Does Sunday School Still Work? 6 ways to make sure it does

“Does Sunday School still work?” That’s a question I was recently asked at a multi-day meeting of pastors who came together to talk about how to disciple their congregations. Sunday School groups, small groups, D-groups….there are lots of options today, and many churches are experimenting with hybrid combinations of groups. But the question still remains, “Does Sunday School still work?”

I believe that Sunday School can be the most vibrant ministry your church offers, but it may require you to make a few changes to it. If you are willing to make those necessary changes, then yes, Sunday School will still work! If you are not willing, then you should call in hospice care – one day you’re going to show up and find that it’s died.

Change or Die

I can’t imagine why these kids don’t enjoy Sunday School…

If you want to breathe life into your church’s Sunday School ministry (and into your group if you’re a Sunday School teacher), then here are some suggestions that will help make Sunday School your best, most effective ministry:

  1. Clarify goals – In order for Sunday School to be vibrant and on-target, its leaders must know what the goal is. If you’re a pastor or staff leader, how have you communicated what you want your group leaders to do? Do they know what’s expected of them? Sometimes Sunday Schools languish because of a lack of focus and clarity over its basic functions. Tell your group leaders exactly what you want them to accomplish as teacher/leaders. Keep it simple – four or five key things is all you need to define. Show your group leaders the target. Clarify your expectations.

    Now that’s better!
  2. Fund it – I can tell if a ministry is important to the church if it sets aside significant amounts of money for it in the annual budget. “Just follow the money trail” is a way to know if a church values something. How much money have you set aside for curriculum materials? For training? For new classroom equipment and other upgrades? Do you have an annual appreciation dinner for your group leaders? How do you say “thank you” in a tangible way to your leaders? It all takes money. Fund Sunday School in your budget!
  3. Talk about it – If you are the senior pastor, people will value what they believe you value. Talk about the importance of Sunday School from the pulpit. Work it into your sermons. Show the congregation new families who are joining the church because of your Sunday School ministry. Connect its ministry to baptisms, and how people are coming to know the Lord through Sunday School. Lift it up. Put it front and center.
  4. Attend it – If you’re a pastor or staff member, set the example by belonging to a Sunday School class yourself, and mention that from time to time as you preach or have the microphone! It’s hard to expect people to belong to Sunday School when you don’t. So join a group and set a good example.
  5. Organize it – Adult group leaders must be led to organize their groups to get group members involved in leading the class. Adult groups need multiple leaders to take on work and become outreach leaders, care group leaders, fellowship leaders, prayer leaders, and more. Moses tried to do it all (see Exodus 18) and learned a valuable lesson from his father-in-law who told him “What you’re doing is not good.” Jethro’s advice? Train others who could  help carry the workload – and let them do it! It works the same way today. If you’re a group leader, you’ll wear yourself out trying to do all the work of the class. You’re not supposed to! Ask others to take on leadership roles.
  6. Promote it – People need to know the next steps to take when they join your church, or when they visit it as guests. Are you clearly telling people that you want them to attend and join a Bible study group? Or are you counting on them figuring that out on their own? Tell them! Advertise your expectation in your worship bulletin. Say it during announcements. Have a greeter center that has people who are well-trained to know your Sunday School’s options so they can connect guests to groups. Don’t assume people know what to do next. They don’t. So tell them to attend a group and show them their options.

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Does Sunday School have a future?

Today’s blog post comes from a friend’s book, Missionary Sunday School. It’s one of my favorite booksmss-cover in a series of books he’s written. Why is it one of my faves? It gets to the heart of what Sunday School is about. It takes a look at where and how Sunday School originated. And it continues to challenge me as a group leader today. In this excerpt, LifeWay’s Director of Sunday School, David Francis, asks the question, “Does Sunday School have a future?”  Straight from his book, here is what David says about that:

Does Sunday School have a future? Once in a while, you hear people say that Sunday School had its turn and it’s time to move on to something new and innovative. I’m not against new and innovative. I think we should use the tools God gives us to reach the world for Christ…What disturbs me are the words better or more effective are usually left out of that discussion. When Sunday School is done right, with excellence and with a missionary purpose, it continues to be a proven and effective way of reaching the lost in our communities, involving them in service, and mobilizing the local church for ministry…I see it time and time again: Sunday School works and works well….if the leaders are willing to do the work. It is not easy , but nothing worth doing ever is.

