On page 12 of the booklet, Transformational Class: Transformational Church Goes to Sunday School, David Francis writes, “The basic idea behind a missionary strategy is to establish–with as much clarity and specificity as possible–who it is you want to reach.” Who do you want to reach? “Everyone” is too broad. Be specific. Define your target. When you focus your aim, you are more likely to take the right actions to reach your goal.
Sunday School is an essential tool for the church on mission. For your Sunday School, who are the “people groups” in your community you want to reach? For your class, who is the people group you plan to pray for, connect with, and invite? When you have named and defined your target group, then you can better determine the strategy for reaching individuals in the group.
For instance, a friend of mine focuses primarily upon Boomers (born 1946-1964). He has read about and observed this generation for several years. As a result, he has discovered in his community and beyond that many Boomers enjoy connecting through community block parties and mission projects. His group of Boomers invite friends from the community to assist with the parties and projects. In turn, these unenrolled friends get to know the group and several have joined.
Age grading is a natural way to focus efforts on people groups. Teens are more likely to be successful in connecting with and reaching teens. Young adults best reach young adults. Senior adults best reach senior adults.
When guests show up on Sunday, it helps to know the specific class that best fits their people group (age group). But it is important to be honest with ourselves and our guests. A few years ago, I will never forget visiting a church and being taken to a class that called themselves the “Forty Something” class. When my wife and I looked around the room, no one was below age 50.
Launching new classes to reach people group (or age group) gaps is an effective way of focusing prayer and inviting energy and effort. You can focus on groups that are missing or groups between age group. You can go after men, women, or singles. I remember a church in eastern Kentucky that had gaps in the middle of their preschoolers, children, youth, and adults. Identifying the gaps can identify people groups on which to place quarterly focus.
Why not call the church to pray for, connect with, and invite people in one age group for a whole quarter? Why not make this an emphasis in worship. Why not pass out “Who Do You Know?” cards in Sunday School and worship. Why not conduct a community survey? Why not launch a new class for that age group? Then when that quarter is over, focus on the next target of your prayer, love, and invitations.
Prayerfully identify your focus. Start new groups. Train and mobilize your people to lovingly pursue people groups and age groups. Reach new people for Sunday School. Reach new people for Jesus. Be transformational!
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 five churches in Kentucky and South Carolina. He is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.