Guidelines for Teaching Effectively
with Role-plays and Demonstrations
© George Patterson & Galen Currah, May 2005
role-plays to train Christian Leaders?
The compilers have observed in both educated
and barely literate societies that Christian workers learn and obey God’s
Word more readily when they participate in, or view, demonstrations of
biblical truths and skills.
The Holy Spirit uses God Word more
powerfully when believers participate actively in the training, rather than
simply listening passively as ‘hearers only.’
Believers seldom forget Bible truths that they
have seen portrayed dramatically.
Use demonstrations in two
ways: teach God’s Word to believers, and train leaders.
Practice needed skills by
simulating situations that require their use. Team-teaching (two or more
instructors working together) makes it easy to plan simulations.
Be creative. Some
teachers seek role-plays that have been developed already and are explained
in detail. Others prefer to add details themselves. To satisfy both, some
role-plays are described in detail; others merely offer ideas to be
Teach in a way that stirs
people’s thoughts. Teaching inspires when folks take
part actively or see others doing so. Wise teachers develop a repertoire of
Aim for total participation.
If possible, use role-plays in which everybody present take part. The more
people who participate, the better. Good role-plays help people to move
beyond being merely a passive audience.
role-plays short. Some Bible passages
are too long to dramatize; select portions that you want to portray and
simply summarize the rest. How much of a story is dramatized also depends
on time available and how many volunteers can help. A
role-play should save time. If it takes more time than lecturing
would, then it may be wiser to lecture. Trainees can be carried away by the
acting, waste time and defeat the purpose of the
training. Keep focused on the truth or skill you are teaching. Skip
time-consuming dialogue by asking the actor who is speaking to say what
should happen next. For example, if a role-play is to illustrate
evangelism, one might begin talking to a seeker about things of common
interest to build a relationship. This can take a long time. To save time,
simply ask the believer, “What has to happen in the next few minutes?” The
role-player will normally mention something about building a relationship.
You would then say, “Good. An hour has passed. You have built a
role-plays simple. Role-plays normally give
better results if actors ad lib, keeping in mind only the idea
of what to say and do. Avoid dramatic, professional
acting and impressive ‘productions.’ Excellent acting draws attention away
from the truths that you are teaching. The audience becomes passive
‘hearers only.’ For the same reason, avoid props and costumes. The strength
of role-plays is not in the acting, but in helping believers to see a truth
or an activity in action, rather than only hearing it.
Use line numbers in the
left margin to cue actors who lose their place in a script.
role-plays wisely for leadership training workshops. A wise instructor listens first to participants’ questions,
plans and goals before selecting role-plays.
workshops or small congregations, let demonstrations raise questions. When a role-play enables believers to visualize how to do God’s work in the field, it stimulates questions
about applying and planning fieldwork. During or
following a demonstration, let both students and teachers ask questions.
Arrange seating in a circle
(or horseshoe). Seeing one another enhances participation.
Use Bible stories when
possible instead of making up role-plays. God’s Holy Spirit uses His
Word to transform lives. Biblical stories generally give better results. To
present Bible stories without requiring too much time preparing, let the
role-play leader serve as a narrator to summarize parts of the story that are not voiced as conversation, while others
read or act the spoken parts. For example, to teach
original sin, the role-play leader reads or tells by memory the non-spoken
parts of Genesis 3. Others read or dramatize the parts of the Voice of
God, Serpent, Adam and Eve.