Steve Parr: What to do if Sunday School is boring

Note: this is an except from Steve's newest book, Sunday School That Really Responds. It releases this week and is available now on Amazon.

First Aid (Immediate Steps)

Identify the roots of the problem

Some people have the impression that Sunday school is boring. Other people believe that Bible study is boring. The reality is that there is no such thing as a boring Sunday school, boring curriculum, or boring Bible study. However, there are boring presentations given by teachers. Why are your Sunday school teachers boring? The real question is why are they making boring presentations?

Begin by identifying the root of the problem. Boring teachers, more accurately boring presentations, are generally the result of a combination of these issues: spiritual passion, skills, and preparation. Failure in any of these three areas will almost always result in boring presentations. When or if you have a culture among your teachers where a corporate weakness exists in these areas you have a boring Sunday school because it will be led by boring teachers.

A lack of personal spiritual growth on the part of teachers will result in passionless or boring teaching. The best teaching comes from overflow, and overflow is the result of growing in knowledge and intimacy with Christ. How sad it is that many people perceive church or Sunday school to be boring because Sunday school teachers lack passion for sharing the best news in the world. Are your teachers growing in their faith? They cannot lead the members where they are not going themselves.

Many Sunday school teachers do have a growing and abiding love for the Lord but lack the skills to teach effectively. Weakness in skills can be directly related to neglect in training. The neglect can be that on the part of the teacher to participate or the failure of the church leaders to provide sufficient training. Why do church leaders assume that volunteers know how to teach skillfully? The skills do not come by osmosis or all teachers would possess them. Do your teachers participate in training in order to develop and refine their skills in communicating God’s word?

Possessing passion and skills will not be enough if a leader fails in weekly preparation. A teacher need not spend dozens of hours each week getting ready to lead their class. However, throwing together a quick plan on Saturday night cannot be compensated for with passion that is not applied or skills that cannot be maximized. Neglect in preparation can be related back to skills or may be symptomatic of another church issue. Sunday school teachers represent some of the best leaders in the church and may often be connected to multiple leadership roles. Once you add the additional responsibilities to family, work, and the routines of life it is no wonder that preparation for Sunday suffers. Is it possible that the church is stretching the teachers too thin by asking too much of their time in other areas? Have teachers been taught preparation and time management skills through the Sunday school leader training plan? What’s that? Your church has no training plan for your teachers? That is the root of the problem!

Provide immediate tools and instruction

You can provide immediate help by providing the tools and instruction that your teachers need. The immediate resources will not resolve the problems but will aid leaders in improving their skills. Every step of improvement will make a difference and you have to start somewhere. Here are possible ways that you can provide immediate help:

  1. Invite a guest (expert) to come and provide instruction. You need at least three to four weeks to promote such an opportunity but need not wait for months to do so. The guest might be someone from a church in proximity to your community, a denominational leader with expertise in Sunday school, or a consultant that specializes in Sunday school or Bible teaching. When do you gather with the leaders? Sunday afternoon? Saturday morning? Monday night? You gather when the maximum number of your teachers can be present.
  2. Offer your teachers a series to help them to grow in their teaching skills. You can purchase a variety of resources that can be taught to give your teachers a jump start on improvement. Teaching with Style by Bruce Wilkinson is a great introductory series designed to help Bible teachers to communicate God’s word effectively.
  3. Take your leaders to a conference specializing in Sunday school. A well-led conference has the effect of fast forwarding their training experience. Encourage your church to make an investment in your teachers and your Sunday school by providing for the expenses of your teachers if possible.
  4. Place a book in the hands of your teachers that will help them grow in their skills. The advantages are that the resource can be in their hands quickly, can be read on their own schedule, and can provide common information to discuss in follow up. Consider gathering in a home or over a meal to discuss the book as well as to reward those who read and participate.
  5. Provide video or audio training resources to your teachers that they can view on their own schedule. These may need to be shared and passed around based on the cost of the resource involved. Following up in a similar manner previously discussed for providing a book would be appropriate.

Offer evaluation for individuals or the group

Evaluation can be used to prompt improvement if done correctly. You can conduct the evaluation in a number of ways. One possibility is to announce a visit to each Sunday school class by a director, staff member, or designee assigned to conduct the evaluation. Assure the teachers that the evaluation is based on identifying group strengths and weaknesses rather than individual evaluations. An approach such as this can relieve potential anxiety and pressure. Follow up by providing analysis of patterns discovered along with suggestions for overall improvement that all teachers should be encouraged to apply.    

A second approach would be to invite the teachers to permit a leader to attend or to view a video of the class to provide personal evaluation and recommendations for improvement. A skilled and diplomatic approach by the person doing the evaluation can assist the teacher in making immediate and substantial improvements. A third approach is to survey members of the Sunday school seeking their analysis of strengths and weaknesses. A general analysis of the group will be less threatening. Use caution if using this method to evaluate individual teachers. The results can be much more painful when coming from members that attend weekly compared to a more objective analysis by a non-member of the class.

 

 

Steve Parr is part of the All Star Sunday School Training Team. The others are David Francis, Dr. Elmer Towns, and Josh Hunt. We have a couple of dates we are looking for hosts. These are done on a shared risk/ shared reward basis. If promotion is done effectively, it should be a break-even for the host. See http://allstarsundayschool.com/