Dare to Prepare: A Daily Plan for Effective Sunday School Lessons

Duke University and University of Virginia basketball players scramble for the ball in Durham, N.C., Jan. 12, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons, D. Myles Cullen)

Duke University and University of Virginia basketball players scramble for the ball in Durham, N.C., Jan. 12, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons, D. Myles Cullen)

I’m a huge college basketball fan, and I have to admit that I succumb to March Madness in a big way each year. And for good reason…the team I follow is Duke. When you pull for Duke, you’re used to watching your team play well into the month as they make their way to their inevitable position in the Final Four. (Except for last year. We won’t go there.)

In the early 1990s, while I was a student at Duke in the divinity school, the men’s basketball team won back-to-back national titles. We were the best, and we wanted everyone to know it. Like every other student on campus, I proudly owned several Duke championship T-shirts. One T-shirt I frequently wore had this question, in big, bold, Duke blue letters across the back: You Can Talk the Game, But Can You Play the Game?

Talk is cheap, but can you do what it takes to play the game like Duke plays it? Each of us knows that behind any winning tradition lies hour upon hour of sweat and self-denial and rigorous training. There are countless hours spent in dull, unfulfilling drills and repetition all for the sake of one blessed moment in the last three seconds of the big game. You can talk the game, but can you play the game?

Perhaps a similar question could be asked about our commitment to preparation for teaching our Sunday school classes. Are we putting in the time needed to prepare fully for the coming Sunday?

In their book with Smyth & Helwys, Help! I Teach Youth Sunday School, authors Brian Foreman, Bo Prosser, and David Woody describe a daily plan for teaching preparation that has proven effective for them over the years. While the book is intended for teachers of youth, the model can be effective for all teachers.

Sunday Evening (20 minutes)—Read the main Scripture passage for the coming week’s lesson. Evaluate how your last teaching session went. Think about the individual and collective needs of your class in relation to this passage. Perhaps read the passage in several translations and jot down key words or ideas. Pray for your class members, class prospects, and their families.

Monday (20 minutes)—Read the entire Bible passage for the lesson. Try to get a feel for the larger section of Scripture that contains your main study passage. Read through Bible background and commentary notes as well as your teaching materials that relate to the passage. Highlight truths relevant to the needs of your class. Make notes if applicable. Pray for the central points of your presentation to be made clear to you as you study.

Tuesday (20 minutes)—Read the suggested teaching procedures. Make notes or highlight methods you think will be effective with your class and their learning styles. Identify effective opening and closing activities for the class session. Pray for your class needs and for other teachers and church leaders.

Wednesday (20 minutes)—Develop a three- or four-point outline about the teaching material. Think about ways to motivate study, examine the Scripture, and apply the Bible to life. Identify one thought you want to make sure you communicate this week. Jot down other key words or thoughts that will help you teach and communicate with clarity. Focus your teaching on that one thought and how you can supplement other truths around it. Pray for guidance in formulating the teaching plan.

Thursday (30 minutes)—Begin working toward a final teaching outline with appropriate teaching ideas for each point. You should work to limit your outline to three or four main points. Identify and finalize teaching procedures for attaining maximum class participation. Make a list of special materials that will support your teaching. Pray for your plans and those who will study with you this Sunday.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday (as needed)—Review your teaching notes and outline. Be confident in the teaching methods you will use. Perhaps practice your lecture material. Gather all needed supplies. Pray each day for the teaching/learning experience you will lead.

A disciplined plan for lesson preparation will help you grow as a teacher and as a Bible learner. Remember that most of our teaching comes from the overflow of our study. So dare to prepare! Your Sunday school class will thank you.

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