In too many Sunday School classes, many early moments are wasted rather than wisely invested. Too often, teachers arrive late. They gather supplies during precious minutes of Bible study time. Members arrive late. The room is not ready. Greeters are not in place. No one takes charge of class business and prayer to help the Bible study session to begin quickly. There is no official start time from one Sunday to the next. In other words, class starts late every week.
On top of that, teaching time is wasted when nothing is done to help attenders begin early thinking about the passage, topic, or truth for the day. Sadly too much time is often spent on other activities (fellowship, announcements, prayer, and more) until there is too little time remaining to pursue an encounter with God in His Word.
POOR BEGINNINGS. And even after the Bible study session has begun, too many lessons begin poorly. When there is prayer before the lesson, it seldom has to do with wanting to join God in an encounter in His Word. In fact, the prayer—whether prayed by the teacher or by a class member—seldom has to do with the lesson at all. Where else will attenders’ encounter a passion for seeking Him?
And then too often teachers admit they did not have enough time this week to study. Such statements should never be spoken. The lesson that results will speak for itself. When the first encounter has been neglected, the teacher usually moves right into scripture reading. Or the class takes turns reading verses or sections. Or the class begins to read the pupil quarterly to each other. There is no attempt to follow up on last week’s lesson or the application of its truth. There is no time given to preview this week’s lesson or highlight its importance.
LACK OF ATTENTION. At this point, attenders’ minds are still on fellowship or personal concerns. And yet nothing is done to capture the learners’ attention. No attempt is made to get minds turned toward God or the subject, topic, or truth of the day. No questions are asked. No related stories are told. No newspaper articles are read. No summary of the passage and its importance is shared. Nothing, including an icebreaker, is used to get attenders involved and talking early. Too often, one voice tends to dominate those early moments—that of the teacher.
NO BIBLE IN SIGHT. And all too often, the Bible is absent. Sometimes even the teacher fails to bring his/hers. Too many teachers teach from the teacher book rather than God’s Word. Without the example of the teacher and any expectation, fewer and fewer attenders bring their own Bibles. And if they do bring their Bibles, they often fail to open them. When encountering God in His Word is neglected like this, is it any wonder that Christians are biblically illiterate, lives are not changed, members don’t stay, and new people are not reached?
For further help, check out my book, Disciple-Making Encounters. In my next blog post, I will address adjustments to those early moments that can change neglected opening moments into powerful ones, that can change a lesson into an encounter with God.