The number one complaint I hear about Sunday School is this: there is no depth. People often say it this way: those are just Sunday School answers.

People want to hear things they have never heard before. Yet, we must be faithful to the old gospel.

People want to think things they have never thought before. Yet, again, we are faithful to an old book.

People want to be challenged to think, to ponder, to consider, to argue.

Think of the opposite: if you don’t learn anything new, why bother coming? Apparently, a LOT of people ask that question.

And, there is plenty of depth in our old Book. His mercies are new every morning. You can study it your whole life and only skim the surface.

Here are some ideas to create depth in your lessons:

What is the balancing truth?

The truth is nearly always a midpoint between two extremes. People tend to wander in one direction or the other. For example: Is Christian living active or passive? Is it working and striving and straining, or is it letting go and letting God? is it getting out of the way and letting God live his life through me? If someone gets all Sunday School answery on the passive side with the let go and let God approach, ask them what they do with these verses: [emphasis added]

Book Description Context
NIV Ac 24:16 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
NIV 1Ti 4:10 10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
NIV Php 3:12 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

If they go the other way, ask them what they do with this verse:

Book Description Context
NIV Gal 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

And wrap it up with this one, that has both balancing truths:

Book Description Context
NIV Col 1:29 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Here is the idea. Ask the question: is Christian living about working hard, striving, straining, etc? If they say yes, answer back with Galatians 2.20. If they say no, answer back with any of the first three verses. Whatever they say, respond with: “respectfully, I disagree.” If you know them really well, you can say it more directly: “respectfully, I think yu are wrong.” (I am not actually sure how respectful that is! Get them thinking. Get them talking. Get them arguing.

I discuss this more in my free e-book: Good Question have groups talking and try to include these kinds of questions in every lesson. See

What have the masters said?

One of the things I like about Lifeway’s Explore the Bible Series is that it is so easy to supplement the curriculum with a library of the great writers–living and dead–who have spoken. When you are studying James, pick up a couple of commentaries on James. It doesn’t cost that much to get a couple of volumes. Whole sets of commentaries will be expensive.

I do this when I teach our small group that meets on Wednesday night. I use my own questions, but I supplement the questions by reading one or more commentaries before each week’s session. I want to bring something new to the table. I want to bring something fresh. I want my people to drink from a living stream, not from the dead sea.

The great teachers I know are lovers of books. They are always bringing fresh insights from the masters. They stand in sharp contrast to the man who says, “I have not consulted any man’s wisdom; I have only prayed and read and sought the mind of God.” Sounds good, in a way. Here is my question: why doesn’t it interest you what God has said through the greatest minds and warmest hearts that have graced Christendom?

As I write my lesson each week, I include quotes from some of the great commentaries. Here are a few of my favorite:

  • John Macarthur
  • Warren Wiersbe
  • New American Commentary
  • Holman Commentary
  • Life Application Commentary

By the way, I prefer electronic books because of the ability to search and cross-reference books. I use WordSearch, but there are lots of good options out there.

Great teachers quote from the great teachers. It provides depth.

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Teach sanctification as well as justification

How many lessons a year should be on justification (how to be saved) versus how many should be on sanctification (how to grow in Christ)?

My answer: we need more lessons on how to grow in Christ. Again, this is one of the nice thing about following an outline like the Lifeway’s Explore the Bible. You just take one chapter after the next and leave the ratio up to God. My experience has been, too many lessons on how to be saved, how to know you are saved, how to tell others to be saved, how to be redeemed, how to be forgiven, etc. We need need more lessons on how to live the John 10.10, fruit of the Spirit life. How to live a life that is a little more loving, a little more joyful, a little more at peace, a little less worried, a little less anxious.

We need to teach people to drink deeply from the well. So, next time you teach, tell them something they have not heard before. Cause them to think something they have never thought about before.