Essentials for Sunday School Growth and Excellence
When thinking about Sunday School, it is not “either/or” when focusing on growth or excellence. It is “both/and.” We want growth AND excellence. Our Lord calls us to growth, and He deserves no less than our best efforts. The call to make disciples of all nations (Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20) is based upon giving His life. In love, we give our lives in service to Him in pursuit of those who are not already in the sheep pen (John 10:16).
On the way toward growth and excellence in our Sunday School efforts, there are several essentials. In Part 1, I want to focus on four essentials which raise excellence. Where are adjustments needed in your ministry? Consider these four essentials in your Sunday School:
EXCELLENT ENLISTMENT. Excellent enlistment begins with prayer. Time should be intentionally invested in prayer prior to enlistment (and all the way through it). This means prayer for God’s leadership and help, for Sunday School needs, and for the Holy Spirit’s advance work in the lives of those to be sought. Excellent enlistment means knowing Sunday School needs, responsibilities, and roles. It means having job descriptions and knowing expectations for workers as well as resources provided. It means making face-to-face visits with one person for one position at a time. Bottom line: excellent enlistment means seeking God-called people for life-changing opportunities for service in the Sunday School.
EXCELLENT TRAINING. Like enlistment, excellence in training begins with prayer. Seek God’s leadership for how, when, and what to address in training. Observation and assessment of needs which should be addressed in training will be continual. Excellent training begins with apprenticing. All current workers should included apprenticing another worker as part of their job description and expectations. In addition to apprenticing, new leader training should be provided for every worker (not just teachers) before starting. And ongoing training should be provided throughout the year in a variety of delivery methods (conference, book reading and debriefing, during planning meetings, and more). Communicate the expectation of training during enlistment. Statistics have shown that growing Sunday Schools train their leaders. Do so with excellence!
EXCELLENT PLANNING. Sunday School growth and excellence demands planning. Planning also begins with prayer for God’s leadership. Annual planning prior to the start or just after the start of the new Sunday School year helps to evaluate, affirm success, identify needs and dreams, focus on priorities, set goals, and make plans for the year. Then monthly meetings help to check on progress, adjust where needed, as well as communicate plans and needs. Communicate the expectation of participation in planning meetings. Even classes will want to plan in order to growth with excellence.
EXCELLENT COACHING. Coaching is an ongoing relationship of encouragement by the pastor, Sunday School director, and others (in medium and larger churches). Coaching also begins with prayer. The coach especially invests frequently in the early weeks of a new worker (in a class, the teacher may serve as a coach for class officers). But the coach invests in every assigned teacher regularly (monthly or quarterly beyond Sunday mornings), checking on what is going well and areas where adjustments are needed. The coach checks on goal and apprenticing progress as well as reminds about training, planning, and other events and communication.
Sunday School is not “either/or” when focusing on growth or excellence. It is “both/and.” We want both growth AND excellence. Our Lord calls us to growth, and He deserves no less than our best efforts (excellence). The call to make disciples of all nations (Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20) is based upon giving His life. In love, we give our lives in service to Him in pursuit of those who are not already in the sheep pen (John 10:16).
Evaluate your Sunday School with these essentials:
INVITATION GROWTH. The vast majority (more than 80%) of people who show up at our churches and Sunday School classes are there because they have been invited. Lead your people to invite friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. Teach them to connect with unenrolled people during stressful times of life. Lead them to act caringly. Extend invitations to fellowships, meal, and class sessions. Teach attenders how to share their Sunday School testimony (check out Sunday School Testimony: Powerful Revolutionary Tool). Think about it this way: if you don’t invite them, they won’t come. Caring follow up is key for those invitation to result in attending.
ENROLLMENT GROWTH. Ask unenrolled people for permission to add them to your class ministry-fellowship-prayer list. That is your class roll. Avoid saying “join” since some people may think you are asking them to join the church. People don’t even have to have attended your class. Once people say “yes” to enrollment, make sure you follow that with care through ministry, fellowship, and prayer. In general, as you enroll more people and care for them, the new people will attend in about the same percentage as those already on your class roll. So enroll, care, and watch your class attendance grow. Ask church members and family members not enrolled to join. Consider adding a couple of prime prospects to your enrollment and focus your care on them. Watch as they join the class.
NEW CLASS GROWTH. New classes tend to grow faster than existing classes. They reach new people. They are more evangelistic. On average new classes will grow to 20 in enrollment and 10 in attendance in about 12-18 months (some faster, some slower). This is true because there is expectation for growth in new classes. And because your Sunday School is adding more workers to care for more people and to reach out. Many of our existing classes no longer expect or invite new people. When guests attend, they don’t follow up. New classes help the Sunday School to continue inviting and expecting new people.
SALVATION GROWTH. New classes are more evangelistic because new classes tend to reach more lost people and about one out of three lost people will accept Jesus as Savior and Lord through attending Sunday School over a twelve-month period. Every class should realize the impact of Sunday School and prayerfully reach out to lost friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. Nearly any lesson can be evangelistic. In addition to leading attenders to share their Sunday School testimony (see above), adult and youth attenders should be led to practice and share a simple evangelistic testimony as well.
CONTACT EXCELLENCE. You are a poor steward of what God has entrusted to you if you lose people out the back door of your class as fast as you get them in the front door. You cannot disciple them if you lose contact with them. You cannot train them for greater responsibility. You cannot prepare them for service (Ephesians 4:11-12). You cannot send them out into the harvest. Regular contacts with attenders, absentees, and prospects lets them know you care, allows you to pray for them, alerts you to ministry needs, and allows you to share class opportunities. Weekly contacts are ideal. Care group leaders can help a class and teacher do this well.
FELLOWSHIP EXCELLENCE. Fellowships are more than fun. They are a relationship-development strategy. They allow participants to discover affinities. They give time for class members, absentees, and prospects to slow down, chat, and connect. Fellowships should be regular. Josh Hunt recommends inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. I recommend offering a class fellowship or a class project every month. I suggest offering a class ministry/service/outreach project at least once a quarter, leaving about two fellowship every quarter.
LESSON INVOLVEMENT EXCELLENCE. In order to achieve retention of content, relationship-development, and encounter with God in His Word, that means that a Sunday School lesson should involve more than lecture. Every lesson should do more than make them glad they were there. They should make progress as disciples as a result of the time spent together. They should be led to apply the truth. They should be help accountable to live out the truth. This small group of believers should serve as encouragers. Teachers serve as facilitators on this journey. Divide them into smaller groups to get them all involved. Make assignments. Use a variety of teaching methods to address their learning styles. Stop teaching lessons and start making disciples.
SERVING EXCELLENCE. The more involved in the ministry of the class that attenders are, the more satisfied and likely to stay connected that they are. Make sure every attender has a responsibility. Spend time discovering what the best place of service is for each person. Listen and observe to discover how to use their spiritual gifts, heart/passion, abilities, personalities, and experiences. If needed, start a brand new, unique service opportunity just for them. Then let them loose. Train apprentices. Launch new classes. Train care group leaders. Launch care, prayer, and ministry. Serve each other with excellence. Make every person glad to have a class that cares. Lead them to share their testimony of the impact of their Sunday School class
From: http://web.kybaptist.org web site. August 2013.
The above article, “Essentials for Sunday School Growth and Excellence,” is written by Henry Philliary. The article was excerpted from http://web.kybaptist.org website, August 2013.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”