Wed. Jun 16th, 2021

Make Your Sunday School Class Grow
Josh Hunt

 

I have just completed three months of asking 1,031 teachers thirteen questions designed to help us understand what makes groups grow. This article is the second in a series of reports on this survey.  (Note: this is not a scientifically randomized survey, but rather a survey of group leaders that I filled out surveys online and at conferences.) I divided the findings into four sections:

* Things that didn’t matter hardly at all. (Less than 10% difference in likelihood of growth in the bottom and top group)
* Things that only mattered a little. (Between 11% and 100% difference likelihood of growth in the bottom and top groups.)
* Things that mattered a lot. (If you are in the top group in these factors you are twice as likely–or more–to be growing than if you are in the bottom group. Between 101% and 1000% difference in likelihood of growth in the bottom and top groups.)
* Things that matter most. (If this is true of you, you are almost 11 times more likely to be growing than if it is not. More than 1000% difference in likelihood of growth between the top group and the bottom group.)

Survey says. . . Part One

Before I begin, allow me to say something. (I have always found that line humorous, but you kind of have to think about it.) I don’t like some of the answers I found in this survey. I have taught the exact opposite of what this survey reveals at some points. I disagree with some of these findings. But, the facts are the facts and I am going to report them just as they are. If you disagree with the findings, please don’t shoot me, I am only the messenger.

I asked thirteen questions. The first one was:

1. Would you describe your class as. . .

* declining
* stable
* growing
* growing rapidly

This question was used as a point of comparison with all the rest. For example, the next question (which was really four questions) read:

2. How would you rate your strength in the following areas on a one to five scale:

* Teaching ability
* People skills
* Spiritual vibrancy
* Organizational skill

In each case, I divided the responses into two groups: the high and the low. If there were five possible answers, I threw out the middle ones and just compared the top group with the bottom group.  I wanted to see as much contrast as possible.

The question, then, becomes, “Are 4 and 5 star teachers any more likely to report they are growing than are 1 and 2 star teachers?” What would you guess?

I then divided my findings into four groups:

* Things that didn’t matter hardly at all. (Less than 10% difference in likelihood of growth in the bottom and top group)
* Things that only mattered a little. (Between 11% and 100% difference likelihood of growth in the bottom and top groups.)
* Things that mattered a lot. (If you are in the top group in these factors you are twice as likely–or more–to be growing than if you are in the bottom group. Between 101% and 1000% difference in likelihood of growth in the bottom and top groups.)
* Things that matter most. (If this is true of you, you are almost 11 times more likely to be growing than if it is not. More than 1000% difference in likelihood of growth between the top group and the bottom group.)

Here are the twelve predictors of growth sorted in the order of how much difference they make in predicting growth.

Things that didn’t matter much

#1 Outsiders or insiders?

I asked how teachers spent their time on people inside the class or outside. I would have predicted that spending more time on people outside the class was a significant predictor of whether the class was growing. Turns out, I was wrong. Teachers who spend more time on people outside the class than people inside the class were 4% LESS likely to be growing their class.

My take on that is this. If you ignore the people in your class, your class won’t grow no matter how much time you spend trying to get outsiders to join it. I drilled a little deeper and found something else interesting. I compared those who were on the extremes in this category–those who were reporting spending 80% or more of their time with the class vs. those who were reporting 80% or more with people outside the class. Those who were spending 80% or more of their time on outsiders were 12% more likely to be growing than those who were spending 80% of their time or more with people inside. Still, not a huge difference.

Balance in all things. Jesus taught us to walk the narrow way. We need to minister to outsiders as well as insiders.

#2 Embrace the vision of growing and dividing

This was a real shocker to me. Here is the question:

10. How does your group feel about the idea of growing and dividing your group?

___ Openly embrace the vision of growing and dividing
___ Ambivalent about growing and dividing
___ Mildly opposed to the vision of growing and dividing
___ Strongly opposed to the idea of dividing our group

I taught for several years that if we are going to see a doubling group movement in our county, the groups themselves must embrace the vision of growing and dividing. A group of ten that doubles every eighteen months can reach a thousand people in ten years. Why isn’t it happening? We don’t want it to happen. The group must embrace the vision.

