How would you like to eat a spoon of flour? Thought so. What about gulping down 1/4 cup of vegetable oil? No takers? How about eating a tablespoon of salt? No way? How about letting a couple of farm fresh eggs slide down your throat like Rocky Balboa did when he was training? You’ll pass? But what if I mixed all of those ingredients together and added some chocolate chips (and sugar) and baked them for for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown? Any takers for some hot, fresh out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies? Now we’re talking! Any of the ingredients by themselves aren’t palatable, but when mixed together, something wonderful is created.

Likewise, every Bible study you teach has certain ingredients that go into it. When you learn to mix them together in just the right order and quantity, something great takes place. Any one of the by itself is not nearly as good as when they are all mixed together to form a Bible study.

There are three key ingredients.

First, you need a strong opening.

Some educators call this the “hook,” while others use a term like the “motivation” stage. Whatever you call it, it’s the part of the lesson where the group leader captures everyone’s interest and directs the group members’ attention to the session title, the teaching aim, and a central truth that will be explored. Some group leaders will ask a great discussion question to open the study. Others will refer to a current event. Still others may show a video clip or read a quote from a book. No matter what the hook is, the goal is to redirect group members' attention toward the lesson. Don’t make the assumption that people have arrived to your Bible study with an eagerness to learn and apply Scripture. You must get their attention first — this is the very first ingredient that must be present.

"Think of your Bible study in three stages: motivation, examination, and application. … [with] these three ingredients, you are well on your way to creating an experience your group members will love."

Ken Braddy

Second, you want to sprinkle in a variety of learning approaches.

Appeal to your group members’ preferred learning styles and make sure to include a variety of learning approaches over time. Create smaller groups and use triads or quads to help group members open up and discuss their answers to a discussion question. Use visuals like a PowerPoint slideshow, a poster, a map, or something you’ve written on a marker board to appeal to visual learners. The list goes on, but the idea is to have enough variety over time that each of your group members feels you’ve crafted an activity just for them — one they really get into and appreciate — and learn from! An excellent resource to learn more about the various learning approaches is the book 7 Kinds of Smart by Thomas Armstrong_._

Third, finish with a strong closing.

If you’re going to create a masterpiece, you can’t fall short at the end! The application stage of Bible study is the time when you can help your group members answer the question, “So what?” as they think about the Bible study. Give practical suggestions for applying the truths from the Bible study session. Make sure that the suggested applications are achievable and measurable. Take into account the spiritual maturity level of your group as you craft these. If you use an ongoing curriculum, the creators of those Bible studies have built this into each of the studies.

Creating a pleasing Bible study isn’t hard at all if you’ll base it on these three ingredients (strong opening, a variety of activities, and a strong closing). Think of your Bible study in three stages: motivation, examination, and application. When you break a Bible study down into these three ingredients, you are well on your way to creating an experience your group members will love.

Ken Braddy is Lifeway’s director of Sunday School and is a 30 year veteran of Sunday School ministry and author of Breathing Life Into Sunday School. He serves as a Sunday School leader at his church in Tennessee.

Sunday School Curriculum for All Age Groups

Whether you're looking for a chronological Christ-centered study, a book-by-book study, or studies that look at real life issues, you'll find something that fits the needs of all ages in your church.