Four Ways to Help When the Storm Comes

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)

My heart has gone out to all of those affected by the storms this past week. I heard from team members today who have family in S.C. how bad things are for many people. I do believe that a small group Bible study Class in our churches and campus ministries should respond in several ways for the Kingdom when storms cause hopelessness in our world. You can provide hope! Here are four ways to consider:

Open your eyes & hearts: It is easy for us to be bombarded with our own stresses and concerns. We can put blinders on much like the crowd in Mark 2:1-12, and miss that there was a paralytic that needed Jesus more than them. Pay attention to what is going on in our world. Pray for persons in harm’s way. Ask God what God would have us do.

Open your church. Many years ago my church was the only one with power in an ice storm. Open your church and provide meals as well as spiritual and emotional guidance in tough times.

Open your pocketbooks and time to volunteer. You and I have one of the best mobilizing force through disaster relief. The BGAV is one of the first phone calls the Red Cross makes when disaster strikes. Get trained. Volunteer. Provide money to help support disaster relief. Here is the link to learn more:

Open God’s Word to address needs. It is okay to skip a lesson from your quarterly. The textbook has always been and should always be God’s Word! Quarterlies are a tool. Allow your group to discuss what God’s Word has to say about disasters. Psalm 46 is a great place to start! The Psalmist discovered the power of God through a storm in Psalm 29. Mark 4 and Matthew 8 discuss Jesus calming the storm. Storms in life will happen. May we be faithful to be God’s presence and offer a word of hope when they come!

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4 Ways to Help Newcomers Feel Welcomed for Sunday School

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)

As we think about visitors (Newcomers if you are from the south), I want to encourage you in several ways. First of all, it is important to make them feel wanted and welcome from the time they drive in the parking lot! Visitors will decide within the first five minutes whether they are welcome or not. Here are a few ways to help them feel welcomed:

(1) Make sure they know where to park and where to go in the church. Do you have someone in the parking lot to direct parking or adequate parking spaces designated for visitors? (There should be some designated handicap and visitor parking spaces.) If you do not have a member in charge of helping in the parking lot, do you have signage that denotes a “Welcome Center at one of the doors near the parking lot?” Inside the door designated for welcoming people should be a greeter who helps them find their class and can register them as well.

I have found that a person in the parking lot can be beneficial at times. Not only can this person help with parking, but they can provide an umbrella when it rains or a helping hand for those who need it! One single mother and her three children had such a warm reception on a rainy day from the greeter in the parking lot, that years after she was a member, she remembered that experience as being influential in her decision to become a part of that family of faith!

(2) When the visitor makes it to a class, do you have someone designated to welcome them? In the past we may have assigned a greeter or the outreach leader may be the greeter. I want to suggest that the person you want is more of a connector than just a greeter. Have someone who wants to know the visitor at a deeper level than just name, workplace and family. You want someone who will find out their hobbies and passions as well, and connect them to another person in the class or the church with those hobbies/passions.

For instance, if I had a visitor who loved to fish, I would want them to know two or three more people in the class/congregation who love to fish. I want to build multiple relationships with persons in my church. The more connected they feel the greater chance they will come back.

If possible I would want to sit with them in worship as well. I have found this to be especially helpful if the visitor did not grow up in a faith tradition like ours. I could explain what we do and why to help them feel more comfortable.

(3) Have a Visitor Contact Committee to follow up as well as the class. In my past church experience, we had such a committee to send cards, call and perhaps even visit with a homemade loaf of bread. One person would call first of the week to see how they felt about the visit. One person would send a card besides the Pastor, and one would stop by just to drop off a homemade baked item with more information about the church. (Please note that the person would not enter the house, but simply drop off the items unless the visitor was insistent.)

(4) Have a training session to train your people to minister to your visitors with the same passion and warmth as you would want to be treated. You want to find people who naturally gravitate towards people to be trained in showing the ministry of hospitality. You never know when we are entertaining angels!

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On Time for Sunday Sch

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15 NIV)

Timing is everything for teachers & Students! I have heard pastors complain about teachers who are not on time for Sunday School. Actually I have witnessed it for myself. As an Associate Pastor years ago, I would visit every class before the actual time to start Sunday School. A few minutes before class was to start, I was surprised one morning to see that the youth teacher was not in the room. The room was dark (the lights had not been turned on) and the only one in the class was a visitor! What did we say to that visitor? YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT! Teachers should be there fifteen minutes before the time to start.

