A Message by Mr. David Ward, Mystic, Connecticut
At the 39th Annual Sunday School Teachers’ Conference
St. Catharines, Ontario — May 12, 1962
Now there’s much that we have to say which is culminative of all that has been said, and I think the program is well laid out, in that we have come at this time to “Lesson Preparation.”
It has been estimated that eighty to eighty-five percent of the effectiveness of a class is dependent on the teacher. A good teacher can have a real work for God although his facilities may be poor, the materials that he has to work with may be poor and limited, and the children which he has before him may have, at the first, little interest in the things of God. Such a teacher can do a work for God. On the other hand, a poor teacher can have the best of physical facilities, the best of teaching aids and materials, and have a class which normally would be considered an excellent class, and yet make a botch of it. And so the teacher is the key factor in Sunday School work, D.V.B.S. work, camp work, or whatever it may be. We do well, indeed, to give ourselves to such a Conference as this and with its concentrated method of presentation there’s one thing imperative that has already been mentioned, that is — that we go back and have teacher-training programs in our own locality. I hope that one of the things that shall come from our gathering together will be a teacher-training program of some sort on a local level.
Lesson preparation? Well, we had better prepare! Not to prepare is to prepare for chaos! The most important factor having to do with lesson preparation is having a definite aim before us for that specific lesson. Someone has well said that if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. I suppose that we have all had the experience of having heard an address or perhaps having sat in Sunday School ourselves and when we got through we wondered really what it was all about. No lasting impressions were made upon us, because the speaker aimed at nothing. He went everywhere, perhaps, preaching the Word!
Now then, aims are the direct result of the specific needs. Thus our very first consideration in lesson preparation is to ascertain the general and particular need of those with whom we have to do.
Let us turn to just one verse in our little study together this afternoon. We have had reference generally to the subject, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Here are two general aims which we have before us in all of our Sunday School work, children’s work and youth work.
First of all, that in the presentation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, as faith is exercised on the part of those who hear, they shall be brought to salvation which is in Christ Jesus. This, then, is a general aim. Again, the second general aim comes before us here. Not only is there the bringing of a soul to life in Christ, but there is the maturity of that soul in Christ. It is of the most vital importance that, from the youngest teaching in the Beginners’ Department of our Sunday School right on through, we have these two general aims in mind.
Often times I come into contact with people who feel that their salvation was the general end that they were aiming for. Friends, it is not. It is but one: it is the beginning! For salvation is not the end of Christian experience, and the crisis which is new birth immediately precipitates the process which is Christian growth. Therefore, we must have constantly before us these two general aims. Sometimes the Gospel is given ninety percent of the emphasis, and maturity of believers within the Sunday School or group, whatever it may be, is given very little. Much graded material has a certain aim at one age and another aim at a later age —the Gospel at an early age and maturity at a later age. I suggest that the two are running concurrently, or should run concurrently, through all of our teaching ministry. These, however, are only general aims.
From the general aims which we as teachers have before us, we need to ascertain the particular aims for that class. Not only for that class in general, but as has been well-mentioned this afternoon, the class is made up of individuals. It is imperative that I know the individuals within my class, because each individual within that class is a separate personality with particular personal problems, family situations, spiritual apprehension and perhaps even intelligence which varies within the class a great deal.
Thus I must know the class which I am teaching and from the knowing of that class there comes then the more particular aim for that specific class which I am teaching. But more than this; in the teaching process week by week, there comes a weekly need. Often times, the need that is presented week by week is one to which I have perhaps been oblivious since I took that class at the beginning of the year. It is something that develops out of the working of God in and through these lives. As has already been suggested, the teaching process demands a response on the part of those who are being taught We must know what they are thinking. We must know their problem, with a solution to it from the Word of God. That is why I, personally, covet more than standing and speaking to a class or an audience such as this, a visitation with an individual, for there you have a two-way street. There you are able to get to the problem immediately and then to present the solution to these problems in and through the Word of God.
Thus we need to be aware of the needs of our class and of each individual in that class. From these needs, aims are developed. From the aims a program is developed.
( To be Continued)