When you prepare to teach who is your target? Are you simply preparing the lesson suggested in the literature for the generic person(s) targeted by the lesson writer(s)? Glenn Brooke wrote a well-written blog post entitled Prepare a Lesson with Specific Individuals in Mind. He says that lessons prepared for “an ‘abstract’ audience of fake people” leads to ‘babbling, not life change.” Ouch!
God and the church have entrusted the spiritual growth of persons in your care. They (and others who will join them) are your target. They are the persons for whom you need to think as you prayerfully prepare your lesson. If you don’t know them, then that should be one of your early tasks. This is best done one-on-one or one-on-small group. Invest some time with them away from class. How can you encourage their spiritual growth if you don’t know where they currently are spiritually? How can you challenge them to grow if you don’t know how they are struggling?
Without question, God’s Word taught/proclaimed will not return void. But I agree with Glenn, if “you prepare a lesson to a generic audience, it’s going to be much weaker than a lesson you’ve prepared with specific people in mind.” And each “person in this group needs to feel that you are speaking with them alone. That this lesson is exactly what they needed this week.”
That’s where the prayerful preparation comes in. As you prepare, you are praying for the lesson and the people in your care. You are praying for their needs. You are praying for their growth. You are praying for God to work in their lives during the week and during the session. The Holy Spirit is able to speak to their hearts and lives individually.
I liked Glenn’s suggestion here. He suggests asking God to bring a small group of people in your class to your mind to “help you understand how this Bible topic or passage will meet their needs.” Glenn suggests focusing on at least two people. And though he does not explain it, he is clear that the group should be more than one person. One reason for that is that the lesson should not come across in such a way that everyone in the class knows for whom the lesson was planned.
Picture this small group of indivdiuals in your group. Pray over them specifically. Ask God to show you how the lesson will best help them to be obedient. Anticipate their questions. Anticipate what they might do differently as a result of the lesson. Then prepare to meet their needs. Prepare so they can take the next step that is needed.
I like what Glenn said at this point: “Now you’re not just making a speech to a bland group, but giving life-changing gems to real people with real needs and real situations they need to face.” Naturally the small group on which your lesson will focus should change each week. This focus will help your lessons to move from generic to life-changing. Pray. Focus. Prepare. Teach. Praise God for what happens. Be revolutionary!