Archive for Flake’s Formula

Stage 4: Determine

UNbuildingThe fourth ingredient of Flake’s Formula is to provide space. In their book Countdown, David Francis and Rick Howerton state this piece of the formula as determining a plan for providing space and resources. Any organization recognizes the need for space and resources. The issue is to determine a plan and then follow the plan. Space for group meetings rarely appears from nowhere.

Many people have a preference when it comes to space. Some people prefer the cozy comfort of a home. Others prefer their small group space in a church building with childcare and worship space close at hand. Some prefer a coffee shop, restaurant, or diner. Many churches leverage their space by offering two, three, and even four hours for small groups. The fact of the matter is that community can happen anywhere at any time. Yes, everyone has preferences. But preferences should never take priority over principles.

Notice Flake’s Formula says to provide the space. Not necessarily build it, just provide it.

As a young education minister, I served a church that was growing… rapidly! We were always on the lookout for additional space. We had groups meeting off campus; we had groups meeting on campus. At one time our church was holding Sunday School at 11 different locations at the same time. It was almost like finding Waldo! Two of those Sunday School locations were located over one mile from our church campus and another location was over five miles from the campus. We chartered city busses to help move our folks from the church campus where most of our children’s groups met to our off campus student and adult facilities. Our four kindergarten departments met off campus in a nearby weekday childcare facility.  I was apologizing about our facilities to a new member who was attending a Sunday School group that met in an empty pad we were “borrowing” at a nearby shopping center. It had no electricity, heat, air, or plumbing and the only light came through the front glass wall. His words were priceless: “Bob, I would rather attend Sunday School in an unfinished store front with concrete floors and metal folding chairs and be where the Spirit is moving than go to a plush, air conditioned room that has all the amenities but no Spirit.”

Community can happen anywhere because the Spirit is everywhere.


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). Bob also has his own blog at The BGCO also has an online training site with over 200 videos available at

Follow Bob on Twitter – @bobmayfield, or on Facebook – theBobMayfield

Stage 1: Imagining Possibilities


As a businessman and lay Sunday School Director, Arthur Flake developed and promoted a Five Step Plan for growing Sunday Schools.  The next few articles will focus on these five steps that Sunday School and small group leaders have been using as an evaluation and planning formula for over one hundred years.  A slight twist on this time proven formula was introduced in Countdown called Francis’s Flaky Formula: Dream, Declare, Develop, Determine, and Deploy.

Gemini, Apollo, Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor. The names of these space vehicles are engrained in the fabric of our history.  Almost any person over the age of 50 will be able to tell you where they were when Neil Armstrong descended a ladder and declared that was one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.  In 1981, a group of fellow college students gathered in the commons building at Union University as we watched, the space shuttle Columbia blast off and return from space. Every American has been impacted by the technological advances that space exploration ushered in.  And all of these experiences and advances were birthed from a dream.

Dreams are powerful motivators.  Caleb dreamed a big, God-sized dream. The Bible says that he approached Joshua at Gilgal, and demanded Joshua to “Give me my mountain.”  Rick Howerton in Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups, wrote, “Every earth shattering groups pastor or education minister dreams nearly unfathomable dreams. In their minds’ eye, they see the end result before it ever happens.”

What do you want to see happen in your Sunday School class this year? Can you envision the potential of those boys and girls that you have the privilege to teach? Where do you want to be as a Sunday School next month, next year, and five years from now? Imagine the Possiblities…Dream a big dream.

I have a dream of a Sunday School movement across America that is:

  • Evangelistically Focused
  • Missionary Minded
  • Great Commission Based
  • Outwardly Motivated
  • Engaged Outside the Walls
  • Starts New groups and classes

Caleb faced many challenges to realize his dream. The Bible says that the Anakim were there plus fortified cities, but that didn’t keep Caleb from asking for his mountain…the mountain that God had promise him.

Don’t let time (Caleb was 85 years old before he realized the fulfillment of his dream), criticism, excuses, or people rob you of your dreams.

I am thankful that President Kennedy had a big dream and declared a mandate that America would put a man on the moon.  His dream changed my life. I am also thankful for leaders like Arthur Flake, J.N. Barnette, and ministers of education, Sunday School directors, and Bible study teachers in our churches who also dream big dreams.


