“BUILDING A GREAT SUNDAY SCHOOL”
By: Dr. Jack Hyles
The greatest business in all of the world is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Word of God. One of the most effective methods and means of propagating this gospel and teaching God’s blessed word is the Sunday School. For the next few minutes we are going to discuss together methods and promotional material in the building of a great Sunday School. Let us first be plainly understood by saying that nothing will take the place of the Word of God and consistent teaching of The Bible in the Sunday School. No amount of promotion, no amount of organization and no amount of
methods can be substituted for the teaching of the Word of God, for a consistent Bible teaching program is necessary in the building of a great Sunday School.
Our discussion will be under three main topics;
(1) the planning of the Sunday School program,
(2) the preparing of this program and
(3) the promoting of the program of a great Sunday School.
PLANNING THE SUNDAY SCHOOL PROGRAM
Qualifying The Sunday School Worker
We could not begin such a discussion without first discussing the choosing of the worker. There are many qualifications that we present here in the First Baptist Church of Hammond to our prospective Sunday
School teachers, workers and Superintendents. These are as follows:
1. Every worker in our Sunday School must be a converted, born-again person.
2. Every person who teaches in our Sunday School must be an active member of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.
3. We require faithfulness on the part of all of our Sunday School teachers and workers. By this we mean faithfulness to the Sunday School hour, faithfulness to the morning preaching service on the Lord’s Day, faithfulness to the Sunday evening service, faithfulness to the Wednesday evening service, as well as
faithful attendance to the Sunday School Teacher’s and Officer’s meeting preceding the regular mid-week service on Wednesday evening.
4. We expect loyalty from our Sunday School workers. Certainly in no Sunday School or any other organization for that matter, can be built successfully without loyal workers, loyal teachers and a
loyal staff of helpers. The Sunday School teacher should be loyal to the Church program, loyal to the ministry of the Pastor and loyal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the Word of God.
5. Every Sunday School worker is required to be doctrinally sound. By this we mean they should adhere to the doctrine of the Church. They should certainly believe the articles of faith adopted by the Church and be loyal to the teachings and doctrines of the Word of God.
6. We require that each of our Sunday School teachers and officers live a separated life. No one should open the Word of God to teach it to boys and girls, or men and women in the Sunday School unless he is separate from the world. No teacher should participate in such questionable amusements as drinking of any kind of alcoholic beverages, dancing, gambling or other habits that would be detrimental to the testimony of Jesus Christ and the work of building a great Sunday School.
7. Last but not least is the important qualification of having a love for the souls of men. Every Sunday School teacher should be burdened for souls and should be actively participating in reaching of people for Jesus Christ.
Enlisting The Sunday School Worker
Now that we have chosen the worker, let us enlist the worker. We turn to he enlistment of a Sunday School teacher. Probably one of the outstanding failures in Sunday Schools today across America is the slip-shod way in which we enlist our workers. Here at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, we require that each worker be enlisted either in the privacy of his own home or the privacy of an office of a staff member. No one is enlisted casually, no one is enlisted walking down the hall of the Church, no one is enlisted after the service at the Altar or around the Pulpit, but rather the person is enlisted privately.
Stress The Importance Of Sunday School Work
The work is laid upon his heart, the challenge of the work is presented to him; and he realizes the tremendous challenge and opportunity that is being presented to him as he assumes the responsibility of teaching the Word of God in a great Sunday School. We give to the worker at this conference the qualifications. We alert him as to what we expect him to do and what God expects him to do. We assure him that this job will occupy much of his time. We assure him that we expect faithfulness and resent to him the afore mentioned qualifications for being a Sunday School teacher in the First Baptist Church. Then we offer him time to pray about it, maybe a week or less. He then calls or drops by the Church to give us his answer, and to inform us as to his decision. Nothing could be said to magnify the importance too much of enlisting the worker properly.
CHOOSING THE SUNDAY SCHOOL MATERIAL
Now once that we have enlisted the worker and chosen the worker, as we plan the program let us notice the choosing of the material. In the First Baptist Church of Hammond we use only the Bible as our literature. Children eight and over receive no quarterlies, but only the Word of God. Now I am aware of the fact that there are many wonderful companies writing literature in our generation. I certainly admire good literature and I am not opposed to Sunday School literature. We simply make it a practice, however, in the First Baptist Church of using the Word of God and teaching only from the Bible in our Sunday School.
