Archive for Training

Personal Development through Visiting a Different Sunday School Class

adssclassWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? One of the interesting parts of serving on a state convention staff is the opportunity to visit many churches during the year. Seeing what others provides new ideas, sharpens evaluation skills, encourages critical thinking development, and reminds what it is like to be a guest. Visiting a Sunday School class other than your own can be a great way to improve.

Everyone can benefit from a fresh perspective. Visiting a different class can help leaders break out of their routine and be encouraged to try something new.


  • Pick a date…Try to visit a class during a “normal” Sunday (not a holiday weekend or special emphasis day). The idea is to see what happens in the group during a typical gathering.
  • Have a plan…Create a checklist of what you want to pay attention to, such as how the class begins, how they handle praying together, how members participate in the lesson time, and other items of interest to you.
  • Note the time…Keep a log of how time is spent in class: what time did they actually begin? How much time is spent on the teaching time? How much time spent for prayer or other activities?
  • Reflect…Take some time to think back through your experience. What were some positive takeaways? What were some noticeable critiques? What can you learn about your own class?
  • Resolve to try one new approach in your own class the next week!


Daniel Edmonds is the Sunday School missionary for the Alabama State Board of Missions

Pick up the Training Pace after Enlistment

PaceWHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? You asked God to send a leader. You began to look around for the leader God sent. You began observing the life of the leader and spending time with the leader doing life and class ministry together. When you were sure the leader was ready, you asked him/her to join you. When the leader said yes, that is a teachable moment. There is openness to learning and being led. Take advantage of the interest!

WHAT DO I DO? Consider the following:

  • pray for and with the leader,
  • write out a list of the major areas of responsibility,
  • share the list with the leader,
  • work through each item on the list (do them),
  • after carrying out each item on the list, ask questions and debrief the experience,
  • make assignments to the leader, asking him/her to enlist someone to help with each,
  • debrief the assignments, who helped, and how he/she did,
  • listen well, be generous in your affirmation, and offer ideas for next time (when there are areas for improvement),
  • increase the frequency of assignments, and
  • encourage taking initiative to carry out the assigned area of responsibility.

EXAMPLE. For each area of responsibility, the above list will look different. For instance, when training an apprentice teacher, you will focus conversation and practice on teaching, reaching, and caring duties. And you might give them one Sunday per month to teach at first but work toward 3-4 weeks per month before sending them out to teach their own class.

Start With “Why” When Training Leaders

question-mark1In all reality, I have spent most of my life training leaders HOW to perform their role as a leader of a small group; (Sunday School, Discipleship, Men’s, Women’s, Youth, etc). And to be very honest, I was pretty good in explaining how to perform and function in their role. After awhile, I felt my messages where going in one ear and out the other. Then I realized, (DUH) times have changed. Let me see if I can explain that change.

The Internet – When looking for information on the internet, I follow a precise line of reasoning in order to find what I am looking for. For example, let’s say I am looking for additional resources on to use with a study in the Bible study resource called Bible Studies for Life. When I arrived at the initial page I would then search for the program area of Sunday School. Then I would click on the box in the middle of the page for Bible Studies For Life. Next I would choose Resources/Blog to see what additional resources were available. Then I would scroll over to media and select downloads. There I found promotional videos and illustrations.

Does that sound complicated? Not to me. That is the way I think and process things. It was HOW I was taught. BUT ask someone under the age of 30 HOW they would find additional free resources for Bible Studies for Life, this is what they would do. They would choose a search engine (google) and simply put in Bible Studies for Life. They would arrive at the same page with the same information.
Sound simple? It is. My culture that I was trained in, led people through a somewhat complicated process to discover HOW to do what they were suppose to do. Our culture today that most of us are adapting to and those under 30 practice regularly is to focus on the objective, THEN figure out how to do it. We need to learn how that applies to us in the church.

Stop training people HOW to do great Sunday School! Instead, train those group leaders to understand WHY their group exists. Groups exist because it is the church’s best strategy to Make Disciples through small groups, (i.e. Sunday School, Small Groups, Home Groups, discipleship groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, etc.). Then, help them to discover WHAT priorities that group should focus on in order to Make Disciples. Then help them discover HOW to accomplish that.

