Up front, I want to challenge you to avoid only planning a lesson. Instead, plan an experience. Plan an encounter between our living God and your class. Plan to lead them to meet Him. Do more than plan communication of content, facts, or biblical history. Open God’s Word and allow Him to speak. Get attenders involved in listening and responding to Him.
Consider these planning tips the next time you begin thinking about a lesson:
- OUTLINE THE PASSAGE. What are the major points of the passage? What is the context? These two points can help you to focus in on understanding the truth that needs to be taught. They free you to keep the experience flowing in the right direction. They can help you reign in rabbit chasing. And without a doubt, these questions can improve your effectiveness in preparation and effectiveness.
- BEGIN EARLY. It would be ideal for a teacher to look over next week’s lesson before teaching this week’s lesson in order to bridge the lessons where possible. But at least read the scripture passage for the lesson on Sunday afternoon. This will enable you to be more sensitive to how God will illustrate the lesson’s truth during the week ahead. Also on Sunday it is important to bathe the lesson and class in prayer. Starting early also gives you time to gather (or purchase) needed resource items for Sunday. It also enables you to have an encounter with God in His Word rather than simply preparing a lesson!
- DETERMINE YOUR FOCUS. Upon what does God want you to focus? Where should you head? What do you want to accomplish? Make sure every learning activity is designed to reinforce your focus. When the lesson is over, did learners get what you wanted them to learn? Did they decide what you wanted them to decide? Did they feel the way you wanted them to feel?
- USE AN OUTLINE. Put together an outline of a standard lesson and a normal preparation process (for you). Use it to make sure you are ready. This will improve your consistency and help you not to forget an important step or action. On the other hand, I want to offer one word of warning: don’t get stuck in a rut. Vary your “encounter” plans. Don’t make your lessons boring because you present the same way every week.
- ADDRESS LEARNING STYLES. This has been addressed in other blog entries like Balanced Diet of Sunday School/Small Group Teaching Methods, Part 1 and Part 2 and Learning Styles in Adult Sunday School. Each of us has a couple of preferred learning styles. In a class of six persons, that frequently will mean that at least seven of eight different preferred learning styles are present. Plan a variety of teaching methods to apply to multiple learning styles in each hour.
- PLAN CLASS PARTICIPATION. Participants will learn more when they are involved. For instance, they will remember as much as 90% of what they are led to “say and do.” Attenders will also enjoy learning more if they are involved. Lead them to laugh. Have fun! Again, make it an experience. Don’t do the Bible study for them–lead them to meet God themselves in Bible study! Ask open-ended questions. Give them a writing/reflection/application exercise. Divide them into smaller groups. Make assignments. Lead them to become active.
What can you do to prepare to lead your class to have an encounter this week? On which of these tips do you need to focus more time and attention in order to give God your best effort? Don’t teach another lesson. Prepare for an encounter! Plan to make a disciple!
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.