Discipling Students as Jesus does by Meeting the Unique Needs of Each Learner

By: Erin Thigpen- Exceptional Student Services Director at Desert Christian Schools

Have you ever sat down over a cup of coffee and listened to someone share how Jesus captured their heart? I am blessed to have sat with many who were willing to tell their story to me.

It always amazes me that each story is different.

I have never met two people who came to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior in the same way. Jesus is amazing in how He reaches each of us at our level and yet, if we choose, the result is the same, salvation through the death and resurrection of the Son.

As an educator, this is how I look at each student that walks into our schools and our classrooms. They each have a story, they are at a different point in their walk with Christ and in their learning. This is a beautiful representation of God’s creation. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14 NIV).


Students not only walk in the door with different stories but with a multitude of strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, as a body of believers, we come together with different strengths and weaknesses. The next time you go to worship with a body of believers, stop and look around while taking in the body with its strengths. You have the pastor, a worship leader, musicians, a videographer, the sound technician, greeters, worshippers and so many more.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5 NIV). In the same way, we have weaknesses, areas in which we are growing in Christ. In my life, God uses scripture, the Holy Spirit, and His people to come alongside my weaknesses as I strive to become more like Christ. Students are the same, bringing their strengths and areas of growth to each day and lesson we teach.


So the big question is, how do I teach my class with so many different stories, strengths, and weaknesses while reaching the objective or standard? How do I disciple each of my students and meet their individual needs?

The first is to emulate how Christ did it. He is the example of teaching. In all the different methods of teaching, we can see Jesus. One method is to use Universal Design for Learning (UDL). According to UDL, a teacher plans with anticipation to lower barriers based on student needs while focusing on options to deliver the why, what, and how of the learning. Jesus modeled this perfectly. He taught through so many different means. Think about the parables that visually represented His messages. In Matthew 14 we see Peter’s experiential learning as walked out on the water in faith and suddenly started to sink in fear as he took his eyes off Jesus. The ways Jesus taught and continues to teach us are endless. I encourage you to do the same in the classroom as you plan. How will you meet the needs of your students so each learner will be able to obtain the standard?


A second method is Differentiated Instruction in which a teacher responds to the students’ learning based on the data. The teacher can adjust to the needs of the students in a variety of ways. Jesus did just this!

  • In Mark 6, He stops and responds to the large crowds while He heals and performs a miracle by feeding the 5,000. Jesus taught in large groups.
  • In Matthew 5, Jesus responds when His disciples come to Him on the hill and He gives the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught in small groups.
  • In John 4, we see Jesus’ response to the woman at the well. He taught individuals.

As I look at these examples, it is more than the whole group, small group, and one on one teaching styles, it is how Jesus responded to the needs of people in His teaching. As an educator, I want to be intentional in how I respond to the learning of my students.


As we step on campus each day, I pray that each of us reflects on how we can disciple the students that God places in our schools and each classroom for the rest of the year. How can we emulate the love of Christ in our classrooms as we disciple our students by meeting their unique needs?