Choosing The Material For The Lesson Itself
How then are our lessons chosen? Approximately in the month of September our teachers and officers meet to discuss and pray about the lessons for the following year. Suggestions are presented, a discussion is conducted, and finally we vote upon what we think we should teach for the following year. Maybe we’re in a building program and we should have special lessons geared to our building program. Perhaps we plan to have a great enlargement campaign and we build our lessons around the program of the year. After we have discussed concerning the material for the new year, then we vote and decide concerning what subjects, Bible lessons, etc., we shall teach in our Bible Sunday School for the new year.
We have taught in our Sunday School the Book of Romans, verse by verse. We have taught the books of Acts, chapter by chapter. We have taught the famous people in the Bible, person by person. We have
taught the little books of the Bible; the insignificant characters of the Bible. We have taught Bible separation, Bible stewardship and other important doctrines, subjects and books from the Word of God.
This is how we choose our material.
THE PROBLEM OF FACILITIES FOR THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
Once we have chosen the worker, enlisted the worker, and chosen the material we turn our attention toward finding space for the class and the department. Of course all of us would love to have adequate space. Each of us would love to have a beautiful educational building with Sunday School facilities that are first class. Most of us, however, simply dream of this kind of utopian situation and have to do the best
we can with what we have.
The first thing I would like to say about the finding of the space is this: a Sunday School does not have to have adequate space to grow. The Church in Jerusalem had, it is said, over twenty thousand members
and no Church building. To be sure it is an asset and an advantage to have proper space for our classes and departments. Once again may I emphasize though it is an advantage, it is not a necessity. A great Sunday School can be built under adverse conditions and with limited space and improper lighting and building facilities.
The only thing that stops the work of God is lack of faith in the people of God. When people have a mind to work and faith in God and stay busy at the main task of reaching people for Jesus Christ, I believe that Sunday Schools can be built even without proper space.
Overcoming The Handicap Of Limited Facilities
I recall at a former pastorate, the Miller Road Baptist Church of Garlan, Texas, we only had one Building for about a year. The building was about forty feet long and I suspect about thirty feet wide. It seated about three hundred people comfortably. We did not have but one class room and that was a temporary building about 20 x 20. In spite of these handicaps, we had as high as 954 in Sunday School with this limited amount of space. At one time we had five classes meeting in the auditorium and each class was thriving and growing under that handicap.
I recall, we contacted a builder who had built a new home across the street from our Church. We asked the builder if he would let us use a house that had not yet been sold, though it was a new home. He said
that if we would put paper on the floor and be careful, we could use this new home for Sunday School space while he was attempting to sell the house.
We did not have enough chairs so we met for opening assembly in our auditorium. When we dismissed to go across the street, each person carried his own chair with him, leaving the auditorium empty during
the Sunday School hour. Those who came early for the preaching service were quite startled to find the auditorium empty of chairs. The chairs were across the street.
When the Sunday School would end, the members would take the chairs from the Sunday School class and once again make their trek across the street to the auditorium, place the chairs back, and then we would
have preaching services. With these handicaps we grew and grew, and the hand of God was upon us.
LIMITED FACILITIES NEED NOT LIMIT EFFECTIVE SUNDAY SCHOOL
I am saying we ought to have the best facilities possible, but we can grow a Sunday School with limited facilities. In this same pastorate we grew so fast that we did not have enough chairs for our children. I
approached the Junior boys and girls one Sunday morning and said, “Boys and girls how would you like to have a Chinese Sunday School?” “Oh goody, goody,” they said, “we sure would,” and so we threw throw
rugs across the floors of the Junior room and the boys and girls thought it was a most novel idea. Our Sunday School continued to grow. No one knew we couldn’t afford chairs. They thought we had Chinese
Sunday School on purpose.
Here in the city of Hammond we had a tragic fire in 1964. Six hundred nineteen thousand dollars ($619,000.00) of our property was swept away overnight. In spite of this fact, minus six hundred nineteen thousand dollars of our Sunday School facilities, we continued to grow and today we are averaging a thousand in Sunday School more than we were at the time of the fire. At the time of this discussion, we are
utilizing a furniture store, a Knights of Columbus Hall, an apartment house and other inadequate facilities, and through it all the work is going forward. God is blessing, and the Sunday School is growing by leaps and bounds.
DIVIDING THE CLASSES
As we consider the planning of the program, we turn our attention to the division of the classes. I have read many books about class division. Some say that the Beginners should have five for class and the Primaries should have seven and the Juniors between ten and fifteen, and the older young people no more than twenty per class. Much discussion has been presented concerning the division of classes. I advance to you that I think the size of the class should be determined by the number of qualified workers. I’d rather have a
consecrated, dedicated worker teaching fifty, than divided into small classes or small units and have inferior teachers teaching the Word of God to the boys and girls.
