Those of you who have been around awhile will remember Andy Anderson and his Sunday School Growth Spiral. Today, these practices are often demonized as Programmatic. The general consensus of the day is, Lord knows, we don’t need another PROGRAM. The word program has become a dirty word; but it need not be so. A program is simply an organized way of doing something. I remember Max Caldwell saying, Organization is putting yourself in the best position to be used by the Holy Spirit. However, when a program exists only to sustain itself, then it loses its mission. This is the case with many Sunday School ministries. Sunday School can be an effective, mission-centered program for making disciples.
The language of the old Growth Spiral can be transformed from a church growth focus to13 disciple-making behaviors:
- Invite Potential Disciples to Become Members – Make it a priority constantly to be inviting and adding disciples to your small groups.
- Disciple-making Small Groups – Make it a priority to create and provide adequate numbers of small groups whose mission is to make disciples.
- Discipling Ministry Touches – Make it a priority to connect with every disciple weekly; regularly.
- Disciples Attending Weekly – Make it a priority to encourage disciples to be faithful to their spiritual growth by regular Bible study and fellowship in small group.
- Disciple-making Space – Make it a priority to provide adequate space for small groups and for new disciple-making groups.
- Disciple-making Leaders – Make it a priority to enlist disciple-making leaders for small groups.
- Leaders in Training for Making Disciples – Make it a priority to train disciple-making leaders for small groups.
- Disciple – making Leadership Meetings – Make it a priority for leaders to meet regularly to plan for disciple-making ministries
- Disciple-Maturing Small Groups – Make it a priority to provide closed, small groups in which believer disciples can mature and grow spiritually and prepare for making disciples
- Potential Disciples List – Make it a priority to keep a current list of potential disciples with whom to build meaningful relationships and to invite to “come learn with us” as learner disciples.
- Disciple-making Outreach Leaders – Make it a priority to enlist and train disciple-making outreach leaders who will maintain the Potential Disciples List and will encourage small group members to build meaningful relationships with them and invite them to “come learn with us” as learner disciples.
- Evangelistic Prayer – Make it a priority in each small group to pray for potential disciples to become learner disciples and eventually believer disciples.
- Disciple-making Missional Projects – Make it a priority for each small group to be involved in missional projects where disciples can connect to the community full of potential disciples.
These behaviors, combined with transformational Bible study that involves the learner disciples in discovering life-transforming biblical truths for themselves plus the mentoring and spiritual friendship of believer disciples will create an environment in which the Holy Spirit can do his work of transformation. Potential disciples will become learner disciples, who become believer disciples and grow into fully devoted, reproducing disciples of Jesus. This is our mission. This is Sunday School at its best.
A Disciple-Making Culture Will Affect the Ministry of the Whole Church…
The behaviors, attitudes, values, and goals of a Disciple-Making Culture in the Sunday School Small Group Ministry will have positive effects on the entire church:
- Worship – As the connection of disciples with other disciples increases in the Small Group Ministry, so will the participation in worship, and more people will be connected to God.
- Offerings – As disciples connect with other disciples and with God, commitment to the spiritual mandate of giving will become more apparent.
- Baptisms – As learner disciples connect with other disciples in the study the gospel and see it lived out in the lives of other disciples in the small group and as they become connected to God in worship, they are more likely to become believer disciples and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
This is, I believe, what Jesus intended when He commissioned the church to “Go, Make Disciples”. Let’s take this seriously as our Co-Mission as we work together in the Sunday School to create a disciple-making culture in which minds are renewed, and lives are transformed by the power of God.
Phil Stone, State Sunday School Director
Church Administrant and Church Building Planning Ministries
Baptist State Convention of North Carolina