The 4-Part Bible Lesson Structure for Maximum Learning

Let me share with you a basic Bible lesson structure that you can use over and over again.

But first I want to warn you about some dangers.

Is there anything too hard for God? No.

Is there anything God cannot do? Yes.

God cannot tell a lie.

But people do tell lies. Some self-declared “coaches” for Bible teachers work very hard to scare you with the “complex, arcane art” of creating a bible lesson. More than one person has told me that it was so difficult that ordinary Sunday School teachers should leave it to the professionals. “Just stick with the bible lessons in X guide, and you won’t have to work hard at all.”

I’ll be blunt: This garbage drives me nuts. It’s a lie.

There is no reason for a whole generation of Sunday School teachers and small group Bible study leaders to be limited to using study guides and outlines that were written for some other audience. One lady wrote me recently to complain about a particular series (I’ll protect the guilty by not naming it here, because I haven’t examined that one myself). “Who are they writing these questions for? Someone on Mars maybe? They don’t make sense to my ladies at all.”

Let me give you the basic lesson structure that you can use all the time. It’s proven. It works. It’s easily adapted to whatever part of the Bible you are studying, or a biblical topic. It’s not complicated.

Here are the four parts of a great Bible lesson:

1. Introduction. I prefer to call this a “hook,” because your job is to get their attention and help them understand that what’s coming is relevant and meaningful for them. One teacher friend says he aims to “hook a nerve.” The hook should take about 1-3 minutes, tops.

2. Main lesson points. This is the meat of the lesson, where you are going to spend 85% of your time, maybe more. Remember that you are not doing a sermon here — so you can build the main lesson points around key elements from the Scripture text(s), plus your questions that are designed to promote discussion. People learn better when they’re engaged.

By the way, I recommend you cover less information with more discussion and engagement. If you’re accustomed to racing through material, this will be hard and “feel” wrong. But real-world teaching shows that greater learning comes when you focus on fewer points and help people grasp those well.

3. The application. Teachers who are teaching to change lives ALWAYS have a life application. What are your students going to do differently this next week because of what they’ve learned? How can they put this into practice? How does this enhance their understanding of God’s ways? We’re not doing this to fill heads and tickle ears!

Ideally, this isn’t a separate “section” of the lesson, but is integrated into the main lesson points.

4. The close. It’s traditional to do a quick recap, maybe a preview of the next lesson, and then a closing prayer. You can do that, but there is a better way: launch them.

I’ve taught for over 20 years, but only recently figured out that “close” is the wrong mindset. You just provided them with a great lesson, with good application. Don’t shut it down, don’t kill the energy. Instead, LAUNCH them into ministry. Make your final statements and prayer about launching them into works of service (see Ephesians 4; teachers teach and equip so that people are able to do the work of ministry in the areas God has placed them.)

So those are the four parts of a great Bible lesson.

It’s not a hard concept, and I know you can make your own lesson using this format — I’ve coached hundreds of teachers now to do this effectively.

Even though it’s a simple concept, even experienced Bible teachers are always learning how to make it better. Great Bible Teaching is a craft, not a formula.

Don’t listen to the “gurus” and “professionals” who tell you that you can’t create lessons or improve upon what “they” wrote. Because you can, and with God’s direction and help, you’ll be able to give lessons that lead to changed lives. And that’s what counts!