Are We Damaging Sunday School by Enlisting Warm Bodies?

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Enlistment, Leadership, Prayer | 0 comments

mentoringOn Sunday at Salem Bushy Baptist Church, the older youth Sunday School teacher resigns because he is moving out of state this week. During the Sunday School hour, the Sunday School director, Joe, brainstorms who might fill the spot. Before worship, he catches a younger deacon, Bill, to ask him to serve. Though Bill is serving on a couple of committees and as deacon, he senses how desperate Joe feels about the position and he agrees to teach for a few weeks. Joe agrees to keep looking.

The deacon teaching the class is struggling, but the previous conversation was the last time Bill talked to Joe. The deacon does not seem to be connecting with the teens. Attendance has become irregular and even declines. All the “new” youth teacher knows to do is teach. He neglects fellowship, ministry, and outreach.

What is wrong with this scenario? Sadly this situation plays out in many churches. The first area of neglect is prayer. Jesus in Matthew 9:38 called us to pray for harvesters not just take matters in our own hands:

Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. (HCSB)

Jesus himself spent time praying overnight (Luke 6:12) before calling the Twelve:

During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. (HCSB)

When we seek Him and His leadership first, we avoid making mistakes in enlistment. And we avoid missing choices that are less obvious to us personally. God knows people and the need better than we do. In a previous post, Multiply Your Leaders: Enlist, I mentioned these important steps:

  • Pray,
  • Observe,
  • Take them with you,
  • Debrief what they did, and
  • Ask them to serve.

Imagine instead of the opening enlistment scenario, this had been the case:

Joe spends time praying. God lays Bill on his heart, so Joe begins to observe Bill to see how God is at work in his life. Joe asks Bill to help him teach the youth class one week (and again a couple weeks later). Then they have lunch and debrief what happened on Sunday. A week later, Joe asks Bill to help him make a visit. After the visit on the way back to the church, they talk about how the visit went. A couple weeks later, Joe asks Bill and his wife to help prepare for and carry out the youth fellowship. As they are cleaning up after the event, Joe asks Bill how he thinks things went and how they could be even more effective later.

Joe has been praying for Bill all along. Over coffee, Joe asks Bill if he would serve on the Sunday School team as the older youth Sunday School teacher. He begins the conversation like this:

“Bill, I have been praying for the last few weeks for someone to serve on our Sunday School team as an older youth Sunday School teacher. And God laid you on my heart. So I began watching what God was doing in your life. And it seemed that God has given you favor with God and man in your service as deacon and other church duties. And several have made affirming comments about your comments and involvement in your adult Sunday School class.

“Bill, I have also asked you to help me with the youth class. When you helped me teach, the youth were very attentive in class. Your comments about the lesson and the teens afterwards at lunch were on target. Then when we made the visit and planned the fellowship, you were a big help. You really seemed to connect. It is obvious that you realize how important this position is and how much the teens need the right leader. I feel like God over these weeks has affirmed you as the one. I want to ask you to pray for a week about joining our team as the older youth teacher.”

What if instead of a warm body, you followed God’s leadership and enlisted a God-called, passionate individual? What if following His leadership, you gathered experiences and “evidence” to share with the candidate? What if you were able to anticipate his/her objections of “I am too busy” and “I am not as good of a teacher as you are” by addressing the importance of the role and review experiences from the previous weeks?

When we rush, we often make mistakes. Be patient. Be in prayer. Be persistent in pursuing those God desires to serve. Enlist and send them into the harvest.

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Darryl Wilson serves as Sunday School & Discipleship Consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He served as Minister of Education in five churches in Kentucky and South Carolina and is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.

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Options for New Groups

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in 31 Days of Extreme Sunday School | 0 comments

The line “We have never done it that way before”, still brings some challenges to some folks in many of our churches.  But, when considering possibilities for new groups, we must be willing to get out of our comfort zones.  We may even need to break with some of our existing traditions that hold us back from new ideas.

I heard a statement that still rings in my ears concerning issues that hold us back:

“Tradition is the living faith of the dead…traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

When two out of three people in our nation are not involved in Bible study, it is time to look at options to reach them.

What should we consider?

