Here’s some good advice from a friend of mine, Marty Blakely, the Minister of Education at 3BC in Murfreesboro, TN: “Make the extraordinary ordinary.”
He said these words to me last Sunday as I was setting up my classroom to teach a lesson from LifeWay’s LifeMatters curriculum (for young adults). I loved the phrase and thought it might be a challenge to you, too. What would happen in our Sunday Schools if things that we did occasionally, but extraordinarily well, became commonplace? What would happen if the extraordinary became ordinary? I think we’d all have much better Sunday Schools, for starters! Marty had commented on how much effort the classes had made in order to make High Attendance Day a success at our church. But the statement he made was a challenging one. What would Sundays look like if teachers went the extra mile…all the time. How would learners react if teachers followed the biblical admonition that says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” every single week?
1. Lessons would be more like home runs each week, rather than mere “singles” – I’m a Texas Rangers fan, and I love The Ballpark in Arlington (I wish game 7 of the World Series was there tonight). I’m thrilled that my Rangers are playing in the World Series as I write this blog post. The Ballpark in Arlington is known for one big thing: home runs. It’s an exciting place to be because the potential exists for lots of homeruns in every game. Crowds go wild when the ball is sent into the stands. What would it be like if the same air of excitement existed in our Sunday School classrooms because teachers are “knocking lessons out of the park” because they’ve thoroughly prepared and used their teacher resources to present what David Francis calls a “satisfying Bible study experience” 52 Sundays out of the year? Do you think people would be more inclined to bring friends and invite others to the class if they knew their guest would not be disappointed with the teaching? You bet they would. I grew up in Arlington, TX., home of The Ballpark in Arlington, and I loved taking out-of-town guests there because I knew they’d be blown away by the overall experience. If you are a teacher, don’t you want people to be so pleased with their experience in Bible study that they go away talking about what they learned, the way you taught the lesson, and proud to invite new people to the class? As a teacher, are you just hitting singles each week, or are you belting your lessons out of the park? Last night’s game 6 ended when a home run was hit to deep center field by St. Louis, which followed a series of home runs earlier in the game…I sure like seeing those better than singles. I bet the learners in our classrooms would really appreciate the extraordinary efforts you’d go to in order to make each lesson a home run.
2. Inreach and outreach would happen with greater intensity – Amazing isn’t it, that classes can reach out to prospects and reach in to absentee members when there is a special High Attendance Day? Why not make those extraordinary efforts to call, e-mail, and visit people an every week occurrence? Do we really need an annual High Attendance Day to motivate us to do what we should already be doing?! Classes know how to “sprint” when there’s a special emphasis…they just need to run sprints each week, not just once a year. It all boils down to leadership…leadership from the teacher, primarily, to motivate and challenge the class members to get in the game and serve.
3. Attention would be paid to the “little” things – When there is a High Attendance Day, churches pay special attention to the church grounds, the facilities, the sermon, the worship, and everything else in between…they really want to put their best foot forward so everything is polished, shined, and buffed. “Excellence is an attention to the detail,” a friend of mine once said. Too many churches need to pay attention to the little things like having adequate signage, visible guest parking, well-staffed greeter centers, clean restrooms, plus preschool and children’s ministry security systems. They also need to be sensitive to my pet peeve: junky classrooms with old posters, maps, and furniture and chairs that were in vogue 20 years ago (it seems like every church has a fair amount of hand-me-down furniture from well-meaning members). My advice: clean out those classrooms, take down those old posters and maps, lose the wooden podiums, and get rid of the pianos that somehow find new homes in classrooms…if people didn’t want them in their homes, why should we want them in our Sunday School classrooms?!
How will you follow Marty’s advice and make the extraordinary ordinary next week?