Archive for 31 Days to a Better Teacher

Preparation for Teaching…A Personal Prayer Approach

This is a repost of  one of’s most popular posts.  Written by Kiely Young published on January 25, 2011.


I stood before our Adult Sunday School Class leaders in a recent workers meeting I asked what they considered their greatest needs in Sunday School.  Without question, the greatest need was prayer.  Yes, we need to be adequately prepared to teach, but that must begin with prayer.  How true this is.

  1. We need to prayerfully in tune with God seeking daily wisdom.
  2. We must make sure our hearts are clean and pure as we prepare to teach.
  3. We must seek God’s daily direction in preparation.
  4. We must be prayerfully in tune with the needs of our class and pray daily for them.
  5. We must be aware of needs in our community and seek wisdom in ways to meet those needs.
  6. We must ask God He wants us to challenge our class to reach friends, neighbors, and relatives.
  7. We must pray for the leaders of our church, including pastor, staff, and other Sunday School leaders.
  8. We must realize that the enemy does not like us to pray in this fashion and seek daily strength from God to deal with the enemy.
  9. As we pray, God will reveal truths and insights into ways He wants to transform us and our class to be spiritual multipliers.  We must be willing to follow His leadership.
  10. We must ask God to continually help us to be effective spiritual multipliers of His truth as we seek grow leaders for the future.

Remember James 5:16 “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (NKJV)


Kiely Young-Director, Sunday School; Mississippi Baptist Convention Board

Three Necessities of Effective Bible Teaching

As we wind up 31 Days to Becoming a Better Teacher, let me share three key biblical concepts that will move our teaching from the information realm to transformational reality. These three concepts are all found in one verse buried deep in the Old Testament.

… Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey {it}, and teach {its} statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:10 (HCSB)

Necessity #1
Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord. determined or “devoted” (NIV) means that Ezra had purposed in his heart that he was going to be a student of the Scriptures. Notice that Ezra didn’t just devote himself to study some of the Law, or certain portions of it. No, he chose to be a devoted student of the entire word of God. As Sunday School teachers, it is paramount that we take Ezra’s example to heart.

First we must be determined students of the Bible. Determination is vital to success in anything we set out to accomplish. My next door neighbor runs marathons. Day after day she runs… good weather, cold weather, snow, ice, and rain. Often she does not feel like running, but the realization that her next big marathon race is approaching reminds her that she must train. Our determination to be a student of the Word must be like that of a marathon runner. Yes, there are days when we do not want to study, or when we do not sense God’s presence as we read and prepare. But often, the sheer discipline required to study is what brings to light those incredible moments when God’s truth breaks through in new ways.

Also, we must study all of God’s Word. The temptation we have today is to study the parts of God’s Word that makes us feel good about ourselves, or that reinforces our own preconceived opinion of how life works. Studying all of God’s Word is much like looking at a well formed diamond. Yes, you can see how beautiful the diamond is by looking at it from one angle. But not until you turn the diamond and see its many facets can you truly understand the precision and detail of the jeweler who crafted it. Bible study is much like this, the more completely we study it, the better understanding we have of the Author!

Necessity #2
…(Ezra) obeyed it. The NASB says that Ezra “practiced it”. What Ezra learned in his study of God’s Word, he also chose to practice. In other words, he put God’s Word into action! He didn’t just prepare his Sunday School lesson and say, “That’s nice” but never put it to good use. Ezra actually put what he learned from the Bible into practice in his life. He did it! It is easy to tell when someone knows what they are talking about!

Over the Christmas holidays, I asked my dad for some help with a woodworking project I was doing. My dad took me out to his workshop. At first I watched and then I practiced while my dad looked over my shoulder. I realized my dad could show me exactly what to do because he had done it himself many times. The people in our classes can tell when we are sharing with them things from God’s Word that we are also practicing in our daily lives. They also know when we are trying to teach something we know nothing about!

Necessity #3
…teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ultimately, your knowledge and experience will only help yourself until you teach it to others. I have noticed in my personal life that although I may have studied or even incorporated something into my life, teaching it to others not only helps them – it helps me solidify it into my life.

