In early February the world will pause for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and watch two NFL teams battle for the right to be called Superbowl champions. It’s amazing how much attention gets focused on this epic gridiron battle each year! What if you and I could lead our churches to turn Superbowl Sunday into “SuperGoal” Sunday? Capitalizing on a cultural event like the Superbowl isn’t a new idea in churches…many will encourage adult Sunday School groups to host watching parties for the purpose of fellowship and outreach to prospective members. But what if you began a tradition of starting new Sunday School groups around the first of the new year by changing Superbowl Sunday into “SuperGoal” Sunday. with the goal of beginning several new groups on that Sunday, followed by the group’s first fellowship that afternoon? What kind of a goal might you set? How many new groups might your church start at this time of year? Let’s use some football terms to think about a process for starting new groups on “SuperGoal” Sunday.
Step One: Do Your Market Research
Before the NFL allows a new team to come into existence, or before an NFL team relocates and begins again in a new location, months of market research is conducted. Will a certain city have adequate roads, fan support, and proximity to airports for out of town guests? To start new groups, you’ll want to do your own “market research” to know the possibilities for your Sunday School. For instance, get to know the culture of your church and the surrounding community to determine which people groups are currently unreached, such as:
- Single moms
- Unwed mothers
- College students
- Couples without children
- Military families
- Affinity groups (golfers, fishermen, etc)
- And so on and so on!
You may also determine that your church is not able to meet the needs of a certain type of adult learner for whom you are already providing classes. You may be experiencing a boom in young adults, middle or senior adults, so you’ll want to start new groups to reach those people who are already attending your Sunday School, but may be struggling to connect or to find adequate seating in classes.
Step Two: Create a new “Franchise”
Once you determine your possibilities, you’ll want to narrow your options and decide which unreached people groups to reach out to first. If you believe that God is leading you to reach four new people groups, or to start 4 new classes to better handle current growth needs of existing classes, then you will simply enlarge your organization by four groups. Just think about this as “franchising” your Sunday School. A new NFL team doesn’t exist by and for itself alone. New teams are franchised and belong to a league, which is part of the larger NFL. New groups in your Sunday School don’t exist just for themselves, but work alongside other groups to reach specific people for Christ, Bible study, and membership. New groups belong to the rest of the Sunday School organization as a whole, and each new “franchise” needs new personnel, which leads us to the third step.
Step Three: Recruit and Train Head Coaches and Staffs
Each new franchise/class you create will need a head coach/teacher and staff/class leaders. Provide training and help them understand the purpose of your Sunday School groups, and make your expectations clear (I’d recommend using a short job description for each class leader role…think of it as their “contract” for the season…things that you both agree to as major goals and objectives). Consider providing training in one or more of the following ways:
- A Saturday morning event
- A special weekend retreat
- Over the course of several Sunday or Wednesday evenings
- On Sunday mornings for several weeks in lieu of the new leaders attending their own Sunday School class
The point is, new leaders will need training and they will need to know your expectations. Find a time that works not just for you, but for them, and deliver high-quality training.
Step Four: Designate a “Home Field”
New franchises (groups) will need “home fields” – classrooms or other locations that are “theirs.” These home fields become the places where the new groups “play” each week as they become a healthy new group. Think about the following places that your new franchises could call home:
- An unused classroom
- A room that could be cleaned out and turned into a classroom
- An off-campus location (home, office, apartment complex clubhouse, etc)
- A room on campus, but one that is not used at the church’s primary Sunday School hour (i.e. a new group for people who work on Sundays might meet at the church on a Monday night)
As you designate a home field for new franchises, remember that adults need 12-15 square feet each to have adequate space. A new franchise with 10 people will need 120-150 square feet as a minimum. Don’t limit the new group by giving them a room that’s just too small from the very start.
Step Five: Blitz the Prospects
Once you’ve completed steps 1-4, it’s time to go after the people who are prospective members of the new groups. Names of people may have come from guest information cards turned in during the worship service, people who are known by the “coaches” and “staffs” of the new franchises, or even lists of absentee members who’ve fallen through the cracks of other Sunday School groups. Plan on making phone calls, sending e-mails, and making personal visits to prospective member’s homes. Let them know you’ve started a new group for people just like them. Announce the creation of new groups through the church’s website, newsletter, and worship bulletin.
A Final Thought
You may have recognized the five steps as “Flakes Formula” – a tried and true way that Sunday Schools have started new groups for decades! Arthur Flake developed the simple formula for starting new groups, and it looked like this:
- Know your possibilities (Do the market research)
- Enlarge the organization (Create a new franchise)
- Enlist and train the workers (Recruit and train head coaches and staffs)
- Provide space (Designate a home field)
- Go after the people (Blitz the prospects)
Flake’s Formula is a lot like blocking and tackling in football (and something the winner of the Superbowl usually does very well). Blocking and tackling are basic elements of the game, but if they aren’t done well, teams lose. Starting new groups isn’t hard…you just have to stick to some good ol’ “blocking and tackling” like the five steps in Flake’s Formula, and you’ll experience new growth in your Sunday School.
One last thing: you can use this simple formula any time of the year, not just at the beginning around Superbowl Sunday! Start new groups in the spring, summer, or fall…just start them…and set a goal of starting new groups every year.