Archive for Great Expectations

How is Riding a Segway like Moving your Sunday School Forward?

Recently I had the opportunity to use a Segway over a period of several days. Just to refresh your memory, a Segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric personal transporter invented by Dean Kamen. It got its name from the word “segue” meaning “a smooth transition.”  Leaders know leadership will require change, and a good leader wants the change to be “a smooth transition.”

As I rode the Segway, I begin to notice the similarities between ride a Segway and leading a Sunday School. I hope you find these parallels helpful as you leader Sunday School:

  • Put on your helmet – we want to be prepared for success. The Bible encourages us to put on the “full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.” Eph 6:11 (HCSB)
  • Secure experienced help – we want to ride the Segway through smooth transitions. The best way to keep a Sunday School moving forward and running smoothly is to build a team of experienced workers. 
  • Training or coaching is helpful at first – we want to acquire the insight and skill to have a great ride. By attending training or securing a coach you will keep yourself attentive to the needs of your Sunday School and learn to be a better leader. 
  • Have your destination in mind – on a Segway we can get in trouble quickly if you do not know where you are going. What is the destination of your Sunday School? How will you know if you’re getting closer? Will you know when you get there? 
  • Balance is critical – I learned quickly that I could fall off a Segway. Sunday School has a lot of balance issues as well. We find ourselves struggling to balance having enough workers, starting new units, ministering to those we already have and motivating members to witness to others. 
  • Success requires focus – riding a Segway is not a mindless, fun experience. You have to steer the path without falling as you go along an ever-changing landscape. A Sunday School is an ever-changing landscape. Quickly you can lose a teacher or a class can outgrow their space. A clear focus will make the ride smooth. 
  • Trying something new is risky – I was hesitant to try the Segway at first. In fact, it is my nature to be hesitant about something new. In trying the Segway, I had a enjoyable experience I would have missed without taking a risk. Are you missing the great experiences God has in store for you because you are hesitant to take a risk? 

Are you ready for the ride of your life? Lead your Sunday School!

Expect Lost People to be Saved

There can be no debate over the issue of the lack of evangelistic effectiveness of the church in North America. I can remember a time when we were winning the lost to Christ and witnessing them follow Him through the waters of baptism.

Every team expects to win before the game begins. A team that expects to get beat is going to lose the game. I don’t think the church expects to lose, I just think that expectations have changed. The result is what we see today.

Most church members today expect the church to serve them, instead of expecting lost people to be saved. The consumer mentality has begun to dictate the mission of the church. In my research and in my consultation with churches, I have found three reasons why we are not expecting lost people to be saved.

First, there is a lack of preparation by the Sunday School teachers. As a child I can remember watching my parents and grand parents prepare for leading a Sunday School class. They spent hours each week in prayer, Bible study and in discussion with other teachers. Today we have teachers coming home at 10:30pm on a Saturday night and beginning their preparation for teaching a class and they still want the lesson to be simpler. We will never see the lives of class members changed if the teachers are not willing to invest their life!

Second, there is little time or no time given for spiritual decisions during class time. As a child and as a youth I can remember each Sunday having a Sunday School teacher that provided an opportunity and even encouraged us to give our lives to Christ. Today we are so rushed to get out that application of the lesson is of no concern. We must return to providing a time for spiritual decisions during Sunday School.

Third, the members of our churches are not sharing their faith. There have been numerous studies and all say the same thing, Christians in North America are not sharing a verbal witness on how a person can have forgiveness and eternal life in heaven. We must begin to equip our members to share their faith.

I have and will continue to expect lost people to be saved. Why? Because I expect my Sunday School teachers to spend time with God preparing to lead the Bible study. I expect my Sunday School teachers to issue a call for commitment and a time for spiritual decisions during Sunday School. I expect the members of my Sunday School to share their faith.

Are You Expecting Guests?

My mama was the queen of hospitality; it was surely her spiritual gift! Growing up, company at our house was always expected. Back then, people just dropped in for supper, and Mama always welcomed them warmly and fed them well! She did all that she could so that no one ever left our house feeling unloved or hungry. No one!

My beloved wife is the new queen of hospitality. These days, most people don’t come unannounced. When we’re expecting company every drawer, closet, and cabinet is alphabetized and the house is made ready. Before the company arrives, everything is prepared so that when they drive up we are can greet them warmly at the driveway and walk them into our home. We do everything possible to make our guests feel welcome and at home in our home.

I’m sure your home is the same. What are some of the things you do to prepare for expected company?

Ever thought about how someone feels when they arrive at your church? Here’s an illustration: What if you went out into your neighborhood and walked up to the door of a home; one that you did not know the residents. You don’t bother to knock, but you reach out and turned the door knob to open the door. What might you be expecting to find? Probably some very surprised residents. What might be your feelings at the time? Very nervous!!

Those of us who were born in the church and have been in and out of churches all of our lives have no problem; seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. We know Baptists! However, when the unchurched walk up to our church doors, they’re walking into “our territory”; it’s almost like walking up to an unknown home, barging in, and saying, “we’re here!” What might they be expecting? What might they be feeling? What can we do to make them feel warmly welcome like Mama’s house or prepared as my

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wife does in our home?

