I love teaching Bible classes. Don’t tell anyone, but I would rather teach 100 Bible classes than do one sermon, and that’s not because I dislike sermons as much as I love teaching Bible class. I love the give and take, the camaraderie that builds throughout those 30-45 minutes, and I love the fact that I can discuss the most important books in the world with the people that mean the most to me.
Unfortunately, the one fact that makes most people apprehensive about teaching Bible classes is the uncertain nature of it. You never know when Brother Hobby Horse is going to take over with a certain “gotcha” question he’s been sitting on for 20+ years, or when Sister Speculation asks you whether or not pre-resurrection Lazarus stunk like old sushi or salami that’s been left outside on the sidewalk for a couple weeks (John 11:39).
You have to be ready for literally everything, but there are some things you simply can’t prepare for. If you’re wanting to teach a Bible class, whether at your local church or in the privacy of your own home, there are a few things you can do to prepare.
For a brief period of time, you’re tasked with teaching God’s people about God’s word; it’s hard to argue that there is a more important task in this world than that (James 3:1). As such, you should begin any kind of prep work with going to God in prayer for a few minutes to ask Him for His help in understanding and working through the text. Ask for help to make proper applications. Ask for Him to give you strength. But most of all, ask Him for help for what you say to be truthful. Nothing is more important than that.
You don’t have to be as eloquent as Paul, but take a page out of his book when he spoke to the Ephesian church. He prayed that they would be able to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19). That should be a goal of every class.
Once you’ve prayed, examine the text or topic that you’re tasked with teaching. What’s the context? Who are the major characters? What are the correlating passages (minor prophets to history, parallel Gospels, etc.). Make notes of all the important factual information that you can uncover.
Second, consider the audience. Will you be teaching high schoolers or toddlers? Adult auditorium or men’s Tuesday night devotional? Understanding where and who you’re teaching will shape your prep work to make it the most applicable it can be.
And always, always, always over-prepare. A forty-five-minute class will be a lot longer than you think it is, and if you’ve never taught before, you may vastly underestimate how much material you need. Moreover, people will ask you questions about the text that you hadn’t considered before; over-preparing will allow you to better tackle those situations.
As opposed to a sermon, it’s nearly impossible to do a run through of a Bible class. You (or someone else) will take you down a tangent, you’ll get questions, or someone may even introduce false doctrine (true story), so you’ll have to be able to speak off the top of your head at a moment’s notice.
What you can do is visualize your class going well. Find a quiet place and imagine yourself in the setting you’ll be teaching in. Visualize everyone sitting there and then rehears your opening few minutes. Those first 3-5 minutes are crucial for establishing your own pace and level of confidence, so make sure those are cemented in your mind.
From there, go through your material as if you were delivering it sans-comments. Make a note of natural breaks in your material to ask questions, and anticipate objections to potential hot topics. Open your eyes, jot those down, and revisit those sections.
4. Poke and Prod
Here’s a not-so-secret secret: People love classes that make them think. You may think that your sole job for 45 minutes is to not accidentally spit on the lady in the front row, but it’s actually to get people engaged with and learning God’s Word. The people in Ezra 10 stood in the rain listening to God’s Word because they saw themselves in the story of God. Make it your goal to do the same.
For example, let’s say that your job is to do a class on the “Six Steps to Salvation.” Sounds easy enough, and chances are, your audience has heard at least 4,283 sermons on the subject and can regurgitate your own material back to you. Instead of simply listing those steps, however, why not examine the relationship they all have with each other? Why not discuss how they build on each other, or take them through a passage of Scripture that shows the progression?
In short, don’t be afraid to ask your audience “why?” In my opinion, we don’t do that nearly enough.
What’s the big lesson you’re trying to convey? Your audience will not remember every single thing you tell them, so instead of trying to ram as much info down their throats, ram one big point and hit it 100 more times with supportive information. Ephesians covers a lot of ground, but its core message is about building up the body of Christ. Use those chapters to reinforce that theme, or some other scripturally-accurate topic.
Keep Christ in the center of all things. Remember that, at the end of the day, you’re up there to deliver someone else’s message; the fact that you’re not coming up with “original thoughts” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stay true to the text, focus on growth, and those 45 minutes will shoot by before you’re ready.Last modified: July 25, 2019