What is involved in running the Sunday School?
The Bible is described as “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm 119:105). It contains what we need to know about God, about ourselves and about the Lord Jesus Christ through whom we may be reconciled to God and have eternal life (John 6:68). This Good News is for all people everywhere. It is too good to keep to ourselves. We must make it known!
What steps do I take in preparing a Bible lesson?
(I am grateful to Child Evangelism Fellowship for much help in this.)
1. Pray. The Lord Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) I know that only too well! I pray for help to understand what God is revealing to us in the passage under review. Then I pray for help to teach this truth faithfully, clearly, interestingly and at the level of those who will be hearing it.
2. Read: i) The passage. ii) Helpful and reliable commentaries. The ones I use most are those by: William Hendriksen, J.C. Ryle, Matthew Henry and Alfred Edersheim. I find Edersheim a most valuable resource for bringing to life both the Old and New Testaments. A converted Jew, his “Bible History – Old Testament” and “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, give a vivid sense of the culture, geography, history and “atmosphere” of the passage being studied.
3. Pinpoint the Main Truth, so arriving at the Aim of the Lesson.
4. Introduce the lesson interestingly and appropriately in order to capture attention and begin to fix that attention around the main truth and the events leading up to it.
5. Note the sequence of events in the passage. This needs to be free of jargon and expressed in language which will be easily understood. It is best to keep sentences short. The sequence of events should lead up to:
6. The Climax of the lesson. This may be the most exciting, dramatic, surprising or significant part of the account.
7. Application of the Main Truth. Immediately after arriving at the climax one needs to take advantage of the attention aroused and apply the main truth to the experience of the listeners, helping them to identify with it in a personal way. The Application, the Aim of the Lesson and the Main Truth will all agree. Inevitably one often finds several truths revealed in one Bible passage. These can be clarified and discussed with the teachers for their own edification, but each teacher must prepare with the needs of his or her class in mind. Young people and adults may well take on board more than one truth, but teachers of younger classes are wise to stick to one main truth.
8. Select a Memory Verse to be taught at the start of the lesson and possibly repeated at the end or during the lesson as appropriate. This helps to underline the Main Truth.
9. Meditate on how best to help the teachers to conclude their session with a short prayer, which will again be based on the truth drawn out in the lesson, and expressed clearly and from the heart.
10. Pray that the Lord would take His Word and apply it by His Spirit first to the hearts of the teachers and then to the children.
What do we use for Visual Aids?
In a rural setting both in Africa and Madagascar I find that clear, simple and realistic pictures are the most practical.
- Generally I find cartoon pictures to be inappropriate. They may cause inappropriate laughter and may well give the impression that the events related did not really happen, or that Bible truths need not be taken seriously.
- Over-Europeanised pictures are often not appropriate, especially if they depict objects or events which are out of the children’s experience.
- Given the fact that on any one Sunday, a good number of classes may be covering the same Bible passage, finding sufficient and appropriate pictures can be a problem. This is compounded by the restraints of photocopying rights.
- It is out of the question for most local congregations, especially in rural areas, to cover the cost of buying the nice, glossy books that we are used to in the West.
- In addition, where teaching material is used in the rural areas, the possibility of expensive pictures being spoilt by the dust, dirt and wind of the dry season or the excessive rain of the wet season, is highly likely. For the village work I find that A4 photocopied pictures which are easily transportable and well protected in plastic, non-shiny sleeves are the most practical.
Thankfully some organisations producing pictures do give photocopying permission. In addition, more is now available via the internet, though internet access my well be difficult or impossible in rural areas. I find that black and white line drawings, which can then be coloured by the teachers, to be the most practical. This also helps to give the teachers a sense of responsibility for preserving the pictures carefully.
Simple handwork is also helpful in conveying the aim of the lesson meaningfully. This is thoroughly enjoyed by the younger children, as long as the classes are small and there are enough teachers to give adequate help within the time constraints of Sunday School.
What about Songs?
We all know that children and adults too enjoy singing. Songs which help fix the attention on Bible truths and bring them to life are extremely helpful. Amongst Malagasy Christians there is a fund of such songs which we use in addition to others that have been gathered over the years and translated into Malagasy. It is especially gratifying to see a number of Malagasy Christians who are gifted in making up their own songs based on Bible verses.
How does a Sunday School hour run?
We have found that the following format works well in our situation:
- Open time of singing during arrival of children. It is helpful to have an enthusiastic leader who will be sure to arrive before time and be ready to encourage the children already gathered to choose some of their favourite songs. This also helps others to arrive on time, provides a welcoming atmosphere and gives another opportunity to speak briefly and warmly of truths that have already been taught in Sunday School.
- Welcome and simple opening prayer.
- Song or songs, chosen beforehand with the lesson aim in mind.
- Time of prayer. Children are encouraged to mention items for thanksgiving or needs for prayer. This helps in encouraging them to trust the Lord with daily burdens and to see answers to their prayers. In addition, the leader can help the children to grasp the value of knowing and loving the Lord more themselves and to gain a vision for helping others to know Him. For example they can be encouraged to pray for the children in a far village which is being visited on that same Sunday by a church team. Mere routine should be avoided.
- Song, also chosen beforehand with lesson aim in mind.
- Little children leave with their teachers for their own teaching session.
- Teaching of Memory Verse. Teachers may need help to do this interestingly, clearly and “snappily”, not labouring over the verse or repeating the lesson itself, but helping to fix the verse in the minds of the children, young people and adults.
- Song, again chosen with lesson aim in mind.
- Children, young people and adults divide into classes for teaching which is appropriate for their level.
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