Teachers, the first lesson is to recognize you need to be fifteen minutes early to greet people and be ready to teach. The kingdom of God may start fifteen minutes before the class. A visitor may have questions about God, life and church, and you need to be the presence of God at that moment. If there is an emergency, the teacher should have a greeter that they contact to be there early.

Timing is everything for students! I have heard many teachers complain that the students are coming in fifteen minutes late. Teachers are waiting for the students to arrive, and only have twenty minutes to teach. Transformation cannot happen in twenty minutes. Here are a few options to encourage people to be on time:

Have a breakfast & fellowship time before the class starts. Classes that provide breakfast see a dramatic change when people arrive. At my last church we had a breakfast hosted by different members each week (at another church, it was a different class each week.) We discovered that some families had been late because they were preparing breakfast. People arrived early to see what breakfast items would be there, and to enjoy catching up from their week.

Provide transportation. As a teenager (with a dad who was not a Christian), I would have to walk to church on occasion over a mile. Naturally it was difficult to be on time. Teachers need to be sensitive to children and teens that do not have a ride. Have a transportation committee to provide rides for children, teens and senior adults who do not drive.

Have a great teaser at the beginning of the lesson. Have an object lesson, great questions or a dramatic monologue. Once the word gets out about how great the opening is, people will want to arrive early and see what the fuss is about!

Recognize some will be habitual latecomers. Some enjoy being late and want the attention. Go ahead without them. They need to recognize that the class does not revolve around them. It is better to see transformation/kingdom moments for the ones who are there than to wait.

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Sunday School is Hard Work Revisited

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
(Luke 14:28-33)

Doing Sunday School, the way of discipleship, is hard work, and we need to count the cost. It requires sacrifice and thinking beyond the traditions of the past 50 years! There was a time we could simply invite people to Bible study on Sunday mornings, and people would come. Today, churches need to go back to the inception of Sunday School and see it as a missionary movement. What does this require from our churches?

This type of Sunday School requires a different mindset. It requires getting past the voices that say, “We have always done it this way.” The persons in charge of Christian education need to get beyond age graded classes for adults to affinity based groups, from Sunday morning in classrooms to anytime and anyplace, as well as, thinking about places in the community where persons gather who are not in Bible study. It is best to gather a team to do this kind of work and bathe it all in prayer.

This type of Sunday School requires teachers to see themselves as missionaries looking to provide an environment for transformation rather than knowledge. Teachers are seeking to be facilitators of transformation rather than experts (See “Relationship not Bible Knowledge”.) Leaders need to have their teachers begin to think and pray about Sunday School as an evangelistic/discipling endeavor rather than traditional models from the past (See the blog from my archives: Missional through Sunday School.) See the blog “Sunday School as Part of Discipleship” to move to transformation rather than knowledge.

This type of Sunday School requires teachers to see themselves as disciple-makers. Whether it is teaching a lesson for transformation in discipleship or discipling someone else to teach, teachers need to move in this direction. Someone who teaches has a 90% retention rate in what he/she learned from the lesson. Inviting others to teach leads to spiritual growth for them. As discovered in most churches, churches need more teachers. Every teacher needs an apprentice to provide more teachers to start new groups.

A quote to consider as you pray about the work of Sunday School:

The religion that costs nothing, that demands no hard sacrifices of other things, that does not lift the life out of low-level motives, is worth little and makes little difference to the life. The type of religion on the other hand, which costs the all, which makes the cross the central fact that dominates the life as its one driving power, becomes an incalculable force and turns many to salvation.
– Rufus Jones, from The World Within — p. 43

Count the cost, know it requires work and sacrifice, and move Sunday School to a new level in Christian education!

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Four Ways to Engage Verbal Learners

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV)

Verbal learners are ready to share at a moment’s notice. They learn best through reading, writing, speaking and listening. They may have a large vocabulary, love to talk and play word games. They enjoy stories, poems, debates, speeches and essays.

My wife, Katrina, is a verbal learner and a gifted speaker & writer. They are willing to go and share as the Spirit leads. Here are four ways to engage verbal learners:

Empower them to be spokespersons for small groups in a class. Whereas the reflective learner may share with two or three people in a group, the verbal learners are willing to share with a large group. They would be great spokespersons as the large group comes back together to share thoughts.