Also, notice that Ezra studied and practiced before he taught. If ever there was a biblical reason to avoid the “Saturday Night Special“, this is it! Study your Bible lesson early in the week. I have found that invariably, you will have opportunities to practice your Bible study during the week while you are at work, home, driving (ahem!), and in other situations. The illustrations and stories that you share with your class will be much more effective because your group will realize that you are teaching from both knowledge and experience!


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/small group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bob also blogs at

Evaluation of a Good Sunday School Lesson

In an article entitled, 10 Marks of Great Teaching, Josh Hunt shares ways to improve your teaching through evaluating yourself in ten areas. The ten areas are his (in all capitals). The commentary which follows is mine. Evaluate last Sunday’s lesson in these areas:

  1. PASSION.  Did the Holy Spirit personally convict you through the passage/truth? Did you teach with energy and enthusiam? Could attenders tell you were excited? Think about your gestures, tone, and body movement which add much to conveying how important you consider the message.
  2. PRACTICALITY.  Did the lesson’s truth intersect with learners’ lives? Did you help learners see how the message/truth is relevant for them? Did you give them handles so they know how to take small, concrete steps toward obedience?
  3. HUMOR.  Sunday School should be fun. Did the class laugh together? Spontaneous laughter is an important sign of relationships and an evidence that members trust one another and enjoy spending time together. Humor is more than jokes.
  4. PERSONAL.  Were you transparent? Did you share yourself with the group? Did you make the truth real? With prior permission, did you tap into the affinities and experiences of attenders? I like the reminder that Josh gives:  “Being personal is also one of the best ways of creating interest. People are interested in people — especially the personal lives of people.”
  5. INVOLVEMENT.  Did you involve the group in the lesson? Did nearly everyone talk? Did you ask questions, and/or did you divide them into groups and give them assignments? At any point, did you lose their attention?
  6. PREPARATION.  Were you prayed up? Did you have a personal encounter with God in His Word? Did you prepare to address the learning styles of attenders? Did you start early enough in the week to see the illustrations that God provided? Could you have presented the lesson without your notes?
  7. BACKGROUND.  Did you set the lesson and truth into context? Did you understand the relevance of the passage for the time of the writing? What was in the passage that the casual reader may have missed? How did previous verses prepare for this passage?
  8. INTRODUCTION.  Did you grab their attention right from the start? Could attenders understand the relevance of the lesson in your opening? Did you use a question, story, or an activity that focused their attention on the truth of the passage?
  9. INSPIRATION.  Did you only deliver content, or did you inspire them to take action? Did you motivate them to do something? Were they convicted about their need to obey? Did attenders realize how important their next steps were? Did you help them believe they could do it? that they should do it? Did you inspire them to be a better disciple?
  10. FOCUS.  Too often, lessons try to accomplish too many things. Did you focus on one important, Kingdom-impacting truth? Did you build in the same direction for the entire lesson? Did your introduction, methods, illustrations, application, and conclusion all make the same case?

I like Josh’s grading suggestion. If each of the areas has the potential of 10 points, the total potential would be 100 points. How many points did last week’s lesson score? Strive for a score of 75-100. When you teach, give your best effort to God and those in your care! Evaluate every lesson. Be passionate, humorous, practical, and personal. Get them involved. Prepare. Share background. Capture attention at the introduction. Inspire. Focus. Teach Kingdom-impacting lessons. Make disciples!


Darryl Wilson has served as Director of the Sunday School Department for the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 1997. He served as Minister of Education in five churches in Kentucky and South Carolina. He is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.

The Took: Graft it into Life!

Hook, Book, Look and Took remain excellent handles for structuring, developing, delivering and evaluating a Bible lesson! These four simple words were first introduced to me during my seminary days through a required reading book by Lawrence Richards, entitled “Creative Bible Teaching.” (Lawrence O. Richards, “Creative Bible Teaching,” Moody Press, 1976.) A life-changing lesson requires a few moments when the participants can respond. The Took is the “take away!” The teacher is asking the class to “graft” this truth into their life. Make sure your class has taken the opportunity to respond to your brief appeal to live out the truth you have learned together.

