — faith, hope, love — hope seems hardest to maintain when believers are faced with difficulties. Just like hope is infused within the Bible, you can infuse it into each session. But know this may not be an easy task. Believers have a tendency to wear a game face, even though we may be experiencing inner pain or stress. At various times throughout the session, give learners opportunities to express their cares and concerns. Then remind them of God’s promise and ability to come through for them.

Add a Twist to Bible Study 

No doubt, none of us want a repeat of 2020. Help group members move forward in the New Year by adding a twist to their personal Bible study. This year encourage them to study the Scripture passage and the background related to each session and keep a log of what they believe Jesus would have them to be or do as a result of their study. The twist? Urge them to use their imagination to envision Christ speaking directly to them as they study. Through a study of His Word, God makes us stronger and more like Christ.

These teaching with imagination ideas are not meant to be used all at one time and only once. Plan to incorporate them into your teaching plans throughout the New Year and see the difference it will make.


For more on teaching with imagination, the article “Teaching Sunday School with Imagination” provides insight into what it means to ramp up our imagination as teachers to help learners to know the Bible, be Christ-like in our living, and to do what Christ has called us to do.

Christina Zimmerman is content editor for YOU Sunday school curriculum at LifeWay Christian Resources.

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