Sunday School’s future is brighter in some churches than in others. There is a growing number of churches that have rediscovered the importance of training Sunday School leaders, and are making significant changes in their budgets and calendars to make Sunday School a top priority again.

My conviction is very much like David’s – Sunday School works IF you work Sunday School!

To get your free digital copy of the book Missionary Sunday School, just click here and download it at your convenience!

Sunday School Matters

Friend and co-worker Allan Taylor has just released a new training resource for churches. This trainingsunday-school-matters series, Sunday School Matters, will help local churches build, expand, and maintain a healthy Sunday School ministry. Use it to train workers in the skills required to grow a viable Sunday School and bring vibrancy to your church.

The kit features 50- to 60-minute video training sessions and topics range from leadership, vision, and teaching, to evangelism, care, and the structuring of this vital component of a healthy church.

SESSION TITLES:
1. Leadership Matters
2. Vision Matters
3. Souls Matter
4. Teaching Matters
5. Transformation Matters
6. Curriculum Matters
7. Ministry Matters
8. Organization Matters
9. Assimilation Matters
10. Growth Matters
11. Groups Matter
12. Now Matters

If you’re looking for a resource to use in training your group leaders, you might want to check this one out!

This is a Football

vincelombardi
Vince Lombardi

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi was famous for many things. He is known for telling his players, both seasoned veterans and new recruits, “This is a football” as he held  one up in front of them. He’d walk them out to the practice field and explain the yard markers and the goal of getting first downs. Lombardi believed that football was nothing more than blocking and tackling. If you do those right, you’ll win games. And he did.

Blocking and Tackling in your Bible Study Group

Sunday School or small-group Bible study is also based on some basics. If you “block and tackle” well, you’ll likely experience growth of the group and spiritual growth of the members. “It’s not rocket science” – I’ve heard that and said that about Sunday School work. But it is work. Here are some basics that you need to be accomplishing regularly in order to “move the ball down the field” in your small group.

  1. Tell others about Jesus – As the leader of a Bible study group, you’ll set the tone and the pace for evangelism in the group. If I was a stronger evangelist, and my group members saw that and caught that, we’d be a more evangelistic group. The teacher sets the pace for evangelism. But he or she also sets the pace for telling others about Jesus as lessons are taught. It is possible to tie every lesson back to the atoning work of Christ, which is another way to make sure the gospel story is being told and explained often.
  2. Contact members, guests, and absentees – This is a great reason to keep groups small! When I say contact members , guests, and absentees, the optimal goal is to contact every one of them every week. Contact members who were present. Contact guests. Contact those absentees who weren’t in the group. It’s work. It’s good ol’ blocking and tackling.
  3. Fellowship regularly – A group that plays together stays together. Go to lunch as a group. Divide the group, if it’s large, into “tables of eight,” and look for local opportunities to get together outside of class. A regular monthly fellowship opportunity is yet another basic of group life, and another kind of blocking and tackling.
  4. Serve together – Using the gifts and talents of group members in service projects is a way to build shared history, which is so important in group life. Encourage group members to serve as teachers in the church’s preschool, kids, or student Bible study groups. Adopt a local women’s shelter or homeless shelter and serve there together often.

Lomardi was famous for saying, “This is a football” to his players. He was famous for majoring on the basics. Some Bible study groups aren’t “scoring” because they’ve forgotten that group life really isn’t that hard – you just have to focus on a few of the basics.

Which one of the four items above would benefit your group the most if you started “blocking and tackling” with it?

