Tools and Methods

An interactive workshop for training listening group leaders and promoters
Author: Richard Margetts (2016)

Available in both English and French.

The training workshop described in this guide was developed in West Africa and includes input received from around the world. It is for listening group leaders (those who lead/facilitate the groups) and for group promoters (those who visit groups to encourage them and mentor the facilitators).

A listening group is an opportunity for people to get together to listen to a passage from the Bible and talk about it together. In this guide, you’ll find elements which focus on the ‘why’ of listening groups as well as the practical details of ‘how’ to lead a group.

WHY?
Group leaders need to know why they are doing what they are doing. What is the aim of a listening group? What kinds of group can we have? How will we know if a group is working well or not? Why are they gathering together to listen? The aim should be transformational Scripture engagement: that people encounter God’s Word in life-changing ways.

HOW?
The workshop guide includes sections on how to lead the listening time, how to manipulate the audio player and how to ask good discussion questions. It can be taught in an interactive way and participants should have plenty of opportunity during the workshop to practice participating in and leading listening groups.

An ideal time for such a workshop could be when new audio Scriptures in the local language have been recorded for a community and when audio players are available. It would work well at the launch of a listening group programme in a region, after some initial promotion work has been done to get churches involved and committed to running groups.

The guide is downloadable here in both PDF and Word formats and is published under a Creative Commons License, meaning that you can adapt it for use in your context.  [more...]

Publish early, publish small, publish often
Author: Eric Graham

"Prepare little, fill often, and expect users to engage with the content in small quantities (hopefully on frequent occasions) is the paradigm of the digital wineskin. The mode of operation for a Scripture translation project to consider becomes: Publish early, publish little and publish often – in various media formats, and for a range of digital delivery platforms."

This paper reviews features of digital publishing and associated technology that are transforming approaches to Scripture translation and publication in minority languages. Understanding and harnessing the potential of micro-content, the small units of material that make up digital media products, are key themes. The paper recommends that digital publication starts at an early stage in a translation project, making small units of Scripture available to the language community in audio and text formats as soon as each is completed and checked. It promotes the idea of incrementally publishing small units in various media formats. By gaining the attention of the audience with the small unit, there is potential for spiritual awakening that leads to an appetite for the big.  [more...]

Author: Margaret Hill

Today we are in a very different position from when Bible agencies and churches first started running literacy classes. There are alternatives! We now have many methods of producing, distributing and copying oral Scriptures of many different types. In almost every case where a literacy programme is going nowhere, people will accept oral Scriptures and listen to them.

Several years ago, Margaret Hill wrote an article provocatively titled "How Literacy can Harm Scripture Use". Her thesis was that too many literacy programmes were starting with classes for beginners rather than focusing on transition literacy for the leaders and change agents in society. Such an approach, she argued, is harmful to Scripture engagement.

This article is a follow-up, emphasising the same message and going further to take into account the observation that "increasingly here in Africa we are seeing that many language groups are very interested in using their languages orally, but very uninterested in reading or writing in them".

Rather than "hitting your head against a wall" with struggling literacy programmes, the author calls for a refocusing of strategies and reminds us that audio Scriptures often work very well in such contexts.

Download the article as a PDF document.  [more...]

Author: Bill Mitchell
Published by: Edinburgh 2010 Conference

"In UBS thinking Scripture Engagement is a concept that emphasises making the Bible discoverable, accessible and relevant, that includes both making the Bible recoverable and discoverable as Sacred Scripture, and making Scriptures accessible as a place of life enhancing and life transforming encounter."

Bill Mitchell describes some of the challenges faced by United Bible Societies in the twenty-first century.

Globalisation and new technology challenge churches and Bible Societies "to intentionally engage the new culture, to express the faith in new media forms. Making the Word of God accessible on the Internet, as opposed to making it possible to access the standard text of the Bible via the Internet, requires understanding and use of a new 'media language'."

Bible Society strategies have needed to change around the world, moving from "dealing with Bible needs to developing mission strategies", moving from "distribution targets to engagement and encounter, from biblical illiteracy to transformational change, and from sales strategies to shared communication."

