Allan Taylor, minister of education at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, GA, has lots of little sayings. One of my favorites is that “leaders lead, they don’t point.” In Sunday School, leaders must lead. Your Sunday School and Your class will never move to the next level, unless you lead and don’t point.
Two years ago, a book was written entitled Connect3. The idea behind the book was that every Sunday School class functions on one of three levels. The class either functions as a Class, Community, or a Commission. The goal of the book was simple: to identify which level your class currently functions, to discover ideas for operating on each level with greater meaning, and to decide if you wanted to move to a higher level or stay where you are. This book prompted me to began to think about how churches view Sunday School.
If you asked the normal church member, “Why do we have Sunday School?” Regardless of church size, many will say to learn the Bible or to study the Bible. In other words, the class is functioning on a Class level. If a pastor, Sunday School Director, or a teacher views Sunday School as a school, the goal is to have a satisfying Bible Study Experience for all ages. Some ministry will get done, but the class operates primarily on a class level. When leaders fail to lead and simply point, Sunday Schools that function on a class level can become simply an event on the church’s calendar.
If you were to attend my church, you would be encouraged to join a Connect Group. In reality, the Connect Group is another name for Sunday School, but the name does emphasize that the pastor and staff see Sunday School as an Assimilation Tool. They desire to see classes function at least on the community level. Stories and testimonies of how members and non members were touched by the class are shared. Why? Because of the belief that “Life change best happens in the context of small community groups.” The challenge for leaders who desire to lead and not point is to keep leading these groups to stay outwardly focused and not turn inward.
My favorite definition of a Sunday School Class is “a TEAM of People on Mission with God.” All levels can be engaged in missional and evangelistic activities but churches with classes operating on the commission level have begun to see Sunday School as the Missional Arm of the church. The class members do not just see themselves as a member of a class but as a missionary. These Groups become proactive in reaching out to their targeted age group/life stage and initiate and support mission and service projects. If you are leader who wants to lead and not point, don’t allow classes to become engage in so many activities they become unbalanced. The goal is to make disciples. Disciples are made by going, baptizing (ministry), and teaching.
Every church will have classes on all three of these levels. Some classes never move from just being a class, where teaching is primary. Some groups become small communities where ministry and relationships flourish. A few classes become those missional groups that are constantly on mission for God.
What level is your class on? How do you see Sunday School? Are you leading or pointing?
Mark Miller is the State Sunday School Director, Tennessee Baptist Convention. Mark also blogs at http://drmarkmiller.wordpress.com/