Heartprints

How to Put Some P-L-A-Y in Your Planning

The mark of a treasured teacher is not so much the ability to impart information but a contagious enthusiasm for learning. That excitement and eagerness are especially important when it’s time to plan the lesson for next week’s Sunday school class. Preparation is critical. Even the most experienced among us must be continually planning and learning new things to impart to our kids.

The mark of a treasured teacher is not so much the ability to impart information but a contagious enthusiasm for learning. That excitement and eagerness are especially important when it’s time to plan the lesson for next week’s Sunday school class. Preparation is critical. Even the most experienced among us must be continually planning and learning new things to impart to our kids.

Of course, time is a precious commodity for all of us. People often ask me how long it takes to prepare to teach a Sunday School or Bible lesson for children.

I want to show you how to prepare lessons in the simplest way possible but also, how to sink your “spiritual roots” deeply so that your Bible lessons transform your students.

Yes, it will take time. And it will take a new teacher more time than it will take an experienced teacher. God grows us into the job. But if we sow “quick-fix preparation,” our lessons will reap only shallow teaching and superficial life application. We live in a society that wants “instant everything.” But if that is how we prepare to teach God’s Word, our work will not bear fruit.

Planning doesn’t have to be drudgery! A number of years ago, Robert Fulghum captured hearts with his book of short essays entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things.  Fulghum reminded us that too much of our lifelong learning is done informally through the work we call “play.” Since lifelong learning is what we’re after each time we teach lessons from God’s Word, it seems appropriate to use the letters of the word “play” to remind us of the elements of our preparation.

P – Pray and ponder the passage.

Prayer is where our teaching should always originate.  In fact, prayer is so important in a teacher’s life that we will devote the whole next chapter to its significance. But let’s look at it as an element of lesson preparation here.

Why is prayer part of effective planning? Because prayer links us with our Heavenly Father, giving us access to His wisdom as well as guidance from the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, we see His vision, hear His heart, touch the significance of the lesson, and attempt to think His thoughts.

For whom do you pray? For your students, of course! Pray first for their salvation. Then pray for them to continue to grow in Jesus, to become disciples of Christ who hunger to know Him and His Word. Pray for them to become people who shine the light of Jesus into the world. Pray also for their hearts to be prepared for the message God has for them during this particular lesson. Pray for their individual needs, as well.

What do you pray? Pray that God would open your understanding of His Word so that you are enabled to teach your lesson in a way that transforms the lives of your students. Pray that with God’s help you can encourage your students to want to change and to seek out God’s Word to make that change.

Along with prayer, ponder the lesson’s Scripture passage in the presence of God. Allow the Holy Spirit to permeate your thoughts so that you might deeply experience the significance of this particular verse, perhaps reading it from several different translations to expand your opportunity for in-depth understanding. Invite God to give you deep insight into His Word so that it becomes living and active in your own life. Seek God’s blessing on the rest of your preparation, making sure that every activity will honor Him.

It is usually easy to spot those treasured teachers who have bathed their students and their teaching in prayer. There is a special bond that forms between the teacher and children in those classes, and you sense the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit when you walk into the room. Clearly, the teaching is being applied to those young lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. How I love to encourage teachers to make prayer the springboard for their teaching!

After we have built the foundation for our lessons in prayer, we are ready to move on to preparing the lesson through study.

L – Learn the lesson

The learning phase of lesson planning is when we seek answers to the intellectual questions we may have encountered as we prayed and pondered the lesson’s Scripture passage. Some teaching styles may actually integrate this phase of planning into the “pondering” phase. Analytical-style teachers (Researchers and Organizers) may feel more comfortable looking at the parts of a passage before they seek a “global perspective” in prayer. The order of the elements is not nearly as important as the fact that we choose to seek God’s wisdom in understanding both the big picture and the parts of our Bible teaching.

As you study the Bible passage eagerly, personally, and thoughtfully, seek to answer the follow questions:

•    Who? Who is the passage about? To whom was this person (or persons) connected? What was happening at this time in his or her life? To whom was the passage originally directed? Under what circumstances did they write it?
•    What? What is the main point of this passage? What can you (or your students) learn from this passage that would make a difference in your life today?
•    Where? Where does this verse fall in the context of the whole chapter, or the whole book? Does the geography of its setting have any significance? Where would this passage have practical application to modern life?
•    When? When was this passage written? Are there specific, predictable times in life when this passage could be especially significant?
•    Why? Why is this passage important for us to consider today? Why is it important for your students to understand this passage?

This is the point in preparation where we might use Bible reference materials, such as commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Bible handbooks, maps, or a concordance to find related Scriptures. These tools add depth to our understanding of the lesson. Once we are comfortable with our background knowledge (remember, learning your style will determine your comfort level in this area), we are ready to get into the practical aspects of planning for our particular class. Now we are ready to move on to the “A”, analyze your teaching aids.

In my next blog, I will continue on with the “A and Y” to complete the “PLAY” for our planning. May God bless you in your preparation as you teach His precious children.
 

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