People learn something they did not know before. There is more to this than making people smarter, but there is never less. People who sit in a Sunday School class should get educated about the Bible. They should know that Daniel is after David. They should learn how the story of the Bible fits together.
Here is what I observe in Sunday School classes. Think of the body of knowledge as being a map of the United States.
- Week 1 we talk about Colorado.
- Week 2 we talk about the South. There is variety in those two lessons.
- Week 3: New York City.
- Week 4: the west. (Note: this overlaps with week 1)
- Week 5: Texas
- Week 6: The Northeast. (Note: this overlaps with week 3)
- Week 7: Georgia. (Note: this overlaps with week 2)
After a while, everything overlaps with what has been heard before.
Keep this up for 52 weeks. It sounds like variety, but after a while, you are on the same geography over and over and over again. So many Sunday School lessons are the same thing over and over and over again. Every week you ought to bring something in from New Zealand or South Africa.
Your people ought to hear something every single week that they have never heard before. It is the old old story to be sure, but it is illustrated and applied in new ways every week. Jesus taught the ageless gospel must be poured into new wineskins. We must come up with new illustrations and stories to communicate the unchanging truth.
Here is some good news. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the fact that doing what the Bible says contributes to our well-being. Religious people are happier. Generous people are happier. People who forgive are happier than people who don’t. Everything God asks us to do makes us happier. Report on this. Include some of it in every Sunday School lesson.
This Sunday I am preaching on materialism. I will have a section where I will uncover this data. I plan to say some things I have never said before. I want people to hear some things they have never heard before. Things about how money really doesn’t buy happiness. Lottery winners really are not happier. With food and clothing you might as well get content because science and the Bible agree: getting more money won’t make you much happier.
This is why, as I write Sunday School lessons, I am constantly buying new books. I have an expansive and expanding library of Logos books, Kindle books and Wordsearch books. It is not uncommon to buy a book just to find some material for one lesson.
If your people do not hear something they have never heard before in every lesson, the only people you will reach are the already committed.