The following is a practical game plan for preparing a lesson for your small group on any given week.
A quick word before we go any further. While the following steps are very tangible ways to prepare for your lesson, it’s critical to remember that prayer is the most important ingredient. The underlying assumption is that prayer happens each and every day. Prayer is vital for checking the state of your heart and seeking to honor God in every phase of your preparation. Do not neglect your prayer life, for it is the key to God-honoring ministry.
If you don’t honor God in the process, you won’t honor God with the product.
DAY 1: Rest!
Don’t even touch the lesson plan! If God can take a day off, so can you!
DAY 2: Read the Passage
Before you get into the lesson plan, spend time in God’s Word. Check out the soil before you plant your tree. Pray that God would open your eyes, not only to what He wants to share with you but also what He wants to share through you.
Pray that God would open your eyes to what He wants to share with you and what He wants to share through you.
While this is specifically mentioned for day one, I would strongly recommend you re-read the passage each day leading up to your lesson. There is no such thing as being too familiar with the passage you’re sharing. Sometimes we can get caught up cross-referencing similar passages of Scripture or highlighting various commentaries to the point where we find ourselves discussing something far different than the intended meaning of the passage.
DAY 3: Read the Lesson Plan
Don’t worry about the planning. Save that for the next day. For now, simply read the material and form your perspective on it. Does this work for your small group? Is it relevant to your kids? Does it adequately convey the specific truth you’re trying to share?
DAY 4: Plan
Lesson Plans are not canon. They are not divinely ordained pieces of God’s Word. Don’t feel that you have to do absolutely everything exactly how it’s laid out in the Lesson Plan.
When we write our curriculum, we do so trying to accommodate hundreds of kids at a time. Those kids range from age to gender to ethnicity to demographic and to personality. You know your small group best, so prepare accordingly.
It’s ok to go “off book” if you feel that’s where the Holy Spirit is leading you. We aim to build environments that will pique curiosity and create opportunities to experience God. Our Lesson Plans are simply a starting point, not the end goal.
DAY 5: Share the Plan
Find someone whose input you value, and share your plan with them. Ask for feedback, and most importantly, listen! Every idea I’ve ever had was once flawless… Until I shared it. Take the time to get an outside perspective. Sometimes they may help you confirm a great idea, while other times they may help you avoid a disastrous one. Set your pride aside and listen to what they have to say.
If you want to take it a step further, ask another small group leader. See what they might be planning for their group. Collaboration is a healthy habit to get into. Like it says in Proverbs 27:17, both sides will grow from working together.
DAY 6: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Practice saying your message out loud. How long does it take you to run through it? Do you need to add more content? Do you need to trim it down a little bit? If you’re ambitious, practice in front of a mirror. You’d be surprised what kinds of gestures you do out of habit!
If you’re planning on doing a craft/object lesson, try it out for yourself to find out if a) it actually works like the lesson plan suggests and b) how much time you’ll have to account for.
And pray some more!
If you have to do anything more than review your outline the day of your lesson, then you’re not prepared. All that’s left is to review what you prepared and pray that God would speak through you.