I read a recent article entitled 5 Indispensable Questions for Public Speakers by Geoff Surratt. It made me pause to consider the weekly preparation and presentation of Sunday School teachers. I want to share Surratt’s five questions in all capitals adding my comments:
- TO WHOM AM I SPEAKING? First of all, recognize that your primary audience is God, the author of the book from which you are teaching. Allow His Holy Spirit to speak. But second, it is important to consider the sheep God has given you to shepherd. Are they young or old? How far along are they on their spiritual journeys? What do they do for a living? What are their affinities, interests, and learning style preferences? This becomes important in planning the lesson, hooks, application, and more. Every lesson should be customized for the audience.
- WHAT IS THE FELT NEED? Interest in listening and learning follows need. What need will you address that can be useful in capturing attention and motivating learners to learn and change?
- WHAT IS THE REAL NEED I AM ADDRESSING? I like Surratt’s statement here: “Felt needs and real needs seldom line up.” Sometimes, sheep are only interested in green grass and miss the need for safety that is provided by a shepherd leading them away from danger. Some needs mask deeper and more important needs. And often learners avoid looking deep and doing the harder work. Don’t rush through preparing a lesson and miss important thinking on this point!
- WHAT IS THE THEME OF THE MESSAGE? What is the pithy, powerful sentence that communicates the “essential truth” or message of the lesson? If you don’t know, neither will they when you finish the lesson. This helps you to have focus in your preparation and makes everything you do move in one direction to accomplish one purpose. This makes the lesson more memorable and more effective in leading to obedience in response.
- WHAT DO I WANT PEOPLE TO DO AS A RESULT OF HEARING THIS MESSAGE? More important question: What does God want learners to do as a result of them meeting Him in His Word? As you have prayerfully prepared the lesson, what do you see as the one or two main actions which learners should take in response to encounter God in His Word? Help learners know how they can respond in obedience. Help them think through possible options. Help them commit to God. And then check on what they did next week!
Surratt closes his article with words we need to consider: “I have to remember that my goal as a speaker isn’t clever words or stunning logic; my goal is life change.” Pray. Prepare well. God deserves our best, and so do the sheep He has entrusted to us. Ask these questions during the course of preparation, and ask them again at the end. Even if it leads to further, last-minute work, reflection the questions can help your lesson be the catalyst that is needed for life-change. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!