Archive for Flake’s Formula

Stage 5: Deploy

7968765254_133dddc4b3_zEvery football season begins the same way for just about every team at every level. Each team has high hopes of a championship; develops a playbook; positions its players at their areas of strength; and has weeks of training and practice. Imagine how foolish it would look however if at the season opener, the offense went out on the field, huddled up, called the play… but never left the huddle.

As ridiculous as the above scenario may be, unfortunately it is a visual image of what happens in many churches all over the nation. Teachers have been trained and Bible study lessons have been prepared. Rooms have been furnished or homes have been cleaned and made ready for company. But the play that our Lord and Savior has given us is to be fishers of men; to share the Gospel; to make disciples! Can I share a three words of encouragement with you if this scenario describes your church and small group.

Run the Play!

The fifth ingredient of Flake’s Formula is “Go after the people.” Rick Howerton and David Francis define it using one word – deploy. Jesus said “Go make disciples…” It is an imperative direction. It requires action. Groups that choose to always remain in the huddle are not going to engage people with the Gospel. Many churches use a passive approach of engagement and outreach. Announcements about Bible study groups are made from the pulpit. But announcements are passive.

Here are three suggestions to help deploy your church’s groups (or your group):

Weekly outreach
Weekly outreach fell out of favor years ago. There are all kinds of reasons given as to why churches no longer have weekly outreach, such as; families do not like people knocking on their door; participation by church members is low; events at the church facility have replaced outreach; and… well it just isn’t cool anymore.

I was the interim education minister at a church recently. This church had not done ANY outreach at all for over a decade. They had adopted a “if they need us they know where to find us” approach. Now that is the ultimate “passive outreach” strategy! Instead of beginning an ongoing, 52 weeks of of outreach plan, we began with an 8 week outreach burst. We met on Sunday evenings and went visiting! After eight weeks, our outreach teams had visited in the homes of over 350 people! Our teams led people to the Lord. We saw people baptized as a direct result of our action-oriented strategy. Every week we heard comments like this; “We have visited several churches the past couple of months, but your church is the first church that ever came to visit us.” Guess whose church these people joined! (This church continues to effectively use this strategy of short, 6-8 week outreach bursts 3-4 times a year.)

Connection Day
You may remember it as Friend Day or High Attendance Day, but set aside a couple of days a year that encourages and organizes church members to invite friends to come to church with them. In other words, “run the play”. If only 10% of your people respond, your church will have a lot of new faces present and it will engage a lot of people that need Christ and community.

Special Events
If your church’s process for engaging people with the Gospel is to ultimately to get them into a small group or Sunday School, shouldn’t the church’s events help pave the way for that to happen? Every event hosted by the church should point participants toward small groups. Register every person present (you can not follow up on people if you have no contact information). Enlist a person or two to share their story at the event of how their small group has ministered and helped them during a difficult time. Always have a table or booth set up with information about your groups and a person or two to help answer questions or provide needed information.

Deploying group members is vital to making disciples. As group leaders it is important for us to create opportunities in addition to our Bible studies to help deploy our group members.

It is one thing to call the play…. but it is another thing to actually run the play.

Run the Play!!


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). Bob also has his own blog at The BGCO also has an online training site with over 200 videos available at

Follow Bob on Twitter – @bobmayfield, or on Facebook – theBobMayfield

Stage 4: Determine

UNbuildingThe fourth ingredient of Flake’s Formula is to provide space. In their book Countdown, David Francis and Rick Howerton state this piece of the formula as determining a plan for providing space and resources. Any organization recognizes the need for space and resources. The issue is to determine a plan and then follow the plan. Space for group meetings rarely appears from nowhere.

Many people have a preference when it comes to space. Some people prefer the cozy comfort of a home. Others prefer their small group space in a church building with childcare and worship space close at hand. Some prefer a coffee shop, restaurant, or diner. Many churches leverage their space by offering two, three, and even four hours for small groups. The fact of the matter is that community can happen anywhere at any time. Yes, everyone has preferences. But preferences should never take priority over principles.

Notice Flake’s Formula says to provide the space. Not necessarily build it, just provide it.

As a young education minister, I served a church that was growing… rapidly! We were always on the lookout for additional space. We had groups meeting off campus; we had groups meeting on campus. At one time our church was holding Sunday School at 11 different locations at the same time. It was almost like finding Waldo! Two of those Sunday School locations were located over one mile from our church campus and another location was over five miles from the campus. We chartered city busses to help move our folks from the church campus where most of our children’s groups met to our off campus student and adult facilities. Our four kindergarten departments met off campus in a nearby weekday childcare facility.  I was apologizing about our facilities to a new member who was attending a Sunday School group that met in an empty pad we were “borrowing” at a nearby shopping center. It had no electricity, heat, air, or plumbing and the only light came through the front glass wall. His words were priceless: “Bob, I would rather attend Sunday School in an unfinished store front with concrete floors and metal folding chairs and be where the Spirit is moving than go to a plush, air conditioned room that has all the amenities but no Spirit.”

Community can happen anywhere because the Spirit is everywhere.


Bob Mayfield is the Sunday School/Small Group specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). Bob also has his own blog at The BGCO also has an online training site with over 200 videos available at

Follow Bob on Twitter – @bobmayfield, or on Facebook – theBobMayfield

Stage 1: Imagining Possibilities


As a businessman and lay Sunday School Director, Arthur Flake developed and promoted a Five Step Plan for growing Sunday Schools.  The next few articles will focus on these five steps that Sunday School and small group leaders have been using as an evaluation and planning formula for over one hundred years.  A slight twist on this time proven formula was introduced in Countdown called Francis’s Flaky Formula: Dream, Declare, Develop, Determine, and Deploy.

Gemini, Apollo, Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor. The names of these space vehicles are engrained in the fabric of our history.  Almost any person over the age of 50 will be able to tell you where they were when Neil Armstrong descended a ladder and declared that was one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.  In 1981, a group of fellow college students gathered in the commons building at Union University as we watched, the space shuttle Columbia blast off and return from space. Every American has been impacted by the technological advances that space exploration ushered in.  And all of these experiences and advances were birthed from a dream.

Dreams are powerful motivators.  Caleb dreamed a big, God-sized dream. The Bible says that he approached Joshua at Gilgal, and demanded Joshua to “Give me my mountain.”  Rick Howerton in Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups, wrote, “Every earth shattering groups pastor or education minister dreams nearly unfathomable dreams. In their minds’ eye, they see the end result before it ever happens.”

What do you want to see happen in your Sunday School class this year? Can you envision the potential of those boys and girls that you have the privilege to teach? Where do you want to be as a Sunday School next month, next year, and five years from now? Imagine the Possiblities…Dream a big dream.

I have a dream of a Sunday School movement across America that is:

  • Evangelistically Focused
  • Missionary Minded
  • Great Commission Based
  • Outwardly Motivated
  • Engaged Outside the Walls
  • Starts New groups and classes

Caleb faced many challenges to realize his dream. The Bible says that the Anakim were there plus fortified cities, but that didn’t keep Caleb from asking for his mountain…the mountain that God had promise him.

Don’t let time (Caleb was 85 years old before he realized the fulfillment of his dream), criticism, excuses, or people rob you of your dreams.

I am thankful that President Kennedy had a big dream and declared a mandate that America would put a man on the moon.  His dream changed my life. I am also thankful for leaders like Arthur Flake, J.N. Barnette, and ministers of education, Sunday School directors, and Bible study teachers in our churches who also dream big dreams.


Written by Mark Miller, Sunday School Specialist and Harvest Field Team Leader for the Tennessee Baptist Convention

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.