The article concludes with five examples of Scripture engagement from Latin America and the UK, to "illustrate the creative implementation and localisation of global mission strategies".

This paper was presented at the Edinburgh 2010 Conference, celebrating 100 years since the landmark Edinburgh 1910 world missionary conference.  [more...]

Reducing the time from translation desk to Scripture engagement
Author: Richard Margetts

"If the food is ready and the people are hungry,
don’t put it in the freezer and tell them to come back later."

The title of this article sprang from a discussion we had during a training course for Scripture Engagement practitioners in Yaoundé, Cameroon. From their experience of working with Bible translation teams across francophone Africa, the participants knew that it could take a very long time before completed portions (such as individual Bible books) got from the translator’s desk and into the hands of the people. The ‘food’ would be ‘put in the freezer’ waiting for the day when it would finally be served to those hungry to receive it.

So why does this happen? If the people are hungry for God’s Word in their own language, why would a translation team take this spiritual food and store it away in the freezer for another day? What is causing the delay? Isn’t there something we can do to reduce the time from translation desk to Scripture engagement?  [more...]

Author: Margaret Hill

What kinds of resources and activities would be good for promoting Scripture Engagement in language communities around the world? This checklist was put together at a seminar in Nairobi, Kenya, in August 2011.

I hope it will be useful as you work on planning and strategy issues in Scripture Engagement. Most communities would not expect to have all the items listed here but it is likely that they should be working on some in each category, with the aim of seeing people engage with God’s Word in their local language and culture.

The checklist includes 19 categories of activities and resources.  [more...]

Author: Margaret Hill

"It has been proved over and over again that people do not learn by sitting and listening to long lectures! The more the participants are involved in the learning process, the more they will remember. As much as possible, help the participants to put into practice what they are learning during the workshop. Use of drama, role play, music, small group discussions are all helpful ways of getting the message across."

Drawing on years of experience in running workshops around the world, Margaret Hill cites some of the problems encountered, for example: lack of mentoring and follow-up, wrong choice of participants, lack of political/social support for the participants, people sometimes like coming on workshops in order to get certificates without any expectation of using the new knowledge, lack of local funding.

After describing several possible solutions to these problems, Margaret concludes that "workshops and courses can indeed be very useful, but they can also be a waste of time and money. Planning is needed to make the best possible use of the time when people come together".  [more...]

Author: John Ommani

"Pastors have taken on the 'lecture' method to display the 'big man' syndrome which does not allow the people to engage. They are expected to sit and listen and remain silent. They feel this is how the church has to operate. The pastor simply tells them what the Bible says and what they need to do. They are not able to live out what they are told because they still have unanswered questions."

The model of the pastor as 'big man' who knows it all means that people have to sit and listen, and often this does not lead to engagement with Scripture in life-transforming ways. In many traditional cultures, leaders taught through stories, questions, and riddles, allowing people to interact and discover. Can pastors today learn to use discovery methods in the church that allow people to interact with Scripture and discover lessons for themselves? This article says yes, with field experience from Africa to demonstrate it.  [more...]

9 ideas for using digital audio players in Scripture Engagement
Author: Richard Margetts

"We know that just because someone has a printed Bible doesn’t mean they will use it. After the novelty has worn off, how can we encourage people to go on listening and engaging with God’s Word with their audio player?"

In recent years we’ve seen the launch of a number of multi-purpose digital audio players, designed for contexts without easy access to electricity: such as the MegaVoice Ambassador, the Saber, the Papyrus and the Audibible. They can contain hours of audio Scripture, songs, teaching, Bible stories, or whatever audio content you choose.

Suppose you had 10 of them, or 100, or 1,000? What would you do with them? Not only would you need to decide what to put on them, but you would also need to think about how people will get hold of them and put them to use.

This brief article describes 9 ideas for putting audio players to use, including listening groups, audio libraries, tools for pastors and evangelists, new communities and translation testing.  [more...]