Could R.O.P.E.S. Improve Sunday School?

Thursday 29th March, 2007


A few years ago, Wendy Dever returned from a conference to introduce some of the Kentucky Baptist Convention staff to a new model for training. Those hearing about the model could immediately sense the values that would come from making some adjustments in how we were planning training experiences. We did not abandon our previously successful practices, but we began to see even greater response to pieces of the new model. And we began to see the model in some of our previous presentations that had enabled an above-average amount of change.

The model Wendy introduced was called R.O.P.E.S. For a great summary of the training, check out an article (handout) entitled Creating a Training Plan, in the Train the Trainer Series. Allow me to give you a quick overview:

Step Purpose % of Time
ReviewConduct a review of the learners' general knowledge of and experience with the topic. Can also help identify prerequisites.5-10
OverviewEstablish a connection between learners and the training content that will engage the learner and motivate them to learn. Also helps set context.10-15
PresentationPresent the content to learners in ways that helps them retain the information.25-35
ExerciseEnable the learners to practice using the training content in order to build and reinforce skills.35-50
SummarySummarize and clarify what was learned and bring closure to the training sessions. Sometimes includes evaluation.5










Review helps to connect with what learners already know or don't know. Overview prepares learners to understand where you are headed and its personal relevance. Presentation for most trainers takes too much of the time resulting in little retention. Exercise, engagement, and/or practice is needed in order for learners to learn and apply learning. Summary helps with retention, focusing on what was important. The percentages work whether you have 30 minutes or 5 hours to provide training.

What would happen in the average adult Sunday School class if this model of teaching was adopted? Would learners adjust or revolt? Would more or less learning occur? Would lessons result in more application and obedience or not? What would teachers have to do differently to prepare? What would teachers have to do differently on Sunday morning?

I continue to believe the average Sunday School class leaves each week retaining very little of what was taught. Further, I fear little of the teaching actually is resulting in application, life-changing action, and obedience. I wonder what would happen if a revolutionary Sunday School teacher took a risk to adopt a new model. What if a teacher, after class "business" and prayer, had 45 minutes for the lesson then took 4 minutes each for review and overview, 15 minutes for the lesson, 20 minutes for practicing the lesson, and 2 minutes to summarize the lesson. The lesson and the practice might be interspersed.

Maybe he/she does not change the presentation methodology overnight but in small steps over a period of time. Maybe he/she adds review or overview for a few weeks. Then maybe he/she adds summary to the end. Then when the class has adjusted to review, overview, and summary, then there might be steps taken toward more exercise. To me, this is the most important step and perhaps the hardest.

What do you think of the model and its potential for an adult Sunday School class or small group Bible study? What would you do to lead your teachers to begin implementing the model? As a teacher, what steps would you take with your class to get it started? Avoid teaching an average lesson. Be revolutionary!

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