WHY employ visual aids in your teaching? Because doing so can make your teaching more effective. Jehovah God and Jesus Christ used visual aids, and we can learn from them. When visual aids are coupled with the spoken word, information is received through two senses. This may help to hold the attention of your audience and to strengthen the impression made. How can you incorporate visual aids into your presentations of the good news? How can you make sure that you are using them effectively?
How the Greatest Teachers Used Visual Aids. Jehovah employed memorable visual aids to teach vital lessons. One night he brought Abraham outdoors and said: “Look up, please, to the heavens and count the stars, if you are possibly able to count them. . . . So your seed will become.” (Gen. 15:5) Even though what was promised seemed impossible from a human standpoint, Abraham was deeply moved and put faith in Jehovah. On another occasion, Jehovah sent Jeremiah to the house of a potter and had him enter the potter’s workshop to watch the man shape clay. What a memorable lesson in the Creator’s authority over humans! (Jer. 18:1-6) And how could Jonah ever forget the lesson in mercy that Jehovah taught him by means of the bottle-gourd plant? (Jonah 4:6-11) Jehovah even told his prophets to act out prophetic messages while making use of certain appropriate objects. (1 Ki. 11:29-32; Jer. 27:1-8; Ezek. 4:1-17) The tabernacle and temple features are, in themselves, representations that help us to understand heavenly realities. (Heb. 9:9, 23, 24) God also made abundant use of visions to convey important information.—Ezek. 1:4-28; 8:2-18; Acts 10:9-16; 16:9, 10; Rev. 1:1.
How did Jesus employ visual aids? When the Pharisees and the party followers of Herod tried to trap him in his speech, Jesus asked for a denarius and drew attention to the image of Caesar on the coin. Then he explained that Caesar’s things should be paid back to Caesar but that God’s things should be paid back to God. (Matt. 22:19-21) To teach a lesson in honoring God with all that we have, Jesus pointed out a poor widow at the temple whose contribution—two small coins—was her whole means of living. (Luke 21:1-4) On another occasion he used a young child as an example of being humble, free from ambition. (Matt. 18:2-6) He also personally demonstrated the meaning of humility by washing his disciples’ feet.—John 13:14.
Ways to Employ Visual Aids. Unlike Jehovah, we cannot communicate by means of visions. Yet, many thought-provoking pictures appear in the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Use them to help interested people visualize the earthly Paradise, promised in God’s Word. On a home Bible study, you might draw a student’s attention to a picture that is related to what you are studying and ask him to tell you what he sees. It is noteworthy that when certain visions were given to the prophet Amos, Jehovah asked: “What are you seeing, Amos?” (Amos 7:7, 8; 8:1, 2) You can ask similar questions as you direct the attention of people to pictures that are designed as visual teaching aids.
If you write out mathematical calculations or use a time line that shows a sequence of significant events, this can help people to understand more readily such prophecies as the “seven times” of Daniel 4:16 and the “seventy weeks” of Daniel 9:24. Such visual aids appear in several of our study publications.
In your family Bible study, discussion of such things as the tabernacle, the temple in Jerusalem, and Ezekiel’s visionary temple can be made easier to understand if you use a picture or a diagram. These can be found in Insight on the Scriptures, the appendix of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References, and various issues of The Watchtower.
When reading the Bible with your family, make good use of maps. Trace Abraham’s journey from Ur to Haran and down to Bethel. Examine the route taken by Israel as the nation left Egypt and traveled to the Promised Land. Locate the area given to each tribe of Israel as an inheritance. Observe the extent of the domain of Solomon. Follow Elijah’s route as he fled from Jezreel all the way to the wilderness beyond Beer-sheba after being threatened by Jezebel. (1 Ki. 18:46–19:4) Locate the cities and towns where Jesus preached. Follow the travels of Paul, as described in the book of Acts.
Visual aids are useful when acquainting Bible students with the functions of the congregation. You might show your student a printed program and explain the kind of information that we discuss at assemblies and conventions. Many have been impressed with a personal tour of the Kingdom Hall or by a tour of a branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This can be an effective way of clearing away misconceptions about our work and its purpose. When giving a tour of the Kingdom Hall, indicate how it differs from other places of worship. Highlight the modest learning environment. Point out the features especially designed for our public ministry—literature distribution areas, territory maps, and contribution boxes (as opposed to collection plates).
Where videos prepared under the direction of the Governing Body are available, use these to build confidence in the Bible, to acquaint students with the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and to encourage viewers to live in harmony with Bible principles.
Using Visual Aids for Larger Groups. When well prepared and capably presented, visual aids can be effective teaching aids for larger groups. Such visual aids are provided in various forms by the faithful and discreet slave class.
Study material in The Watchtower usually includes visual aids in the form of artwork that can be used by the conductor to emphasize important points. This is also true of publications used at the Congregation Book Study.
Some outlines for public talks may seem to lend themselves to the use of visual aids to illustrate points. However, the greater good is usually accomplished by focusing attention on what is in the Bible, which most in the audience will have in their hands. If on occasion a picture or a brief outline of main points is necessary to convey one or several main points of a talk, check in advance to be sure that the visual aid can be clearly seen (or read) from the back of the meeting place. Such devices should be used sparingly.
Our objective in using visual aids when speaking and teaching is not to entertain. When a dignified visual aid is used, it should give visual reinforcement to ideas that deserve special emphasis. Such aids serve a useful purpose when they help to clarify the spoken word, making it easier to understand, or when they provide strong evidence of the validity of what is said. Properly used, an apt visual aid may make such a deep impression that both the visual aid and the point of instruction are remembered for many years.
The ability to hear and the sense of sight both play important roles in learning. Remember how these senses have been used by the greatest Teachers, and strive to imitate them in your efforts to reach others.