Tuesday, January 07, 2014


It's that time again.  You've received your copy of the teacher's manual.  There is the passage of Scripture and several pages of teaching notes, object lessons, life application stories, and maybe a craft or two.  What do you do next?

Sadly, there are teachers who pick up "easy to prepare" lesson manuals and read them over on Saturday night during commercials.  After all, it's all laid out so the teacher doesn't have to "do" anything, right? I once observed a teacher reading the lesson right out of the teacher's book! She only paused long enough to pick up the prop that the book indicated (at least she didn't actually read the words, "pick up prop").

 There is a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into writing these manuals and I appreciate the role they play in children's ministries. But it has been my observation that some teachers are intent on "teaching the curriculum" instead of actually teaching the Bible. I believe if the publisher's lesson is the sum total of preparation and presentation, it is actually shortchanging the kids in the class.

Assuming you've picked up the lesson guide in plenty of time to prepare, what is a good way to approach the upcoming lesson, to take advantage of the work of the experts, but not rely on that work as the final answer on how you do your class? Here are some steps that may help:

  • Read your lesson book through once, making note of the main passage of Scripture
  • Read the main passage of Scripture repeatedly in different translations. If it is only a verse or two, read the verses surrounding it to get the context.  This allows you to be comfortable and knowledgeable about what the passage says.
  • Seek to understand what the passage means and how it connects to the whole of Scripture.  There is a plethora of commentaries, study guides, printed, audio, and video sermons available to aid you in your study.
  • Ask yourself the point of the passage for your life today. Does the passage command something, give you an example to follow (or avoid), or teach you an attitude to emulate?
  • If you had no other resources, how would you present this passage to the children in your class?
  • Open your lesson book and see how the publisher does it.  Go over it until the lesson is not only familiar to  you, but actually "fits" the personality of your class.
  • And then, if possible, leave your teacher's manual at home! Nothing brings more energy to a classroom than the teacher directly interacting with the students instead of reading them a lesson.  The only book you should actually be reading from is the Bible.
I'm not suggesting you have to be a Bible scholar, conjugating Greek verbs and looking up comments from the anti-Nicene fathers.  Nor am I suggesting reinventing the proverbial wheel: if the manual has a great illustration, activity, or turn-of-phrase, by all means use it.  But in the end, remember, you are not teaching a curriculum, you are teaching the Scripture.  The lesson guide is a tool to help you do it.

What kind of methods do you use to prepare your lessons? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments section.

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