Understanding the Instructional Design in a Faith & Action Lesson


by Quentin McGhee

ACLAME Topic: Understanding the Instructional Design in a Faith & Action Lesson

This ACLAME article is based on Lesson 9 in Chapter 3, from the Faith & Action course: Gospel of John.

(To downloadtheentire F&A Lesson 9, https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/aclamedownload/ACLAME-Lesson_9.pdf

Note: Excerpts from the Faith & Action lesson in this article are in black.

Comments about the Instruction Design of the lesson are in red.

Chapter 3: 

Ministry in Samaria, Galilee, and Judea 

(John 4–6)

We begin each chapter with an Introduction, to capture the attention of our students. The Introduction is usually a picture, and a short story, or summary of a story.


There is a caption under each figure-including photos drawings, charts, maps and diagrams. At the front of the book there is a list of all figures.

Figure 3.1 Jesus crossed the boundaries of prejudice. He climbed over the wall of human rules about gender, race, social status and morality. For he cared more about people than rules. Jews did not talk to most women in public. And Jews did not talk to Samaritans at all. But Jesus came to earth on a mission. In this story we meet the One who knows all our secrets, yet still offers us the water of life–regardless of our gender, race, social status, or morality.1


Whenever the geography is important to a lesson, we include a map to make learning easier, and help create a sense of reality.

Our questions form a path to success. As students answer the questions, they are certain to reach the destination of the lesson goals. We use two levels of questions in our F&A courses—hammer questions and nail questions. Our logo shows a hammer hitting a nail—picturing the relation of content to application. Hammer questions cover content on the bottom 2 levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, which are (1) memorizing and (2) understanding/paraphrasing.2 The answer to a hammer question is in the text, beside the hammer question. Hammer questions help students process content. About half of the questions in each lesson are hammer questions.

Hammer questions, like Q1, are like a wake-up call. We put them before the content we present. If a student can answer the hammer question beside a paragraph, he or she has learned the main point of the paragraph.

Teachers should require students to answer the questions before class. Then, to begin class, teachers should walk around and inspect the answers that each student has written for the lesson. Sabio says, “What gets done

is not what you expect, it’s what you inspect!” Next, the teacher should pick a student to read the first question, and then have the student read or summarize the answer he or she wrote. In this manner, the students will cover all the questions, first by themselves before class, and then together, in class. Also, the teacher will guide students to make comments and ask related questions. Ocasionally, as the teacher feels led, he or she can take a minute to affirm students, and clarify or emphasize a truth.

Q 1. page2image42190048Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria (Jn. 4:4).

Note again that Q1 is a wake-up call. This question tells the student exactly what to learn in the paragraph at hand. Students should ALWAYS read the question in the margin, BEFORE reading the paragraph. The question alerts the student on what to look for.

John 4:4 states: Now he had to go through Samaria. One might think geography made travel through Samaria a necessity. It is true that the province of Samaria was between Judea and Galilee. Yet there were roads that Jesus could have taken around Samaria to Galilee. Some Jews avoided traveling through Samaria for racial reasons. But Jesus knew the Father had an appointment for Him there. Our Lord knew He must pass through Samaria. So He kept walking on the dusty road that took Him there.


As we study John 4, Jesus teaches us four principles (A–D) on how to be a faithful witness.

Note that Principle A is a reflection of Goal A above. In F&A courses, the goals correspond to the structure of the lesson. Often, Goal A is about Subhead A, etc. If there are 3 goals (A-C) in the lesson, these will likely correspond to bold Subheads A, B and C. In this Lesson 9, the are 4 goals, A–D, and in the text there are four corresponding Subheadings, A–D. In this ACLAME article, we only cover the first lesson goal, Goal A.

Principle A: Like Jesus, Refuse to be prejudiced (Jn. 4:1-6).

We seek to state all of our subheads as biblical principles. A principle will be in one of four forms: a command, a warning, a promise, or a timeless truth. For a full lesson on biblical principles, see the F&A course: Homiletics 1, Preparing Biblical Messages, Chapter 8, Lesson 23.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) (Jn. 4:4-9).

