Whether you are teaching a class or preaching topically or expositionally, you should know the needs of your people. Thinking through their real and potential needs will help you prepare applications for your teaching or sermons that really hit home.
Needs may be categorized in many ways. For example, you could divide them into felt needs, real needs, and spiritual needs.
As the adjective suggests, felt needs relate to what people are feeling. These include physical and social pressures that they may be experiencing, so those needs are at the front of their awareness. Hunger is a felt need. So are loneliness, fear, and guilt.
Real needs are needs that people have but aren’t aware of at the moment. An engaged couple should know about conflict resolution, for example, but usually they won’t be feeling that need before the wedding. Other topics in the real needs category include communication skills, money management, and skills for living.
The third category is spiritual needs. Of course, any of the needs in the first two categories could fit in this one because “spiritual” is not limited to a specific area or compartment of life. But “spiritual needs” are the special demands of God on life and the implications of what it means to call Christ Lord. Involvement in church, sharing the faith with others, studying the Bible regularly, and praying about everything are examples of topics in the spiritual needs category.
Another way to surface your congregation’s needs is to think through the eight areas of personal application.
These areas are:
- Relationships (family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, fellow believers)
- Conflicts (in marriage, with children, at work, in the neighborhood)
- Personal Burdens (sickness, family pressures, death, loss, etc.)
- Difficult Situations (stress, debt, hindrances, etc.)
- Character Weaknesses (integrity, image, lust, selfishness, etc.)
- Lack of Resources (time, energy, money, materials, abilities, information)
- Responsibilities (work demands, church programs, volunteer efforts, home projects, etc.)
- Opportunities (learning, working, serving, etc.)
As you read this list while thinking of your people, the Holy Spirit may show you a real need in your class or congregation. Or you could refer to this list as you study the lesson or Sunday’s text.
A third way to locate application areas is to look for them as you relate with people and observe the world. Needs may surface during pastoral calling, hospital visitation, after-service conversations, counseling appointments, youth work, board and committee meetings, newspaper reading, and during a typical day at home or on the job. When you look for ways to apply the Bible to life, you will find them.
Credit: HOW TO APPLY THE BIBLE by David R. Veerman
added by Mike Counts: I believe these are very good ways to find applications to the study either individually, small group, class or congregation. I use one of these methods each time I prepare for a Bible Study or when teaching a class. There is so much richness that can be mined throughout the scriptures.