Thank you for agreeing – or agreeing to be “volunteered” – to teach Sunday School this fall. No matter how you feel about it, you are doing something important. You are passing on your faith to a new generation. Jesus says, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). You are doing the work of a disciple, and you are not alone in it! This post is all about how to make a great Sunday School lesson in less than half an hour.
Step One – Pick your story, read it again, and learn one new thing about.
Get excited about your favorite story again. These stories matter, and your enthusiasm will be contagious. After you’ve picked your story, log on to words4theheart.wordpress.com. There, you can read the story. Check out the links under “Useful resources for Understanding the Story” to learn something new.
Pro Tip #1: A good study Bible is really helpful for preparing a Sunday School lesson. I recommend the Lutheran Study Bible, but there are other great resources out there.
Pro Tip #2: Use a website like biblegateway.com to read lots of different translations of the same text – what do you notice?
Pro Tip #3: Here are some good questions for helping you get even more out of the story:
- What in the passage scare, surprises, confuses, or challenges me?
- What stories or memories does this text stir in me?
- Who is speaking in this passage? to whom? How am I like or different from these people?
- What does this passage say to me, my church, my community, my nation, the world?
- If I took these words seriously, what person or situation would I see differently than I do now?
Step Two – Find a translation of the story to share with the kids
There are several story Bibles available in the church office, Sparkhouse’s Spark Story Bible, Ralph Milton’s The Family Story Bible, and Desmond Tutu’s Children of God Storybook. These are all Pr. A’s resources, so please leave the originals at church – but feel free to make ONE copy to use for preparation. You can also read it from the Message or the New International Version (a common Bible translation) or the New Revised Standard Version, the version we use during worship.
Pro Tip #1: Pick five important words in the story and find the American Sign Language sign for them (or make up a gesture). Teach these to the kids – now you can use any version and have A LOT of fun telling the story.
Pro Tip #2: Have the kids act out the story as you read it. Be sure you have a list of the characters you’ll need ahead of time!
Step Three – Make a List of Kid-Friendly Follow-Up Questions
Aim for 6-10 questions: 3-7 review questions and 3-5 discussion questions.
Pro Tip #1: An easy review question is, “What happened in the story?”
Pro Tip #2: An easy discussion question is, “How did you feel when…? Why?”
Pro Tip #3: Turn the story review time into a game with an easy bean bag toss or other simple game. If you get the question right, you get to throw the bean bag. Use “life lines” (ask a friend for help) so everyone can throw. Or hand out simple pieces of candy for right questions.
Step Four – Find a Craft to Do
Check out the links under “Make and Do” at Words for the Heart. Its okay if you’re stretching to make the craft work. Once the kids have heard the story, your presence is also a great gift. If they learn nothing else, they learn that the people of the church care for them. Check the Sunday School cabinet for supplies. If you purchase your own, please submit a receipt in the treasurer’s drawer with your name; please keep your supply purchases below $20.
Pro Tip #1: Think about the crafts you made as a child, it is possible these kids have never done it before! Sometimes, um, “vintage” is good!
Pro Tip #2: Good supplies always help. Pr A has watercolor pencils and oil pastels you can use. Sometimes a simple craft is made all the more exciting by using more “adult” supplies.
Step Four – Find a Game to Play
Games are also listed under “Make and Do” at Words for the Heart. Again, games don’t have to be “spot on” to be perfect for Sunday School. Play with the kids, remind them that God loves them, and you do, too, and you’ll have a perfect lesson.
Pro Tip #1: Pick a plan and stick to it. The second you introduce a game, two things will happen: 1) someone will groan and whine; 2) someone will ask to play a different (and, in their mind, better) game. Know the rules of your game, and say matter-of-factly, this is what we’re doing.
Pro Tip #2: Variations on Sharks and Minnows, Red Light, Green Light, and Mother May I, using characters and themes from your story are all winners!
Step Five – Pick One More Activity
Check out the links under “Other Activities.” Crosswords, word searches, and coloring sheets are great choices. You could also show a movie on your computer, plan another (short craft), or play a simple card game (like Go Fish).
Pro Tip #1: It is always a good idea to have a back up activity to fill out your time. But it is also okay to ask the kids what quiet thing they might like to do for the last five minutes.
Step Six – Write a Prayer
End the class time with a prayer.
Pro Tip #1: Here’s any easy way to write a prayer:
Dear God, [what God did in the story], [what God might do for us now], [why]. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
So a prayer for the story of the Call of Abraham might look like this:
Dear God, you walked beside Abraham and Sarah, no matter where they went. Always walk with us, so that we know you keep us safe. In Jesus’s name. Amen.