Written by Mark Miller, Sunday School Specialist and Harvest Field Team Leader for the Tennessee Baptist Convention

Coffee with my Homeboy

Arthur Flake:  Sunday School Missionary

A couple of years ago, as a way of recognizing state Sunday school directors, Bob Mayfield of Oklahoma provided coffee cups with Arthur Flake’s picture on it and the phrase “Arthur Flake is my Homeboy!” and his picture on the side.  The back contained the five principles that have become known as “Flake’s Formula”.  The previous year, we received T-Shirts with the same design.  As I wore the shirt in the halls of the LifeWay building, I bumped in to Ed Stetzer who commented that “there may be only 1000 people in the world that think that’s an awesome T-Shirt, and half of them are in this building”.    I don’t know if I totally agree with his research and analysis, but the point is, many people have forgotten the impact this great missionary had on the Sunday school movement in its early days. What is most amazing about his impact is the timeless relevance of the five principles he came up with as a strategy for organizational growth.  Nearly every time these principles are tried, they work and the result is numerical and spiritual growth.

So who is this man we call our homeboy?  Arthur Flake was a department store salesman in Winona, MS in the early part of the 20th Century who gained such success as the Sunday school director at First Baptist Church, Winona that he was asked to travel the state and beyond inspiring others to expand their ministries.  In 1920, he was asked to join the Baptist Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now LifeWay) as their first national program leader of Sunday school for Southern Baptists. Flake would conduct and teach others to conduct enlargement clinics leading to what some would be called Sunday school revivals.  Part of these clinics centered on a five-step formula now famously called “Flake’s Formula”:

  1. Know the possibilities.
  2. Enlarge the organization.
  3. Enlist and train the workers.
  4. Provide space and resources.
  5. GO after the people!

If you take the first letters of each of the five steps or principles, they spell the acronym KEEP-GO. The formula still works, over 90 years later! Perhaps Flake’s greatest contribution to the Sunday school movement was the idea that the organization should be expanded in anticipation of growth (based on the possibilities), not just in response to growth.*

On days when I feel like I have run out of good ideas to encourage and strengthen the Bible teaching and reaching ministries in the churches I serve, I pour me a cup of coffee in my little mug and am reminded that the best new ideas are often the time tested ones that are not new at all, thanks to my homeboy.

* portions of this article are taken from David Francis’ book, Missionary Sunday School, pp 45-46
©2011 LifeWay Press
Jason McNair serves as the Religious Education Consultant for the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. He also enjoys teaching an adult Sunday school class with his homeboys at First Baptist, West Valley City, UT.



This is day 24 of 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School

It was my privilege, 30+ years ago, to serve as the BSU president at two colleges as well as the president for Georgia.  At one of the colleges it became very clear to me that if we were going to increase the involvement of the students, we needed to revamp the leadership structure.  I did my homework and made my presentation.  We needed to create new positions of responsibility and have different levels of leadership structure.  I can still hear the campus minister saying, “But we don’t have that many kids in BSU!”  My response was, “I know and that’s why we have to enlarge the organization.”  We created the new positions, prayed for those that would take the positions and personally enlisted and trained them. Within one year the BSU had tripled in attendance.

I had learned this basic principle in Sunday School leadership.  In 1920, Arthur Flake became the first leader of the Sunday School Department of the Baptist Sunday School Board, which is now called LifeWay Christian Resources.  Flake was the author of what eventually became known as Flake’s Formula: (1) know the possibilities, (2) enlarge the organization, (3) provide space and equipment, (4) enlist the leaders, and (5) go after the people.

If your Sunday School is to be the best at outreach, ministry, fellowship and teaching, then it must be constantly enlarging the organization.  It should be noted that the organization is to be enlarged prior to the new people arriving!  Too many churches have the mentality that they will start new classes and enlist new leaders after the new people show up.  It does not work that way!  If you wait until the new people come before enlarging the organization then more than likely you will never enlarge the organization.

As we think about enlarging the organization, the first place to start is with the correct number of leaders.  You need to determine what your current leader to learner ratio is by dividing the enrollment by the number of leaders.  The leader to learner ratio varies for each age group.

