What do you do when someone is dominating the conversation and seems to have all the answers? Here are a couple of things to try. First, you can just randomly ask people for answers. It will increase engagement, because no one will be certain when they will be called on to answer. Another idea would be to go around the room in an order that you pre-determine. This will allow an opportunity for the person who likes to share to participate without taking up all the time.
Remember that one of the primary responsibilities of the church is to equip people for service and to live a life pleasing to God. Allow this to guide your conversation and teaching, especially when someone brings up a struggle or a concern they have. You want them to walk out of class feeling encouraged and more ready to face the week ahead of them. Encourage practical application in the discussion, and come up with great application as you are preparing.
Remember that your class may have different styles of learners. Although it can be challenging to accommodate everyone, it can also be fun to try! Perhaps you can come up with a great object lesson to go along with your lesson. You could also have students write down a few key points that stuck out to them during the lesson and share it back toward the close to help everyone remember the main ideas.
It can be tempting to quickly move from meet and greet time in Sunday school class to the lesson. Fellowship is a key and important component. People often connect best over food, so if that is an acceptable option at your church, try using some refreshments to encourage your class to connect. This is especially helpful if you regularly have new people in attendance. Use that time to ask questions like, “What are some ways God has been acting in your life this week? What are some things you have learned from your own study of Scripture?”
Silence is not your enemy. There is nothing wrong with allowing the class to quietly contemplate a question that has been asked or a point that has been made. It can be awkward, and you can be tempted to break silence sometimes. However, do not be afraid of the silence. It is in those moments that the Holy Spirit can speak to hearts.
If you decide to ask discussion questions, be certain that they will always create quality discussion. Do not ask questions that only have one right answer if you are looking for a discussion. Whenever you ask a discussion question, your goal is to help people share their thoughts and really think about the material. Ask open-ended questions.
There are four main learning styles that most people are able to learn under. They are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. In your classroom you likely use auditory and reading/writing the most. You probably do not need to use kinesthetic. Most of your class members are happy to sit still for a while. The style you could try adding is visual. It is an important learning style that we often use for children but fail to take advantage of for adults. Whenever possible, bring in visual aids. Maps are great for showing where things were in biblical times, pictures of artifacts can help bring a lesson to life, and diagrams help us make connections by organizing what we have studied. If you have access to the Internet, you can easily find ways to visually enhance your lesson and help your class members remember more of what you have taught for weeks to come.
We all know that prayer is a critical component of the Christian life. Let’s make sure it is an important part of our class time, too. Begin class by asking for prayer requests. Keep a list of the requests where you can add to them each week. This could be kept on the wall for all to see as a reminder to pray and praise God for His answered prayers. You should also try to minister to any of the needs as you can. Send cards, deliver cookies, make phone calls, and do not feel like you have to do this all by yourself. Ask other class members to help. Make sure you take these prayer requests home and pray for the needs during the week. Begin regularly praying for each other and see what God will do! “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
I may be wrong, but I doubt that teaching Sunday school is the only thing that occupies your time. If you are like most of the lay workers in the church I know, you have got quite a bit going on besides preparing for this lesson. In the busyness of life, we can often get the job done on our own strength, and then we wonder why our ministry is not very fruitful. Take time to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as it says in John 16:13, “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” Ask Him to lead you into all truth as you lead your class members. Ask Him to be your Guide, and depend on Him to do the work you cannot do. “Holy Spirit, be my Guide. Holy Spirit, my door’s open wide. Make me to know Thy will divine; Holy Spirit, be Thou mine” (Mildred Cope).
Sometimes we need to skip our Sunday school lesson and do something more important. I am not advocating that you not come prepared to teach so you just find other things to occupy your lesson time. So, do not put this down and show up unprepared. What I am saying is there may be times when you need to get out of whatever routine you are normally in and let the Holy Spirit work. If there is a pressing need in your community, a class member’s loved one is critically ill, a spiritual need is presented for either a class member or someone else, or any other need is presented, skip the lesson and pray. Nothing we can say through our lesson is more important or powerful than prayer. All too often, we do not give enough time to the things in our lives that concern us. God cares and wants us to bring our needs to Him. So change your plans. Pray.