TED Talk Bible Study

TED Talk Bible Study
July 26, 2016 Dan Wunderlich

The most successful small group Bible studies I ever led during my years in college campus ministry were what I called “TED Talk Bible Studies.” They required a little more preparation than using pre-written curriculum, but they were very engaging and inspired lots of amazing discussions. Here’s why I think they were so successful:

  • TED Talks cover a wide variety of subjects. The most popular talks tend to be psychology and self-help-type topics, but you can find a talk on just about anything. This allows you to explore lots of different areas and appeal to a wide variety of interests.
  • TED Talks come in a variety of lengths. You can find TED Talks ranging from just a few minutes to almost a half-hour. Depending on the attention span of your group, you may only show a portion of a longer talk.
  • They are organized by more than topic. At TED.com, you can search by view count and topic, but you can also search talks by tags that include things like informative, inspiring, funny, or beautiful.
  • TED Talks are meticulously edited for focus. Mythbusters host Adam Savage, who spoke at a TED Conference, revealed that videos of talks given at the main conferences are edited to create the most focused and engaging version of the talk for the web.
  • This format teaches participants how to think theologically. While it is most important that people leave Bible Study knowing more about the Bible, this format teaches participants how to connect the Bible to the world. They can then apply this skill to their lives, jobs, relationships, the news, etc. The key question I ask is, “Where do you see God in this?”
  • This format teaches participants to assess limitations in arguments. I am a Christian who believes in and supports science. At the same time, a science-only approach can limit the spiritual nature of life. Some good questions include “Where is God missing in this?” or “How might the results or conclusions change if we included God in this conversation?”
  • They’re on YouTube. While you will need an internet connection to access the videos, you can show it through any device that can access YouTube — including video game consoles, AppleTV, and Amazon Fire TV sticks.
  • The TED Radio Hour Podcast is a big help. Don’t have time to watch tons of talks looking for the right one? Not quite sure what to ask? Check out the “TED Radio Hour” podcast, which intercuts sections of great talks and interviews with the speaker.

Below are two examples, followed by links to other great talks to consider.

Shawn Achor – The Happy Secret to Better Work

  1. Open with prayer.
  2. Show the video.
  3. ASK: What did you find interesting?
  4. ASK: Where do you see God in this?
  5. Split into 4 groups and assign each group one of the following Scriptures. Have them read the Scripture and talk about how it connects with the topics in the talk.
  6. SCRIPTURES: Romans 12:1–2 (transformed by the renewing of your mind), James 1:2–5 (consider it joy, ask for wisdom), Psalm 73 (I went into the Sanctuary of God, then I perceived), Matthew 6:22–23 (the eye is the lamp of the body)
  7. Gather back as a group. Have each group read their Scripture and share what they discussed. Open up for discussion from other groups in response.
  8. KEY IDEAS: Perspective changes how we experience the world and interact with it. The talk explores the power of thinking positively, while the Scriptures explore the power of seeing the world through a heavenly perspective. Encourage discussion around the difference between a positive perspective and a heavenly perspective. How are they similar? Is having a positive outlook alone enough or is it limited, and why?
  9. Close with prayer.

Judson Brewer – A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit

  1. Open with prayer.
  2. Show the video.
  3. ASK: What did you find interesting?
  4. ASK: Where do you see God in this?
  5. Split into 4 groups and assign each group one of the following Scriptures. Have them read the Scripture and talk about how it connects with the topics in the talk.
  6. SCRIPTURES: Matthew 6:25–33 (do not worry, seek first), Psalm 46 (be still and know), 1 Corinthians 10:6–13 (won’t be tempted beyond our strength, God will provide a way), Philippians 4:4–9 (think about these things)
  7. Gather back as a group. Have each group read their Scripture and share what they discussed. Open up for thoughts from other groups in response.
  8. KEY IDEAS: Mindfulness is a set of practices that closely mirrors prayer. How are mindfulness and prayer similar? How are they different? Mindfulness and prayer practices have been shown to calm down the parts of our brains that control cravings and impulsive decisions. How does God use the biological functions of our brains and bodies to guide us?
  9. Close with prayer.

Some other great TED Talks

Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action
Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability
Caitria and Morgan O’Neill – How to Step Up in the Face of Disaster
Candy Chang – Before I Die I Want To…
Malcolm Gladwell – The Unheard Story of David and Goliath
Jon Ronson – Strange Answers to the Psychopath Test
Cameron Russell – Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model
Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts
Steve Jobs – How to Live Before You Die
James Veitch – This is What Happens When You Reply to Spam Email

What are some of your favorite TED Talks and where do you see God in them? Leave a comment below!

Sign up to receive resources and updates from Defining Grace in your inbox.

Including a FREE PDF with 10 Action Steps for Better Church Announcements!

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links on this site–potentially in the post above–are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Defining Grace is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

4 Comments

  1. John Bryant 11 months ago

    Dan,

    Do you think there’s a minimum age for using this model? Obviously certain TED topics aren’t all ages appropriate, but how old do you think you have to be to follow them?

    • Author
      Dan Wunderlich 11 months ago

      Great question, John! I have never tried it with anyone younger than college, but I did do it with a group that included first semester freshmen just months removed from high school. I will also note that conversations went longer and deeper with grad school age folks than with undergrads, as the older students were at an age and school/work level where they were really interested in trying to see their work and the world more theologically.

      I think it ultimately comes down to the intellectual level and engagement/entertainment level of the talk. There is also the variable of how difficult it is to connect the talk with the Bible and theological ideas. Some talks are way easier – like the two included above, which are practically one step removed from a discussion about prayer. Others are harder to connect and would likely take more maturity, life experience, and intellectual work.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*