Overview: Let’s look at 4 types of prejudice Jesus avoided to reach the woman at the well.

The preview question, Q 3, teaches students to zoom out, and look at the 4 types of prejudice they are about to explore. We made it a “nail question” because it is at a higher level on a Bloom taxonomy, and the answer is not immediately beside the question. Usually, nail question are “application” questions. We want students to take the content represented by the hammer, and “nail it”, that is, apply it. Content is useless until we guide students to apply it. On a Bloom taxonomy, nail questions are on the levels 3-6, the higher levels of learning: 3=illustration, 4 =analysis, 5 = evaluation, 6=synthesis (some teachers reverse levels 5 and 6).

1. Avoid prejudice by gender. Explanation: No other rabbi in Israel would have spoken to a woman in this setting. Jewish rabbis did not greet a woman in public– not even a female family member. But Jesus stepped over the boundaries of tradition. He broke through this gender barrier, and spoke to the woman. When Jesus’ disciples returned from town, they “were surprised to find him talking with a woman” (Jn. 4:27). avoided?

Illustrations, marked by a candle in the margin, move truth from the head to the heart. The real issue is not, “Did you get the truth?”, but rather, “Did the truth get you?” Jesus, the greatest teacher who ever lived on earth, illustrated the truth He taught. (For a unit on 14 types of illustrations and 19 reasons to use them, see the Faith & Action course: Homiletics 1, Unit 2, Chapters 5–7). Illustrations influence values, the heart, and behavior–the affective domain. (For a helpful lesson on how illustrations shape and create an awareness of new values, see Elizabeth Simpson’s taxonomy on values in the Faith & Action course by Dr. Judy Graner: Cross- Cultural Communications, Lesson 27).3

Illustration. Jesus later said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mk 2:17). Leaders criticized Jesus because He ministered to outcasts of society (Lk 15:1-2). But some of our Lord’s most devout followers were demon possessed, prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, or murderers–until Jesus delivered, healed, forgave and transformed them. Some women Jesus transformed were among His most faithful supporters. They supported Him financially from their own funds (cf. Lk 8:2-3). Many of them stood by Jesus at the cross after the male disciples had fled in fear. Jesus set women free long before there was a movement called women’s liberation. Application And wherever believers share the gospel today, the status of women, children, and all people is raised.

After we state a principle or truth in a heading or subhead, like #1 above (Avoid prejudice by gender), we do 3 things: explain it, illustrate it, and apply it.

Also notice that principles 1-4 are parallel in form. Each begins with: “Avoid prejudice by”. Parallel points are them easier to remember, preach, and teach.

Okay, enough comments, except for the exam at the end. We have reached the limit of 1500 words. If you have time, read the rest of the lesson below. You should be able to recognize and appreciate several aspects of Instructional Design that we practice in Faith & Action. Thanks for studying with us. We appreciate being on the team with you, and look forward to learning more about your ministry. QM

2. Avoid prejudice by race. The hatred between Jews and Samaritans had been burning for over 700 years. It began in 722 B.C. when the Assyrians conquered the northern ten tribes of Israel. Then they forced the Jewish people to intermarry with imported foreigners (See the intro to this chapter). Thus Samaritans were a mixed race, part Jew and part Gentile. The Samaritans also had a mixed religion that was partly foreign. Racial tensions between Jews and Samaritans were intense at the time of Jesus. But Jesus confronted racial prejudice wherever He found it (cf. Lk 4:25-28). He made it a point to mingle with and show love to the Samaritan people.

(Illus/Applic.) Tom and Mary moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, Mary saw her neighbor hanging wet clothes outside. “That laundry is not clean,” said Mary. “Maybe our neighbor does not know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better soap.” Tom looked, but was silent. Every time the neighbor hung her clothes to dry, Mary made the same comments. About a month later, Mary was surprised to see clean clothes on the line. She said to Tom, “Look, our neighbor has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her?” Tom replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.” And so it is with life. What we see looking at others, depends a lot on the purity of the window we look through.4

3. Avoid prejudice by social status. The woman at the well was not only a Samaritan, she was a low-class Samaritan. If the Samaritans had a queen, this woman was as far below her as possible. She was a low class outcast. Imagine what life was like for this Samaritan woman. The well was a major source of water. Respected women got water from the well early in the morning, or late in the evenings. At such times, the sun was not so hot, and there was safety from the other women. Also, filling water pots at the well, when other women were there, provided a time for women to socialize with other women. But this Samaritan woman did not have a good reputation. Life for her was less painful if she went for water in the heat of the day, when other women were at home in the shade. Getting water alone gave her a better chance of avoiding harsh words– or even stones other women might throw at her.

