Curriculum is More Than a Lesson

14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:14-16 NIV)

We have an awesome and challenging task as teachers. We are to rightly divide/handle/administer the Word of Truth. It is more than the lesson requires from whatever publishing company you use. Curriculum for me is everything you do. Here are some thoughts about it:

Total Period Teaching: That is the mantra from the 1980’s at Lifeway (then the Baptist Sunday School Board.) When people step in the room, curriculum begins! I would suggest that teachers should be in their environment fifteen minutes early. There should be questions, quotes, comments on the board as people walk in the room. Teachers want students thinking about the lesson and what is next even before the lesson starts.

Some prefer an object lesson along with something on the board. Thom Rainer did an article last year on why men don’t go to church. One of the reasons is: church is too predictable. Have an object lesson that draws men into wondering how the object lesson will be used in the Bible study. Anything to get your class focused on God’s Word and the lesson is good.

Demonstrate that you care. A new person will decide within five minutes whether they will return. Do you have greeters/connectors who will welcome newcomers? I suggest a friendly person who will discover what the newcomer is passionate about. What are their hobbies? I would want to connect them to three other persons before they leave church who have the same passions/hobbies. It will greatly enhance the possibility of them coming back. More importantly, the guest will feel welcomed and cared for. The same care should be shown to everyone in the class.

Don’t just focus on classroom time! People need to see you bearing fruit in your lives (John 15) and not just Sunday morning or whenever you have a Bible study. They want to see how Scripture and the Christian lifestyle affect your everyday life. Spend time with them during the week. Mentor them in parenting, marriage, living the Christian life in the workplace and beyond. We are called to make disciples!

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Curriculum is more than a lesson. It is a lifestyle!

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Sunday School & the Least of These Part Two

36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:36-40 NIV)

Sunday School/Bible study should lead our members to see people with God’s eyes. Some in our society discerns whether to care or not based on socio-economic level, race, and appearance. We are called to look at the heart, and see every person as a child of God. We are called to minister to the least of these. In regards to reaching new people, though some may not feel comfortable at first coming to your church for Bible study, they may join you in giving during a crisis in the news, and then join you for Bible study as they see your care for the least of these. Groups, like the Millennial generation, need to see you care with Jesus’ compassion. When you do, you are ministering to Jesus himself, and they get excited.

Virginia Baptists believe in reaching the least of these. Here is a recent e-mail from Dean Miller from our Glocal Missions Team in response to the Ebola Virus:

Virginia Baptists are preparing a response to the outbreak and will begin putting the plan into place as early as next week. We will focus on assisting Liberia at this time due to our historic ties with the area and trust that has been developed with the leadership in that country.

1) Virginia Baptist sent $15,000 today (15th) to the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Conventional, Inc. in response to an official request they made through the Baptist World Alliance. These funds will purchase food and provide educational materials to the communities so they can quell some of the myths about the virus as well as inform communities about the real dangers and how they should protect themselves.
2) Virginia Baptists are partnering with an ecumenical/secular group (Virginia in Action for Liberia Against Ebola) forming across the state that will target Liberians living in Virginia and attempting to consolidate their response. We will assist this group by handling their contributions and assisting with the coordination of in-kind donations should they decide to become involved in that form of response.
3) Virginia Baptists have made a request and will work toward sending an emergency shipment of meals from Stop Hunger Now to Liberia.
4) A special fund has been established for donations and we will receive checks, cash and online contributions. These funds will be dispersed through a variety of ministries in Ghana to assist with this crisis that may continue to escalate for several more weeks.

Here is the link if your Sunday School class wants to get involved: http://vbmb.org/disaster-relief-update-ebola-virus-response/ Let’s make sure we minister to the least of these, and we may be surprised to see Jesus in our midst!

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The Future of Sunday School Revisited

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17 NIV)

As you prepare for a new year of Sunday School, I thought it was time to repost a blog that was one of the first for me:

In the last few weeks I have heard some religious practitioners suggest that Sunday School is dead (or at least on its way to the coffin.) I must admit that I would agree…at least to some of the practices that some churches are using! I want to suggest a few areas that we must address for Sunday School to be revitalized and going strong:
Sunday School must be focused around Bible study anywhere and anytime. Sunday School was traditionally on Sunday morning because of Sabbath (Blue laws) where worship & Bible study happened on Sundays (Nothing else did!) Now we have 20-40% of the adult population who work on Sundays and others involved with children who are on traveling teams (sports) on the weekend. What are we doing to provide Sunday School for them? Let me suggest some options:
1. Have a parent of a child who is on a traveling team offer to have a Bible study at a convenient time on the trip.
2. Offer to have a Bible study at hospitals, fire departments and police stations at the shift change or break time.
3. Have a member skip Sunday School one Sunday (yes…I said skip) with the purpose of going to grocery stores and other places where people work on Sunday and talk to them about alternative times for Bible study.
4. Have Bible studies in the workplace (with permission) at lunch for those who want it.
5. Go to community stores and other places where people gather each week and ask if they would be interested in Bible study there (remember “Biscuits & Bible.”)
6. Have a Bible study in your residence one night a week and invite neighbors to join you.

