Archive for Unreached people groups

Save the Kids!

Reaching kids for Christ has been at the front of the Sunday school movement from the beginning. Around 1870 in England, Robert Raikes recognized an opportunity where others saw a problem. The streets were filled with unruly poor, uneducated children. Robert’s vision was to educate the children using the Bible to do it. The result was kids coming to know Christ, getting an education and solving a domestic problem in England.

In 2000, I received a call from a church planter in the Los Angeles area. He wanted me to see and hear about what a church in Los Angeles was doing to change their community. In a period of just a few months, the church had reached over 50 children in the community. Almost all of the children had never been to church and they came from homes riddled with dysfunction, drugs, neglect and poverty. Soon the worship service and Sunday school became unruly. To meet the challenge, families were asked to serve as adopted grandparents for the children. The relational approach worked and the children begin to growing in their understanding of the Bible, many accepting Christ.

David Francis, in Missionary Sunday School, points out the parent’s responsibility for the growth and development of their children. For children whose parents are Christian, the Bible indicates the parent has the primary responsible for the spiritual growth and development of their children. Thus, the church and Sunday school are support supplementing the work of the parents. Churches need to equip parents with the tools and skills to be most effective in this important role. A parent will have no greater joy than to lead their child to know Christ as personal Savior. For all the other children in our communities, the Sunday school and other children’s ministries are the only lifelines.

Today, many churches are sitting on golden opportunities to reach children for Christ. Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and many other great ministries are powerful tools for reaching kids. Churches need to survey to opportunities in their communities using demographics, prayer walks, information obtained from community leaders and community assessments. Our world is constantly changing,  what was needed in the past may be different today?

In the past two months, I have worked with churches in two communities where the single parent population was high, 40 percent in one community and 31 percent in the other. Both of these churches have set goals to start Sunday school classes for single parents and to focus their preschool and children’s Sunday school ministry on reaching the children of single parents.

A few years ago, I consulted a small church in central California that had almost totally lost their ability to reach children, or so they said. A demographic study revealed 27 percent of the population within a mile of the church was children six to 10 years of age. The Anglo congregation was not considering the potential of the Hispanic children living around them. In reality, almost all the children spoke English, English being the language of choice in over 45 percent their homes. By launching a new weeknight children’s ministry and establishing a new Sunday school time for children, the church quickly reached over 50 children from around the church and increased their Sunday school attendance by 30 percent. By moving to create a new time for children’s Sunday school the small church was able to have access to more rooms. The change made it possible for more adults to serve as workers too.

A missionary Sunday school recognized the advantages to reaching children. Children are open to the Gospel story and eager to accept Christ. When we reach a child, we put a person into God’s service for a lifetime. Many times children are the open door to reaching families. Just like Robert Raikes, many kids will be saved from poverty and dysfunction as a result of coming to know Christ and their person growth in Sunday school.

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Tom Belew has served as Small Groups and Childhood Specialist for the California Southern Baptist Convention since 2002. He previously served as Minister of Education in churches in Arizona and California.

Missionary Sunday School

This is the first post for 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School

Throughout the month of August, my friends who serve as the leaders of Sunday School in Baptist state conventions will be expounding—and expanding—some topics from my newest little book, Missionary Sunday School. You can download the book free to your computer at www.lifeway.com/davidfrancis or to an iPad at the iTunes store (http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/david-francis/id14461861).

The book—and the daily articles you’ll read on this blog—attempts to answer this question: “What might a Sunday School look like if it saw itself as a missionary enterprise: thinking and acting out of a missionary mindset?” The book is written in honor of America’s greatest Sunday School missionary, Stephen Paxson. Paxson organized over 1,300 new Sunday Schools enrolling over 83,000 across the Midwest in the 1800s. He encouraged and strengthened more than 1,700 existing schools with 131,000 additional participants. His remarkable story is woven throughout the book.

The book’s three chapters are built around three building blocks of a missionary Sunday School: One Mission, His Story, Every Person.

The one mission of Sunday School is transformation. Personal spiritual transformation in the lives of individuals who are becoming more and more like Jesus. Congregational transformation within churches that are acting more and more like the body of Christ. Cultural transformation that makes the communities around the churches more and more reflect the impact of the kingdom of God. The Sunday School movement has a rich history and heritage of this kind of transformational impact. In the United States, the spread of a constitutional republic across the continent is interlaced with the spread of a transformational movement that helped ensure that the citizens of that republic would be a literate people with a solid moral foundations. That movement was called Sunday School.

His Story—the Bible—is the textbook of the Sunday School. The centerpiece of the movement is Bible teaching and learning. Sunday School without Bible study is not Sunday School. The movement holds to the belief “all the Bible for all of life.” The old hymn that says, “I love to tell the Story, for some have never heard…” also says “I love to tell the Story, for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest” and “’tis pleasant to repeat, which seems it time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.”

Every person reminds us that Sunday School is for everyone. A missionary Sunday School embraces the missionary principle of the people group. Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all peoples. One of the most significant things a Sunday School class can do is clearly and specifically identify the people group it is responsible for reaching, teaching, and ministering to. The people group my wife Vickie and I teach is pre-Kindergartners. What’s yours? 3rd graders? Middle school boys? High school girls? Young married adults? Without kids? With kids? Parents? Empty nesters? Seniors? I asked this question recently during a conference and heard some great ideas. One of my favorites was “wives of deployed servicemen.” Another was “parents of troubled teens.” A few months ago, a lady identified her people group as “widows over the age of 90.” When I asked where she got prospect names, she answered immediately “the obituaries.” That is missionary mentality at work! What under-reached people groups are in your community? Could you start a Sunday School type ministry on a Tuesday afternoon at an apartment complex? A Saturday morning Bible club at a mobile home park? My friend Bruce Raley, after being hospitalized on a Saturday night, helped start a class for the people group, “medical professionals who work swing shift.” The class met faithfully at 10:00 pm on Saturday nights.

Knowing your people group will even make the welcome time in your worship service more productive. I call it “fishing in a barrel!” Instead of just greeting the folks immediately around you, look across the worship center for those in your people group who may not yet be part of a group or class. Then get over there and invite them! You can be a missionary right at church!

I am looking forward to reading all the articles this month. I hope you’ll join me in checking in each day. I just subscribed so I don’t have to remember! Many blessings as you lead a missionary minded Sunday School!
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David Francis, Director of Sunday School LifeWay Church Resources