Importance of Departmentalizing The Sunday School
I do, however, advocate departmentalizing the Sunday School. I think it is certainly advantageous to have the Beginners together. The departmental breakdown in our Sunday School is as follows; the Nursery
department is three and under, Beginners four and five. Primaries are six and seven, Juniors eight through twelve. The Junior Hi department and High School department, followed by the Adult classes. Certainly
departmentalization is important in the building of a great Sunday School.
The Important Adult Classes
As we think about the division of classes and departments, our attention is turned toward the adult division of classes. We have found it necessary to have many types of adult classes.
I teach a large auditorium Bible class. Last Sunday we had five hundred and eighty three. We have had as high as eleven hundred in this class on a special Sunday. This class is the largest in our Sunday School.
However, we have many other large adult classes. We have a young couples class, a couple’s class for middle age friends. We have a class for unmarried adults, a class for college age adults, a men’s Bible class, several ladies classes.
These classes each perform an unusual and unique purpose in the building of our Sunday School. We have found it helpful also to have classes for the deaf, retarded children, and many, many other groups that of times are overlooked in the building of a Sunday School.
PREPARATION OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL PROGRAM
We turn our attention now to the preparing of the program. We have been discussing the planning of the program. Certainly the first and foremost thing should be planned the proper program, the right kind of
teachers, the right kind of lessons, the right kind of facilities, the right kind of division; these are certainly important things in the building of a great Sunday School. We turn now to the discussion of the preparing of the program.
The Annual Preparation Meeting
In the First Baptist Church of Hammond we have two great preparation meetings. The first one is an annual course to our teachers and officers. Once each year we conduct this annual course. It may be for
five nights the same week, it may be for five consecutive Wednesday evenings prior to our mid-week service. It may be for three of these Wednesday evenings prior to our mid-week service. We have found it
advantageous for the Pastor to teach such a class and have such a course annually.
Forty Points Sunday School Teachers Should Know
At this course we teach forty things. I list them one at a time for you.
(1) We teach our workers to have a separated life.
(2) Have a daily, private devotion.
(3) Have a daily clean and pure thought life.
(4) Start studying the lesson on Monday.
(5) Have the proper motive in the teaching of the Word of God.
(6) Prepare yourself physically to teach.
(7) Prepare yourself mentally to teach.
(8) Prepare yourself spiritually to teach.
(9) Pray daily for each pupil of your class.
(10) Visit in the home of each pupil every quarter or every three months.
(11) Visit all of your absentees.
(12) Be a Pastor to the pupils.
(13) Attend the teacher’ s meeting on Wednesday evening.
(14) Support the entire Church program.
(15) Be faithful to every public service of the Church.
(16) When absent, contact the superintendent at least three days before the Sunday on which you are to be absent.
(17) Have a monthly class meeting.
(18) Organize the class properly.
(19) Get up early enough on Sunday morning not to be rushed before teaching the Word of God.
(20) Brush over the lesson again on Sunday morning.
(21) Make the class room attractive.
(22) Greet the class members as they come in.
(23) Meet all visitors before the starting of the class.
(24) Properly introduce visitors, making them feel at home in the class.
(25) Enlist every new member possible.
(26) Spend a maximum time of five minutes on announcements and business so you can get down quickly to the teaching of the Word of God.
(27) Ask all visitors to fill out visitor’s slips.
(28) Each teacher should tithe.
(29) Leave the quarterly at home. I could not say enough about this. The cardinal sin in a Sunday School class would be for a person not to teach from the open Bible.
(30) Teach only from the Bible.
(31) Do not make any pupil read or talk.
(32) Have an interest getter or a point of contact for the lesson.
(33) Have a written aim for the lesson.
(34) Be the age of the pupils as you teach.
(35) Stay on the subject of the lesson. Do not allow anyone to get you off of the subject at hand.
(36) Teach until the bell rings or until it is time to dismiss the class and prepare for the morning service.
(37) Take your class directly to the auditorium.
(38) If you have “lost people” in your class, sit with them in the morning service.
(39) Keep the Lord’s day holy and
(40) make the work of the Lord the most important thing in your life.
These forty things are presented to our teachers and officers at the opening of each Sunday School year. This is one way in which we prepare the program. We dwell on preparation at this meeting. For example, we teach our teachers how to prepare the lesson. We teach them to prepare themselves, to prepare the pupils, to prepare the classroom and to prepare the lesson. In the preparing of the lesson, we teach them to start studying the lesson Sunday afternoon.