One of my most successful bible study times was Friday nights with a potluck dish dinner with about six families in the parsonage. Another was a young men’s class that met a Panera at 9 a.m. on Sunday. (They wouldn’t meet at 9:30 a.m. at the church, but were there for breakfast at Panera’s!)

Sunday School is Bible based…not curriculum based and leads to discussion rather than lecture. Let me digress…I recently visited a church where the teacher read the students quarterly and then asked, “What do you think?” Of course he took time to talk about his political opinions. That Sunday School class will not gain many new members and will diminish at some point unless something changes! Bible study should focus on application and transformation not knowledge and needs discussion and students delving into Scripture for learning retention and transformation.

Sunday School needs to take advantage of technology. There are several things to consider here:
1. We have some churches who already are taking advantage of Facebook, e-mail, texting and other ways to follow-up the lesson with questions of ongoing learning outside of the time set aside for Bible study. More classes need to take advantage of it!
2. Do you have someone in the military or one who has to be away on the weekends for work? Skype them in with a laptop and wireless network. (Some may not have this option, but do you have a member with a laptop and a wireless card?) Can you imagine the dynamic of having a military person, who is a member of your church, being able to participate in Bible study?
3. Finally let’s dream a little: Young adults are more inclined to have a Bible study by Google Plus with a circle of friends or Skype (computer video conference) at 10 p.m. at night than come on Sunday mornings. Is there a night owl in your church who could facilitate a bible study?

Sunday School is soon to be dead unless we begin dreaming new dreams and discover new possibilities to reach people for Christ through Bible study. Are you ready to dream and see that dream come to fruition?

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Sunday School and Operation Inasmuch

‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV)

As I have mentioned before, every Sunday School class (1st grade through adult classes) should have an ongoing mission project in the community. The project provides depth in relationships for members of the class, strengthens spiritual maturity through serving, and demonstrates the embodiment of the Matthew 25 passage to the community.

I met with Dan River Baptist Association last night for dinner and heard about the churches’ plans for Operation Inasmuch the week of September 13th. (Read the story about Operation Inasmuch at the following website: http://operationinasmuch.org/) The idea for this ministry is to involve as many church members as possible on different projects in the community where you live to show the love of Christ.

I do believe every Baptist Association in Virginia is preparing to do this ministry sometime in the Fall. I want to suggest to you that this would be a great time to encourage every class to begin some ministry in the community on a regular basis. Some of the ideas shared by churches last night may stir within you some ideas for your own. Here are some of the churches represented and their ideas:

Clover Bottom- Free Give Away Day on September 13th where there will be a free yard sale and lunch. They will be making bird feeders that week for a local nursing home and providing gift bags for the nurses and others working at the nursing home.

Beth Car- An Appreciation Lunch for the local fire department, sheriff’s department, city police and other service personnel will take place. They will have a canned food drive that week for the local food pantry (Good Samaritan) as well as working on other local projects in the community.

Ash Avenue- Will have a Laundromat ministry that Saturday by providing quarters for person to wash and dry their clothes. They are planning a free car wash, collecting canned goods for neighbors in need, cookies for Sheriff’s department and police department, providing meals for shut-ins, and helping with some household projects.

First Baptist South Boston- Will have a blood drive, free car wash and several projects in the community.

Mt. Vernon- Will have a Cancer Benefit Walk and will provide supplies/care packages for God’s Pit Crew and the local rescue squad.

Winn’s Creek- Will have an Epilepsy Awareness Walk, softball tournament and other local projects.

Hitesburg- Will do some lawn work and provide firewood ministry for a disabled man in the community, and cleaning house for a disabled woman in the community.

Scottsburg- Will make homemade cookies and take to neighbors in the community.

Mulberry- Is working on supplies for a ministry in Nigeria, and has church members helping persons in need with lawn care and providing home grown vegetables for persons in the community.

(Look at my blog, “Serving Through Sunday School” for great ideas for children and youth.)

More than ever we need to be outside the church walls and sharing the love of Christ with the community. For when you are ministering to the least in society, you also are ministering to Christ.

