Four Key Ingredients of a Well-Taught Sunday School Lesson

Does the thought of teaching a children’s class scare you? Do you ever feel completely out of your element?

I want to encourage you that you can do this! You shouldn’t be fearful of or overwhelmed by the opportunity to teach God’s word to the young people in your congregation. In fact, I want to offer a recipe for success.  If you learn these four key ingredients and incorporate them into each lesson you teach, you will be amazed at how God will transform the lives of the children in your classroom over time. We start with prayer and end with God’s power. In between, we prepare our lessons well and present them enthusiastically. The results are in God’s hands, but he promises to match our presentation of the gospel with the working of his Spirit to change lives. Let’s explore these four key ingredients.

Ingredient 1: Prayer

Our work is a partnership with God. We need his grace to reach the children in our class. Solomon said it this way, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Prayer is a great way to admit our weakness and call out to God for help with the preparation and presentation of our lesson and to move in power in the lives of the children in our class. Consider the amazing promises of Scripture regarding prayer: “This is the confi­dence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). There is no doubt that it is God’s will to reach the next generation with the gospel. So spend time in prayer before each lesson and watch God move in the hearts and lives of your children.

Ingredient 2: Preparation

God tells us in Deuteronomy 6 that we should teach the words of his law diligently to our chil­dren. Diligent instruction demands careful preparation. Don’t be content with just getting by. The children might not notice that you were flying by the seat of your pants in class, but you’ll know. Truth is, teaching a well-prepared lesson is a whole lot more fun than trying to wing it. Preparation takes time and we are all busy, yet consider these simple tips to help you prepare your lesson without crippling your schedule.

Ingredient 3: Presentation

In teaching, Jesus used object lessons and so do we. When Jesus wanted to teach the disciples about God’s provision, he told them to consider the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28). When he wanted to make a point about paying taxes, he used a Roman coin and asked the Pharisees whose likeness was stamped on the coin (Matthew 22:20). This method of teaching with stories and object lessons made a deep impression on his audience. Matthew reports “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28–29).

Don’t feel like you have to come up with ideas on your own. Most curriculum such as my Gospel Story for Kids curriculum is filled with object lessons that are fun for the students and that will help even an inexperienced teacher to look like an expert in the classroom. Here are a few presentation pointers to consider when planning your lesson.

  • Remember that you are teaching children, not adults. Children love it when you change your voice to match the character of the person speaking or when you use facial expressions to overstate emotion.
  • Stretch your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to put on a simple costume to make a point or to use a puppet with younger children to help them ask or answer a question.
  • Repetition is your friend. If there are two object lessons that teach the same thing, don’t be afraid to use them both, even back to back. Repetition helps children to retain the truth of the lesson.
  • Get the children involved. Ask them questions as you go or have them repeat the main thrust of your lesson.

Ingredient 4: Power

In all our preparation before class and hard work to present our lesson to the class remember that “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). Here is the bottom line: we need God’s power to effect change in the hearts and lives of our children. The power to transform a hard heart into a heart for God is found in the message of the gospel directed by the Holy Spirit to the mind of a person. The apostle Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Consider these pointers:

Notice how our work, preparation, and presentation, is bracketed by God’s work, first in our asking for his help and lastly in us looking for his power. The Gospel Story curriculum is filled with great object lessons but none of them has any power to change the life of a single child. That is why we’ve included gospel connections in every lesson. Remember, the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes so that even the least eloquent of teach­ers can present a life-changing message with eternal results.

A Final Encouragement

The apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he didn’t come with eloquent wisdom or skilled speech yet he brought a message of power and knew that it was God working through the proc­lamation of the gospel that changed people’s lives. We teachers simply need to faithfully present the gospel and watch God work. Consider how the hardest granite is worn away by the flow of the smallest stream. Before you too harshly critique any one day’s presentation, rejoice in the fact that a change depends not on you but on God.

The Gospel Story Curriculum

The Gospel Story Curriculum is a three year, 156 lesson program that presents key stories from Genesis to Revelation, each highlighting God’s plan of redemption in a way that’s engaging, interactive, and easy to understand.

About the author

Marty Machowski

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over thirty years. He is the author of a number of family devotionals, curricula (including the Gospel Story for Kids), children’s books, and parenting titles. He and his wife, Lois, have six children and several grandchildren, and reside in West Chester, PA.

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