Not so. There was almost no difference (2%) in the likelihood of growth between those in the top and those in the bottom of this scale. How do you explain this?

Here is my explanation. Imagine you are rocking along, teaching a class, but not pushing them to grow and divide. How aware are you that the group is opposed to the vision of growing and dividing? How likely are you to report that your group is strongly opposed to the vision of growing and dividing? Not so much, right?

Now, suppose you get bitten by the group multiplication bug. You start actively talking to your group about growing and dividing. What kind of response do you expect to get? How aware are you now of the group’s resistance to the vision? How likely are you to report that your group is strongly opposed to the vision of growing and dividing? Very likely.

The more the teacher has embraced the vision of growing and dividing, the more likely he or she is to be aware of the group’s resistance. Eventually, as the teacher succeeds in growing and dividing the group more people get on board with the vision.
In short, if a group has embraced the vision it is more likely to be growing. But, the more the vision is cast, the more aware the teacher is of the resistance.  These factors offset each other.

The lesson is this: if you want to grow and divide your group, you don’t have to wait around for your group to get the vision. Growing groups do not grow and divide because their group has embraced the vision. Sometimes they have embraced the vision and sometimes they have not.

#3 Organizational skill

This is the third thing in the “hardly matters at all” category. Teachers who report high organizational ability are only 7% more likely to be growing than those who report low organizational skill.

Things that do matter

#1 – Time spent on group more than time spent on the lesson

I predicted that this would matter. I thought it would matter more than it did.
A Sunday school teacher or group leader is very different from a school teacher. Paul spoke of the idea that “we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7 (NIV) and, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (NIV) Sounds more like a parent than a school teacher.

Jesus’ concept of making disciples was largely around what the Navigators call the “with them” principle. “He appointed twelve–designating them apostles–that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” Mark 3:14 (NIV) His plan for making disciples had a lot to do with spending time–lots of it–with them.

For all these reasons I predicted that teachers who spent lots of time with the students would be growing and teachers who spent lots of time on the lesson would not. Again, I was wrong. Spending time with students is a predictor of the growth of a class. Teachers who spend more time with their students than they spend on the lesson are more likely to be growing than those who spend more time on the lesson than they do on their students. But, only marginally so.

Teachers who spend more time with students than they do on the lesson are 34% more likely to be growing than those who spend more time on the lesson than they spend with their students.

I have a guess as to why this is true. People who spend more time on the lesson are more likely to be better teachers. People like to hear good teaching. Teachers who spend more time on the lesson are more likely to report that they are four or five star teachers. This demonstrates that there is more than one way to slice the pie. You can get there through great teaching, or you can get there through spending lots of time with your students.

My pastor and my former pastor are a good illustration of this. My current pastor, Dr. Maurice Hollingsworth is one of the finest pastors I know. He spends LOTS of time “with them.” He really love us like a mother or a father would. There are a thousand people who are more active at First Baptist than I am. (We spend about 40 weekends on the road.) But when my dad had triple by pass surgery recently, Dr. Hollingsworth asked about my dad.  I don’t hear a lot of people going on and on about his preaching, but I have heard a lot of people say, “He sure is a caring pastor.” He is a people person par excellence and the church is doing well.

My former pastor was the opposite kind of pastor. (Have you ever noticed how churches will tend to hire opposite kind of pastors, one after another?)  He was not much on hospital visitation. I think he did some, but you had to be really sick. (I wouldn’t want to be so sick that Dr. Z would come see me!) But, boy could he preach! Wow. He would knock it out of the park every time. And, the church did well.

You can grow a class on either strong teaching skills or strong people skills. Lucky the man or woman who has both. If you are bad enough at either one you are going to struggle. A rule of thumb is to shore up your weakness–make sure you are at least half way decent at both. Then, lean into your strengths. Strengths research suggests people do better by leaning into their strengths than fixing their weaknesses.

#2 Purpose of the group: is it mostly about growing members spiritually, or reaching out to outsiders?

Groups that saw their purpose as more about reaching to outsiders than growing spiritually were 53% more likely to be growing than those who saw their purpose primarily about growing spiritually.

