Sticky Sunday School Lessons

Sunday 13th April, 2008

We all want Sunday School to be sticky. No, I don't mean snack time for preschoolers.  I mean we want people to stick. We want their relationships to be strong. We want care to take place that prevents people from dropping out. We want guests to feel welcome and want to return. We want fellowships where people have fun, get to know one another better, and deepen life-long friendships. We want ministry that reaches out in love and concern during stressful and difficult times of life.

But we also want Sunday School lessons to be sticky. We want them to connect people. We want attenders to grow closer to God and to each other. We want participants to learn more about God's Word and about each other. We want them to remember and apply the encounter with God and His Word. How can we expect class members and guests to apply the truth that we taught if they cannot remember the lesson after Sunday lunch? What can we do to increase retention of what they learned to increase the likelihood that they will live it out?

Josh Hunt wrote a great article on the Church Central website that is entitled Six Ideas for Unforgettable Teaching. You will want to check it out. In the article, Josh shares six ideas for memorable teaching from a book by Chip and Dan Heath that is entitled Make to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Look through these ideas and think about what you can do this week to make your lesson sticky. The six ideas from the Heaths are listed in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • SIMPLE LESSONS STICK. All too often, our lessons are too complicated. They have multiple points. The mind fails to rest on the main point. As Josh said, "We teach so little because we try to teach so much. Less is more. Focus your lesson. Become the master of the one-point lesson." Stop teaching too much. Stop teaching so many points. If you have to make "three or four points, they should all revolve around one point." Check out Balancing ’Too Much to Teach’ Versus ’Too Much to Learn’ in Sunday School for more thoughts in this direction. If you cannot summarize the lesson in one statement, it is probably too complicated to stick.
  • UNEXPECTED LESSONS STICK. I remember a single adult lesson on Easter at the cemetary in which Mary came over a hill to tell about having seen Jesus. The place for the lesson had already raised the likelihood that the lesson would be remembered. But the testimony of Mary sealed it. Rearrange your room. Take your class somewhere else. Start differently. Use different teaching methods. Josh said, "Sunday School classes and small groups are dying a death of predictability." The worst teaching method is the one you use all the time. Don't do it! Don't be predictable. Make learners return out of curiosity, and even better make them remember the truth because it was so uniquely communicated.
  • CONCRETE LESSONS STICK. Abstract tends to be more difficult to remember. Paint a clear picture. Be specific. Even better bring your illustration with you. Use object lesso ns. If you can, put them into the hands of learners. I remember a s ermon more than ten years ago i n which the preacher brought out a suitcase and made points abou t the luggage we drag around because we fail to accept forgiveness. I still remember a poem (Robert Frost's Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening) I learned in third grade because I can picture it.
  • CREDIBLE LESSONS STICK. While many trust the office of teacher, some need time to develop relationship with you before they fully believe you. In the meantime, you can move toward credibility by sharing information from trustworthy sources. As Josh said, "Quote the Bible. In addition, quote other well-known personalities. Back up your ideas with facts and research from credible sources." When you introduce important and/or new ideas, you can make it more likely that the idea will be remembered and applied when you add credibility by giving credit to the source for the idea.
  • EMOTIONAL LESSONS STICK. If your teaching is monotone, it is likely that it is emotion-less. Whisper. Get loud. Vary the speed of delivery. Talk with passion. Share from your heart. Share pictures, illustrations, testimonies, and stories (more in the next section). As Josh said, "Make 'em laugh; make 'em cry." When you share with emotion, they will remember. When they hear with emotion, they will remember. Get more of their senses and emotions involved.
  • STORIES STICK. Stories are life. Follow Jesus' example. He was a master of telling stories about life. Share life. Share your life. Lead them to share their lives. Share stories from the Bible. Share stories from life, like those in the newspaper or those found in LifeWay's supplemental teaching resource, Extra. Make sure your stories make a point rather than distract.

Work to make your lessons stick. Which one of these ideas can you incorporate in your next lesson? Do you have another idea to add to these? Press Comments below to help us all make our lessons stick. Be revolutionary!

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