The objective is to make disciples that we hope and pray become Disciple Makers. In order to do that, we need healthy effective groups that: Share the Gospel with the Lost; Develop Biblical Community among the group; assist people to Grow Spiritually; and to Equip believers to Live Missionally. A healthy group then has the right DNA to start more groups from the people in the initial group.

This changes everything. Instead of guiding people through a complicated process of learning HOW to be an effective group leader, I help them discover their purpose (WHY) and their priorities (WHAT) and then guide them to discover HOW they will accomplish their purpose.

Sound simple? It is. Easy to accomplish? NO! It’s time to discover the God given potential of every leader. People learn HOW to perform their role as leaders by observing other leaders. If your current leaders are ineffective, you will raise up more ineffective leaders. Why not help a potential leader discover WHY they are a leader of that group, WHAT they are suppose to focus on and then equip them in HOW to do it in their own unique way. All I can tell you is that I am having more fun doing this than I have ever had before.

SO, does this produce better leaders? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. The difference is the attitude and heart of the leader. Remember, we lead an all volunteer organization. I don’t control the work and will of God. I also don’t control the choices, actions, behaviors and attitudes of others. What I do control is my plan to achieve what God has asked me to do and my choices, actions, behaviors and attitudes in accomplishing it.

Great leaders are not born, they are made. For some reason, God has chosen to use me to develop leaders to accomplish His mission. They are shaped by God to do His work. I’m just His instrument. I know God uses me and accomplishes His purposes through me.

Join me in a new culture of equipping leaders. Let’s stop training leaders in HOW to fulfill a program role. Let’s develop leaders who are willing to lead a small group of people to make disciples that become disciple makers as well.


Written by Sean P. Keith, Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist, Louisiana Baptist Convention

Enlist Your Leaders: Equip

After properly enlisting leaders to serve (join you in ministry), it is essential to apprentice, train, and equip the leader. Since people have varying abilities and previous experiences, equipping leaders leaders will often require between six and twelve months. Consider these actions:

  • Increase the training pace. In anticipation of releasing the multiplying leader to serve, give an increasing number and mix of opportunities for leadership expression. For instance, move from one teaching Sunday to teaching every other Sunday prior to releasing them to serve.
  • Lead them to choose an apprentice. Help your apprentice become a multiplying leader by leading him/her to prayerfully enlist and begin investing in an apprentice.
  • Set a launch date. After prayer and observation, determine a date to start the new group. Communicate the date with the apprentice and with the group. Hesitate to send the apprentice out alone. Remember, Jesus sent them out in pairs. If you are leaving the current group in the apprentice’s hands so you can leave to start a new group, let the group know what you are doing and express confidence in the apprentice as he or she takes over the group’s leadership.
  • Celebrate the launch. Remember to praise God and affirm those who have helped launch the new group. Celebrate with sponsoring groups, the new group, and in the congregation.
  • Continue to coach. Following the launch of the new group, continue to encourage the new group leader. Coach him/her through challenges toward fruitfulness.

What Equipping Curriculum Should I Use?

The teaching plan for training your apprentice starts with your life and group leadership practices. Invite your apprentice to join you in both. Investing in an apprentice will begin with a time of getting acquainted. Then assess the apprentice’s knowledge,

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experience, and needs. Praying together is essential!

Asking many questions will help greatly. Addressing basics is important. Encourage quiet time practices. Demonstrate yours. Help him or her develop the ability to evaluate priorities. Other issues are lesson preparation, teaching, fellowship planning, making contacts and visits, organizing the group ministry, and mobilizing people into service. Affirm progress.

Hand off responsibility in increasing amounts. Follow this pattern of progression:

  • I do, you watch.
  • I do, you help.
  • You do, I help.
  • You do, I watch.
  • You do, someone else watches.

Debriefing after each assignment reinforces the learning and allows for adjustments along the way. In your weekly interaction, consider reading and discussing helpful Sunday School books and articles. Avoid focusing only on one aspect, such as teaching. Keep your apprenticing balanced. This will keep both of you effective.


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.

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.