This raises an interesting question. Can you grow spiritually without a deep interest in the lost? Does a deep interest in reaching the lost tend to enhance spiritual growth, or distract from it?

There is a tendency to make false dichotomies where no tension exists. Truth is you can’t grow close to God without caring about what He cares about–the lost.
Here is a Bible trivia question for you–what is the context of this phrase: “Low, I am with you always.” That is a familiar phrase quoted from the AV. Do you remember where it is found? What is the context? I have heard jokes around the idea that this is an admonition to drive, not fly. LOW I am with you always. It doesn’t say anything about 30,000 feet.

Do you remember, yet? What is the context? It is the Great Commission. Jesus taught that as we engage on mission with God in the task of advancing the kingdom, pushing back the darkness, we are going to know a closeness to God that no Bible study has ever produced. (Please don’t hear me say I am anti-Bible study; I think I have a life that proves otherwise.)

Many have experienced this in the context of a mission trip. There was something that happened on that mission trip that went quite beyond the excitement of jet travel. God was there. As we engage on mission with God in fulfilling the Great Commission, God with us in a special way. It is one of the many things I love about speaking and writing and serving the Lord. I feel close to God when I serve. You will too. Many of you have.

This is what is wrong with the sit and soak group. A group that wants to just get closer and closer to God and doesn’t care one whit about bringing others close to God can’t get close to God themselves. God on mission. Henry Blackaby taught us that if you want to get near to God you must join God in what God is doing. God is moving. If you want to stay near to God, you must stay moving.

A group that is on mission with God in growing and reaching is not only more effective growing and reaching; they are also more effective at getting people closer to God.

#3 Teaching ability

Teachers that are self-described as 4 or 5 star teachers are 68% more likely to report they are growing than those who are self-described as 1 or 2 star teachers.
I don’t know about you, but this is one thing that is not a surprise to me. I would have predicted that the better teaching, the more likely the growth.

* Five star teachers — 48% growing
* Four star teachers —  47% growing
* Three star teachers — 37% growing
* Two star teachers — 35% growing
* One star teachers — 6% growing

This puts to rest another myth you sometimes hear: “We are not growing; I just concentrate on quality teaching.” Maybe. But the likelihood is the opposite. The better the teaching, the more likely the growth. The less growth, the more likely the teaching is not all that good either.

#4 Visitation

Regular participation in visitation was a strong positive predictor of growth. Teachers who regularly participate in visitation are 78% more likely to be growing compared with those who never or almost never participate.

Four things made it into the “this really matters” list. What does it take to make it into the “this really matters” list? I set the criteria at 100% difference between the bottom group and the top. The teachers who practice these practices were twice as likely (or more) to be doubling as the ones who were not practicing these things.

#1: Fellowship matters
I asked teachers how many fellowships they have. Now, if you have ever heard me speak or read anything I have written, you know the drill: Invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. I didn’t actually ask about that. I didn’t ask if the groups invited every member and every prospect; I just asked if they had a party. More specifically, I asked how many parties they have:

4. How many fellowships do you have a year?

* 0 – 4
* 5 – 8
* 9 or more

The group that has 9 or more fellowships a year is twice as likely (104%) to be growing compared with the group that has one fellowship a quarter or less. Double the number of parties; double the chance of growing.  (Note: this is not a scientifically randomized survey, but rather a survey of group leaders that I filled out surveys online and at conferences.)

Don’t you love it when you are right?  I have not been right on every one of these things. I have already reported on things that I thought would really matter that do not matter hardly at all, or do not matter very much. In this case, the data supports what I have been saying for years: groups that party together grow together.

How much better if groups follow the formula: invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. But, the sheer practice of parties, whether or not we invite outsiders doubles our chances of doubling.  Truth is this plan is as old as the Bible. Consider these verses:

* Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner. Romans 12:13 (TLB)
* Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)
* Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
* Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends. Luke 14:12a (NIV)

I had someone say to me after a conference recently, “What you are talking about is just doing what the Bible says.” Indeed. Romans 12.13 says to form a habit. (This is Kenneth Taylor’s way of communicating what we might miss in an English translation. This is that tense in Greek that suggests continual, ongoing action, thus, habit.) The habit is to invite. We cannot determine whether or not they will come. We just are to form a habit of inviting.

