This is day 15 of 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School.
Several years ago, I attended the International Mission Board commissioning service for some friends. Although they were preparing to serve in Africa, if you had asked them who they intended to reach through their ministry they would have never said “Africans”. Instead, my friends would have named a specific, identifiable people group about whom they had learned many details necessary for planning and carrying out an effective impact strategy among them. Missionary agencies understand that “Everyone trying to reach everyone” results in duplicated efforts, confused strategies, and diluted resources. A “People Groups” strategy results in clear assignment and accountability, concentrated resources, and enhanced equipping.
While your Church should have a vision for reaching everyone in your community, a Class may function more effectively with a more clearly defined focus. Consider the following potential benefits for organizing your Sunday School around a People Groups strategy.
People Groups Help with Naming Classes – Determining what to call your groups can be a challenge. Often, churches use an Organizational Name (Adult 2), a Chronological Name (Couples 30-39), A Creative Name (Faith Builders) or a Leader’s Name (Bill Smith Class). Using People Group names (Parents of Teenagers) brings more detail, clarity, and consistency to naming classes in your ministry.
People Groups Help Form a Comprehensive Outreach Strategy – Not only do People Groups let you know who is represented in your outreach efforts, they may also identify who isn’t. Organizing around People Groups helps the gaps in your Sunday School class line-up stand out.
People Groups Enable Leaders to Plan Better Learning Experiences – We often encourage teachers to prepare relevant discussion questions and teach lessons that lead learners to personal life application. The difficulty of this increases when age ranges, family make-up, and other factors are widely diverse within the group.
People Groups Give Leaders a Chance to Become “Experts” at their Role – Many resources and research projects are dedicated to the Millennial generation. The same may also be said of the Baby Boomers now entering into their retirement years. Any parent will tell you that things are much different when your kids are in elementary school than once they reach high school. Leaders who prepare for only one of those age groups can dedicate themselves to learning much about their people group and can more easily make Bible truths connect to the specific life needs of their learners. Training opportunities can also be more specifically customized for greater impact.
People Groups Help Organize Outreach – When prospective families are identified from Vacation Bible School, revival meetings, evangelistic events, community events, special services, and other sources, people groups provide churches with a clear structure for assigning them to Sunday School classes for follow up.
People Groups Help Connect Guests – When guests walk in the church for the first time and are looking for a Sunday School class to visit, people groups make it much easier for the greeters to help them get a head start on building relationships with those who share something in common with them.
While stating that “our classes are open to everyone” may sound like a noble position, that approach may actually be the very factor that is inhibiting growth. A plan for reaching people groups may be what your Sunday School needs to begin working together as a real strategy for missionary impact.
David Bond serves as Adult Sunday School Strategist for the Evangelism & Church Growth Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.