We suggest that every teacher read the lesson material from the Bible at least seven times before he begins to prepare his outline. We suggest they read it one time for content, one time looking for types of Jesus Christ, another time looking for thoughts, another time with helps, another time with the class book beside the Bible so as to be able to apply the lesson to each pupil in the class; another time to outline the lesson and prepare it for the Sunday School class on the Lord’s Day.
Presenting The Lesson
The we discuss at this annual course how to present a lesson. The presenting of a lesson–we teach our teachers to present the lesson only from the Bible. We teach them to seek limited participation from
the pupil. For example; we never say “What do you think about verse 2?” Shy they may think ten minutes about verse 2. Frequently, we say, seek limited participation. Ask questions that demand only one or two
answers or a very brief answer, a fill in the blank, a multiple choice or some other question or some other type of presentation that will require participation and yet on a controlled scale.
There are many other things that we offer in this annual course. Time would not permit us to discuss each of these.
The Weekly Meeting Of Teachers And Officer
As we discuss the preparing of the program we come to a very important subject. Probably the most important single subject that we will discuss on the subject of “BUILDING A GREAT SUNDAY SCHOOL”. This is the weekly teachers and officer meeting.
Here at the First Baptist Church we have found it helpful to have a meeting prior to our Wednesday evening mid-week service. Our meeting starts at 6 o’clock and ends at 7:30. The teachers and officers are
required to attend this meeting.
We have the following schedule: from 6 until 6:30 we have a meal, from 6:30 until 6:50 we have a twenty minute time of promotion. At this time we have a pep rally, we present the plans, we challenge the
teachers, we compliment, review, scold and promote the work of the Sunday School: We compliment classes doing a good job and exhort classes doing a poor job to accelerate their work into the building of
the class and department.
The Rally Period
It is somewhat a pep rally, a time of enthusiasm, zeal and pledging God to do better in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. At this meeting we present what we call the ECHOES. The ECHOES is a little paper, one
sheet mimeographed but neatly done, given to each of our teachers at the mid-week teachers and officers meeting. This is passed out as they come in to the meal at 6 o’clock. This will discuss such things as the
program for the future, activities for the next Sunday, announcements to make to the department, introducing of the new workers and the important facts concerning the growth and the work of the Sunday
Introducing New Workers
At this teachers and officers meeting, during this time from 6:30-6:50 we also introduce new workers. We do it like this: It is a real joy to have Mrs. Jones teaching with us in the Primary department. Mrs. Jones
would you stand please? Mrs. Jones, on behalf of the many workers, teachers, superintendents and officers of the Sunday School of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, we welcome you to our
faculty. We trust that God will bless you in your new class and make your stay with us a happy and profitable one as we serve the Lord together. Let us all give Mrs. Jones a hand. All of our workers join
in giving an applause to Mrs. Jones welcoming her to the faculty and staff of the Sunday School of the First Baptist Church.
Methods Of Teaching The Lesson
From 6:50 until 7:10 we teach the Sunday School lesson to our teachers. The pastor has made a three-page outline prior to the meeting. This outline consists of an aim, a point of contact, an introduction, a body and a conclusion to the lesson.
An example would be as follows: The aim–to teach my pupils the truth concerning the keeping of the inside clean as well as the outside.
The point of contact–teacher bring a cup or a platter to the class on the Lord’s Day. Shine to a high gloss the outside of the cup but leave the inside dirty. Ask the pupils if they would like to have a drink of
water from the cup. Of course the answer will be negative. Ask them Why. They will reply that the cup is dirty. Immediately you have their attention. You’re about to teach them the story of when Jesus rebuked
the Scribes and Pharisees for having external cleanliness but internal filth. You see the point of contract, the interest-getter has gotten their attention and now toward the lesson.
This outline is a three page outline. It also consists of a memory verse and questions. Some multiple choice, others underline the right answer, others fill in the blank, but these questions are the close of the lesson outline as presented each Wednesday evening.
Applying The Lesson For Different Age Groups.
From 7:10 until 7:30 a different staff member takes a department and applies the lesson to this particular age level. For example; one of our staff members will take the Junior teachers. With the information
that I have given in teaching the lesson from 6:30 to 6:50 and promoting the lesson, the worker takes the lesson and shows the teacher how to break it down and apply it to the Junior level or the level of each departmental age group. This is certainly an important time.
May I review? From 6:30 until 6:50 we promote, from 7:10 until 7:30 we present to each age level, methods, plans, and ways to apply the lesson the particular age level involved. I could not emphasize the
importance of the weekly teachers and officers meeting.
