Sunday School & Strategic Plans

Like any other ministry, for Sunday School to be strong and effective, it requires planning and implementation. When I meet with Pastors and SS Directors, I begin with a checklist of questions. Per…

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Sunday School & Strategic Plans

Like any other ministry, for Sunday School to be strong and effective, it requires planning and implementation. When I meet with Pastors and SS Directors, I begin with a checklist of questions. Perhaps a good way for you to check the health of your Sunday School is to gather your SS leaders and answer the following:

  1. What is your vision for Sunday School? (Remember “Start with Why”.)
  2. Need Balance in Ministry & Programming- Breaking it down:

Leadership-

  1. What leaders do you have to help with vision and training? (It is best to have a representative from the age groups to form a team to assist.)

Teaching-

  1. How creative are your teachers?
  2. How do they follow up lessons from the week before?
  3. What tools do you have to help them?
  4. What training is in place to help them?
  5. Are they mentoring a person in the class to start new classes or take over the class?
  6. Do you have a teacher appreciation?

Outreach/Inreach-

  1. Do you have care groups?
  2. What visitation program is set up to reach prospects?
  3. Are you using e-mail, facebook and other media sources?
  4. Are you intentionally registering people through special services, worship and other activities/ministries?
  5. Do you have a system of recognition for classes? (Highlight a class a month in your worship bulletin.)

Receptivity/Inclusiveness-

  1. How receptive are current classes to new members? (Language)
  2. How inclusive are they in getting their input for ministry?

Service-

  1. Are the classes involved in service projects? (Every class from grade school on should have an ongoing service project.)

Consider these questions as a start for strategic planning and a healthier Sunday School.

 

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The Great Commission, Sunday School & Small Groups

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 28:16-20 NIV)

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that teachers are missionaries and disciple-makers!  The truth is all Christians are! We can bless others as we disciple. Here are a few thoughts:

Your words of encouragement and challenge matter. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

From preschoolers to senior adults, you have the power to speak life and hope into others’ lives. You can help each person to see they were created for more. You can encourage them, and speak truth to them in love.

Years ago, I had a young man who had left the church. I went to visit him (He had long hair and an earring.) I treated him with respect, love and grace. He had grown up in the church I served but stopped coming after age eighteen. To my surprise, he showed up one Sunday. During our time of greeting, several came by to talk to him. He left after the service before I had a chance to talk with him. I called him that afternoon and asked him what he thought. This was his reply…”Tony, I enjoyed the service, but won’t be back.” I asked him why. His response: “I had several come by that taught me about God’s love as a child. Instead of asking how I am, or telling me that they missed me and loved me, they asked: “Why do you have an earring? It looks like you need a haircut.” Their words said it all.

Let your life speak as loud as your words! You are to set the example in how to live hope/grace filled lives. Be vulnerable, but don’t bleed all over them. What do I mean? They need to see your humanity, but don’t allow negativity from your life to be the main focus. Help them to see the times you struggle, but always bring them around to hope for the future.

Let your actions speak louder than your words! Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (I John 3:18 NIV) It is not enough just to talk to your class members during class. They need to see you care. How are you showing care throughout the week? Email me at tony.brooks@bgav.org and I will share some ideas. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice as Romans 12 states. Do something for them, instead of just teaching in the classroom. You may discover your actions taught them much more!

 

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The New Year and Sunday School

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” (Proverbs 29:18 The Message)

As we begin the New Year, what is God doing in your Sunday School? What vision have you received? Though I know some have begun planning based on a Fall schedule, most adults consider January 1st to be a time to set New Year’s resolutions. Why not take advantage of it? Here are some thoughts for every leader of Sunday School:

Sunday School Directors: Sunday School improvement is hard work. For us to be the best at being vessels for transformation requires vision, planning, and training. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Are you planning for new Bible study classes? For every new successful class you add ten new members to your Sunday School. Set up a new class based on affinity, need and time. It doesn’t have to be Sunday morning or in the church!

 

  1. Have you planned for teacher appreciation? Teachers need to know that you appreciate their time and energy. Set a date for teacher appreciation at least twice a year. Have a dinner in their honor. Have a gift bag with snacks for them.

 

  1. Have you set up training opportunities? If your adults use the same curriculum why not set up a forum on the computer for them to share ideas?

 

  1. We have a limited number of spaces for a SS Director’s training through Lifeway entitled: Equip to Excel. This will be a great training at no cost to you on March 3-4, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, (20957 Timberlake Rd. Lynchburg, VA.) There is very limited spaces, and you can register at: https://vbmb.wufoo.com/forms/equip-to-excel/

Adult Teachers: Take advantage of the New Year to bring challenges to your classes.

