It’s time to face “the real problem of dealing with live, red-blooded boys in the Sunday school.”

Yes, it’s time. But it’s been time for quite some time. In fact, this quote comes from an author 100 years ago. Marion Lawrance made the comment in his book My Message to Sunday School Workers, which I referenced in my previous Holy Soup. Though the book was written a century ago, I found a plethora of sage advice that still applies in ministry settings today.

For example, Lawrance suggested if you want to keep boys (and girls too) engaged in Christian education, “Make the lessons real.” Actively involve the learners. “We remember 10 percent of what we hear; 50 percent of what we see; 70 percent of what we say; 90 percent of what we do,” Lawrance wrote in 1924. That’s the same kind of data we’ve emphasized at Group Publishing for the last 50 years! But there’s still a lot of teachers and preachers oblivious to the timeless truth here.

“The best teachers are not those who impart the most knowledge,” Lawrance wrote, “but those who create the deepest hunger for knowledge and an ambition to acquire it for themselves.” And that’s not usually accomplished through the lecture mode of teaching, which has been an idol in the church for a long, long time. Lawrance skewered it, repeatedly. “It is easy to lecture,” he wrote. “Scant preparation lends itself to the lecture type of teaching; thorough preparation induces the asking of questions, which is by far the better method of teaching.”

As we’ve been saying for years, asking good questions is the Jesus style of effective teaching and communication. For a little homework, go through the Gospels and highlight all of Jesus’ questions. You’ll notice a couple of things. First, you’ll see he asked a lot of questions. Second, you’ll see his questions induced thinking. He didn’t solicit pat answers. Lawrance would agree: “Avoid leading questions that can be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or a nod of the head.”


Lawrance promoted the idea of discovery learning. “Those teachers are not the best who communicate the largest number of facts to their scholars, but those who create a hunger on the part of the scholars to know.” He embraced the principle of less is more. “Do not teach too much. Teach a little and teach it clear in.”

Today we sometimes hear teachers and preachers call for “deep Bible learning.” What they mean is a deluge of facts. But Lawrance wisely wrote, “The teacher who undertakes to get a truth out of every verse of a given lesson usually teaches nothing.” Helping learners discover and digest one key truth per lesson is deep.

Back to the boys. I’ll leave you with one last bit of advice from Lawrance: “Know the boys by name. Whatever you do, do not call a boy ‘Bub;’ he resents it.”