Dwight Moss, a friend serving an Alabama church, said: “We deal with…people with different personalities and backgrounds. Some people simply do not see the importance of being on time….” In some cases, our best efforts won’t change behavior. But some fail to arrive on time because of our behavior and lack of expectations. Expect leaders to arrive early!
First, stop to consider your own example. Do you arrive early? If you are perpetually late, your expectations will be cancelled by your actions. Be early!
Second, communicate during enlistment that early arrival is an expectation. Make it part of your teacher/worker covenant. Communicate it clearly in job descriptions. Address the issue during training and planning. Communicate the expectation well!
Third, without benefits to being early or consequences for being late, why should your leaders show up early? What incentives can we provide? Help leaders recognize benefits of early arrival!
- Set individual coaching times with teachers/workers, affirming/addressing this issue as appropriate.
- Offer donuts and juice/coffee before Sunday School, but put it all up at start time (perhaps in a “teachers’ lounge”).
- Early arriving teachers can enjoy one-on-one time with early pupils after the classroom is ready, reducing some home visits/calls.
- Resources and equipment for the lesson plan can be secured easier when arriving early.
- Could early-arriving teachers give a test to early-arriving attenders measuring retention of last week’s lesson—offering teaching affirmation?
- Could early-arriving leaders reduce the number of required annual training events?
- By arriving early, class will start on time, prayer and announcements won’t be rushed, and the lesson can be taught well.
Fourth, behavior won’t change without knowledge of consequences. Help teachers of younger ages understand what happens when they arrive late. The first person in the room is in charge. Think about safety. Think about first impressions (guests often arrive early). We are dishonest when we post a start time we don’t honor. Point out consequences!
Fifth, Saturday night calls to your regular latecomers may help when making the transition. New habits take time to form. Affirm those who are on-time. Reinforce being on time privately with latecomers. Individualize!
It takes three weeks to develop new habits. Don’t give up. God deserves our best effort. Expect leaders to arrive early!
Darryl Wilson has served as Director of the Sunday School Department for the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 1997. He served as Minister of Education in churches in South Carolina and Kentucky. He is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.