What Is the Ideal Pace of Scripture Study in Sunday School?

Sunday 17th September, 2006

Should an adult Sunday School class or home group push hard to cover as much scripture as possible in the time available? Or should they spend as much time as is necessary in order to make sure that every attender understands each verse in depth? These are questions asked by educators and administrators in schools at all levels. What is the revolutionary balance?

It is easy to rush through scripture at the end of class or the end of a unit of study. But would it be better to continue the study at the next session in order for the class to learn and apply the truth? What if a new person comes into the group in the middle of a unit of study? How much time should be spent catching up the new person?


I'll never forget teaching a lesson from Exodus 3. At the end of the session, I looked around the room and did not see any light bulbs on. No, not the overhead light fixtures. Rather I could tell the group had not understood the truth of the lesson. I asked them to study the same lesson and we would take another look at the lesson next week. At the end of the second week of teaching the passage, I looked around the room and saw perhaps one third of the group had gotten the truth. I realized how important the lesson was, and I asked the group to study their lessons one more time. When we finished the third week, there were nearly two thirds of the light bulbs on. We decided to push forward.

Should I have tried one more week? I believe I made the right choice, but the judgment will depend upon the truth and the group. Such discernment of attenders' learning is a valuable ability for teachers and facilitators. Whose fault was it that no one got the truth the first week--mine or attenders'? Yes, it was both our fault, but it was my responsibility to address that reality.

I like what Jack Kuhatschek (of Zondervan Publishing House) said in an article entitled, How to Lead a Small-Group Bible Study Effectively:  "Be conscious of the pace of the study. Try to avoid the extremes of being too rushed or spending too much time on any one question. The ideal is to move through the passage and the questions at a comfortable pace so that you finish at the end of the allotted time. Some leaders don't worry about the pace of the study, assuming that they can simply stop in the middle and resume next week. Usually, however, that approach does not work well. Most studies are designed to be completed within one session so that people can have a sense of completion and closure. Also, certain members of the group may not be able to attend next time, and others may have missed the first half of the study."

What is your advice for those struggling with this question? What is the revolutionary pace? What pace has the most Kingdom impact? I am not sure there is a correct answer for all situations, but I believe most classes and home groups try to cover too much too fast. Be intenional in your pace. Work to change lives!

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