PROMOTING THE SUNDAY SCHOOL PROGRAM
We have discussed the planning of the program, we have discussed the preparing of the program and now we come to discuss the promoting of the program. Let us remind you once again that the program itself is
the most important part of the Sunday School. Consistent week by week teaching of the Word of God. Then the preparation of the teacher, the pupil and the worker is tremendously important. However; it matters
not how much we teach the Bible and how well we teach the Bible if no one is there to hear us teach the Bible, then we have become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. Consequently we must spend much time, energy and effort in the promoting of the program.
Visitation Is The Most Important Phase
Of course, the first and most important phase of the promoting of the program would have to be the visitation. Every Sunday School and Church should have and must have, to be a Great Sunday School or
Church, an active visitation program.
The “Trotline” System
We call our visitation program here at First Baptist, Trot Line Fishing. When I was but a boy I fished in the creek near our house and I fished for crawfish. I would use a worm to catch bream, and minnows to catch crawfish. I would get one hook, one line, one pole and fish.
One day I noticed a fellow beside me who had two hooks and two minnows on one line. I thought that was a tremendous idea. Perhaps it might even double the number of fish that I would catch. So I put another
hook on my line. Later I added still a third hook on the same line. It wasn’t long but the tremendous idea dawned upon me that I had two hands. Consequently I made two poles and I say I made two poles and I
mean I made two poles. We used a limb of a tree. Then I put three hooks and three minnows on each pole. Finally decided to make a third pole. Consequently I had three hooks, on three different poles giving me nine chances to catch a fish instead of just one chance.
One day I saw some men coming out on the creek in a boat. They went down the creek a bit and then pulled up a big line and there was a big 12 pound catfish on one hook and another big catfish on another. I
said “Fellows what kind of fishing do you call that?” They said “It’s trotline fishing.” I said “That’s for me. Nevermore will I fish with one hook, and one minnow and one pole. I want to put many hooks in the
Now the average church fishes with one hook, with one minnow and one line, and one pole, and that’s the preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit. We here at First Baptist Church have many hooks in the water.
We throw our “trotline” in the water after the Sunday Evening service ends. Then all week long we keep the hooks out in the water. On Sunday morning during the invitation we simply pull the hooks out of the
water and see how many fish we find on each hook.
The first six months of 1966, my secretary gave me the report that 1400 people had walked the aisle, either receiving Christ as their Savior or joining the First Baptist Church. That’s in six months! 721 of these in the first 6 months of the year, had followed Christ in believer’ s baptism and had been baptized in the baptistry of the First Baptist Church of Hammond.
These people were not preached down the aisle, oh, maybe a few came in response to the preaching, but 95% of these people had been dealt with or won to Christ in the home prior to their walking the aisle. This is what we call “Trotline Fishing.” Jesus said, “Go into the streets, the lanes, the highways, the hedges and bring the halt, the poor, the sick and the blind men to himself,” So we go where they are.
Let us notice for a few moments the hooks that we keep in the water in our visitation program.
Hooks In The “Trotline”
1. The first hook is the Pastor’s personal soul winning. The himself should lead in soul winning.
2. Another hook we have in the water is the rescue mission hook. Our church owns and operates a full-time rescue mission. We will average about two men per Sunday, walking the aisles at our church for believer’s baptism who were saved in our rescue mission. Hundreds of others are saved each year in the rescue mission who do not actually stay for the Sunday services and come forward in our church.
3. Another hook we have in the water is our visitation program. We have divided our city into 15 different sections. Two fine, well- trained people are chosen to visit in each section of the city. For example: Let’s suppose that you and I are chosen to visit in section one. It will be our job to visit every new person who moves into section one. It will be our job to visit every person who visits our services from section one. We also will contact every hot prospect who lives in section one.
These two people are chosen like Sunday School teachers and officers. They are trained like Sunday School teachers and officers. They are responsible for making the good visits in section one, or in their particular section of the city. We call this our visitation committee. Week by week people are brought down the aisles professing Jesus Christ by these people.
4. Another hook we have in the water is our bus ministry. The First Baptist Church operates 34 bus routes. We bring as many as 1100 people to Sunday School and to preaching service every Sunday. Yes, I said to
preaching service. These people stay for the preaching of the Word of God.
We have, I suspect, 60 or 70 people in our church who do nothing but go from house to house in certain neighborhoods and communities inviting people to come to church and Sunday School on our busses.