AN INVITATION. If Bible study is to be life-changing, let me urge you to plan for an invitation, or the Took. Teachers, myself included, often run out of time during class. In the midst of discussion on verse six, or whatever, we realize our time is gone and we call on someone to dismiss the class in prayer. Usually the prayer goes something like, “Lord, thanks for this great lesson, help us take it to heart, Amen.” Did the class really take something life-changing into the coming week?

GRAB- GRASP- GRAPPLE- GRAFT! In each of these posts I have urged you to guard your class time. There are four elements of a life-changing lesson. The first and last elements should be brief, perhaps very brief. The middle two elements will require a majority of the class time and must be balanced. All four should be well planned! 

  • The Hook, a brief introduction designed to “grab” the learners’ attention.
  • The Book, an explanation of the text that guides the learner to “grasp” with the truth of scripture. •
  • The Look or application time is to guide the group to “grapple” with a how the passage applies to their daily lives. 
  •  The Took, a brief invitation that invites the learner to personally “graft” the lesson into their life during the coming week.

IN CONCLUSION. A teacher’s invitation to live out the truth of the lesson usually comes in the last few moments of the Bible study. It does not end the lesson; it launches the lesson into the realm of 24/7. I believe it is critical that the leader bring the class back to a main point or big idea and then invite them to live it out. That usually means a time of personal reflection and prayer. Don’t panic, even if you have only covered one verse of scripture, urge them to live that truth today, or in the coming week.

LIFE-CHANGE. The Took should present a challenge, “live like this.” Usually it will include a prayer such as, “Lord, we commit ourselves to live like this.” Come Monday morning some class members may not even remember text, but they should remember that a caring teacher challenged them to “do” something and then prayed with them as they decided to “do” that one thing during the week.

ENCOURAGING. In my mind, that is what weekly Bible study is all about. You must have the courage to get deep into the lesson. Deep enough that they decide to live it. Deep enough to personally commit themselves during that personal prayer time to graft that Bible truth into Monday morning and beyond. Now, that is encouraging!

EVALUATION. How do you evaluate a life-changing lesson? I hope it is more than you simply hearing the words, “Wow, teacher that was a good lesson!” I hope you will receive a call during the week. Maybe it will go something like this, “Teacher, let me share with you how I just lived out that lesson; here is what I Took to work today that I received in class on Sunday.” It Took!

The End is Just the Beginning

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning”

Those words were penned by Louis L’Amour in the first chapter of the book,  Lonely on the Mountain. This was the seventeenth and final book in “The Sacketts” series of novels and short stories. While these words are a fitting end to a classic tale about a family setting out to tame the wild, frontier West at the turn of the century, it can also be applied to how we prepare and present small group bible studies week after week.

Recently, I joined the Sunday School leadership team of our church by taking on the role of lead teacher in one of my church’s adult Sunday school classes.  I am enjoying the week by week preparation involved and discovering that what I love most is experiencing the “Ah-Ha” moments when we get around to real life application of scripture.  As we search the scriptures, we discover that many lessons are naturally suited for life application, sometimes leaping right off the pages of God’s word. 

In the presentation steps of a lesson, the Life Application portion is often placed at the end of a class time.  This is a logical place to put it. After all, “we’ve always done it that way before.”  I don’t know about your class, but in some classes that I have attended, we tend to get “off track” at times and chase a few wild rabbits.   It’s only natural in the discovery learning process that we find times when we want to dig a bit deeper in certain area of scripture, so rabbit trails are not all bad, as long as you, the teacher, bring it back to the focus of your lesson.  The danger of rabbit chasing is that it eats away your class time and you may end up with no time left for Life Application.  If you develop a habit of doing this week by week, you will have a class full of very knowledgeable pupils that have no idea what to do with the lessons you have taught.  Here is a suggestion that might help keep that from happening.

As you prepare your lesson, “begin at the end and make the end only the beginning”. Huh?  As you plan the step by step activities for your class, begin with the last activity you want to do (usually, your life application activity) and work backwards to the introduction.  You will still teach in the same order you always have, but the priority of your preparation is now placed on the Life Application step.  As you plan each succeeding activity, you will have the same amount of time to do it all, but you will have prioritized the time devoted to application. When you prioritize “the end” of your lesson, it becomes “the beginning” of putting into practice the truth of God’s word every day of their lives.