The secret sauce for growing your Bible study organization

One burger restaurant chain has what they’ve labeled a “secret sauce.” It’s a blending of several other secret-sauceingredients into one original sauce. Other burger joints followed suit, and now almost every place you eat has what they call a “secret sauce.” Even movies like Good Burger poke fun at the idea of a secret sauce that has unknown ingredients. Truth be told, if you blend mayo, ketchup, and Thousand Island dressing, you’ll probably come up with a “secret sauce” very close to the kind you get in most restaurants. The secret’s out.

Flake’s Formula

Arthur Flake was an employee of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention “back in the day.” He developed a formula for growing Sunday School that is still used today. It’s a “secret sauce” that’s not so secret anymore. It works. It’s not hard to understand. It’s not hard to implement. His five-step formula has been used by thousands of churches to grow their Bible study organizations.

K-E-E-P-GO!

There’s the formula – do you know what those little letters stand for? They are a simple acrostic to help us remember the key ideas in this Sunday School “secret sauce” formula for growth:

Know your possibilities

Enlarge the organization

Enlist and train the leaders

Provide space and resources

GO after the people!

 

The Secret Sauce Explained

Know your possibilities – Imagine what could be. Who are you not reaching? What new groups could be started? Where could those groups be started? This is the stage where you dream about the future, seeing underserved or under-reached people groups.

Enlarge the organization – Once you know your possibilities, declare which groups you’ll be starting or expanding in order to reach people. Do this before you have group leaders enlisted. Act in faith. Trust God to provide the necessary leaders.

Enlist and train the leaders – Properly enlist the new leaders you will need to fill the openings in your newly designed organization. Once you’ve asked them to commit to provide leadership, it’s your turn to provide the training they’ll need to be successful.

Provide space and resources – Bible study groups need places to meet. Determine the best locations (those may be on or off-campus) and provide Bible study resources for them to use in their groups.

GO after the people – Start new groups with trained leaders at predetermined locations. These groups will not wait around for people to show up, but will be proactive in finding new people to belong to their groups.

For more information about Arthur Flake and his “secret sauce” formula for growing Sunday School, 5-step-formulapick up a free digital copy of the book The 5 Step Formula for Sunday School Growth.

Recruit people to a vision, not to a job description

Here’s a tip for all of you who recruit others to help you in your leadership role. You may be a group job descriptionleader looking to recruit group members to certain positions of leadership. You may be a staff leader who is responsible for your church’s overall groups ministry. In either case, as you recruit people to serve along side you, be sure to recruit them to a vision, and not to a job description alone.

The Job Description

Everyone’s seen a job description. It’s a list of the essential tasks you are required to accomplish. If I, as a group leader, needed to recruit someone to check the role in my group, I would need a short job description for that position. It would read something like this:

  • Pick up the group’s role book in the church office
  • Mark people present and absent
  • Provide a list of the present/absent group members to the teacher and care group leaders
  • Turn in the role book to the church office before leaving the church

And there you have it. A short job description for my group’s “secretary.”

Recruit to a Vision

If I wanted to recruit you to be my new class secretary, I’d certainly show you the job description. But I wouldn’t stop there. Next, I’d say something like this:

“As you help us identify people who are present and absent, we can reach out to them as a group that cares for them. No one wants to feel like they are disposable or insignificant, so you’ll help us know who to contact each week. Falling through the cracks of our class wouldn’t feel good to anyone, so by keeping accurate records for us, you’ll be part of the process of making sure people are feel valued and important. And by the way, as we keep adults connected to our group, it will also help the church keep their kids connected to their groups, too.”

Do you see the difference in recruiting to a vision versus recruiting to just a job description? You need the job description, but don’t stop there!

 

Friday’s Hot Links – September 9

I trust you’ve had a great week! The posts from Wednesday and Thursday (25 reasons why Sunday Hot links 3School is on the decline…in most places) generated a lot of views. Hundreds and hundreds of new people took time to read those posts, and I’m thankful to you for passing them along in social media.

I’ve compiled some online resources you may want to take a look at this weekend. I’ll see you again on Monday for a new week of thoughts and ideas about groups ministry.

Serving you,

Ken Braddy

 

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