Notice this is a command. As surely as God has commanded us to pray or give or serve or do anything else, God has said to form a habit and the habit is inviting guests home for dinner.

We are to offer hospitality without grumbling. There are at least two reasons for this. All ideas degenerate into work. It is work having people over. Someone has to vacuum the floor. Someone has to prepare the snacks. Someone has to pick up the phone and invite.

We are to offer hospitality without grumbling for a second reason. Some people are hard to love. We say we want to win our world for God, but what we mean is, we want to reach nice people, funny people, and interesting people. God has called us to reach out to all kinds of people and sometimes they are kind of hard to love.

What are we to expect when we invite? Sometimes they will come. Sometimes they won’t. No matter. Form a habit. Do it over and over again. Keep inviting. Sometimes they will come. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they will be late. Sometimes they will be boring. Sometimes they will be rude. Sometimes they will be obnoxious. Sometimes they will come and they won’t leave. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Who are we to offer hospitality to? Jesus told us, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends.” Or, as one translation has it, “Don’t invite only your friends.” I think that captures the spirit of it. You can invite your friends, but don’t restrict the invitation list to only your friends.

True confession time: Have you ever had a luncheon or dinner and invited only your friends? Jesus says to stop it. In love, He says, “Stop inviting just your friends.”
If you will do what the Bible says you can double your class. You are twice as likely to be growing if you have twice as many parties!

#2 Big Team

Groups that have lots of people involved in ministry are more than twice as likely to grow as those with small teams. Here is the way I put it on they survey:

8. How many class officers (i.e. inreach leaders, outreach leaders, fellowship leaders, etc.) do you have for your class?

* None — only me
* One
* Two
* Three
* More than three

In this case I grouped the top two and the bottom two together, ignoring the middle group. People who have a large team–three or more are 115% more likely to report that they are growing than those with only the teacher or only teacher and one other person.

Jesus taught us this would be true. The harvest is plentiful; the workers are few.  One of the most predictable ways of increasing the harvest is increasing the number of workers in the harvest. If you want to grow your group, get lots of people involved. These people might include:

* Inreach leaders (invite every member)
* Outreach leaders (invite every prospect)
* Fellowship leaders
* Teacher in training
* Prayer leaders
* Class leader/ administrator
* Care group leaders

In order to get these leaders, I recommend you have a vision day once a quarter. The vision day is where you re-cast the vision for the group. What is the vision for the group? The same vision Jesus gave His group: make disciples of all nations, starting with this small group. As Henry Blackaby put it, anything less is planned disobedience.

How can you reach the whole world starting with your small group? Doubling every two years or less is a good start. A group of ten that doubles every eighteen months can reach a thousand people in ten years. The second and third ten years get really interesting.

How are we going to double every two years or less? By having lots of parties and lots of people helping with the parties we are almost certain to double. (By the way, if we combine these two attributes the results are really impressive: The high fellowship/ high team group is 256% more likely to be growing than is the low fellowship/ low team group. Ok, who wants to invite every member? Who wants to invite every prospect? Who wants to help plan three fellowships in the next three months? Who could the group identify who has strong administrative gifts and would keep us on task? Who would like to be on the prayer team?

The idea is not to get so many slots filled; the idea is to get everyone with a job. We want everyone to be involved in the work of the ministry, according to their giftedness. There are many places to serve outside of the small group. But within the group, helping the group to double every two years or less is a great way to get started.

#3 People skills

Teachers with good people skills were two and a half times (147%) more likely to be growing than those with bad people skills. People skills matter more than participation in visitation, how many parties you have or don’t have, how you spend your time, what your purpose is, or how many people you have on your team helping you. If you have ever read a John Maxwell book on leadership you know this. Turns out, John Maxwell is right. People skills matter. It matters a lot.  (Note: this is not a scientifically randomized survey, but rather a survey of group leaders that I filled out surveys online and at conferences.)

