Guidelines for Teaching Effectively
with Role-plays and Demonstrations

© George Patterson & Galen Currah, May 2005

Why use 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 developed.

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 demonstrations.

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.

Keep 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 relationship. Continue.”

Keep 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.

Choose role-plays wisely for leadership training workshops. A wise instructor listens first to participants’ questions, plans and goals before selecting role-plays.

For 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.