At 211° water is hot. At 212°, it boils; and with boiling water, comes steam.
Steam can power a locomotive. That one extra degree makes the difference.
This simple analogy reflects the ultimate definition of excellence.It's the one extra degree of effort, that can separate the good from the great.
It's easy to think that you are just doing another lesson; and forget that one student in your class could change his whole outlook on life by a single statement you make. The call to teach about Jesus, is a call to excel at our task, each and every time we stand in front of our class.
I am challenged every time I rise to speak with the knowledge that I need to prepare my presentation in such a way that every listener will understand that I have something to say that can help them in their daily lives.
You can pick up your lesson material and read it through, and feel you know that Bible Story, and can tell it to your students.
That's good. However if you can make a list of the kids that may be in your class, and know what they need in their daily lives, and visualize them sitting listening to your lesson, and find a way to make an application of the truth to their daily life in a way that they can use, that can be more than good; that can be great. It can give them power to live for God and become effective in their community.
Tavia is six years old, and has been attending Sunday School recently in San Diego. She heard stories of people in the Bible who Jesus helped and comforted. In the early summer of 2012 she saw a story on local television of homeless people who had no warm blanket to keep the cold moist night sea-air from them. Her mom came into the living room to call Tavia to supper, and saw her sitting in front of the television, with tears streaming down her little cheeks.
"Mommy, can we get some blankets to help those homeless people?" she asked.
Tavia's compassion had translated into actionHer mother said she would find out what they could to and how to do it. The Pastor of the church invited Tavia to tell the congregation next Sunday about her desire to help these homeless people with blankets. That little six-year-old stood up before the people, and forgetting about herself, she told them what she had seen on television and invited them to join her in meeting this need.
Two weeks later one hundred new blankets were bought, and brought to the church by members of the congregation. Tavia's compassion had translated into action, spurred by her understanding of Jesus love for the lost. 100 homeless people received a blanket, because a little girl had been motivated in her Sunday School class by what Jesus would do for people.
The longer I have been in ministry the more time I am challenged to spend in preparation, and application of my messages.
I have realized that you can teach a good lesson, but you cannot present a great lesson by starting your preparation the day before you need to teach it. If you are teaching once a week, I would encourage you to start your preparation well ahead of time. I publish a story each month on a lesser known Bible person, but I am researching more than one at any time, and making notes on what I find. Sometimes I have worked on one of these stories for three month before it is ready to be published. I look for other places where that person's name occurs in the Bible, and what the connection is.
Most teachers have lesson curriculum they follow, and can work ahead on lesson preparation by at least a couple of weeks, so you have time to do some research. If you teach on Sunday, consider starting your preparation for the next lesson on Monday!
Read the Bible story over at least twice, and then look up every word you are not familiar with, to find out exactly what it means. A good Bible dictionary or encyclopedia is useful for this.
Then look at the "W"s of Who, Where, What, When and Why of the story. A biblical concordance can help you cross reference names and places that occur in the Bible. This is how you find out who is related to who, and in what way. How are each of the participants related to God, and what kind of attitudes are they displaying. Motivation is what makes people do what they do, and what will make your students change the way they live out their faith.
You can also find a lot of very useful information using a good Bible atlas.
It shows where the locations of your lesson story are. You can also find out more about the distances people in the story traveled, a rule of thumb is that travel in Bible times took about a day for every ten miles traveled. The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took just over three months, and from Susa, in Persia, to Jerusalem took four months, an extra three hundred miles.
The climate varies enormously from one part of Israel to another. The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho is part of the well known story of the Good Samaritan. It takes two days to accomplish and there is today the ruins of an inn about half-way which fits exactly with what Jesus told. The 22 miles of road descends 3000 feet from the heights of Jerusalem to the below sea level city of Jericho. While the highlands are very fertile, the journey to Jericho is arid, bare and rocky among the desert like hills.
Gather all the information you can, you may not use it all, but you will be able to infuse your lesson with the essence of what you have yourself learned about the places and the people; the difficulties they faced are just that. We live in a different time and culture, but difficulties are part of our lives too, and have to be overcome as well.
There was a snail that decided he would like to feed on apples.
In the middle of winter he began the slow laborious climb up the trunk of an apple tree. A black crow sitting on a branch of the tree asked the snail why he was climbing the tree. The snail replied that he was going to eat an apple. "Hah" said the crow, "There are no apples on this tree now!"
"Well, there will be by the time I get up there!" replied the snail. He was prepared to face the difficulties to achieve his goal.
You can do the same! Learn how to use the tools available to you, ask your Pastor how to use these tools, and where to get them.
When you make the story live, and show the motivations and attitudes of the people in the Bible, you can teach your class that they too can do the right thing in their daily living. Make a promise to yourself that you will become the best teacher your class has ever had. You can do this, you can move from good to great.
One last thing - the time to start is now!