We will secure a bus, enlist two or three workers, give them a certain section of our area, and they will simply work their section filling up their bus. Our busses will average through the year, I suspect 800
to 900 people per Sunday, and many are saved who ride the busses to Sunday School and to the Preaching Service.
5. Another hook that we have in the water is the hook with the Spanish speaking people. In the Calumet region we have many Spanish speaking people. Consequently we provide for them a Sunday School
lesson in Spanish. Many Sundays we have Spanish people who come down the aisle professing publicly the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Another hook we have in the water is our work with retarded children. There are literally hundreds and thousands of children in our great metropolitan areas who are retarded. We provide for them a Sunday School class with trained workers.
Many of the parents unable to attend Sunday School and church now find it possible to attend the Sunday School and stay for the preaching service because we have a work for their children. Numbers of these have professed faith in Christ and been saved in our services.
7. Another hook we have in the water is the hook we call the obituary column. A committee of people in our church reads the obituary column every day in the local paper. The family of every person who passes
away receives a letter of sympathy and a gospel witness from The First Baptist Church.
8. Still another group is the hospital group. We have a group of people who visit hospitals and win people to Christ in the hospitals.
9. Then we have another hook in the water we call it our Honors team. Some one checks the newspaper daily and sends a letter of congratulations to every person who wins an honor.
Let’s suppose that you have been selected citizen of the month. You’ll receive a letter of congratulations from the First Baptist church, along with a Gospel Tract and a card to fill out if you are interested in a visit from our church, or one of our soul winners.
Let’s suppose that your hog won the contest at the county fair. The Future Farmers Association, etc. You would receive a letter from our church congratulating you. Of course we might even send one to the
hog, but we want the people in our area who achieve some mark of distinction, to know the First Baptist Church congratulates them and thereby they receive a Gospel witness from our church.
10. Another committee checks the tragedies that take place. For example: If a person has a fire, they receive a letter of sympathy from the First Baptist Church and a Gospel witness and a card to fill out. If someone has a car accident they receive a letter from the First Baptist Church of sympathy, a gospel tract and a card to fill out.
11. When people get married, every person who marries in our area receives a letter of congratulations from the First Baptist Church, a tract and a card to fill out.
12. Every couple who has a new baby receives a letter of congratulations for our church, a gospel tract, and a card to fill out.
So you see these hooks are thrown in the water after the services on Sunday. The visitation teams, the Pastor’s visitation, the staff’s visitation, the Sunday School teacher’s, the rescue mission, the bus
ministry, the retarded children’s class, the Spanish speaking class, and all of these hooks in the water all week long.
On Sunday we simply pull up the Trotline and find out how many hooks have fish on them and they come forward professing faith publicly in the services of our church.
13. There are other hooks we have in the water: our youth visitation; just last evening one of our young men stood in the service and said “We had 14 saved last week, led to Christ by the teenagers and young
people of our church, in youth visitation. We have a youth visitation night where the teenagers go forth win other teenagers to Jesus Christ.
14. Another hook that we have in the water is our ladies visitation. Each Friday morning our ladies, several of them, go out to visit and witness to those who need Jesus Christ.
There are many other hooks that we have in the water. Enough for now. I trust you get the idea. The Preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit is not enough. If one is going to build a Great Sunday School
and a Great soul winning church he must have many different facets of his program reaching every area and every type of person imaginable. This we call our “Trotline Fishing”.
METHODS OF PROMOTING A GREAT SUNDAY SCHOOL
Now we turn from the visitation program as we discuss the promotion program, to thee promotion itself. I am a great believer in promotion. Our Lord said that “The children of this world are wiser in their
generation than the children of light.” What a sad commentary on the work of the Gospel. Far too many churches have tucked themselves away in a corner in their city, not making the city realize that they even
exist. I believe that every person in town ought to realize the work of the Sunday School marches on.
Advertising And The Sunday School
We ought to keep everybody in town conscious of the growing of a Great Sunday School. We do this by newspaper advertisement. Every week of the year a big advertisement advertising the Sunday School of the
church and the services of the church is placed in the local newspaper.
We do this by radio ministry. We have a radio Bible class taught on Sunday morning from the auditorium brought by the Pastor.
We have a daily ministry. This daily ministry called from the Pastor’s study is used greatly to promote the work of the Sunday School. This, added to our nationwide radio ministry and other forms of publicity,
adds to the promotion of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sunday School.
Planning Special Event Days
Now as we think of promoting the program in the Sunday School let me suggest a few things of planning a year’s program for the Sunday School. In the first place, I would suggest that you plan the natural high days for the year. As the year begins or some time before the beginning of the year, the Pastor and those interested in planning the program for the year, should get down a calendar and look at the calendar and plan the activities for the year.
