Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders How to Help Your Students With Anchoring Biblical Truths

How to Help Your Students With Anchoring Biblical Truths

In cognitive psychology there’s a very interesting phenomenon called anchoring. It means that people will always try to anchor new knowledge, problems or issues to existing knowledge and experiences. This not only helps us to remember things better (example: the same math equations work for math, chemistry and physics), but it’s also a big help in problem solving skills. In short: anchoring is a very important part of the process of learning.

Example: when given a problem (‘How do I open this jar that is stuck’?) we automatically try to recall previous similar knowledge (‘A few weeks ago I managed to open one with a knife’) and experiences (‘I have to be careful to use the knife in the right direction, otherwise I’ll end up cutting myself like I did last time’).

This process of anchoring has some interesting and important consequences for teaching Biblical truths in youth ministry:

1. We should help students with anchoring

A well known problem with anchoring is that we anchor to the wrong information or that we can’t find any related information at all to anchor to. This is especially the case when the new knowledge is abstract or conceptual. This is obviously fairly often the case in teaching Biblical truths.

Anchoring to existing knowledge is an important part of the process of learning new knowledge.

This means that when we teach, we should help our students anchor the new information we’re teaching them. There are several ways to do that:

1. Ask for previous knowledge: a very simple strategy in helping students anchor is by asking about previous knowledge. It prevents you from telling stuff they already know and it helps you get a clear picture of what their general level of knowledge is. After having determined what they know, you can supplement any knowledge you feel is relevant.

Example: when teaching about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, ask what they know about the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. When they’ve shared this, teach whatever you feel is necessary on this topic to facilitate anchoring.

2. Teach the context: you can help students with anchoring by giving them clues to as where your story fits.

Example: when teaching about the friendship between David and Jonathan, explain a little bit about who David was (David and Goliath – a well known story students can anchor to or David as author of Psalm 23), about the time period (after the Judges, when Israel had its first king) and about the setting (use a map of what Israel looked like at that time, visual aids help anchor).

3. Show the connections: one of the things students find hardest about Biblical stories and topics is to make the right connections to the bigger story. So help them anchor whatever you’re teaching to the bigger story of God’s plan for redemption.

Example: when teaching about being a light to this world (being a witness), show how God wanted the people of Israel to be different from their heathen neighboring peoples, so that everyone would see who God was.