What are good people skills? It starts on the inside. If you want to get along well with people, it helps to like them. Really like them. Not pretend to like them. Not act like you like them. Really like them. Think kind thoughts about them. Think kindly of them. Cultivate a heart that loves them.

This attitude should be reflected toward Christians and non-Christians. One of the reasons why many churches are not effective at reaching non-Christians is that the Christians don’t like the non-Christians. They can tell. They can always tell. A better outreach program is not going to fix this problem. We need a better heart. A heart that cares. A heart that is drawn to. A heart that wants to be with.

So, let me ask you: how do you feel about the people in your class? How do you feel about non-Christians? Let’s all pray that God would do a work in our heart that makes us drawn toward them, as He is drawn toward them.

Tone matters. Proverbs 15.1 says that a soft answer turns away wrath. Notice it doesn’t say a right answer. It says a soft answer. Simple as it sounds, most of us would get along with people better if we just used a softer tone.

The opposite is also true. A loud, harsh, rude, shrill, ugly tone is going to bring bad results, even if you are thinking kind thoughts. The tone of your voice has just about as much to do with the quality of your relationships as any other single factor. If you would get alone well with others, cultivate the habit of using a kind, gracious tone.

Boundaries. If you have not read Townsend and Cloud’s book Boundaries, you need to do so. Read it. Actually that tone is a violation of what I am trying to communicate. I would invite you to read it; it is a great read. But I invite, I don’t order. You are you and I am me and I can’t order you do to anything nor should I try. People don’t like it when you don’t respect their boundaries. We need to ask; not assume. We need to invite; not order. We need to offer; not demand. We need to respect the fact that other people are other people. They are not extensions of us. We need to respect their boundaries.

Lack of planning on your part does not create an emergency on mine. A need on your part does not create an obligation within me. Your problems are your problems.
This principle has a myriad of implications, so go read the book!  (How did that feel? Not so good, right?)

Overcome evil with good. Love covers a multitude of sin. If you are constantly being nice and courteous and thoughtful and complementary, and then you do something that irritates me, I can deal with it. But, if you are constantly being rude or short or insensitive. . . the Proverbs speaks about how a constant dripping wears you down. Constantly lavish people inside and out with kind, thoughtful words and deeds. When you do this, you build up a credit so that when you do mess up, people can deal with it.

Let God fill your tank. As you give to others, you can sometimes get drained. Let God fill your tank. Come to God each day and ask Him to fill you so you can give to others. It is true in a marriage. Here is how it works. We are like two glasses of water. I pour into Missy and she pours back into me. We both fill each other up. But, there is a problem. There is a little spillage along the way. I try to pour into her but I don’t quite get it right. She tries to pour into me. But God. Those two words change everything, don’t they? As each of us allows God to fill our tank we have plenty to give to others. How full is your tank?

Keep learning. If people skills are as important as they are we ought to spend a good deal of time cultivating better people skills. We ought to make a life long habit of getting better and dealing with people. Teacher training ought to be largely about developing better people skills.

#4 Spiritual Vibrancy

What is the one quality that trumps everything we have talked about so far?
What one quality is more important than teaching skill or how many people you have involved, or visitation, or giving Friday nights to Jesus or organizational ability or anything else?

Spiritual Vibrancy. Spiritual vibrancy trumps just about everything else. As Gomer Pile used to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” Jesus said it would be true. Here is a verse I am meditating on and re-memorizing (you have to re-memorize after 50!): “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV) If you remain in Christ you will bear much fruit. You can take it to the bank. That is the promise of God.

What causes what? One of the issues with statistics is that it cannot prove cause. It can only prove that two things occur together. You can never be sure which one caused the other. Does spiritual vibrancy cause growth, or does growth cause spiritual vibrancy? We can’t be sure. We just know they occur together. Spiritually vibrant people tend to grow class and people who grow classes tend to be spiritually vibrant.

