Meaningful conversations?

How can we engage students like Jesus?

In Session 5 of Worshiping God, you’ll lead your students to study Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria in John 4. Notice how adeptly Jesus draws her into conversation. He asks her for a drink and leads the conversation to living water. He talks about her family life and touches her moral condition and need. He answers her question about worship in a way that draws her to himself.

How can you make the most of conversations with your students?

Make the time. First, make a point to find opportunities to talk with them—during the session in discussion, informally before you meet, at a baseball game, and even in your home. To be effective, you must initiate communication with 
your students.

Listen. It’s essential to listen to what your students are saying. This may seem obvious, but how many times are you thinking of your own responses instead of really hearing what someone is saying? Notice how Jesus goes beyond the words the woman said and heads straight for the heart. Do not be too quick to respond with an answer. Take time to really hear what your students are telling you. This applies to answers during the study as well as informal talks.

Let them wrestle. Do not immediately judge what students say. Don’t give them the impression that you are always ready to jump in with the “right” answer or advice. In discussion, let students wrestle with issues. Encourage students to discuss with each other, as well as you. You can facilitate that kind of exchange by asking questions like: “Jim, what do you think of Maria’s statement?”

In a one-on-one conversation, it helps to rephrase what the student has said. That helps you make sure you’ve understood, and causes you to delay giving advice right away. Sometimes just hearing you say back what they’ve said helps students put things in focus.

Ask questions. An effective question can challenge your student’s opinion or thinking. What are your reasons for that? Questions help make students aware of something they missed in their assessment. Do not just trade opinions, though. Lead students to Scripture so that they can learn to use the Bible as the standard for testing their opinions.

Help them apply. In your discussions, encourage students to appropriate the truths they have studied. Help them ask: “What difference does this make for my life?” Challenge students to evaluate their commitment to Christ and his church. Point them to Christ and help them develop a Christ-centered worldview.

“We pass too quickly over the word Jesus uses for God: the Father. Jesus calls this Samaritan woman to the worship of God as her Father! … In her loneliness, she sought not God, but men; she found bitterness. … Now she hears Jesus speak of the Father with the assurance of a strange intimacy. He who knows her past knows the Father. Suppose one could know God as Father. What would worship mean then? Not the repetition of sacred phrases, but a cry from the heart — ‘Abba, Father!’” —Edmund P. Clowney

What tips do you have for other leaders?

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