Archive for Sunday School

How to Build Relationships with People

Several years ago as I was mapping the steps of discipleship and the things that our church did to help people go to the next level in their spiritual walk. I realized that our church did little to help our members build relationships with unchurched people.

This was made even clearer to me when I asked the members of our church to write down the names of unchurched people in our area that we could begin praying for their salvation. Many members confessed that they did not know of anyone locally.    It seems in our churches that we focus on building a strong fellowship in our classes that we forget the main reason God has for our church is to reach out into the lost world and touch lives.   Jesus said that He would make us “Fishers of Men”

Here are four ways to build a relationship with unchurched people:

  1. Invite them to your house for dinner.
  2. Invite them to go to a ball game with you.
  3. Find out what they like to do and go do that with them.
    1. I had a neighbor who loved to fish. He had a boat and He longed for company to go fishing with him.
    2. I went to a college baseball game one day because the guy I was trying to develop a relationship loved college baseball.   It gave us hours to sit and talk.
  4. Have an outdoor BBQ and invite several couples including some that are unchurched.

Dr. Mark Yoakum is the Director of Church Ministries for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has served as Minister of Youth, Minister of Music, Minister of Education and Executive Pastor in churches in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.

5 Ways to Get Your Sunday School Ready for Great Ministry This Fall

Summer is in full swing and many church members are away on vacation, mission trips, and camps. However, now is time to get your Sunday School and Small Group ready for the fall season of ministry. For many churches, August/September is the beginning of a new year of ministry. Here are some thoughts to use the summer wisely to prepare for a great season of ministry this fall, plus create less stress among your church members and leaders.

Here are five suggestions to help you prepare for a great fall for your group:

1. Get some training
Consider partnering with your state convention or local association for training opportunities. Or consider training your leaders at your own church. Also, an excellent tool for local church training is using the online training that may be available through your state convention or LifeWay. Most online training that you will find through your state convention is targeted directly for Sunday School and small group leaders. In Oklahoma, our ReConnect Sunday School website has almost 200 training videos are available.  As group leaders, we should always be improving our own skills as a leader so that we can better lead and minister to our group.

2. Spruce up your room
When you invite someone to your home for dinner, you are likely to do a little extra cleaning than normal. Use the same principle with your church building. So what does your Sunday School room look like? Could it use a fresh coat of paint? How clean are the floors? How about the furniture? What does the sign outside your room look like? And… how much out-of-date curriculum do you have piled up in a corner?

3. Enlist leaders to help you
You probably have a few leadership opportunities that need to be filled, plus some other important spots that need leaders. Begin the enlistment process as early as possible so that people do not feel pressured to take a leadership role at the last minute. Organize your group for ministry, fellowship, and outreach. Enlist someone to greet every person that walks into your room. Enlist one leader for every 5 people on your ministry roll. Delegate these leadership opportunities, because it is not your place to shoulder the all of the responsibilities of your group alone.

4. Start a new group (or two)
New groups provide room for new people. It is called the “Power of 10”, because every new group the church starts increases average attendance by about 10 people. Early fall is a great time to start a new group since many people view the new school year as a chance for a fresh start in a church as well.

5. Re-establish your group’s priorities
According to Hebrews 2:1, it is the natural state of humankind to “drift away”. Also, the longer people drift from the church’s primary mission, the more difficult it becomes to get them focused back on the church’s #1 priority, making disciples. Take the opportunity at every leadership meeting to re-visit the purpose and mission of your church’s small group strategy. A consistent reminder of the purpose of your church’s groups will help prevent mission-drift.

6. Contact everyone that is a member of your group (I know I said five, but this is a bonus idea)
As stated above, people tend to drift away over time. Life gets busy and things happen. But when it comes to church in general, and Sunday School/small group in particular; busy-ness or lifechanges can become personal fast. From my experience, I have discovered that if a group members misses six meetings in a row, it is very difficult to get them to come back to the group. So make an all-out effort this August to contact every member of your group (not just the attendees). The longer the group waits to reach out to absentees, the more difficult and awkward it becomes.

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Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Bob also has his own blog at bobmayfield.com.

Twitter – @bobmayfield

Instagram – @rpmayfield or @reconnectss

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!