  1. Ask the class if they have set New Year’s resolutions? Did they consider their relationship with God?
  2. If parents, ask them, “Have you considered what goals you have set for your children for this year?” Parents need to recognize that their job is to provide roots and wings for their children. Roots for them to have the spiritual foundation to become productive adults and wings for them to be ready to leave the nest and find their own way.

Youth Teachers: The New Year provides an opportunity for youth to examine their goals for the future as they grow in Christ. This is my favorite group, because transformation is seen from sixth to twelfth grade. What goals have they set? How can you help them reach their goals? Partner with the parents to make it happen! You can challenge them to read the Bible within a year, but give them a plan, or memorize Scriptures.

Children & Preschool Teachers: It is important to partner with the parents at this point. Jim Collins at Catalyst a few years back shared a unique perspective. He mentioned two symbols:

Have a suit case next to the crib. It is a reminder that we are to be preparing our children/toddlers for the day they will leave home as productive Christian adults.

Place a large jar of marbles with a marble for every week for 18 years. Every week, at the same time, you take a marble out to see how long you have to impact your child to prepare for adulthood before they leave home for college or work.

Special Needs: Ask parents what you and the church can do to assist them this year in nurturing their child as a child of God.

I pray 2017 will be a year of vision, planning and preparation to help each of your students go deeper in their faith!

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Practicing Hospitality

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

How well does your Sunday School class/small group practice hospitality? Hospitality is showing a spirit of generosity/entertaining guests and strangers. Here are some thoughts:

Demonstrate hospitality to each other. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9 NIV) Many people have been turned away from the Gospel because of the way Christians treat each other. When you have time, do an internet search of: Why are Christians so… You will be saddened by the results. Christians should treat each other with mutual respect and love, even when our political and theological preferences may differ.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Demonstrate hospitality to guests in your class. Do you have an intentional way to greet new people to the class? You should have a greeter in every class/small group. It is their ministry to greet new people and help them feel welcomed and accepted. This person must be able to see people with God’s eyes. They must accept and welcome people who perhaps don’t fit the homogenous nature of the class in appearance.

Greeters should connect guests to others who have similar interests. I prefer to call greeters…connectors. I want them to connect a guest to three members that day who have similar hobbies/professions. For instance, if a guest loves to play golf, I want them to be connected to three other members who play golf. It would be great if one of those members would invite them to meet that week to share in that hobby.

During the year (and not just Christmas), go as a class to share hospitality to strangers. Serve together at a soup kitchen. Go caroling at a senior adult facility. Go hand out quarters at a laundromat and get to know the people. There are many other examples that I could share. The bottom line is we need to serve others and provide hospitality. We never know when we might be entertaining angels!

 

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4 Ways to Bring God’s Word to Life Beyond Sunday School/Small Groups

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I…

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4 Ways to Bring God’s Word to Life Beyond Sunday School/Small Groups

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
(Psalm 119: 9-16 NIV)

Teachers, more than anything, we need to provide an environment that inspires our people to study God’s Word daily. The Psalmist in Psalm 119 expresses joy & praise for God’s Word as he expounds about it throughout the Hebrew alphabet as an acrostic. Here are some thoughts to inspire your class:

Share appropriate passages with your people outside of the classroom. Look for opportunities to text, e-mail, Facebook passages as they apply to life at that moment.

During a thunderstorm, share Psalm 29. This is a powerful imagery as the Psalmist praises God and God’s power as he watches a thunderstorm.

During the birth of a child, share Psalm 139:13-18.

During a crisis or grief, share Psalm 46 or Isaiah 40:28-31.

Set the example of daily Bible reading and share with your class your plan. There are many “read the bible through” plans out there and devotional books. Pick one and begin sharing with your class some options. If you have a smart phone, you can get the app, “YouVersion,” for a daily Bible plan, verse of the day and devotionals of many kinds. You can get the app “D365” for a daily devotional. These are free.

Encourage memorization of Scripture. One of the passages I memorized as a child was Psalm 119:11(NIV): “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Jesus often quoted the Hebrew Scriptures when facing temptation. If Jesus did, so should we! Encourage Scripture memory by placing a verse from the passage each Sunday on a poster on the wall. How can the truth of Jesus set us free if we do not know the truth from God’s Word?

I have also discovered from personal family experience that Scripture memory and hymns brings comfort when our memories fade later in life. Alzheimer patients may not remember their name or their family. They become frustrated trying to remember, but Scriptures and favorite hymns stay with them. My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease and could not remember us at times. If you began reciting the Lord’s Prayer, she knew it by heart!

Scripture brings guidance for life. Psalm 119:105 (NIV) reiterates the passage I started with: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” There have been many times in my life when I faced crossroads. Prayer, Scripture reading and reflection brought answers from God. If we are to be teachers of God’s Word, we must spend time daily doing so and not just to prepare a lesson!

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