The first thing that we do is plan the natural high days. These days would include Easter, promotion day, revival Sundays, etc. We do not plan special activities on these days, for these days take care of themselves. People come to Sunday School on Easter just because it’s Easter. Consequently we save our big drive and our big push for other Sundays realizing that Easter and other natural high days will take care of themselves.
The second thing we plan is the natural low days. Now there are natural low days of the year. One is Memorial Day week-end. Another is Labor Day week-end, the Fourth of July week-end, etc. Especially when I was Pastor in smaller churches would I plan something extra special for these natural low days.
Then we plan for the natural low season. The natural low season of course is the summer time. We’ve heard about the summer slump, we’ve heard about the Sunday school attendance going down in the summer time
and certainly it is. In our area is this especially true. Many of our people have four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and some even thirteen weeks vacation, making the summer time a very difficult time of growing the Sunday School. Consequently we plan something for the summer.
It has been our policy for several years, to have what we call the “Carry the Load Sunday.” Each department is requested to “Carry the Load” one Sunday of the summer. Each department has a given Sunday
where they promote a big, supercolossal Sunday. The first day for example: the beginner’s day. The beginner’s promoting big Sunday. Now when they have a big crowd the adults have a larger crowd.
We do not have a single beginner child 4 or 5 who knows how to drive, consequently the parents have to drive them to Sunday School. The next Sunday the Primary’s have a big Sunday, and the next Sunday the Junior ones and the next the Junior twos and next Sunday Junior highs.
Each department has a big Sunday, because of the bigness of one department’s attendance. The entire Sunday School is helped because of the family coming with the person who has the big Sunday. So we plan
for the summer season. In this time the Pastor, or one of the Pastors, goes to each department on their big day, preaches a Gospel sermon and gives an invitation trying to get people saved in each department,
an annual tour of the departments. These people who are saved, come forward in the public services.
Planning For Special Holidays
The fourth thing we do in the planning of the year’s program is plan for special holidays. By this we mean we plan something special for regular holidays. We plan something special for Mother’s Day–just
this last year we gave ballpoint pens with a flower on top of it to each mother. You have seen these artificial flowers on top of pens, with the words Happy Mother’s Day 1966. We made of all these flowers a beautiful, huge, I guess, a corsage 6 feet high, and each mother received one of the ballpoint pens with the lovely flowers on the end. Mother’s Day is planned. Something is planned for Father’ s Day, for Thanksgiving Day, for Christmas and other special holidays. Some little something that will bring the people on these special holidays certainly is advisable.
Using Seasonal Themes
The fifth thing we do in planning the annual program is we plan special seasonal days. Such days as Back to school days when school starts, Old fashion days in the summer time, the Fall Kick-Off Sunday or Round-up Sunday, The Church Anniversary, perhaps the Pastor’s anniversary and other anniversary or special seasonal days are good to promote, and promote easily, by the way.
Tie In With Special Activities
The sixth thing we do is plan days for special activities. If you are going to have a Vacation Bible School, why not have a Vacation Bible School Sunday and let it help your Sunday School attendance? If you are going to have a big youth camp, maybe you could plan a Youth Camp Sunday, and the activities of the summer could be integrated into the Sunday School Program and increase the attendance in the Sunday School.
Spring And Fall Programs
Number seven, we plan a ten-week Spring Program, and a ten-week Fall program. Beginning on the last Sunday of March and going through April and May and into the first Sunday of June, we have a tremendous Spring program. Beginning with the last Sunday of September or the first Sunday in October we have a Fall program lasting into the early Sundays of December.
These are the programs that become the life’s blood of our Church, These programs are built maybe around contests, special drives, awards for those who bring so many visitors and so forth.
During one program we had New Testaments, given to every visitor, or to any person who brought as many as 10 visitors during the ten-week program. On the front of these Testaments, engraved in gold, was a
picture of the First Baptist Church. We have church contests, departmental contests. We have contests in giving prizes, for example we have an annual Bible Conference at Cedar Lake, Indiana. We have a contest each Spring. The top 10 people in the contest to bring visitors receive some help in attending this conference. The first prize for example, would be motel rooms and all meals for the family bringing the most visitors. The second prize would be the same thing. The third prize would be a cabin with meals, and the fourth the same thing. The fifth prize would be just a cabin and the sixth prize the same. This creates a tremendous interest in our Spring programs.
