The Sunday School Team
It’s fourth down, four yards to go. This is one of the most critical plays of the game and it is crucial that the team gets the first down this time. So the coach pulls out all stops and asks you to go in. You put on your helmet, and run out on the field. There you are, facing 11 of the biggest football players you have ever seen. You crouch down over the ball. And then you realize…. you are the only one on your team out there. Does that sound ridiculous? In many churches, this scenario is played again and again. The time is critical for the Sunday School to “make a big play” and become the team that it was meant to be. But instead of sending a whole team, the church sends just one person out on the playing field. Are you in one of those situations? Do you feel like you are up against a wall with no one to help you play the game? You can’t play the game successfully by yourself. And you are not meant to play the game alone. In the game of Sunday School, you are meant to have a team in the game with you.
Mike Ditka is credited with the acronym TEAM — Together Everyone Achieves More! It is exciting when a team of people work together in a common mission. When you have a team, everyone really does achieve more. In the Old Testament, we find Moses with the same dilemma. There were so many demands on his time, and so many people coming to him for advice, that he found there were not enough hours in the day. It was his father-in-law who suggested that Moses select men who would serve as judges for the people. Moses needed a team! Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. (Exodus 18:24–26).
Let’s look at another Biblical example of how “the team” helps a ministry. In John 10, Jesus is shown as a role model in the Sunday School ministry. When Jesus was on earth, He had a clear understanding of His mission. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Yet, He chose others to help with that mission. These men were a diverse group, ranging from Matthew, a rich but hated tax collector; to Judas, a stingy money keeper; to James, a self-centered, but disciplined servant; to Peter, an overzealous follower; to John, a fisherman who just came out of his boat. And yet, Jesus brought them all together to accomplish His mission. You can find that mission in Matthew 10. “He called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority…”
In essence, Moses and Jesus formed teams. These teams were critical to effective leadership and ministry. The “team concept” was important to them. The team concept is important to us. Who do you need on your team?
THE COACHING STAFF
As in any good team, it can only have one “head coach” guiding the team. In 1993, Jimmy Johnson coached the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory. And yet, the next season, he resigned, citing “without question (owner Jerry) Jones wanted to be more involved, and I’m accustomed to doing things a certain way. And so that’s where it ended up being a problem.” In assembling the team, you must first, and foremost, realize that the church you are in is God’s church. He is the Head Coach. So rely on God. Ask Him for guidance and strength.
You will want others on your coaching staff. Your coaching staff is the Sunday School Council or in some churches the Sunday School Leadership Team. This group is made up of men and women from different age divisions in your church. How do you recruit these other members of your coaching staff? One approach used in many churches is the Nominating Committee who nominates leaders in your church. If you have not had the opportunity to work with the Nominating Committee, it is one of the most important things that you can do. Your opinion regarding who should serve in certain Sunday School positions is important.
In selecting your Sunday School Council in a small church setting, you may want to choose one leader from the Preschool Sunday School area, one from the Children’s, one from the Youth, and one or two from the Adult. A church that is set up in departments may want to use Department Directors. Larger churches may choose to use Division Directors. Be careful that your coaching staff does not get too large. It needs to be large enough to share input, but small enough that decisions can be made easily. If it gets too large, then all of your players become coaches!
Now that you have a coaching staff, what needs to be done? The coaching staff will have the tasks of planning and coordinating the Sunday School ministry. The tasks include: Setting numerical goals for outreach and growth for the Sunday School.
• Study records and reports and develop ways to improve outreach, Bible teaching, and Christian living.
• Determine the best use of space, furnishings, and supplies.
• Formulate an annual calendar of activities.
• Schedule special activities and projects for Sunday School.
• Prepare for the enlistment of leaders.
• Involved leaders in appropriate training.
• Act upon recommendations from the Church Leadership Team.
• Develop a Sunday School budget and determine budget priorities.
• Provide training and special recognitions.
• Promote and support schedules for Sunday School weekly workers meetings.
• Plan for an efficient functioning Sunday School organization.
• Coordinate the work of the Sunday School with special emphases such as Winter Bible Study and Vacation Bible School.
Finally, the coaching staff is to evaluate how well we are playing the game. Here are a few factors to consider: Do your officers and teachers have job descriptions? How are they doing? Is the Sunday School in line with church objectives and goals? When was your last training opportunity and how could it be improved?
THE GAME PLAN
So what would be the game plan of the Sunday School Council? In other words, what would a typical Sunday School Council meeting be like? You may wish to call these “team meetings.” Following is a suggested outline. Whether you use this, or another outline, make sure to mail a copy to your team before the scheduled meeting.
• Present a meaningful and timely devotion.
• Select Scriptures and suggestions about leadership.
• Renew commitments. Prayer.
• Training tidbits
• New ideas that can be shared by the group.
• Goal setting and progress reports.
• Rooms and materials.
• Evaluation of previous quarter, month, and/or Sunday.
• Communicate upcoming events.
• Appreciation of team members.
• Plan for upcoming projects.
• Schedule an annual planning retreat with your team.
• Discuss needs of the Sunday School and how to help with those needs.
6. Prayer This is so important! Do not cut this short!
• Pray for prospects.
• Pray for open doors of ministry.
• Pray for laborers for other areas of ministry.
• Pray for items of need and concern in persons’ lives.
The Pastor, Minister of Education, Sunday School Director, and Sunday School Council make up an excellent coaching staff. But if they are the coaches, then who are the players? Your church probably already has teachers in positions of leadership in your Sunday School. Without them, the teaching ministry could not happen. But there are other players who are also important.
If your Sunday School is set up in classes rather than departments, you may want to fill positions such as Class Secretary, Class Fellowship Leader, Prayer Leader, and Class Outreach-Evangelism Leader.
If your Sunday School is set up in departments, you will want to fill department positions such as the Department Secretary, Department Fellowship Leader, Department Outreach-Evangelism Leader, Prayer Leader, and even a Department Inreach Leader.
BUILDING TEAM SPIRIT
Have you ever thought about the role of a cheerleader on your team? We don’t often think about their being a part of the team, but the role they play is vital. It is important to build team spirit and cheer the team on in their tasks. Part of your role as church leader is to be cheerleader.
Building team spirit is more than an occasional meeting. It is nurturing and developing the individual in their task. In Church Staff Teams that Win, Jerry Brown outlines some excellent ways to build team spirit.
The first is to grow spiritually together. This means taking time to present a meaningful devotion in your team meetings, as well as encouraging your team in their daily walk with Christ.
The second is to communicate with each other. A quickly written memo does not encourage your team to be the best they can be. Communication is a two-way street, and that includes opening yourself to communication from others.
The third is to express appreciation openly. Individuals not only like, but need to feel appreciated.
Fourth, confront conflict redemptively. If there is conflict on your team, it needs to be dealt with in a loving, redemptive manner.
And fifth, define the mission corporately. Let the team share not only the planning, but the vision as well. Another way to build team spirit is to provide training for your team.
A well trained team is a confident one. Your team, including class and department leaders, should attend a training event at least once a year. Your church may already budget and plan for an annual training event. If not, then you may want to try to include this item in your next year’s budget. You will want to secure leaders to lead your team in preparation for the upcoming year. If you need help in securing these leaders, contact your association or state Sunday School Department for help. They can give suggestions for conferences or for leaders around your area that could help with your training event.
The above article, “The Sunday School Team” was written by John Clendinning. The article was excerpted from www.todayssundayschool.com web site. “A Coach’s Guide To Sunday School” June 2017.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
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.”