Empower them to be Prayer leaders in a phone chain or in class. They are willing to pray as well as let others know about prayer concerns. Give them four of five class members to call when there are prayer requests.

Empower them to lead out in outreach/evangelistic efforts. Most verbal learners are more than willing to talk to persons they have just met. Train them to be involved in your outreach/evangelistic efforts. Remember in our culture this is to build relationships in order for the unchurched to know they are important in belonging, long before they believe.

Empower them to share their story as it intersects with The Story in God’s Word. Often they are willing to share a testimony about what God is doing in their lives. Important tip: Let them know a few days before you want them to share, so they have time to pray and reflect.

Challenge: Some verbal learners can monopolize the class time for talking. Be ready to divert to others in a sensitive way as the class discusses the Scripture.

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Four Ways to Engage Musical Learners

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. (I Chronicles 13:8 NIV)

David was a musical learner. As seen in the Scripture above, he celebrated before God with the playing of musical instruments. He played the harp to soothe King Saul in I Samuel 16. He danced before the Lord in II Samuel 6. Music was a big part of his life.

Musical learners are drawn to activities that incorporate natural responses to music. They are sensitive to rhythm and pitch. They learn new songs and movement quickly. They are comfortable performing, playing and composing music.

We think of music for the times we are together in worship, but what about with your Bible study class? Here are some ideas to engage musical learners:

Set the mood for your class by having music played at the beginning. Music moves people in ways words alone cannot. Look for songs to highlight the theme in Scripture that day, and have it playing while people are entering. You may also use music while they are working in small groups.

Use music and music videos during life application or a time of reflection at the end of the session. Steve & Annie Chapman have a wonderful song called, “Change Us Lord,” for times of reflection. Matthew West has a great music video, “Do Something”, which inspires Christians to get involved in helping others. Allow music to become part of the life application, and your participants will remember it for a long time.

Have musical learners compose and/or play a song. If you have musicians in your class, let them know weeks in advance about a theme for the lesson. Ask them to compose or play a song for that session. You could go further by having a theme song for the quarter that you begin or end each class with.

Have your musical learners help plan socials around music. I have seen classes have dinner together and play, “Name That Tune.” (Yes, I know I am dating myself, but it was fun!) In our last church, we did a Christmas banquet every year. Individuals and groups would play Christmas songs and sing. Elvis often showed up at this event along with lots of famous singers! Set up a talent show (your own “America’s Got Talent”) and invite other classes to join you.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” Hans Christian Anderson

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4 Ways to Engage Natural Learners

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
(Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)

Natural learners see God’s handiwork all around them in nature. They are drawn to activities that allow investigation and exploration of God’s world. They are skilled at identifying elements of the natural world. They relate well to stories in the Bible about creation and nature. They have a fascination with plants and animals. They are sensitive about protecting God’s world as well. So how do we engage natural learners in our Bible study classes? Here are some thoughts:

When the Scripture and weather permits, go outside and teach. This may sound crazy for some adults who can’t fathom it, but hear me out. If you had a lesson on Zacchaeus, I would have someone dressed up as him in a tree. Bring the class out to hear his story. If the lesson includes elements of nature, go outside or bring that element inside to observe as it fits with the lesson. Have your natural learners share about that element.

When Biblical imagery about nature is in the lesson, use pictures. It is easy to find lots of examples on the internet for whatever picture you need. I am a natural learner. Every time I see a thunderstorm, I automatically thing about Psalm 29. I envision the Psalmist watching the thunderstorm as he describes the glory and power of God.

Emphasize ways to take care of the environment. Natural learners want to be good stewards of God’s creation. Recycle! We had a gentleman in our last church encourage everyone to bring their paper, aluminum cans and other recyclables to the church. He would collect them and get money for the items. All of the money went towards church mission projects. By the way, Millennials believe in stewardship of God’s creation and recycling as well!

Plan social events around nature. Perhaps your class can take a hiking trip or a retreat in nature as well (Go back and look at this blog about lessons on a men’s retreat: Natural learners would lead out and share about nature as you hike or retreat.

Have an Arbor Day social and plant or care for trees at the church, in a park/school as a community project (get permission) or in class members’ yards.

Henry David Thoreau perhaps puts it best for natural learners: My profession is to always find God in nature.

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