Leading an EPIC Sunday School Lesson, Part 1

Friday 16th May, 2008

Many who have given up on Sunday School were never involved it in or else were never involved in EPIC Sunday School. Some give up because they would rather start something new than to roll up their sleeves to change what is not working in Sunday School. And yet there are still so many in our culture who prefer a Bible study time that is connected (before or after) to worship. Sunday School still works when you work the Sunday School!

But the day of blindly accepting mediocre Sunday School is over. The day of putting up with mediocre lessons is gone. It is time to be revolutionary. It is time to expect, to prepare, and to present EPIC Sunday School lessons.

Now, what do I mean? EPIC is an anagram used by Leonard Sweet in his book, Post-Modern Pilgrims: First Century Passion for the 21st Century World. EPIC stands for Experiential, Participatory, Image-driven, and Connected. Sweet describes the shift from the modern to the postmodern perspective: from rational to experiential, from representative to participatory, from word-base to image-driven, and from individual to connected.

In this two-part series, I want to apply EPIC to encountering God in Bible study in the Sunday morning time we call Sunday School. In Part 1, we will focus on the first two sections of EPIC: Experiential and Participatory:

  • EXPERIENTIAL. The modern way of explaining things has been in a rational, logical, frequently sequential manner. Learning was frequently verbal. Today we live in a postmodern age in which 60% of people are visual learners. They learn more by seeing than by hearing. But many have "been there, done that." They are easily bored with presentation styles and content. Today's learner expects to be immersed in the learning experience. In fact, that is it: they expect learning to be experiences. How can we turn Sunday School into an experience? Consider one experience that happens in churches all across the land: Vacation Bible School. Children, teens, and adults are immersed in a theme. The room and church are decorated. The lessons and activities of the week all relate. Why not meet at Easter in the cemetery and have Mary dressed in biblical costume arrive during the lesson telling about having seen Jesus? Why not bring in roses when you talk about the rose of Sharon? Why not wash feet when talking about the Upper Room? Why not take the group to a soup kitchen to address "in as much as you did it not to the least of these brothers of mine"? During every lesson, you want to make sure that learners have at least this experience: lead them to meet God in Bible study. Lead them to open God's Word. Lead them to listen to Him. Lead them to respond to Him.
  • PARTICIPATORY. The modern way of Sunday School was for the teacher to have the experience of preparation on the way to becoming a subject-matter expert. In this post-modern age, there has been a shift to learners wanting to participate more in the learning experience. Learners today don't want to sit back and be told. Instead, they want to want to do it. They want to discover it for themselves. When you consider that retention in 72 hours is at 90% if you led learners to "say and do" something, this approach to Sunday School makes sense. When we get them involved, they remember and learn more. How can we make Sunday School more participatory? Give them written exercises. Ask questions. Get them into smaller groups. Make assignments. Call for reports. Ask them to read the passage in advance. Lead them to act out a scenario. Have them determine how they should live out a truth; tell them you will ask how they did next week; and then ask them at the beginning of the next lesson.
For more information about lessons with impact, check out Sticky Sunday School Lessons and Crafting a Sunday School Lesson to Lead to Learning AND Action. In Part 2, we will look at the last two parts of EPIC:  Image-driven and Connected. Stop now to share about your most memorable Sunday School lesson which was experiential or participatory. Press the Comments button below to let others see how Sunday School is life-impacting. Stop teaching mediocre lessons! Be experiential. Be participatory. Be revolutionary!

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