Use Care In Selecting Prizes
Let me make one suggestion. Never have a contest with just one prize. If someone gets far ahead others will give up and only one person is working. I would suggest that several prizes be given in every contest
making it possible for many to win and for people who are behind not to give up.
I also suggest that the prizes be of a spiritual nature. We never give a prize unless it has a spiritual connotation. For example; we give Bibles, Christian books, commentaries, maybe a trip to a Bible
conference. These prizes add to spiritual growth. Also we will give prizes that publicize the church. We give ballpoint pens with the church’s name on it, the Pastor’s name and a scripture verse on it. But only these things that advertise the church or give spiritual benefit are used as prizes in our promotion program. We also plan a similar program in the Fall.
Plan Four Special Sundays Each Year
The eighth thing we do is plan four big super-colossal days each year. One Big day each quarter. The kind of day that will double the attendance. I am of the conviction that The church that runs 100 in the Sunday School can come nearer having 300 on a big day that they can having 150. A Big goal challenges people. A big goal instills in people a desire to do something Big for God! Oh we’ve played church long enough, we’ve played little long enough. It is time we decide to do something BIG and launch out in the deep and build a GREAT GROWING VIRILE Sunday School for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me share with you some of the big days and special occasions that we have used here at the First Baptist Church.
Old Fashion Sunday
One is Old Fashion Day. Old Fashion Day is an annual occasion and it is one of the most joyous days in our church. We do not set a specific attendance goal on thesis day but we do try to have it on a week end that would have a lower attendance than usual. A good time for Old Fashion day is the Fourth of July weekend or the Labor Day weekend.
We have on this day a collection of antiques that we show and demonstrate such as old fashion churns, wash pots, spinning wheels, clocks, Bibles, curling irons, smoothing irons are brought and displayed for this special day. Many people bring antiques that others are interested to see.
We use on this day an old fashion pump organ. We pass hats instead of plates. We use a mourners bench at the altar covered with old warn out quilt. We have a creek baptizing in the afternoon if weather permits,
or maybe in a pond nearby. We have an old fashion baptizing.
In the evening we have coal oil, kerosene lamps or lanterns lighting the, building. The electric lights are all turned off. Our people wear old fashion costumes for this day and so many wonderful things highlight Old Fashion Day. We preach an old fashion message and old fashion songs are sung. We may sing 15 stanzas of “The Old Time Religion.” What a blessing it is!
It is not a novelty day but rather normally the power of God comes and many are saved, and people are brought back to the Old Time Religion, of Faith in Jesus Christ, and remember the worship of yesterday year. This is Old Fashion Day.
The Church Birthday Party
Then we have the Church’s birthday. On this day we could have a big birthday cake. We have had birthday cakes weighing as much as 700 pounds. We send out candles to each child or each person in the Sunday School. He brings this candle for the birthday cake. A large candle is lighted for the department that has their goal on this particular Sunday. And it is the Church’s birthday Sunday.
Back To School Sunday
Another Sunday we have is Back To School Days. Personal letters are sent to the school students. A lovely gift is given to each person going back to school. A corsage is often given to our lady school teachers. A boutonniere is given to each of our men school teachers. A prize is given to each student who gets his or her school teacher to come to Back to School Days. We have a special prayer of dedication for the school teachers and for the school students, as we promote Back to School Days.
Special Sunday To Honor Babies
Another day is Baby Day. On Baby Day we have a special letter sent to parents of the babies. We give a little gift to each child. Perhaps a blue testament to boy babies and a pink testament to girl babies. Maybe a little corsage to each mother of the baby.
Other Ideas For Planning Special Days
We have annual Home coming Day or have had in our churches. Picture taking day is a good day to have where each class has his picture made. There are many other days, record breaking days, where a record
is broken over the Sunday School Superintendent’s head if the attendance record has been broken: Absentee Sunday, the Sunday we sent some vitamin B one pills out and asked everyone to Be One (One of
those present in Sunday School): Good Neighbor Sunday, Vacation Bible School Sunday, Christmas Sunday, Ladies Rally, Men’s Rally, Round Up Day, Pack The Pew Day. These and others are used in promoting the Sunday School of the First Baptist Church.
WORLD’S GREATEST BUSINESS
The greatest business in all the world is the Sunday School, and the reaching of people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps no other facet of our church organization reaches more people than the Sunday School. Would God that every church across America, who believes the Bible, would launch out into a great Sunday School drive reaching more people and more people and more people, and challenging our own people to reach more and more for Jesus Christ.
Let us build Sunday Schools to the Glory of God and to the salvation of those without Christ.
(The above material was prepared and published by the Christian Training Institute.
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