10 Ways Pastors Can Support Sunday School and Small-groups

Call it what you will:  Sunday School, Community Groups, LIFE Groups, Small-groups, and the list goes on!  It’s your church’s name for the Bible study plan you have, the plan that is your church’s expression of obedience to The Great Commission.  Whatever it’s called, it can grow if it is supported by your pastor (and other staff leaders, if you have them).

You obviously have a plan for involving people in Bible study groups so they can learn and obey God’s Word,  connect to other people, and  find ways to serve others.  Providing support to your church’s Sunday School or small-group strategy is vital, so here are 10 ways the pastor can support the Bible teaching ministry of your church:

  1. Encourage people to attendsay it from the pulpit.  Let your people know it is important to you, the pastor, for them to be in a small group for Bible study. What is important to you typically becomes important to the church family.
  2. Drop in on groups and pay a visit.  Your presence affirms the group members and communicates that you are interested in what they’re doing.  Swing by and say hi to a group or two each week.  These are short visits that won’t take a lot of your time, but they create a lot of emotional goodwill between you and the people.
  3. Attend fellowship events sponsored by Bible study groups.  Yes, you’re busy, but occasionally spending an evening with a Bible study group when they have a party is a great way to get to know the members and guests in ways you can’t on Sunday morning.
  4. Preach a series of messages on the importance of Bible study, relationships, and the Sunday School or small-group ministry of your church.  Don’t assume that people in the congregation “get it.”  You’ll want to help them understand the biblical basis for having a small-group Bible study strategy, how it benefits them, and why building relationships with others is so important to their spiritual growth and development.
  5. Interview people during a sermon about how being involved in a Bible study group has made a positive impact on them or their family.  The power of a personal testimony should not be underestimated.  The people you recruit will be able to communicate and reach people you might not be able to reach – because they are one of them!  People expect you to say that Sunday School is important; they know you believe in your small groups…but when a non-staff member talks about the impact your Bible study ministry has made on them, it can unlock their heart and create a desire to get involved.
  6. Speak at your church’s annual group leader training event, lead a workshop, or just have  a visible presence.  Clear your calendar and set aside this night if your church has one!  Participating says that the Bible-teaching ministry of your church is important, and so are its leaders.  Your absence communicates just the opposite, so mark this night down and guard against distractions and other appointments.
  7. Lead the staff and Finance Committee to budget for the needs of the Bible teaching ministry.  Your group leaders will need you to budget for curriculum, training, equipment, supplies, and other things that increase their effectiveness in ministry.  Too many churches have reduced these line items from their budgets and the Bible teaching ministry is on a “starvation diet,” just barely getting by from year-to-year.  Wonder why your groups aren’t growing?  Are you feeding them the things they need to grow?  Have you budgeted adequately for them?
  8. Lead the church to remodel current education space, build new education space, or begin a second hour of Bible study to better meet the needs of members and guests.  Nothing shows support like new space, remodeled space, or a renewed emphasis on expanding the organization!  Remember how exciting it was to do some remodeling at home? How you couldn’t wait to invite people over to see what you’d changed?  The same is true for a small-group or Sunday School class.  They’ll get excited about inviting others to their group and to the church once they feel great about the direction in which the Sunday School or small-group ministry is headed.
  9. Schedule an annual commissioning service for teachers – make a big deal about those individuals who lead groups.  Leading a group is hard work. Leading a group is not for everyone.  Celebrate and support those men and women who tirelessly serve others by teaching God’s Word through an annual commissioning service.  Call attention to them and the importance of studying God’s Word in groups.
  10.  Send three thank-you notes a week to group leaders – affirm their good work!  Remember, “Praise is like oxygen to a volunteer’s soul.”  Too many group leaders live in oxygen-deprived environments and are on life support, never hearing a “thank you” from their church leaders.  Praising people (genuinely, not forced) provides lift to a volunteer’s wings and puts a spring in their step.
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