Proper Preparation

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 9 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Sunday School Manual)

There are at least three types of preparation that must be made before a lesson can be successful: (1) the preparation of the teacher, (2) the preparation of the lesson, (3) the preparation of the pupil.

Preparation of the Teacher

It is certainly important that the teacher prepare his lesson. It is equally important that the teacher prepares himself. Much of this preparation is covered in the chapter on “Weekday Duties of the Teacher.” Such preparations include living a separated life, having daily devotions, having a family altar, having a pure mind, having the right motives, visiting in the home of each pupil, visiting the absentees, etc. All of these things should help prepare the teacher for the coming Sunday. There are, however, other things:

1. The teacher should prepare himself physically to teach. Of course, every Christian should bear in mind that his body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, he should keep his body clean, pure, and fit for the Master’s use. Several things should be remembered about the care for the body.

(1) Proper diet. The body is only as strong as its fuel. Most people care more about the health of their dogs and livestock than they do their children and themselves. The Christian should realize that the only thing he has in which to serve God is his body. Because of this he should put only the best fuel in his body. I discovered a long time ago that I could run better without coffee than with coffee and without carbonated drinks than with carbonated drinks. I discovered that there was more energy in a glass of orange juice than in a cola and more stimulant in a spoonful of honey than in a cup of coffee. A person can do more for God on a high protein, low-fat diet, fresh vegetables, and fruit. Fruit and juices should be included in one’s diet if he is to be at his best physically for his Lord. I personally am not much of a pork eater.

I also try not to overeat. “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:21). We are reminded to eat everything we eat for the glory of God: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). We are to eat with thanksgiving: “...and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (I Timothy 4:3).

Then, too, there should be times when a Christian eats nothing. Fasting is certainly a Bible doctrine. A spiritual fasting enhances not only one’s health but also his spiritual power.

“And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” - Nehemiah 1:4.

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” - Ezra 8:21.

“So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” - Jonah 3:5.

“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.” - Matthew 4:2.

“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” - Acts 13:2, 3.

Some good Bible foods are nuts, pulse (vegetables), fish, real bread, quail, goat’s milk, meat, figs, corn, honey, and fruit, such as apples, grapes, etc. Now I am not as much interested in telling the reader what to eat as I am in the reader disciplining himself to eat what he eats on purpose. When I am preaching three to six times a day, I find myself using much honey, drinking a lot of orange juice, eating fresh salads, much fruit, and lean beef.

(2) Proper exercise. Doctors tell us that it is very important that we exercise our bodies as we grow older. This, of course, can be done through sports such as golf, bowling, or even more active competitive sports. Many of us do not have time, however, or at least do not take time for such activities. I have found it helpful to do ten or fifteen minutes of calisthenics some time in the morning. My schedule is as follows: approximately 500 steps running in place, ten deep-knee bends, ten touching of the toes, ten sit-ups, ten rocker exercises, ten pushups, and a few miscellaneous exercises chosen as needed. Perhaps the most important of these is the running. People who actively participate in some sport may find this unnecessary, but it is necessary to have some form of exercise in order to be in proper health.

(3) Proper rest. Some people require more sleep than others. Some people can operate very effectively on five hours’ sleep a night while others require ten. Each Christian should find his own needs. I find that if I can average seven hours’ sleep a night, I can operate at peak efficiency. There are times when I do not come close to this. Hence, the seven hours are not needed for me, but to be at my best, seven hours is necessary. The Christian should learn also to relax wherever he is. My wife laughs often about the fact that I can go to sleep anywhere. I sleep while traveling on airplanes, lying on the sofa, listening to the news, sitting up in a chair, etc. Some people find it wise to take a nap each afternoon. If this is done, it should be complete relaxation. The shoes should be taken off, tight clothing should be removed, and complete relaxation should be enjoyed. There are many other things that a Christian should do in order to keep his body healthy to the glory of God. Discipline is very important in the life of a Christian, and it should be exercised rigidly.

2. Preparation mentally to teach. By this we mean the proper preparation of one’s mind. To do this one must discipline himself physically. The mind and the body work so closely together that it is almost necessary for one to have a strong body if he is to have a strong mind. We all know exceptions to this to this rule, but they are exceptions rather than the rule. A successful preacher or teacher should have mental alertness, accumulation, and knowledge. This, of course, requires as much formal education as is wise, proper, and possible. It should also include a general knowledge of facts, especially current events. I read such magazines as Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Nation’s Business and even Better Homes and Gardens in order to acquaint myself with facts concerning the work and interests of my members. It is always wise for a Christian to have knowledge on various subjects. The reading of a newspaper is also helpful here. Then, too, proper preparation of the lesson material is highly important.

3. Prepare spiritually to teach. Once again, some of this is covered in the chapter on “Weekday Duties of the Teacher.” Daily Bible readings, daily prayer, separated lives, etc., are vital for spiritual preparation. However, one should certainly walk in the Spirit more and more as he approaches Sunday. It has long been my policy to take care of personal and church business the first part of the week, gradually steering away from such matters and toward spiritual matters such as soul winning, Bible study, and prayer as I approach the Lord’s Day.

