How to Teach Theology in Sunday School: Part 1


Our adult Sunday School class recently concluded a series of electives that had run for eight years and focused on, of all things, systematic theology.  Yes, we looked at everything—Calvinism and Arminianism, dispensationalism and covenant theology, the doctrine of sin, the order of salvation, what happens after you die, you name it—and we had a blast doing it. This latest series was the third time I had taught a theology sequence, and each time I found there was both a degree of unfamiliarity with much of what Scripture teaches about the Christian faith and a hunger to dig in and learn more. Rather than scaring people off, the topic of “theology” actually attracted them.

Before you freak out at the idea of teaching a class for eight straight years, I should let you know that I taught only during the Fall Quarter (September through November) each year. The first two times, I taught the series consecutively over three years. This time I did it differently, and each fall the same folks showed up and brought their friends. In both formats, though, I found several strategies to be effective.

  • Be sure you have a long-term plan. Planning out the entire sequence in advance paid dividends. This last time around, each quarter addressed a separate doctrine (e.g., Doctrine of God, Doctrine of the Bible). Not only did I know where I was going each quarter, class members did, too.

  • Take it one step at a time. By breaking each doctrine down into twelve lessons, I was able to build each topic on the ones that preceded it. Smaller bites also made it easier for class members to understand and apply the concepts.

  • Make it practical. Since it’s easy to get caught up in all the theory and details, it’s essential to apply the concepts as well. Class members soon learned that each week’s lesson was going to conclude with the same question: “So what?” They also soon became practical theologians who were adept at thinking through the implications of the doctrines we discussed.

 Written by Dr. John Harvey, Dean of the Seminary & School of Ministry

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