In some ways, this is Part 6 of a twenty-part series. It all began with a post, Questions about Making Disciples Through Sunday School. There I asked twenty questions about how Sunday School can help the church carry out Jesus’ command in the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).
Since that initial post, I have written six times addressing the first five questions. Those posts include: (1) Sunday School Making Disciples Through Fellowships, (2) Sunday School Becoming More Intentional about Inviting, (3) Sunday School Sharing Jesus, (4) Sunday School Preparing Disciples’ Testimonies, (5a) How Can Sunday School Encourage Greater Daily Intake of God’s Word?, and (5b) How Can Sunday School Encourage Greater Intake of God’s Word, Part 2.
In addition to responding to the first five questions, I have also written a four-part series based on Jesus’ discipleship steps in Mark 6: Discipling Through Sunday School Jesus’ Way, Part 1, Discipling Through Sunday School Jesus’ Way, Part 2, Discipling Through Sunday School Jesus’ Way, Part 3, and Discipling Through Sunday School Jesus’ Way, Part 4.
In this post, I want to address the sixth question from Questions about Making Disciples Through Sunday School:
How can Sunday School strengthen retention of what was taught on Sunday?
Jesus clearly communicated that making disciples of all nations would include baptizing them and teaching them to obey what He commanded. That means that reaching, evangelism, teaching, learning, relationships, retention, accountability, caring, and much more are important in order to accomplish the task fully. If a person has never been connected to the class or has become unconnected, it is difficult for Sunday School to influence his/her discipleship. But retention of what was taught is also important. If the individual does not remember the lesson, truth, or expected response, he/she will be unlikely to obey the truth.
What are the ways Sunday School can help attenders increase retention (remember more and hopefully obey more) of what was taught? Consider this starting list of twenty-one ideas:
- lead them to use what was learned–plan for application of the truth/lesson;
- capture their interest right at the start–hard to teach minds that have not entered the room;
- at the end of the lesson, review what was learned;
- at the beginning of the lesson, tell the class where you are headed, what you hope to accomplish;
- break the group into smaller groups–more will participate in the conversation;
- use teaching methods which address some of the preferred learning styles of attenders (How to Identify the Learning Styles of Your Youth);
- teach and reinforce a single major truth in each lesson rather than multiple truths;
- ask questions about what the Bible says–get them talking and thinking;
- make assignments–ask them to prepare for reports and answer questions individually or as a class;
- expect them to read the scripture and/or lesson in advance;
- expect them to participate (Expect Members to Participate);
- let them know you will ask for reports of application of this week’s truth–then ask them next Sunday how they did;
- send out an email reminder/review of last week’s lesson (also helps with absentees);
- send out a preview/overview email of the upcoming lesson–get them anticipating the lesson;
- instead of teaching a lesson, plan an experience (make the lesson/truth memorable);
- carefully choose one or more great stories/object lessons which illustrate the lesson/truth;
- use as many of the five senses as possible during the lesson (instead of only talking about the Passover, why not let them touch, taste, and smell the elements);
- ask one or more attender(s) to prepare and share part of the teaching;
- find a movie clip that relates to the lesson/truth;
- use the Bible and lead learners to use theirs–lead them to encounter God in His Word; and
- plan time for learners to think about and apply the truth of the lesson to their lives and plan an obedient response.
With intentional planning and practice most of your lessons can employ much of this list. Just imagine the possibilities for the spiritual development of your attenders through increasing retention of what they learned in these ways. Take steps to increase retention in your class. Add one of these ideas to your teaching plan this week. Add another next week. Prepare well. Plan for involvement and retention. Remember your goal of making disciples. Be revolutionary!