Confusion about cause and effect can be seen in our educational system. We know that high self-esteem and high SAT scores tend to go together. The tendency is to assume that the high self-esteem caused the high SAT scores. So we want to do all we can to protect and nurture high self-esteem. So, we do things like tell little Johnny he is doing great when he is not. We don’t do things like tell him the answer is wrong when it clearly is. 2 + 2 = 5 is not a good try. It is just wrong. But we do this kind of thing in the name of building self esteem because we know that high self-esteem produces high SAT scores.

But, what if we got it all wrong? What if it is actually the other way around? Maybe it is the high SAT scores–and general confidence that you can read the newspaper at age 16–that produces high self-esteem. If we start with that assumption, what kind of action might that assumption produce? Smarter kids with higher self-esteem would be my guess.

So, what causes what in this case–does spiritual vibrancy cause growth, or does growth cause spiritual vibrancy? My answer: both. It is a loop, what some have called a self-reinforcing cycle. Spiritually vibrant people attract people. They joy of the Lord is their strength. People who have great joy in God have great energy for God and accomplish great things for God. There is a certain winsomeness about spiritually vibrant people.

Spiritually vibrant have the blessing of God on them. It is not about practical strategies and methods. It is about the blessing and power of God. Ultimately this is about God’s work. And, although there is no indication that he blesses lousy methods, He is less likely to bless the spiritually lukewarm.

Spiritually vibrant people love living the Christian life. They love prayer and Bible reading and study and memorization and meditation. They love serving the Lord. They know their spiritual gifts and are ministering near the sweet spot of their giftedness. They normally start the day with the Bible on the laps. For all these reasons, spiritual vibrancy produces growth.

The opposite is also true. Growth causes spiritual vibrancy. Jesus promised a special sense of His presence to those who engage with Him in the great commission. There is nothing like the thrill of the work. There is nothing like getting involved in the work of the ministry near the sweet spot of your giftedness.

This perspective is very different from the perspective of some that seem to think that the ultimate in life at its best is leisure, pleasure or relaxation. John Piper quotes a Reader’s Digest articles that begins this way:

Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs in the North East five years ago. She was 59 and he was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 ft. trawler, play softball and collect shells. For many, this looks like life at its best. Retire early while you are young and healthy. Move to Florida where it is always warm and sunny. Get a boat. Spend time on the beach collecting shells. Play softball.
Is anyone besides me bored just reading about it? Give me a mountain to climb (metaphorically speaking!), a race to run, or a task to accomplish! That is exactly what God gives us. Look at what Paul said:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (13) Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

Paul admonished us to live such a life, and set an example for us to follow:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Cor. 9:24-27 (NIV)

Late in his life, Paul declared that he had finished the race. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:7-8 (NIV)

Sounds like spiritual vibrancy to me. But, spiritual vibrancy is not obtained just with proper spiritual nutrition, just as physical vibrancy is not achieved through diet alone. Exercise, in both arenas is necessary. Serving God is not just a necessary part of the Christian life because God needs servants. We need to serve. Serving is part of how we live a spiritually vibrant life.

Spiritual vibrancy and effective service go together. They reinforce each other in a wonderful cycle. Spiritual vibrant people have great energy from God. The thrill of the work feeds the vibrancy of their relationship with God. This puts to rest a common myth. You sometimes here people say, “We are not growing numerically, but we are growing spiritually. We are going deep with God.” This is rarely the case. People who go deep with God are following God in what God is doing. God is moving. He promises to be with us in a special way as we engage in the Great Commission with Him. I want to be in that number.

#5 Faith

What is the one factor trumps everything else by a factor of eleven? Faith.
Growing classes are eleven times more likely to believe they will be growing than are non-growing classes. Eleven times. (Note: this is not a scientifically randomized survey, but rather a survey of group leaders that I filled out surveys online and at conferences.)

Again, the question of cause and effect comes into play. Do growing classes believe they will be growing in the future because they are growing now? Does the growth cause the belief? Or, does the faith cause the growth? Are they growing because they expected to grow? Truth be told, we can’t be sure, but I’d say there was some of both.
If you want to grow your class, start with a strong belief–an expectation that you can grow your class. If you want to develop that belief, get your class growing now. Nothing like seeing some progress that starts to build your faith.