  • When should we meet?  Forty percent of individuals age 18-40 cannot (or will not) come to Bible Study on Sunday.  Are we willing to change? We can offer options Sunday morning, night or weekdays
  • Where should we meet?  Many others do not feel wanted or accepted come to “church”.  The number one complaint, valid or not, is still  “The Church if full of hypocrites”.  But they would come to a home for a family gathering.  Let’s be willing to consider possibilities.
  • What should we study?  People are looking for answers to issues they face every day.  Studies on family, finances, and future challenges are still hot topics that attract all ages.  Those could be introductory studies that lead to strong inductive Bible study.  Let’s meet the needs of those in our communities.
  • Where can we find leaders?  Seventy-five plus percent of our people are sitting in our present classes and pews not being utilized and waiting to be asked.  Consider some of the suggestions by our writers for enlisting and equipping workers.  Enlist to specific responsibilities with specific equipping for the specific task.  God will provide the right leaders.  He has always done that for His people.
  • Who will be the target audience?  Look at your congregation and look at the community.  How do they match up?  Far too many of our churches do not reflect the community around them.  Look at groups of people not being reached.  Look at friends not involved in small group Bible study.  They are ready to be asked.

The late Andy Anderson, founder of the Growth Spiral strategy, was an amazing individual when looking at options for reaching people.  His statement still resonates.  “We must consider asking anyone we can, anywhere we can, anytime we can, any way we can, every time we can if they would like to be a part of a small group Bible study.  Many will say yes, and they will bring their friends.”  That is still a great practice.

Prayerfully accept the challenge.  Be willing to step out of the traditional mold.  Offer options.

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Is Anytime, Anywhere in your Future?

Posted by on Aug 30, 2013 in 31 Days of Extreme Sunday School | 0 comments

A few years ago, the church I was serving decided to offer Bible study anytime, anywhere. The year prior saw us steadily developing new leaders. Now the time felt right to step out in faith. We offered to provide Bible study anytime, anywhere a group wanted to meet. Our insert in Sunday’s bulletin projected a variety of times and locations for Bible studies, with a place for suggestions. Since a Tuesday night group met including preschool teachers and those working on Sundays, the possibility of other untapped opportunities surfaced.

Following our worship service, a member approached me asking “Are you serious about offering Bible study anytime and anywhere?” When I replied, “We would not have offered the opportunity had we not thought we could do it,” he proceeded to explain he wanted to start a 4:30 A.M. Bible study at a Denny’s restaurant near his house, excitedly adding, “I already have five construction workers interested!” Ultimately he became the teacher. The first Tuesday they met, he spotted a senior adult from church eating breakfast and asked him to join the group.

There are numerous reasons why someone might not be able to attend Bible study on a Sunday morning or, in the case of small groups, on a weeknight. We must see the big picture. More Bible study involvement could happen if church schedules were not so restricting. Over the years, I have seen classes offered on a rotating shift for mineworkers working rotating shifts and telephone Bible study classes for shut-ins. Classes have been on Sunday afternoon, at lunch during the week, before work in the morning and on a week night evening – meeting in mobile home parks, apartments, homes, offices, assisted living facilities, hotel rooms and work break rooms. I have been in churches with internet Bible study classes.

Here are a few tips to help you think through going Anytime, Anywhere:

 1.    Identify your opportunities – Broaden your focus by stepping back and taking in the whole picture. Who is in your church but not in a Bible study group? Why? What are people doing in your community when your Bible study groups are meeting? When and where might they be willing to meet?

2.    Train the leaders – A church cannot go after the people until it is ready to provide the ministry. To start more Bible study groups a church will need a pool of trained leaders including teachers, outreach/ministry leaders, and prayer leaders. Usually, new groups are started with a team of leaders, not just a teacher.

3.    Set goals to start groups – Set specific locations and times with your target group in mind for starting new groups. Campaigns are often more successful everyone in the church is working together to start new groups for a few weeks.

4.    Go after the people – You’re ready launch your new groups or start your campaign! Success is having new groups launched and new people reached.

For additional insight into Anytime, Anywhere read pages 36-42 of Extreme Sunday School Challenge: Engaging Our World Through New Groups by Bruce Raley and David Francis.

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Tom Belew has served as Small Groups and Childhood Specialist for the California Southern Baptist Convention since 2002. He previously served as Minister of Education in churches in Arizona and California.

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