Master Plan of a Lesson
Since God is a God of order and “not the author of confusion,” all gospel work should also be done in an orderly way. Therefore, it is wise to first make a General Unit Plan. Perhaps you could take up the Character of God in Genesis (each story illustrates an attribute of God), Israel’s Egypt to Canaan Journey, or the Miracles of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels. Having a general plan provides a map for you as the teacher, a structure for the students, and an outline you can share with parents, a great excuse to visit.
Each lesson should be done orderly as well. You must think, pray, plan, and prepare. Every part of your Sunday school should be geared to teach the Word of God and the truths of the gospel. Although every teacher will develop their own routine and style of presentation, the message of Paul in Athens on Mars’ Hill provides an excellent model for planning a Sunday school lesson. Acts 17:14-34 teaches that you should:
Analyze your Audience
A. Background influences: Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (v18), Pagan Idolatry (v16).
B. Culture and personality: “Spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (v21).
C. Knowledge level: To them it was new doctrine (v19) and “strange things” (v20).
D. Interest level: They were curious: “May we know …?” (v19).
E. Age and gender: “Ye men (adult males) of Athens” (v21).
Note: Paul preached of the resurrection (a historical event) and Jesus (a historical person), which was the extent of the knowledge of his audience. By contrast, earlier in Acts 17, he spoke to Jews in a synagogue in Thessalonica who knew the Scriptures and the promise of the Messiah. There he spoke of Christ. His understanding of his audience guided him in his approach and even the language he used.
An understanding of your audience is a major guide as you plan the lesson. It will help to anticipate their attention span, interests, questions, and stumbling blocks. The more you can match the lesson to the interests, needs, and capacities of your students, the more effective and interesting the lesson will be.
Pick your Point(s)
Main Point: “Him declare I unto you” (v23). Paul wanted the Athenians to get to know the living God.
Note: As Paul traveled through Athens, “his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” God touched his heart first with a desire to teach the Athenians about God and their responsibility to Him. When planning your lesson, be sensitive to what God impresses on you as through the week you read the passage you are going to teach. In every lesson, pick your main point and work toward your students grasping that one truth. Over the course of time, you can build on each point, reinforcing what you have taught them in prior lessons.
Also note that in Athens, Paul spoke of repentance. He does not mention the new birth. The Lord Jesus never used the word sin when talking to Nicodemus, nor spoke of the Lord’s coming to the woman at the well. Although we need to “preach the Word” and “preach Christ crucified,” we should seek to structure a lesson around a limited number of points. One guiding technique in planning your lesson is to write out some specific objectives for a lesson. For example, instead of hoping that students will learn about God, make it your goal and prayer that through your lesson students will be able to state two ways God has demonstrated His love.
Verify your Verse
Make sure the text is appropriate for your audience and that you have a plan and time in your lesson when you will teach it. Most of all pick a verse that relates to your lesson and will help reaffirm your main point. Explaining difficult words and teaching the verse is also critical. One effective technique is to teach it and explain it at the beginning of the lesson so you can then reemphasize it by quoting it and using it as part of your lesson.
In Paul’s message in Acts 17, what single verse best illustrates the main burden Paul had for them? Obviously, verse 30, “God … now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” If you had to pick a different gospel text outside the story to emphasize the main point of our accountability to God, which would you choose?
Map your Message
1. Attention Getter: “Altar: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” (v23)
2. State Purpose: “Him declare I unto you” (v23)
1. Explain Points:
His Position: Lord of Heaven and Earth (v24)
His Provision: He giveth to all (v25)
His Power: “made,” “determined” (v26)
His Presence: “He be not far” (v27)
His Patience: “God winked” (v30)
2. Illustrate Points (Quotation): “For we are also his offspring” (v28b)
1. Apply Points:
Negative: “we ought not to think” (v29)
Positive: “repent!” (v30).
Note: Paul did not carry a New Testament in his pocket so he did not read from the Scriptures. When there were Scriptures available, as there was in the synagogue in Thessalonica, he read from them. Every class should have the teacher and students reading from the Scripture if possible because, “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light” (Psa 119:130).
Be sure to select appropriate points that emphasize some aspect of Man’s Ruin, (Isa 1:5, 6; Rom 3:10-19), God’s Remedy (Isa 53:5, 6), and Man’s Responsibility (Isa 1:18; 45:22). Map out your message ahead of time so you are clear and comfortable with how to communicate what God has laid on your heart for each class.
Test your Teaching
Paul monitored the reaction to his message. Acts 17 says that some mocked, some wanted to hear more, and others believed.
Note: Generate a variety of review techniques and use them to communicate the Word of God and the gospel. The point of a game is not to find out who was listening, so don’t ask questions about irrelevant detail. Use it to review your points. If you make a list of 8-10 questions you would like to have your students answer at the end of the lesson, these can help you formulate your points and provide your review.
“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1Cor 14:40).