There is a foundational biblical principle at work here. Faith precedes almost everything. Jesus said, “It will done for you according to our faith.” Indeed. We sometimes hear people say, “I bet he never believed THAT would happen.” That may be true occasionally, but more often I would guess it is not. More often he (or she) saw it happen because he believed it would.

This story is told of Mrs. Disney on they day Disney World opened in Orlando. She was interviewed by Walter Cronkite. Her husband had passed away and never got to see the opening of the magic kingdom. Lamenting this, Walter Cronkite said to Mrs. Disney, “Isn’t it ashamed Walt never got to see this!” Her reply was quick: “He did; that is why it is here.”

Indeed. Everything that exists exists because someone saw it first. Can you see your class growing? Can you see your class doubling? Can you see a mighty army of God raised up to double microcosms of the church growing and dividing, growing and dividing, growing and dividing?

If you, you might run over to http://sundayschool.ning.com/. There you will find dozens of videos of teachers who have doubled their classes every two years or less. You will get the idea, after watching a dozen of so of those, “I can do that!” And, you can. But you must believe. You sometimes hear people say, “I will believe it when I see it.” Usually, the opposite is true. We see it when we believe it.

Late in his life, Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators wrote a brief tract on the subject that began like this: ( http://www.discipleshiplibrary.com/pdfs/AA065.pdf )
What is the need of the hour? That depends upon the person who is thinking about it. If I’m walking along the street and see a beggar with a tin cup, what’s the need of the hour? A dime. If a woman is being taken to the hospital, what’s the need of the hour? A doctor.
But in Christian work, what is the need of the hour? I started to list the things that we often feel are the need – those things which if supplied, would end our troubles.

Some say, “Well, if I just had a larger staff …” Would more staff be the answer? Today many a minister would like to have an assistant and many a mission would like to have more missionaries. The cry of returned missionaries is always for more men and women to fill up the ranks – to them, the need of the hour.

Others say, “We don’t need more workers, but if we had better facilities … if we just had more office space and more buildings and bigger grounds and a base of operation … if we had a place like Glen Eyrie … then we could do the job.”

In certain areas of the world they say it’s communications we lack, or better transportation, or better means to take care of health. The need of the hour on many a mission field is merely a radio. But if you get that radio, then there’s another need followed by something else and something else. Many feel it is literature. I hear that in my travels all over the world, “We just lack literature.”

I know of people today who are saying, “If we could just get into a certain place.” For years people have been on the borders of Nepal saying, “If we could just get in.” To them the need of the hour is an open door into Nepal. Right now hundreds of people are saying, “If we could just get into China.” The Bible says, “My God shall supply all your needs …” If the need were an open door into China, why doesn’t God open it? “These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth … I have set before thee an open door.”

Paul found closed doors, but closed doors to him weren’t the problem. I believe those closed doors were used of God to show him the open doors he was to go through next. If God wanted to put His hand over the great country of China tonight, He could open the door in forty-eight hours.

Some say, “We need time. If we just had more time …” Others say, “If I just weren’t so old, if I were young again.” People have said to me, “Daws, if I had known when I was twenty years old what I know now, I could have done a hundred times more for the Lord. Why didn’t I?”

Often the biggest need of the hour seems to be money. “If we just had money … That’s the answer to a larger staff, more facilities, literature, communications and transportation … If we just had money.” What is the need of the hour? Frankly, I don’t believe it is any of these. I am convinced that the God of the universe is in control and He will supply all of these needs in His own way and in His own time, all else being right.

Let me tell you what I believe the need of the hour is. Maybe I should call it the answer to the need of the hour. I believe it is an army of soldiers, dedicated to Jesus Christ, who believe not only that He is God, but that He can fulfill every promise He has ever made, and that there isn’t anything too hard for Him.

It is still the need of the hour: an army of soldiers totally dedicated to Jesus Christ and the advancement of His kingdom, who believe that God is God and he can fulfill every promise he ever made and there isn’t anything too hard for Him. Give us an army like that and we can turn the world upside down through Christ who strengthens us.

This article may not be written by 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.”

This article “Make Your Sunday School Class Grow” by Josh Hunt was excerpted from: www.churchcentral.com web site. August 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

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