3. Divide each book into lessons.
A McElderry Park Lectionary
Daily Lessons

3. Divide each book into lessons.

Here one will continue to rely on "Dividing books into lessons - Gospels, Version 1."

A. The basic approach:

1.   Beginning with the first paragraph, select the word counts for that and subsequent paragraphs, until their sum approximates the TALL.

2.   Insert a new row, a "Lesson" record, with "L" in column A, first-and-last verse information corresponding to the paragraphs one has selected, and the formulas in columns Q and U. Delete the word counts for those paragraphs.

3.   In columns B, C and D, enter the year, week and day information for this lesson. Days are numbered 1 through 7, for Monday through Sunday; each Monday, the week number is incremented by one.

4.   Compose a guide question, a question the student will need to read the whole lesson, and possibly think about, to answer.  Enter that in column M, in italics.

5.   Collect any glossary terms — words whose meanings in Scripture may not be familiar to a beginning student.  Assume the student has no Bible background at all.  Some terms and the definitions I gave them in the past:

clean — not icky
unclean — icky
shekel — a silver coin equivalent to a half dollar
denarius — a silver coin equivalent to a quarter dollar

List those terms in column R.

6.   Assign Sunday texts and highlights:

In column S, you may enter “S” to designate the lesson as a sermon text for a Sunday, or “-” for not. The sermon text needs to be a lesson from either the current week or the next week.  This will be reviewed once all the data is collected for the year.

In column T, you may enter any of these values: “0,” “1,” “4,” or “5.”  “0” designates that the lesson is not a highlight.  “1” applies to the lessons, seven of them, to be used as highlights in any year of more than 50 weeks.  “4” applies to the additional 21 lessons to be used as highlights in years of 51 or 54 weeks.  “5” applies to the additional 7 lessons to be used as highlights in years of 55 weeks.  Thus one assigns a total of 35 highlights.  This will also be reviewed once all the data is collected for the year.

7.   "Days left" will recalculate itself, and so also will TALL.

8.   Beginning with the next paragraph, repeat these steps, until the whole book is completed.

Would that things were really all that simple.

  • What about paragraphs that, for textual reasons, MUST be kept together?
  • What if the word count, including the current paragraph, falls far short of TALL, but including the next paragraph, far exceeds it?

B. About "episodes"

In this work, the term "episode" originally referred to a story or passage so long that it would take two or more lessons to cover. Examples might be David and Goliath, the raising of Lazarus, the healing of Naaman. One wants to include all that text, and only that text, in a whole-number number of lessons.

At this writing, the meaning of the term has changed. I now use it to refer to any passage that may have its own title or section heading. On the one hand, in Gospel of John there are several long discourses of about 1,000 words each, that each must be given three or four lessons. On the other hand, in Matthew (which I am working on now) there are multiple very short stories, such that three or four of them are likely to be included in one — lesson. The complete story of the Parable of the Sower, my source breaks up into three separate episodes, each with its own section heading — whereas that whole story needs to be included in one single lesson.

My current approach is to isolate the section headings apart from the text; do a word count for each; enter each into the spreadsheet as an "Episode" record, designated by putting "E" in column A; enter the beginning verse and ending verse data, and the formula in column Q. Then I assign a number of days to each episode, in a fashion similar to that of assigning days to books. This is detailed on the next page, a) Allotting days to episodes.

Here's how the results looked, pertinent the Gospel of John:

The next step is b) Dividing episodes into lessons.

2. Data entry a) Allotting days to episodes