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Sunday School Lesson Preparation, Part 1


As an established church, we have a commitment to maintaining the traditional expressions of Sunday School and Worship while developing the contemporary expressions of contemporary worship and small groups. This post is from an online training email I sent to our Sunday School leadership in 2008. Although it was written to assist those who lead a traditional Sunday School unit, many of these principles will apply to those who lead small groups in contemporary settings. Tomorrow I will do part 2 of the series on Sunday School Lesson preparation.

During my doctoral studies, I had the rare privilege to conduct an interview with Dr. Fred Craddock. Craddock was trained in New Testament studies, and had a notable career as a Professor of New Testament. But when his seminary lost a preaching professor, Craddock was asked to teach homiletics (preaching). As a result of this experience, Craddock wrote a significant preaching text titled, As One Without Authority. He chose the title because he felt as though he was not an authority on preaching. However his philosophy of sermon preparation and delivery has become one of the most prominent styles in mainline churches across America.

One of the principles that Craddock practiced and taught his preaching students was simple, yet profound:

“Do a little every day.”

Craddock believed that preachers would be more effective if they prepared their sermons over the course of six days, versus waiting until the end of the week and having to pull a marathon study event to complete the task. Craddock taught students of preaching that one hour a day, for example, was more valuable than six hours in one sitting. As I thought about Craddock’s suggested approach, I became convinced he was right. For years I’ve tried to practice this principle and make it my own.

What about you? Do you “do a little every day?” Or do you prepare your Sunday School lesson in one sitting? Let me suggest some benefits to working on the lesson on a daily basis:

1. Starting the lesson early in the week helps the teacher become conscious of the text in the midst of daily life, resulting in rich illustrations and lesson applications. If the teacher knows the text and topic for Sunday’s lesson, he or she can be alert to the news, people, circumstances, and situations that could help communicate the truth of the lesson.
2. Starting the lesson early in the week lets the lesson work into the teacher’s own life first. Effectiveness in teaching is improved when one begins with their own self first. When the teacher understands the implications of the lesson, he or she may then turn to focus on the needs of the class.
3. Starting the lesson early in the week prevents one from depending on time that may or may not be available. Whether we like it or not, time that we believe may be available to us at the end of the week may be snatched away by some unexpected interruption.
4. Starting the lesson early in the week gives the teacher an opportunity to think about it during commutes, while waiting in lines, while exercising, etc.
5. Starting the lesson early in the week allows the teacher to work on preparation and delivery. The preaching and teaching task is in two basic parts. In our study we determine what needs to be said. But that is only half the battle. The second half of the task is determining how to say it.

I’m sure you can think of other benefits besides the ones I’ve mentioned. Even those who teach in preschool, children, and youth can benefit from doing a little every day.

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