It is a fact that at 211 degrees, water is hot. Raise the intensity level just one degree and water boils, producing steam that powers locomotives. A 212 degree Sunday School is one that has raised the intensity level of its teacher training by making a commitment to train its teachers weekly, not weakly. Think about what might happen in your Sunday School if every teacher gave an extra degree of effort and committed to weekly training…
- Communication between lay leaders and the staff would reach new levels.
- Teachers would have more confidence to teach the Bible.
- The energy and synergy of group meetings would raise the level of creativity in the classroom as ideas are shared.
If you offer weekly teacher training, know that you are responding to several trends in our culture today. Like the men of Issachar who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do,” you can “understand the times” and make weekly training work for you and your church. If you think your people won’t come to weekly training, keep reading.
Time Compressed Lives
Sociologists have given our fast-paced lives a new term: time-compressed. We simply don’t have enough time to accomplish everything we want to. We are constantly looking for things that will save us time. Teachers will attend weekly training if they believe you can save them time in lesson preparation – they must get a good return for the one hour they invest in your training. In the past, I promoted weekly training meetings to teaches like this: “Give me an hour of your time, and I’ll save you 2 or 3.” Because I delivered on this promise, teachers turned out week after week, and on average we had 90% in attendance. Teachers received extra lesson materials, commentary, ideas for improving on suggested teaching procedures in the curriculum (more on this at the end of the blog), and they gained insight from comments made by their fellow teachers. Our time of training centered around the upcoming lesson, helped them understand the passage they were going to teach, and gave demonstrations of effective teaching procedures.
Quality is King
George Barna has said, “In today’s marketplace, people are critical and unforgiving. They typically give a church only one chance to impress. Churches would be better off doing a few things with excellence than many things merely adequately” (Frog in the Kettle). The church today must be a place of excellence, especially in its Sunday School and small-group ministries.
Excellence can be defined as “an attention to the detail.” Excellence is achieved in the little things. With weekly training, teachers and Sunday School leaders can focus on the “little things” that create a quality experience for members and guests. Teachers will learn how to present the biblical text with relevance to the learners, they will be equipped with information about class members and prospects, they will learn about upcoming events on the church calendar that can be promoted to their learners, and Sunday’s class time can be evaluated and improved upon by the next Sunday.
Teachers can also receive what I called a “microburst” training each week in addition to studying the upcoming lesson. This microburst is short and to-the-point…5-7 minutes max, much like a podcast from one of my favorites, The Public Speaker. Her podcasts are short trainings that are packed full of good information, but last no more than 5-7 minutes. So in addition to reviewing the upcoming lesson, I’d spend a few minutes talking about “how to follow up on guests” or “3 ways to get learners involved in studying the lesson.”
Another reason to consider providing weekly training is so that teachers have a thorough understanding of God’s Word. There is a growing trend toward biblical illiteracy. According to George Gallup Jr.’s surveys, Christians are sadly lacking in understanding when it comes to stories and concepts in the Bible. Some of these people are the same ones you and I will recruit to teach the Bible to preschoolers, children, youth, and adults. We must raise their biblical literacy so they in turn can help their learners to raise theirs. If you simply give a teacher their curriculum and that becomes the extent of the way you equip them, how can you be absolutely certain they understand and agree with the biblical teaching, know how to teach it effectively, and are being consistent with your church’s doctrinal stance?
Weekly Meetings and your Choice of Curriculum…look to Southwest Airlines!
If you have given the idea of weekly training any serious thought, you may be wondering “How do I do this if every adult class is studying a different curriculum?” You can’t! You’ve come to the right conclusion: all of your classes would need to study the same curriculum to make this approach to training work.
I call this the “Southwest Airlines Sunday School.” In the national bestseller Nuts!, the history and philosophy of Southwest Airlines is covered in great detail. Among some of the company’s amazing accomplishments is the ability to turn a plane around in 30 minutes or less and be ready to fly to the next destination, low employee turnover, market dominance, and the most productive workforce in the industry, to name just a few! But the one I really like is the fact that Southwest has just one type of aircraft in its fleet…the Boeing 747. With just one type of aircraft, flight crews could be substituted at will, training of mechanics was more efficient because they all worked on one type of aircraft, and parts inventories were kept at a minimum, reducing costs. Everyone, from pilots to flight crews to mechanics knew the aircraft backwards and forwards. They were experts on the 747.
Now think about applying this to your Sunday School and becoming a “Southwest Airlines Sunday School.” If all adults studied the same lesson each week, you could train once a week and equip everyone to teach the lesson (similar to training pilots to fly one type of aircraft, or mechanics to work on one type of aircraft). If a teacher called you at the last minute and notified you he was going to be absent, you’ve got plenty of other teachers to substitute since they’ve all studied the same lesson.
I chose to implement this kind of model at my first church, a mission startup. The Sunday School grew from 44 original members to over 2400 members in the 10 years I was providing leadership, and every adult class used LifeWay’s Explore The Bible curriculum, a plan for leading people to study God’s Word in book-by-book. I never had one complaint about this approach from teachers or class members. It became part of that church’s “Sunday School DNA.”
My second church was very different…a 50-year old church with a plateaued Sunday School. I implemented the same philosophy there and saw great results. I started weekly training where none had existed before, and we became a wonderful teaching team. Does weekly training work? Yes! I’ve done it in two very different churches, so I’ve seen it first-hand. Remember, “Sunday School works if you work Sunday School.”
Look for part 3 of this series soon! Thanks for dropping by the blog and reading this article! Pass it along to a friend, pastor, or fellow teacher.