There is a perception in many Sunday school classes or small group Bible studies that it is too much to expect the members to read the Bible study lesson in advance of the class session. The tendency is to not load up too much expectation that the members will actually do anything other than show up and let us teach them for an hour or so. I don’t believe it.
If you go to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Ankeny, Iowa and sit down in the church sanctuary at the time Sunday school begins, you will be invited to sit up close to the front and join the Bible study class of Mrs. Ellen Church. Veteran Sunday school teacher that she is, she has high expectations for her class members. At the time to start, Mrs. Church asks a probing question to get the discussion flowing. She does not read the Bible passage for the day’s lesson to the class, because she says she expects the regular members to have their books and Bibles open and ready to discuss the Scripture of the day. As she puts it “I used to start out reading the Bible material we are to discuss and now I start out with a question relating to a personal experience with the Biblical subject we are teaching that day.” Ellen expects her class to prepare for the study—and they do!
She says “We usually get a good response of discussion and then we move on and begin working through the Scriptures.”
Discussion doesn’t just happen, she says. “You have to learn a little about your students. Older age groups are a little more reluctant to express themselves although we have a few who are good students and they are eager to express their opinions. Younger students have a few more questions about life and are more eager to talk and discuss Bible topics”
Mrs. Church started teaching Sunday school in a Baptist church in St. Joseph, Missouri, when she was a teenage girl. Her “Beginners” class was for preschool children. “Every place we moved they had a need for teachers” So she’s been teaching Sunday school most of her life.
“I always felt called of God to teach,” Church says.
I asked her how much time she puts into the preparation for her class and I wasn’t quite prepared for her answer!
“Seven or eight hours” (each week) was her response. “I usually start on Sunday afternoon (looking at the next week’s lesson). I read the Scripture material. Then the first part of the week, I work on the interpretation. I read several commentaries and of course our literature is excellent. I finish up on Saturday and do my summary of the lesson materials. You have to kind of live with it. I don’t think God audibly speaks to me, but He leads me to certain passages and thoughts expressed in the materials.”
Well, I like the way this lady teaches and I hold her up as an example of a Bible teacher who loves to pursue excellence.
David Francis, LifeWay Christian Resources’ leader of Sunday school ministry, writes in his book “Great Expectations” that a Bible study class which he would term a “Great Expectations” Sunday school class” will expect “new people every week…a great Bible study experience every week…people to say yes to the total ministry of the class” and “expects to be involved in planting new churches.”
I keep my Bible study member book in my car with me so I can read the lesson each week. It’s good to be prepared to hear what God wants to say to you in your Bible study class each week.