Methods of Studying to Teach the Sunday School Lesson

1.  Study a Book
The best general method of Bible study is book study.  The best beginning for a series of Sunday school lessons is to study as a whole the book from which the lessons are to be taken.  The meaning of the book will set in clearer light the meaning of the several lessons.  Read the book through, if you can, at a single sitting.  Read it in the light of its authorship, it time, the circumstances of the writing, the persons to whom it is written, its special purpose, and its relation to the other books of the Bible.

2.  Study the Connection

Nearly every lesson is related to the lessons going before and after it.  Read the intervening Scriptures, and carry forward the thread of connection to next Sunday's lesson.  There is no stronger mental law than the "association of ideas," and the plan of keeping up the connection between the lessons, for both teacher and student, will help to their better retention and understanding.

3.  Study the Lesson Text

The literal text - its words, phrases, idioms, sentences - comes next in order.  Read it verse after verse; study its words and their meanings, the import of its statements; make plain to your understanding what the text means.  Do this first.  Must misunderstanding of the Bible comes from carelessness in getting at the simple text.  If the meaning is obscure to the teacher, it will be more so to his students.  Put the lesson into your own words, changing its forms and modernizing its language, until you see clearly what it means, and is intended to state.  Make no haste to generalize and discover "points."  Plain study of the text itself is the teacher's first need.

4.  Make an Outline

After you have gone over the lesson, verse by verse, in study of the text, setting its statements clearly in order, think out and write down an outline of the spiritual teachings.  This is generalizing the lesson, and involves patient thought.  The temptation will be strong to resort to the "helps" and see what the lesson writers say, but yielding will be fatal to original thought.  Think for yourself:  First, what does the text mean?  Secondly, what does the lesson as a whole teach?  usually the lesson will teach many things, but hold to the plain and logical doctrine of the lesson, in the light of the book and the connection out of which the lesson is taken.

5.  Study the Memory Verse

The memory verse is the key to the spiritual thought of the lesson.  Fit it to the lesson, and the lesson to it.  Hold to such points only as are in line with it, and you will generally be correct.  This is the secret of the success of the primary teachers.  They make their teachings to crystallize about the one great truth in the memory verse.

6.  Study the "Helps"

By these are meant all expository helps - commentaries, papers, periodicals, books, Bible dictionaries, and so on.  Compare their analysis with your own.  See what points in teaching they suggest, and how far your own thinking agrees with theirs as to the great truth the lesson is set to teach. 

But do not throw aside your own conclusions.  Your weapon is the sling; theirs, the sword and shield.  You cannot climb to their level of knowledge and thought, and teach as they do.  Use their thought only as suggestive, but hold fast to your own studies of the lesson.  You have now a double view:  your own as you have studied it out, and the view of the best Bible scholars.  Between the two you can see more clearly what to choose for your students, as suited to your skill as a teacher and to their needs as a class. Choose the simpler and easier things of the lesson, along the lines of its spiritual thought.  Do not select the hard points and complex analysis of the professors of Bible learning.  Follow their fine leadership as they separate error from truth, but keep your own distance and stand upon your own familiar ground.  (1)