Class/Department Leader-to-Learner Ratio

  • Babies – Two Year Olds: one to three
  • Three Year Olds – Kindergarten: one to five
  • Grades 1 – 6: one to six
  • Grades 7 – 12: one to eight
  • Adults: one to five

The next element of enlarging the organization is to have the correct number of classes.  Again, you need to determine your present reality by dividing the enrollment by the number of classes.  Each age group is different.

Class/Department Class-to-Member Ratio

  • Babies – Two Year Olds: one to twelve
  • Three Year Olds – Kindergarten: one to twenty
  • Grades 1 – 6: one to twenty
  • Grades 7 – 12: one to fifteen
  • Adults: one to twenty-four

In conclusion, enlarge the organization prior to new people coming, make sure you have the correct leader to learner ratio and, finally, make sure you have the correct class to membership ratio.

Dr. Tim S. Smith serves as a state missionary with the Georgia Baptist Convention and is the Sunday School & Open Groups Specialist of the Sunday School/Open Group Ministries.  Visit their website at for more information and other resources to aid your Sunday School.


How to Effectively Group People in Sunday School/Small Groups

There are several primary considerations for effectively organizing groups for Sunday School/Small Groups. Before developing your structure, account for the total active church membership. Second, determine whether the groups will be offered on-campus, off-campus, or both. Finally, evaluate community and church demographics. Once the primary considerations are determined, you can begin grouping people for effective community.

Grouping people effectively requires intentionality. Whether using on-campus or off-campus groups, focus should be given to creating genuine community. This is accomplished by modeling the biblical principles of Acts 2:42; “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” (HCSB). When a group focuses on studying God’s Word, praying for one another, spending quality time getting to know one another, and meeting together consistently, an environment is cultivated for community. Once community is created, there is a natural attraction for persons to connect with the group. The genuine community which exists is a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Simple group dynamics state persons connect with others persons of affinity. Effective grouping, therefore, works best through these considerations. There are several options to group persons.


This category groups persons who are at the same age. Smaller churches typically have larger age-spans in these groups which creates part of the challenge in dynamics to grow a particular group. Twenties typically do not have much in common with forties, yet the smaller the congregation, a young adult class may span the ages of 20-49 year old. Whereas critical mass is important, a healthier balance may need to be considered with emphasis given to the group-size:age-graded ratio., (ratio is philosophical, most off-campus groups will be below 15, on-campus groups will vary in size based on leadership abilities).


This category groups persons who are at a similar life-stage. This may be determined by age of the children, grandchildren, retirement, the fact of being a boomer, etc. An example is a group may be for parents of elementary age children. The effectiveness of this model is most persons are going through similar experiences whether professionally in the marketplace or personally in home life.

Note:  when using the age of the children to group parents, you may have older 40s in the class as persons who married and had children later in life compared to couples in their 20s or early thirties with the same age children. Using the age of children may disregard couples without children which are an ever-increasing portion of the population.


This category groups persons around interest. Categories may include men only, women only, sportsmen, outdoors men, marketplace women, etc. The effectiveness of this model is inherent in the “interest” itself. The challenge of this model is using the “interest” group to connect while keeping the study focused on God’s Word.


There are two options in using off-campus groups. You may choose a similar structure as the on-campus for creating community groups centered around age, life-stages, and/or interest. The other option is proximity groups. If your demographics draw from all over the community, an off-campus group may be organized with persons who live in the same neighborhood or proximity. This option may bring together varied generations into community groups. This multi-generational approach creates inherent mentor-mentee relationship opportunities. A challenge to this approach is the participants do not have a common-bond of going through similar “life-stage” milestones together. A positive is an older person in the group has “been there, done that” and can share from his/her life experiences.

Effectiveness for either group, on-campus or off-campus, weighs on intentionality of the leadership team. Leadership development is core to either option succeeding. Leaders must be prepared and equipped to reproduce themselves as the group connects and grows. Effective groups have an outward focus. As group leaders insure all persons are connecting, caring environments are created and ministry occurs.

More information regarding this topic can be found in Missionary Sunday School by David Francis.