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Sunday School: When Disaster Strikes

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a]have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

I was not expecting what I saw on Monday morning at Calvary Baptist Church in Emporia. I got an e-mail on Sunday night from Ken Kessler that there was an electrical fire and could I go check on the church. As I approached the church Monday morning, I noticed their three story educational building had major damage, and was a total loss. The sanctuary had smoke damage and will not be available to be used for 6-8 months as well. After talking with their Pastor, Dr. Walter Laseter, I was relieved to hear no one was in the building when the fire took place on Saturday morning.

After hearing the good news, I wondered how they will handle such grief of losing this very important part of their church? There will always be questions of “Why?” We don’t know the answers, but we do know according to Romans 8:28 that God is working in the midst of whatever we face. With the support of God and others we can work through the grief and see God opening new possibilities for the Kingdom. The Body of Christ will work through this crisis together with God’s help.

In the meantime there are a few questions to ponder: What will they do for Sunday School and Bible study space while rebuilding? Their sanctuary was still intact, but the water for their property will be off for an undetermined amount of time. They had worship on Sunday morning at a local park with frequent interruptions of trains coming through the nearby tracks. What do you do when the major hub for Bible study, Sunday School and program space is no longer there?

Here are a few thoughts, but I would love to hear from you. If your church has gone through renovations, disaster or other means that took your Bible study classrooms, what did you do? Perhaps you can assist Calvary Baptist in coming up with possibilities. Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Check with local churches about using some of their space. There may be churches close by not using their space when you need it. Perhaps it is a smaller congregation with space to share.

2. Check with local government, civic and support agencies. Are there buildings nearby not used on Sundays from these groups who could offer help? In the case of Calvary Baptist, the local rescue squad has offered their building to help out for worship.

3. Rent modular units. Some churches during expansion, renovation and other times have rented modular units to help with space.

4. Provide Bible study in homes. Are there members living close enough to the church to offer Bible study in their homes?

I do believe God will see Calvary Baptist Church through this time, and God will be glorified. Thew day before the fire, the church sign had this message: I WON’T GIVE YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE. YOU MIGHT BEND BUT YOU WILL NOT BREAK

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Prayer and Sunday School

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
“‘Father,[a]
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.[d]’”
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead?12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:1-13 NIV)

Prayer is essential in everything we do. I have been reading 14 Habits of Highly Effective Disciples from BaptistWayPress and noticed a great illustration:

The surgeon Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto, shows how doctors can use checklists to save lives and reduce mistakes, especially during surgery. Gawande’s surgery checklist includes the following three “pause points”: before anesthesia, before incision, and before leaving the operating room. Each pause point is to designed to add a “speed bump” before an important task so people stop and think about what they are about to do. The results are striking.

That’s also a good idea for every follower of Christ. Developing pause points throughout the day and using these moments to pray could produce miraculous results.

What a great word for us to hear. Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God suggests everything we do should be done in an attitude of prayer. I realize most Christians are not at that point, so providing pause points will be a good idea. As teachers, how are you encouraging your students in the practice of prayer? Here are a few ideas:

Set up prayer partners. If every class from youth through adults had prayer partners it would be easier to process what they learned in Bible study and show the importance of prayer. I am not naive to believe every person will have a prayer partner, but those who do will grow in many ways!

Make prayer an essential part of your class. Make sure that prayer is a part of the beginning and ending of class. Ask others to consider leading the prayer. Make sure you ask them ahead of time. Some do not feel comfortable in leading a public prayer.

Ask for prayer concerns during the week. Call, text, or Facebook your class members about prayer during the week. It shows how important prayer is to you as long as you remember their prayer concerns, and ask them how God is answering that prayer. Some have chosen to call on Saturday evening to ask about prayer, and it is a reminder for Bible study the next day. Your class needs to know you care!

Communicate the need for prayer during special occasions and concerns. Set up a prayer chain by phone and Facebook for special needs during the week for every member to be called. Set a prayer time during fellowship events and during special times of the church’s calendar like revival. Invite them to a cottage prayer meeting at your house the week before revival.

Homebound/Shut-ins can pray! The homebound and shut-ins often feel they have nothing to offer. Encourage them to be prayer warriors for the church. Each month give them a special prayer list to be praying over. This is not your weekly prayer concerns for persons (though you should be giving them this list as well.) Have them pray about events that are coming up in the life of the church and to be praying for the leaders of the church.

Memorize the Lord’s Prayer and pray it daily. The disciples never asked Jesus to teach them how to minister or preach, but they recognized the power of prayer and asked the Lord to teach them how to pray. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a daily part of your routine.

May our lives be expressed daily through prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

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On Time for Sunday School

“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 late as 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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