Proper preparation would certainly include such things as getting to bed early enough on Saturday evening, getting up early enough on Sunday morning, brushing over the lesson before going to the class, avoiding being rushed on Sunday morning, etc.

Preparation of the Pupil

Not only is the teacher to prepare himself, but he is to prepare the pupil for the lesson. This also overlaps with the chapter, “Weekday Duties of the Teacher,” but there certainly are other things the teacher may do to prepare his pupils.

1. Great all class members as they come into the departmental assembly and as they come into the class. A warm handshake, a friendly smile, a little chatting about what the pupil has done through the week, will always make for a better lesson. Remember that Jesus took people from where they were to where He wanted them. When He talked to the woman at the well, He talked first about water and then about the story of salvation. For a teacher to pal with the pupil before the lesson is very wise and certainly prepares the pupil for the lesson.

2. Meet all visitors before class. Since the teacher is there early, he should give a warm, friendly, and effervescent welcome to each visitor. He should write down the name of the visitor as well as interesting facts about the visitor that he might present to the class. Such information as where he lives, what church he attends, with whom he as where he lives, what church he attends, with whom he came, etc., should be secured by the teacher before the class or department ever starts. Win the visitor yourself immediately! This is a must!

3. Properly introduce the visitors in class. Visitors in a small class should not be required to stand and give their names and addresses. The teacher should have the names already written down along with interesting facts about them. When he informs the class that it is time to recognize the visitors, each name is read as well as the facts about each visitor. The visitor stands and is warmly welcomed by the teacher, president, or some other designated class member.

4. Try to enlist the visitors as new members. “Hold what you have and get some more” should be the philosophy of the Sunday school. Somebody has said that the Sunday school should be the easiest thing in the world to join and the hardest thing to get out of. Do not overly coerce the visitors to join, but let them know that you hope that they will and that you would be honored if they do so.

5. Do not spend over five minutes on announcements and business. In our pastorates this has been an unpardonable sin. The purpose of the Sunday school is not to plan a social, but to teach the Word of God. Socials should not be planned in class; they should be planned outside of class with only the announcements being made in class. A long, laborious business time will certainly cause the teacher to lose his pupils and cause the pupils to lose their interest.

6. Take the pupil from where he is. This is why it is important to chat with the pupils before the class session, visit their homes, etc. This enables us to find out their interests. The lesson should begin with them in mind. Then gradually the teacher moves from their position to his as he teaches the lesson.

Added to these points should be all of those mentioned in the chapter on “Weekday Duties of the Teacher.” Don’t forget to prepare the pupil!

Prepare the Lesson

1. Start preparing on Sunday afternoon. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and should be treated as such. After the teacher has finished the lesson this Lord’s Day, he should then look over the lesson for next Sunday during the afternoon. He should continue studying a little bit every day so as to completely lose himself in the lesson.

2. Read Scripture passages at least ten times. In order to become well acquainted with the material a teacher should first learn all the facts about the lesson. He should learn the names, the places, the story, etc. This can be done on the first reading. Then he should read the main portion of Scripture, write down any thought that comes to mind and take it in faith that God gave it to you. If the average Christian would read the passage of Scripture ten times writing down every thought he gets about the lesson, he would have enough material already prepared to present a good lesson.

These ten readings of the Scripture should be without helps, without a concordance, without a Bible dictionary, and without a commentary.

3. Read the Scripture looking for Jesus. Very carefully go through the Scriptures looking for pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, the Bible is a book about Him! It is a picture of Him. We should always look for Him in the reading of the Word.

4. Read it looking for proper names, numbers, colors, symbols, types, etc. It is infinitely more important to teach what the Bible says and what it obviously means than to look too far beneath the surface. However, in the teaching of adults it may be interesting to discuss types, numbers, etc. Especially is it important to look up the meaning of proper names. In the Bible these often have special significance.

5. Read the lesson with a list of the pupils in hand. As you read the Scriptures, look at the names of your pupils. See if there is any particular application that should be made to help each of them. This is certainly an important part of preparation. It is easy to build a hospital and forget the patients. It is easy to build a school and forget the pupils. It is easy to teach a lesson and lose sight of the main purpose, which is the applying of the truth to the pupil.

6. Finally, read the lesson with helps. Such helps should include a good concordance (I have used Cruden’s through the years), a good Bible dictionary (Davis’ and Cruden’s are excellent ones), and if possible, a commentary. Notice that we are not finding out what others say about the Bible until we have found out what the Bible says to us.

7. Read carefully the literature provided by the church. This, of course, should be a help and not a crutch. In some cases it may be a quarterly. We provide a mimeographed outline for the teachers.

8. With all of the above accumulation of facts, the teacher then should prepare his own outline. This probably should be done on Saturday or at least toward the end of the week.

9. Brush over the lesson again on Sunday morning. Each teacher should allow himself from five to fifteen minutes each Sunday morning simply to reread his outline and reabsorb the lesson material.

With a prayer on his lips and a prepared body, mind, and spirit, the teacher may then approach his class in order to prepare his pupils for his prepared lesson.


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