Presenting the Lesson
Did you have a rough time with your class last Sunday? In spite of your careful preparation of the lesson and your prayerful attitude before going to the school, did things not seem to go right at all?
Perhaps the fault lay in your manner of presentation. You may have gone to great lengths to gather material; you may have endeavoured prayerfully to set it down in an orderly fashion. Yet in the class the lesson fell flat because it failed to appeal to the children.
The very first sentence in your lesson is most important. If it arouses the interest of the children, you have gained their ear. This is the first requisite to success. How may this be done?
Let us assume that we are teaching the lesson about Jacob and Esau. If we begin by discussing twins in a general way, we will gain the ear of the class, because each child is interested in the subject. With very young ones, though, it would be well to explain exactly what twins are. They may suppose that children are twins merely because they dress in identical clothes, or because birthdays fall on the same date. They may overlook the fact that twins have the same parents and are the same age.
Make it a rule always to approach your subject with some matter of common interest and something of genuine appeal to the children.
Even before you commence to teach the lesson, be sure you have a definite goal before you. Ask yourself what specific point of truth you desire to emphasize and then work toward that end.
If you try to aim at too many targets you are sure to hit none of them. When you have one objective before you, there is less danger of wandering away from the subject.
Let us assume that in the story of Jacob and Esau we are going to stress the great difference between them; that is, their attitude toward God and the birthright. Jacob wanted it above everything else, while Esau counted it of little value. This is revealed in the incident of the mess of pottage. It may be contrasted to the physical difference in their appearance.
Keep your lessons alive and your children attentive by using the element of suspense and keep the story moving rapidly.
In our story under consideration, there are several action scenes. Describe the parents waiting for nineteen years for the children they so much desire, until Isaac began to pray to God, claiming the promises made to his father Abraham.
You may refer to Rebekah’s eager anticipation of the birth of the promised twins and then her bitter disappointment when the first was a boy but deformed. Describe the ugly red goat-like hair which covered his whole body.
Hold the class in suspense while Rebekah wonders what the second child will be like, and picture her delight when he is smooth-skinned and normal in every way. Little wonder she made the younger one her pet!
Further action comes into the story when Esau, hating the gaping eyes of people, turns to the wilderness for solitude and becomes a skilled hunter. Dramatize his stealthy stalking of a deer, the drawing of the bowstring, and the slain beast being carried home where Esau made the savory meats from his own special recipe.
The lesson moves quickly on to the day when Esau tries so hard but fails to make a kill. You may picture the arrow missing by a fraction, or a sudden gust of breeze startling the deer a moment before the arrow flies.
Depict Esau at the close of his unsuccessful day, famished with hunger, passing the tent of Jacob and smelling the tempting aroma of Jacob’s big pot of steaming lentil soup.
(The Scriptural expression “mess of pottage” suggests anything but savory meat to most children. Use language that is close to their common usage and words that are readily understood.
Let the children listen in as Jacob and Esau drive their bargain and let them watch as Jacob ladels out the soup and adds bread as a bonus.
The story reaches its climax, however, years later when Isaac, blind and frail, supposes himself on his death bed. The teacher can find plenty of action as Esau stalks his deer while Rebekah and Jacob prepare the substitute dish and plan the disguise.
Be sure to emphasize the bitter lamentation of Esau when he learns that he has lost the blessing.
Children seem to stop listening when the teacher concludes a thrilling suspense story and then tries to tie on an application at the end.
A more effective way is to tell the story in such a manner that the application is fairly obvious. Make partial applications during the course of the story, but be brief and pointed so as not to lose the interest of the children.
Work your final application right into the conclusion of the lesson so that it really becomes a part of the climax. While the children are softened and sobered because of Esau’s lament, remind them of the similar sorrow of those who make light of God’s salvation when worldly things are alluring, only to find that too late the desired blessing of God is no longer available.
Present your lesson prayerfully and carefully; tell the story clearly and graphically, and then make your final application soberly and pointedly. Beyond that, let the Holy Spirit do the pressing and the urging for decisions. Ours is to sow the seed; the giving of the increase belongs in God’s hands.