This is day 6 of 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School.
I think this question is challenging for most. There are a variety of factors that roll into this query. We can address church size, polity and governance, and a plethora of other issues. However, the movement to a Missionary Sunday School challenges leaders at every level to think hard about who is the actual leader. I would like to propose that you ask this question of yourself, “Who is Your Sunday School Leader?” And as you are asking that question think about this.
In Noel Tichy’s writing, “The Cycle of Leadership” he challenges the reader to think about their company as a teaching organization. In fact the end of the book provides a “Handbook” which is essentially “a field guide to building and leading a teaching organization.” That’s a great concept for the church to adopt. After all, there should be no greater teaching organization than the church. After all, we have the greatest curriculum to teach in God’s Word. So, who is your leader?
Pastor as Leader – The senior pastor should be a champion leader. There is no greater platform to champion the Sunday school ministry from than the pulpit. Churches with great Sunday schools have pastors at the helm telling their story of Sunday school. Listen to Johnny Hunt, Senior Pastor of FBC Woodstock, GA preach sometime. He loves to tell the story of him being in Sunday school. He finds the time to be in a community of faith with others. This is a great example for pastors. However, some of you are preaching because of your model. My encouragement, find another time to meet with a small group. Your Sunday school class can take place on Tuesday night, or Thursday morning. In our global economy, limiting Sunday school to Sunday morning is a methodology the church simply cannot afford. We must begin finding new times to engage the culture with opportunities to learn about Christ.
Church Staff as Leader – The point is short and simple, if the pastor is taking the time to make this a priority, so should the rest of the staff. We can address the details if we need to, however the options are the same. If the preschool leader has to be available during every hour of Sunday school, she should find a small group at another time to meet with. When the staff prioritizes being in community, and tells the story of being in a Sunday school environment, the rest of the church begins to take notice. In my opinion, for too long church staff leaders have neglected the community of small group for the sake of the ministry. The model of Jesus was small group. He had a circle of twelve, and an inner circle of three. He made time for prayer, fasting, preaching, ministering, and community. We must follow His example for success in ministry.
Director as Leader – Someone has to handle the administration. The director is the administrative leader of the Sunday school ministry. Whether you are a department director, division director, or Lay Minister of Education, you are responsible for making certain the teaching organization of the church, is teaching. That’s what makes your role so vital. If the church is going to be the premier teaching organization in the community, the director must make certain everything is functioning correctly, teachers have what they need to teach, outreach is occurring, ministry is being handled, and did I mention, the director should be in a small group? No one should neglect this opportunity for personal spiritual growth in the context of the community of faith which can happen when we are meeting and discussing God’s Word together.
Teacher as Leader – I would presume most people when asked the “Who is your Sunday School Leader” question immediately thought, pastor, minister of education, or teacher. The teacher is essential for the successful Sunday School ministry. He/She is the spiritual leader of the class. As such, there is a tremendous responsibility for spiritual preparation and discipline in order to effectively deliver the message God would have shared on a consistent basis.
Learner as Leader – This is the one that I think is the least thought of. YOU are the Sunday School leader. Our theme in writing this month is “Missionary Sunday School”. This is the process of insuring our classes are Missional in all we do. We can only be Missional, if YOU are Missional. The learner in the class is the greatest Sunday School leader for the church. You are in the community, at work, in school, involved in community service, connecting with your neighbors. All of these things make you the leader you need to be. In order for us to reach our communities for Christ, YOU have to lead out in your life. Yes, the rest of us are in the community doing things as well, but if you noticed, every one of the leaders above have also been encouraged to be in a small group. Making them a Learner/Leader as well. It is the learner/leaders that are on mission in the community.
Will you accept the challenge to be the Sunday School Leader in your church?!
Kenneth Priest serves the Southern Baptists of the Texas Convention as Church Ministries Associate