Jesus befriended the poor and people of low social standing. He chose to be with them, and they received Him gladly. Those who follow in the steps of Jesus avoid prejudice by social status.

4. Avoid prejudice by morality. The woman at the well had a bad moral reputation. She had had five husbands, and was living with a man who was not her own (see the introduction to this chapter). So Jesus moved toward her! This was just the type of person who needed His help.

Sometimes we turn away from the people who need us most. Who turns you off? Who do you tend to look away from and avoid? Who do you judge without even meeting? Are you prejudiced against homosexuals, addicts, porn pushers, child abusers, terrorists, sex traffickers, divorcees? Do you look away from those with tattoos, rings in their nose or tongue? Do you turn away from loud music, immodest dress, inter-racial marriage, child abusers, the rude? Get over it! Learn to look through eyes of love at the people who need your help. Who will reach the lost if we Christians turn away from them? If you look away the first time, pray, and look again. See the people Jesus bled for. Talk to the people Jesus died for. Practice looking past people’s faults to see their needs.

Illustration A father gave one of his children an unusual gift. It was a bulldog, with a very ugly face. Someone asked why the dad gave such a strange gift. “At first” replied the father, “my child will cringe and withdraw from that ugly face. But in time, the child will discover all the love behind the face. And he will learn to not judge anyone by their appearance– at face value.”5 As we practice overcoming prejudice, we discover love and worth behind the faces of people who at first looked ugly.

Illustration. Jesus forgives a sinful woman, who anoints his head and feet (Luke 7:36- 50).
Review Question: Q11

Application. Jesus reached out to people, regardless of gender, race, social standing, or morality. As His followers, let us refuse to be prejudiced for any reason. Let us pass the love God has given us on to others.

Principle B. Like Jesus, Connect by Looking at life through the eyes of others (Jn. 4:10-15).

At the end of the chapter, we help students evaluate themselves on what they have learned. We try to put at least one multiple choice question, and one essay question for each goal that was in a lesson. The essay questions are excellent for college level. We think our students will learn to do well on the essay questions, because we are asking them to summarize in their own words, using the structure that we presented in the lesson they studied.

page5image42200656 Test Yourself: Circle the letter by the best completion to each question or statement

1. In John 4 the barriers Jesus overcame were related to

a) Gender.
b) Prejudice.
c) Geography

d) Race


2. What was the greatest key to reaching the woman at the well?

a) A Jew talked to a Gentile
b) Looking at life through her eyes
c) Looking past her immorality
d) The gift of prophecy Looking at life through her eyes

Question: Now that you have studied Principle A on avoiding prejudice, would it be difficult for you to write 50- 100 words on the essay question below?

Essay Topics: Write 50-100 words on each of these goals that you studied in this chapter:

• Explain the gender, ethnic, social, and moral barriers Jesus faced with the Samaritan woman.

[1]David Fleer and Dave Bland, editors, Preaching John’s Gospel, The World it Imagines, (St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2008), p. 132.



[4]Available from SermonCentral.com, s.v. ‘Looking through Clean Windows’; Internet; accessed 4 December 2014.

[5]Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John,vol. 1, The Word Was Made Flesh (John 1-5)(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 133.

One Reply to “Understanding the Instructional Design in a Faith & Action Lesson”

  1. I enjoyed this example of how Faith and Action courses can help teachers who have no background in educational methods, as well as those who have university degrees in Education. A teacher who follows the format will have no difficulty connecting with the students, focusing on the most important points, and applying the Scriptural principles to the lives of the students.

Comments are closed.