Archive for 100 Small Changes

100 Small Changes Later…

100hashtag At the beginning of this series, David Francis introduced our blog to what would be 100 daily posts that provoke conversations about little things all of us can do to make our groups better.  These were not game changers or radical transformations of teaching methods.  These were small changes that could lead to minor course corrections in the direction of your group.  Most of them were not new ideas but simply reminders of things that need to be done.

We want to reflect back to the first post in this series, David Francis’ introductory article on August 1 of this year.

Sunday School is a system. It’s a bunch of things—big and small—that make a Sunday School excellent instead of mediocre.  Each relates to another and that to another and so on and so on. So what if every little thing you improved resulted in just one more person coming to Sunday School, coming back to Sunday School, enrolling in Sunday School, attending regularly in Sunday School, serving in Sunday School, and inviting another to Sunday School? Each of the 100 ideas you’ll read about in the next several weeks may seem inconsequential taken alone. But put 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 into practice and see what happens!

So, here we are.  100 articles later.  You now have 100 ideas from which you can draw for solutions to little roadblocks you may face while leading your group. Come back to this site often and refer back to these posts when you seeking answers.  We are here for you and will continue to be here with fresh insight and ideas to strengthen your group ministry.

The contributors of this blog will continue to add posts–only not as frequently as every day.  When a good idea comes to mind, we will share it here with you, the leaders of the movement.  Stay connected with us on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for joining us on this journey of discovery. Keep making #SmallChanges that will grow your groups and help make disciples.

Leading Your Group in an Evening of Outreach

phonecallWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Planning, dreaming, and goal setting are valuable in advance of implementation. But if you don’t lead, they won’t follow. Ask them to join you. Group members need to see your example and leadership in this important area. Give your group members a simple, concrete way to get involved in outreach–especially if they are just wading into outreach. Consider an evening of outreach teamwork.

WHAT DO I DO? Your planning time should assess members’ preferences, passions, and schedules. With that information, here are some important tips for offering an evening of outreach:

  • schedule the evening when your group can be there
  • communicate a start and end time
  • in advance, assign (or enlist) each of them for a team task (encourages keeping commitments)
  • send reminders and ask group members to pray in advance
  • save everyone time by setting things up in advance (tables, directions, assignments, etc.)
  • at start time share affirmation and quick, simple verbal instructions
  • pray together for God to use the efforts
  • offer three outreach teams (if you have enough people):  cards, calls, and visits (drop cards if the group is small–they can be done during group time)
  • ensure all visits are made by teams and only at home doors–send no one out alone
  • any teams finishing early continue to pray for those who are still reaching out
  • finish with a celebration time of reports, fellowship, and snacks.

Remember to continue to pray and to follow up! Welcome guests. Invite them to enroll.

Gather Your Class for Evaluation of Strengths and Needs

strengthsWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? In the book, One Hundred, David Francis writes that “the purpose of this book is to provoke conversations about the 100 little things that can be done better.” Conversations allow people to think and process thoughts. The opportunity to process thoughts through conversation can bring people a sense of agreement about actions that produce incremental positive changes in the life of a church.

One key ingredient to make this happen is for the leaders of the group to do regular and effective evaluation of their practices.  Remember the cliché definition of insanity is “to do the same thing the same way and expect different results.” One Hundred gives measurements and principles to evaluate against.

WHAT DO I DO? How do effective Sunday School/small group leaders evaluate their work?

  1. Prayerfully seek to establish a culture of evaluation. This isn’t criticism time as much as an honest look at what has been done well and what needs to be done better.  Ask the question, “can we talk openly and honestly about this emphasis, or this event, or a system in the group and not get personal about people, but talk about how to make our group a better place to see life transformation and see the multiplication of leaders and disciples?”
  2. Gather your team either on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly) to look intentionally at what your group is doing, how you are doing, what is going well, and what improvements can be made. Rmember to schedule time after events or special emphases to do the same.
  3. Make a list of the good things that the group is doing. Share those with the group. Celebrate!
  4. Intentionally talk about needs of the group and needs of the community and ways the group might prayerfully get involved.
  5. Once you are having these open and honest conversations about group effectiveness, begin to establish priorities for the group. These also act as accountability measurements for the group.
  6. Make the evaluation time and process one of prayer and seeking what God’s Spirit wants to accomplish with your group.

Evaluation can be a tough practice for people who are overly sensitive or territorial.  That makes it very important to spend time as a leadership group praying about your group and their needs.  Dependence on God’s Spirit is critical. Work at building a loving, trusting atmosphere.

What your group is doing is important enough for you to be intentional about evaluating your work!

Not Just for Church Members

welcomebricksWHY THIS IS IMPORTANT? Do first time guests show up for Sunday School? Maybe they don’t know they’re invited?  Do your church website, Facebook page, and other publicity unintentionally imply that Sunday School is for “Members Only?”  Sunday School and adult groups are for everyone, but if you’re a new believer or didn’t grow up in church this might not be known or understood.

Sunday School, Life Groups, or whatever you call them, are the place where discipleship begins.  The setting should be an open group (anyone is invited to join at any time) with a stand-alone lesson every week.  This is different than an accountability group or a deeper learning discipleship class where one larger topic is explored often over the course of 8-12 weeks or more.

WHAT DO I DO? Because Sunday School has this format, people need to know that you don’t have to be a member to join.  Even if that is obvious by your church sign, website and other publicity, make sure that your group members know to communicate that to their friends and neighbors.

It’s been said many times, people aren’t looking for a friendly church, they are looking for friends!  What better place to find friends than in the Sunday School groups!  Make sure your class is a place where people who are looking for friends can find them, even before they become a member.

Invite and expect friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. Greet them warmly. Connect with them in and beyond group time. Add them to the group care list.

Add a New Teaching Method This Week

clayWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Jesus is our example. He used a variety of teaching methods on purpose. Message and context make a lot of difference.

The same is true today. Group members learn in a variety of ways. When we use teaching methods that address their preferred learning styles, their attention and retention increase. Both are essential for us to be effective in “teaching them to obey” (Matthew 28:20). In addition, some methods just naturally communicate the truth of God’s Word best.

WHAT DO I DO? Allow me to share some practical steps out of my experience:

  1. Discover your own learning styles by taking an inventory. Here are three samples: Learning Style Inventory, Got Style, and Learning Style Inventory.
  2. Allow class time for your group to take an inventory. (Print one.)
  3. After class, look through the results. Identify the top 2 learning style preferences for each person. Expect a lot of variety. Compare their styles with yours.
  4. Prepare to add one new method (which address their learning styles) to your normal routine.
  5. To choose wisely, consider which method best communicates the truth of God’s Word to learners with their preferred learning styles. (Good curriculum will offer many choices of methods.)
  6. Plan to use the “new” method in small doses (maybe 5 minutes) each week for a month to watch for response and build acceptance.
  7. Then try a “new” method the next month and two new methods in the third month. Increase amount of time for methods receiving the most positive response.