Those who run races tell us that two keys to victory are how one starts and how one finishes. I can remember a choir director saying, “The most important parts of the choir special is how we start and how we finish. People will remember the song most by these two things.” Something similar can be said of the effectiveness of the Sunday School lesson. The teacher’s introduction and conclusion require thought and prayerful preparation. Below are some thoughts for consideration.
The goal of the introduction is to capture the attention and create curiosity. Most teachers find that a striking quote or a story related to the topic of the lesson can be most helpful in catching the attention of the hearers. Even humor will draw people in to listening to what it is you are about to teach. Sometimes a well worded question is a great beginning. In younger classes a game, a story or an activity related to the lesson helps to capture the interest of the child and makes him want to listen. Before we can effectively teach, we need the attention of the people. Providing a good introduction gets attention so you can move easily to the meat of the lesson.
The introduction often ties a series of lessons together. Often one lesson builds on the previous one, so most teachers want to introduce the series or tie the lessons together to help students understand how the lessons relate to one another. Making use of a poster or some other visual aid can be helpful as Bible learners see how today’s lesson relates to the whole unit of study.
Introductions will also involve giving the background for the passage that is being studied. Explaining what is going on before and after the text and setting it in its proper framework in the Bible helps the pupil gain a proper understanding of the passage and protects her from taking the passage out of context. Proper interpretation of a passage is impossible if it is not seen in relationship to where it appears in the book it is a part of and even how the book itself relates to the whole Bible.
The introduction also helps the learner to understand why the passage is important in relation to his life. It answers the question, “Why is it important that I give this teacher my attention.” It allows the pupil to see why this passage of God’s Word is important for a sixth grader or a mother of preschoolers (for example) to understand. In other words, the introduction helps the student see her needs and circumstances in relationship to the scripture that is being studied.
The goal of the conclusion is to tie the main points together and call the listeners to take action. A good conclusion engages the mind, the emotions and the will. It answers the question, “What do I need to do now in light of what I have just learned.” For children the conclusion may only involve one main idea and the teacher will drive that home to the child’s heart at the end of the lesson with a story, a song, an activity or a simple statement. For adults and teens, the teacher may have several steps of action as the lesson is summarized and applied. When the lesson is over, the learners should be able to clearly see the next steps needed to live this passage out.
The methods of the conclusion will depend upon the age of the students and the preferences of the teacher, but the function of the conclusion is still the same. People need to leave the classroom challenged to make the appropriate changes in their lives in order to line up their lives to the truth they have heard from the Word of God. They’ll know what to do and how to do it.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastor of FBC So. Lebanon, Ohio