Our guest writer for our blog today is Dwayne McCrary. Dwayne is a Sunday School teacher and also writes and edits Bible study lessons at LifeWay. In other words, Dwayne actually teaches in the local church what he helps produce at LifeWay. We have asked Dwayne to share the steps he takes in preparing a lesson.
It always fascinates me to hear another fan at a sporting event that seems to know exactly what the coach should do. To add to the experience, he is usually not shy about sharing his wisdom with others, making sure everyone knows what play should have been called, which player should have been substituted, or what defense should have been run. Just once I would love to see a coach walk up in the stands and hand over the coaching duties to that fan. Then we would find out if he really knew what he was talking about. It’s easy to tell people how they ought to do something until you are the one doing it.
For 23 years, I served on a church staff coaching Sunday School teachers. Now I’m one of those Sunday School teachers. To be honest, there are other things I need to do (and want to do) besides spend all my free time preparing a lesson. I don’t have the luxury of using office time to prepare a lesson (staff folks forget that sometimes). At the same time, I have rediscovered the fact that I can’t wait until the last minute to prepare if I want my class members to consistently have a great experience.
Many of the things I coached others to do I still do, but I do them in a different time frame. For example, Sunday afternoon is a great time for me to get stuff done…usually after a nap. I would have never suggested teachers begin to prepare that early, but that’s when I begin.
I start by evaluating the lesson from that day. I keep a notebook and record insights gained about members and their needs, actions I promised to take, and general teaching observations that will make me a better teacher. If there are promises I made, I add that to my to-do-list for that week. The next thing I do is read the Bible passages for the next lesson, listing key words, people, places, and actions. That list will be what moves me to the next step.
I take that list and define the key words, people, and places. This is where I do what most would call real Bible study, using the leader resources provided, study Bibles, and commentaries. As I do this work, I begin to list potential application points. By the end of this study time, I have answered two big questions: What does this Bible passage mean? What does this Bible passage mean to me?
I then take a look at the potential application points and determine a lesson focus for my class. This is where knowing the needs of the people in my class is important. I put together a statement of what I hope to see happen in the lives of the learners as a result of this study, usually starting with the Lesson Goal in the Leader Guide.
Next I outline steps to introduce the lesson (why study it), examine the Bible passages (what does it say), and challenge people to reflect on what these truths mean for them (what do they do with what they discover). The plan revolves around the direction statement. In my class, we use Explore the Bible by LifeWay as a guide. I start with the teaching suggestions provided in the Leader Guide and tailor the plan for my class.
By doing this early in the week, I have time to dig deeper into questions, refine the plan, and gather what I will need. It also takes some of the pressure off. Now I can let life happen without being uptight about when I will find time to get ready for Sunday. As I gather what I need, it goes in a bag so I know where it is when I get ready to head out on Sunday (my wife teaches a preschool class and I learned this from her).
Eventually, I write my plan on a sheet of paper (usually on the back side of the list of key words, places and things, folded in half). Some of it is word-for-word from the Leader Guide, but I still do it. Writing it serves as way to review and it communicates to my class that I prepared.
On Sunday, I take one more look at my notes, grab the bag, and head out. I want to make sure I get there first to double check the room and to set the tone for that Bible study experience. When the first person arrives, I follow my plan, adjusting as needed. Every class experience takes a few unexpected twists and turns–it never happens exactly like I plan it, but it does come close most of the time.
If you wanted to list my steps for preparing, they would look like this:
- Evaluate and record;
- Read the passages;
- Define key words, people and places;
- Determine a lesson focus;
- Outline teaching steps;
- Dig, refine, and gather;
- Get there first;
- Follow the plan, adjusting as needed.
It takes a little time to do this, but that’s true for anything worth doing. The next time you see that fan telling others how he would do it, remember there’s a difference when you’re the one who actually has to do it. Make sure you’re ready just in case someone hands their clipboard over to you.
G. Dwayne McCrary is an Editorial Project Leader for LifeWay Christian Resources and teaches an adult Sunday School class at Northside Baptist, Murfreesboro, TN. He previously served churches in Texas and Tennessee.