I would have preferred to have named this blog entry Sunday School Lesson Encounter Planning Tips but I don’t have the tools to create that kind of title. Up front, I want to challenge you not to plan a lesson. Instead, plan an experience. Plan an encounter between our living God and your class. Plan to lead them to meet Him. Do more than plan communication of content, of facts, or of biblical history. Open God’s Word and allow Him to speak. Get attenders involved in listening and responding to Him.
Consider these planning tips offered by Kim Dailey on the eBibleteacher.com website in an article entitled Lesson Planning Techniques. I have chosen a selection of her main points which are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- TEXT OUTLINE. What are the major points of the passage? What is the context? These two points can help you to focus in on understanding the truth that needs to be taught. They can free you to keep the experience flowing in the right direction. They can help you to shorten the rabbit chasing. And without a doubt, these questions can improve your effectiveness in preparation and effectiveness.
- START EARLY. This is always a great suggestion. It would be ideal for a teacher to look over next week’s lesson before teaching this week’s lesson in order to bridge the lessons where possible. But at least read the scripture passage for the lesson on Sunday afternoon. This will enable you to be more sensitive to how God will illustrate the lesson’s truth during the week ahead. Also on Sunday it is important to bathe the lesson and class in prayer. Starting early also gives you time to gather (or purchase) needed resource items for Sunday.
- KNOW YOUR FOCUS. Determine where you are headed, what you want to accomplish. Make sure every learning activity is designed to affirm your focus. Would learners be able to state that they arrived at your intended destination for them? Did they learn what you wanted them to learn? Did they decide what you wanted them to decide? Did they feel the way you wanted them to feel?
- USE A TEMPLATE. Put together an outline of a standard lesson and a normal preparation process. Use it to make sure you are ready. This may improve your consistency and help you not to forget an important step or action. On the other hand, I want to offer one word of warning: don’t get stuck in a rut. Vary your encounter plans. Don’t make your lessons boring because you present the same way every week.
- DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES. This has been addressed in previous blog entries like Balanced Diet of Sunday School/Small Group Teaching Methods, Part 1 and Part 2 and Learning Styles in Adult Sunday School. Each of us has one or two preferred learning styles. In a class of six persons, that frequently will mean that at least seven of eight different preferred learning styles are present. Planning a variety of teaching methods can apply to multiple learning styles in one hour.
- INVOLVE THE CLASS. Participants will tend to learn more when they are involved. Learning e xperts tell us that people remember 90% of what they are led to “say and do.” Attender s will also enjoy learning more if they are involved. Lead them to laugh. Have fun! Again, make it an experience. Don’t do the Bible study for them–lead them to meet God in Bible study! Ask open-ended questions. Give them a writing/reflection/application exercise. Lead them to become active.
- BRAINSTORMING IDEAS. Kim listed some questions for times when you get stuck and need to spur your preparation or presentation creativity. Here are her questions: “What have I learned from the lesson this week? What’s the opposite of this lesson? How would the villain in the story tell this lesson? What other Bible/secular story is it similar to?” Again, make sure your plan advances your intended focus.
- FINAL TIPS. For some churches I really liked Kim’s suggestion to “have two emergency lessons prepared: one in classroom, for when you are sick and one at home, for when you get called.” In general, I would encourage you to enlist a regular substitute (ideally be training an apprentice) to whom you give a teacher book (if available) every quarter. Then he or she can be more familiar with materials and how to use them to prepare in a short amount of time if necessary.
What can you do to prepare to lead your class to have an encounter this week? On which of these tips do you need to focus more time and attention in order to give God your best effort? Don’t teach another lesson. Prepare for an encounter! Be revolutionary!