The question is: Are you expecting guest every Sunday? Or are you surprised when one does come? I’ve been encouraged as I travel around our state of NC to see that more and more churches are preparing for guests, but I’ve been in enough Baptist churches to know that we have a ways to go! What can we do to prepare for guests?

When you’re expecting guest at church, you do the same as you would if you were expecting guests in your home. Here are a few things I’ve observed churches doing to prepare for guests:

  1. Clean the house! Baptist churches are notoriously messy. Clean out the clutter in the corner and the old curriculum stacked on the piano. I know. I’ve seen it.
  2. Have a special place for them to park and when they drive up, be there to greet them.
  3. Have a welcome sign out for them, and walk them into your doors
  4. Plan to make them feel authentically welcomed as a person for whom you genuinely care
  5. Wear name tags so that they don’t have to remember your names (kind of like place cards at the dinner table) and make one for them so that others can call them by their names – and be sure to do that!
  6. Help them find their way around: kids rooms, their room, the sanctuary, especially the necessary rooms
  7. Introduce them to new friends in a small group
  8. Make them a part of a Care Group for ministry and connections that follow up on their visit
  9. Sit with them in the worship service
  10. Invite them to the next party
  11. Involve them in an upcoming ministry (guests feel more at home when you allow them to help)
  12. Become a real friend. Guests aren’t looking for a friendly place; they’re looking for friends.

Treat your church guests like you would your guests at home. They’ll come back, but more importantly, you just might make a new disciple.

Expect Depth and Lasting Relationships

When I talk with Sunday School classes about developing relationships some of them look back at me with a funny look. I can hear what they are saying through their facial expressions. “I’m too busy to make new friends; they are going to take up all my time or I don’t want someone to know everything about me.” Developing friendships at church really does scare some folks.

I think our people feel like they are going to be required to spend every moment with their new church friends or even worse to them is the idea that all my dirty little secrets are now going to be known by everybody.

Let me help you by saying that it is not that bad and becoming friendly with folks at church is really not that hard. To make lasting friendships that are really deeper than the small talk we share at church, just remember that there are four things you got to know.

  1. First, you’ve got to know their name. People really do love to hear their name. Recently I was praying with one of my new friends and during the prayer time I mentioned his name in the prayer. After the prayer he said, “It’s been 20 years since I heard my name in a prayer.”
  2. Second, you got to know the names of those in their family. I’m not talking about their fourth cousin living in Brooklyn. You’ve got to know the names of the family members that live together.
  3. Third, you’ve got to know their joys. What is that they love to do,
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    what are their hobbies, what do they spend their resources on? I love baseball. I love to watch baseball, I love to talk baseball. I also love to go camping with my family. I could talk to you all day about baseball and camping. I would also guess that there is someone out there that likes the same things I like.

  4. Fourth, you have got to know their hurts. All of us have hurts. All of us have something that has our attention. It may be an aging parent, it may be a rebellious child, and it may be our employment situation. It does not have to be anything major. It could be putting a new screen door on at the house or your daughter’s piano recital. You need to know what has your member’s attention.

If you want people to know you really care then you’ve got to know those four things about them. Now for the hard part; if you are going to let people get to know you, you’ve got to let them know those four things in your life!

Another note to teachers: If you don’t know the above four things about all your class members, it is time for you to start a new class!

Connecting with Others in Sunday School Ministry

One of the great values of Sunday School ministry for me is the opportunity and forum for connecting with others on a deeper level in a small group.  Bible teaching is important and should be done with excellence. But determine to have good connections among class members and prospects in place as well.

How do you ‘connect’ a group of a dozen or so class members?  This day and age requires more than merely a paper class list and a prayer chain by phone.  Obviously computer technology gives us many opportunities for connecting people:

1. Emails to class members are the most basic step.  Upcoming lesson topics, questions for thought and discussion, prayer needs and social opportunities are easily communicated to the group.

2. A next step from there might be a class blog-these are easy and inexpensive ways to connect people and they allow for interactivity as people can discuss things online.

3. Facebook and Twitter are also free and easy ways for a class to connect as a group and they are fast (and a lot of people are using social media).

4. For a class member who is stationed in the military a possible connection could be to use Skype and have face to face talk time with the member.  Another option would be to video a lesson and send it by internet to the overseas class member.

5. But in my opinion, nothing takes the place of face to face connecting with a cup of coffee or a Coke.  Inside or outside of the church building, make time to visit with class members and prospects and interact with them.

Technology isn’t the answer.  Connecting is the key.  I sat down at my computer to write this blog post and my office computer network had to be shut down due to a virus on our system.  So I write this on a typewriter to be faxed to our blog coordinator.  Technology will fail but the Lord is pleased when we connect with people in need of Him on a personal and spiritual level.


Richard Nations is the Church Health Team Leader for the Baptist Convention of Iowa.