The temptation is there—to just skim the Bible stories you’ve heard numerous times. Noah, animals, lots of water, check, got it! The path of least resistance for any Sunday school teacher is simply reciting the provided curriculum word for word, pressing play on a prerecorded video, and making sure there is enough snack for the group. It’s so easy to get to this place, but none of us really want to show up to a room full of eager Sunday school students like this. We don’t want to be pipes through which Bible’s words flow but instead sponges that get soaked in those words before being wrung out for others. So now what?
I want to invite you to shift your perspective, to truly dive into understanding the biblical context of the stories you teach—to give God a chance to speak new life into the text of his living, breathing word.
The way you show up for Sunday school doesn’t have to be different or separate from your connection with God. It’s actually the opposite. God wants the opportunity to use you, not only to speak truth to the precious children right in front of you, but to speak to you. Anytime you have the chance to engage with God’s word, you have the chance to listen.
There are the practical ways to actively prepare for your Sunday school lesson. Do a basic context check. You can easily do this through the Lexham Context Commentary. This is a great resource for connecting and creating a relationship with the biblical material. It makes the process simple and accessible. Turning to other versions of the Bible can also expand your perspective. Cross-referencing formal translations of the Bible (such as the ESV, NASB, or NKJV) with more functional translations (such as the CSB, NIV, or NLT) will help fill out your knowledge of whatever Bible passage you are teaching. Yes, this will take a bit of time and effort on your part. But I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a real simple, yet impactful preparation step: just sit and be still. Put away your phone, push out your to-do list, find a quiet corner of your house, and focus. Ask, but also listen, to what God’s desire is for you during the lesson. How does he want to use you, specifically on that Sunday, with this unique group of kids?
We teachers feel pressure to make everything perfect. We get this one sacred hour (maybe a little longer if it’s a baptism or Communion Sunday) to portray the love of God and clearly tell an impactful story from the Bible. As always in the Christian life, you will do your prep work humbly, knowing that ultimately the results are up to God.
Experienced teachers can tell you that no matter how much planning you do, how perfectly you organize the craft or memorize the lyrics of that catchy song, stuff happens. It seems like every child needs to make a trip to the bathroom multiple times. There is only one green crayon that all the kids somehow must have. Or you blow through all the activities and are left trying to entertain a room full of kids for what seems like eternity.
However, if you have prayerfully prepared for your time with these precious kids, then let God show up and do the rest. Let them ask questions. Let them be curious. This is where authentic, impactful learning takes place: in the midst of the wonder when they are making a concept their own. You don’t have to have a flawless answer to every out-of-left-field question. Encourage conversation with their families and trusted church community. How beautiful it would be if the lesson continues during the week as kids wrestle with the complexity of God’s word!
Equip families with resources to allow for healthy conversation. There is an awesome book I have used called Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally About God with Your Children by John A. Younts. In this book, you can get tips on how to use simple conversations to display God’s goodness and wisdom to kids. When children are allowed to be vulnerable and realize that God is approachable, they can better develop an understanding of him. You, Sunday school teacher, get to be one part of God’s ministry to them.
So this week as you prepare for Sunday:
- Try cross-referencing the story, verse, or whatever piece of the curriculum you are responsible for teaching. Dig into the context of the story.
- Give yourself some time to be still. To pray. Ask, but also listen, to what God’s desire is for you during the lesson.
- Let yourself off the hook for the results, and let the kids be curious. Welcome imagination and wonder.
- Search for one (or more) resource(s) with which you can equip families to guide healthy conversations with their children.
This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of Bible Study Magazine. Slight adjustments, such as title and subheadings, may be the addition of an editor.
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