When I taught a class on how to lead Bible studies and teach in a group, the biggest push-back I received was when I promoted writing out - in full - your lesson for the week. People objected that writing out a lesson would squelch the Spirit of God and would make the lesson mechanical.

After having led adult Sunday School classes and small group Bible studies for over fifteen years, I disagree. Instead, I have found that thorough preparation - including writing out as completely as possible everything you want to say - brings only benefits to the group or class you are leading. And that holds true regardless of whether the class is more lecture-oriented or more discussion-oriented. Here are three areas that benefit significantly from taking the time to write out your lesson:

1. Content

* Writing helps you focus your lesson and achieve your goals. It requires you to define your main point and decide how to explain it, support it, illustrate it, and apply it.
* Writing out your lesson ensures that you have enough content to fill the allotted time. You won't have to suffer the embarrassment of being done with your material and still have 15 minutes of dead time to fill, nor will you find that the bell has rung and you have 15 minutes of material still to cover.
* Teaching is about expounding on points, not just stating points. It's one thing to say "God calls us to forgive others." It's another to talk about the reasons we resist forgiving others, the process of forgiveness, and the benefits of forgiveness. When you write out your lesson, you can carefully develop all aspects of your main focus.
* Since you know the points you want to cover when you write out your lesson, you can also prepare effective handouts and note-taking sheets to help the participants engage with the material and remember it.

2. Presentation

* By writing out your lesson, you can learn how to pace yourself. You will see in black-and-white where you are spending most of your time, and what points need to be strengthened.
* You will not find yourself groping for words, forgetting your points or sub-points, or faltering to make transitions between sections.
* If you find that some portion of your lesson has taken longer than you planned and you are running short on time, a written lesson will help you evaluate faster what to eliminate and still achieve your goals for the session since you can literally scan the remainder of your content in a few seconds.

3. Discussion

* Written lessons help you determine where to intersperse discussion to keep people involved and engaged.
* By writing your lessons out, you are also able to guide discussion more effectively. Instead of asking "What do you think? Does anyone have any input?" - which can open the door to absolutely anything - you can ask targeted, well-crafted questions that lead the discussion in order to support the focus and goal of your class.
* When you develop a written lesson, you are more likely to realize ahead of time where people might have questions - and prepare for them.
* A written lesson will also help you recognize and derail tangents as soon as they happen - whether it's you who are tempted to go off on a rabbit trail, or whether someone else is veering off during a discussion time.

When you consider the benefits, the time and effort it takes to write out a lesson becomes an investment that you can't afford to be without. Rather than squelching the Spirit of God, God is able to move more powerfully in the hearts, minds, and lives of others because of your thorough preparation. And rather than make the lesson mechanical, your preparation sets you free to be at ease during the class - to lead and teach with confidence.

© 2008 Paula Marolewski

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Author's Bio: 

Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School classes at Sink Your Roots (www.SinkYourRoots.com/). Studies include such topics as Debunking the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The site also offers free weekly Seedlings - “Little thoughts that grow big results.”