On 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:
- 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.
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.