There are many things that attract people to a Sunday School class. Some are more positive than others. These attractions include a hunger for God and understanding His Word, friendships, habit, guilt, a sense of obligation, the need to see someone, the need to take care of something, and many more.
Without a question, one attraction to Sunday School is a great teaching-learning experience. This begins with a teacher spending time in prayerful preparation. And this almost always requires two things: participation and fun. If attenders are involved in class time and enjoying themselves, the session is one of the best advertisements for next week. I was reminded of some of the ingredients which add participation and fun to the recipe of an attractive Sunday School class when a I read a blog post by Marshall Jones Jr. entitled Conversation Cake: The 4 Ingredients of Interested Experience.
In that blog post, Jones shares four ingredients of “interested conversations” which are essential for “interested experiences.” In Part 1, I want to share his first two ingredients in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- THE BUTTER: QUESTIONS. Jones states, “Questions are the grease in conversation. Why? Because they’re interested, they allow things to move.” Good questions are natural ways to get attenders to think, to become interested, and to become verbally involved. They invite conversation and can be used throughout the learning experience. Questions can be used as icebreakers to get participants talking early in the session–which is important. They can be used to create interest as attenders enter or the lesson begins. Questions help involve members and guests in examining the truth in God’s Word. They help to bring deeper consideration of the truth and issues related to the truth that impact participants’ lives. Questions are also excellent means for applying truth and inviting attenders to respond to the encounter with God in His Word. The Bible is filled with many examples. God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament used many questions. Jones offers a warning: “If you’re just questioning, you end up with Interrogation Syndrome, where you friends clam up because they feel uncomfortable.” That’s why you will need to use all four ingredients for an interesting class. For more thoughts, check out The Skillful Use of Questions in Teaching Adults.
- THE FLOUR: LISTENING. Jones makes a great point about listening: “If questions are the initiative side of being interested, then listening is the responsive side.” It is acknowledging that the message sent was received and that the listener is paying attention. It is giving attention while the teacher or class participant asks a question or talks. Listening for most attenders will make up most of the class. In fact, Jones had a warning here: “If you find yourself talking most of the time, that’s a good indication that you’re not interested in the other person.” Ouch! Jones offered four helpful listening tips: (1) Don’t plan what you’re going to say next while listening. (2) Think about how you’d feel in whatever situation they are describing. (3) Ask questions for clarification. (4) Paraphrase what was said before you reply. For many more listening suggestions, check out the blog series beginning with this post: Improve Your Small Group by Listening Better, Part 1. Even though it is directed to ward a small group, it applies to Sunday School as well.
What can you do to make your class even more interesting through the use of questions and listening? Which of the two could use a little more work in your class? What step can you take this week to strengthen that ingredient? The extra effort to increase participation and enjoyment of your class will pay dividends. Check out Part 2 to consider two more ingredients. Prayerfully prepare. Fold in questions and listening. Be revolutionary!