Politics, Small Groups and Sunday School

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV)

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (Mark 12:17 NIV)

But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. (Acts 5:29 NIV)

This is not an easy one for me. I have been private about political views and will continue to be. As a religious leader (and teachers are in my category), I can talk about issues based on Scripture, but not any further. It is complicated based on Scripture, which is my compass! There are many ways as Christians we could look at government and politics. I didn’t even bring up Romans 13 that has a lot to say. (I would recommend you read it as well.) Here is my main point as I talk about Small Groups and Sunday School in relation to politics…don’t do it! Let me share some reasons why:

  1. Encourage everyone to vote in your class. We are in the world, but not of it as Romans 12 reminds us. Vote your conscience. Allow God’s word to permeate our present condition, do your homework on all candidates and vote. That is our right and privilege.
  1. Do not recommend candidates and spend time in class talking about this. When we do so, we risk three issues: First, you take the time away from Bible study, and how to apply God’s Word to our lives. (That is what small groups and Sunday school is about!) Second, we risk alienating class members into an “us versus them” mentality, which will destroy your class. Third, you jeopardize our Baptist principle Separation of Church & State. We do not want the government dictating how we believe and do church. We should not dictate to them in our multi-faith country. We can talk about issues as they apply to Scripture, but not candidates!
  2. Be careful of your witness on Facebook. When we disagree with other’s opinions, do so with respect and not anger. I have seen too many Christians spew anger at other’s opinions about the political parties. When we do, all unchurched persons see it from their friend’s posts and our post. We have sent them further away from God!
  3. God is in control. God can handle our world. The question is: can we set the example for our world? I truly believe that our next President cannot solve all of our problems. It will take every Christian living out of the Great Commandment and Great Commission. (With God all things are possible!) When we share God’s love for every person with respect (All are created in the image of God), and seek to empower every person to become their best, we begin the journey to see that all things are possible with God.

Jesus lived in a pluralistic age. He loved all of humanity as he was willing to take on a cross. Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in this election, and forfeit an opportunity to do Kingdom work!

May we embody Micah 6: 8: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Amen! May it be so!

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Five Ways to Move Sunday School Forward: The Glass is Half Full

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV)

Many see the glass half empty for Sunday School: “Sunday School is dead.” “There is no hope for Sunday School.” “Sunday School is for children and youth.”

I see the glass half full: We are all called to make disciples. Sunday School is a great tool to help us do just that! Here are some ideas:

Sunday School on Sunday morning provides a time for the whole family to be in Bible study. We need Sunday morning to provide this essential need. Perhaps you have Sunday School for preschool, children, youth, special needs and adult classes. Perhaps some adult classes are closed small groups for discipleship (which I would recommend based on the need of members.) Sunday morning is still the time to reach more members and prospects. Don’t let this go!

Sunday School is about an open small group Bible study at any time and place. Sunday School is about outreach, evangelism, and discipleship in an open small group. Sunday School is credited to Robert Raikes who could only have a class on Sunday morning to teach children to read, and the Bible was included in that reading to reach people for Christ. These children worked the other six days of the week.

Now we have many adults who work on Sunday morning. Small, open group Bible studies at another time and place still count towards Sunday School in my book! Start one at work at lunch, in your home or a business. If it is an open, small group Bible study, count those numbers. People come to know Christ at a much higher rate in a small group Bible study than in worship. They are much more involved in the church as well. It is the best way to reach new people!

Sunday School can happen on the go!  I hear pastors all the time lamenting that families are not here on Sunday morning due to weekend travel ball teams. Have you asked them to teach a Bible study for parents and their children while they are away? Have you asked a family to hold a Bible study at the lake or beach? This could be a Sunday School class as well. Look at the glass half full!

Provide curriculum that meets the needs of your class. Many have used the same curriculum in adult classes for 20 years. Find out the needs of your class and look at options. (E-mail me at tony.brooks@bgav.org for some options.)

Use different learning approaches. Did you know the retention level for lecture is only 5% after three days? Use different learning approaches. Some adults have given up on Sunday School, because it is repetitive or boring. (E-mail me and I will send a learning approaches inventory and Edgar Dale’s retention levels.) You must have variety in your teaching.

Sunday School will be dead if we don’t make some changes. Teachers are missionaries and disciple-makers. Are you growing in ways to teach and provide opportunities for Bible study? If you are, then the glass is half full!

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Five Ways to Grow your Sunday School/Small Groups

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 t…

Source: Five Ways to Grow your Sunday School/Small Groups

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Five Ways to Grow your Sunday School/Small Groups

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 28:18-20 NIV)

  1. Develop a prospect list. You need twice the number of prospects as you have enrolled. Register people at every event you have in the community and at the church to find prospects. Make sure every adult class has the files that apply to their class.

 

  1. Contact prospects. Have someone call them about the Bible study class with information about the Scripture you are studying on Sunday. (Remember that they don’t have the quarterly if they are new.) Send a letter to invite them. Invite them to your quarterly fellowship event. They will come to this event quicker than coming to your class.

 

  1. Show that you care! People will listen if you show that you care first. Contact them during the week to check on them. Ask how you can be praying for them this week. Set up care groups. (E-mail me at brooks@bgav.org if you need help with documents on how to do this.)

 

  1. Start New Classes! For every new class you start successfully you will add ten new members. Again, ask me how to start a new class at the e-mail above.

 

  1. Stay focused on the lesson. There are persons who read the quarterly and wanting to know how to apply the Scripture to everyday life. When you talk about everything but the lesson, you have failed to help them apply the Scripture. You will lose people at this point. Stay on task and help them apply Scripture. You are a missionary and disciple maker!! Don’t let trivial talk interrupt God’s Word!!!
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4 Ways to Encourage your Church Staff as a Sunday School/Small Group

Pastor Statistics:
• 23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
• 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
• 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
• 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
• 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
• 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
• 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.

When I finally accepted God’s call to ministry, two passages struck me as I prayed about this big decision:

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20 NIV)

This passage reminded me that God will call me where God wants. I may not be close to my parents and siblings. I said yes to God’s call, and most of my ministry has been many hours away from them. Pastors and other staff leave home, family and friends to answer the call. They often feel isolated.

When I said yes to whatever God wants, I was led to this passage for my calling:

16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. (Acts 26:16 NIV)

Be a witness. Whatever it takes show God’s love through Christ. How can your class help inspire and encourage servants who choose to follow God’s call in ministry? Here are a few ideas:

1. Pray daily for them. Have you ever asked your pastor or staff how to be praying for them this week? Often we are bringing prayer requests to them, but need to reciprocate. If you are a class with senior adults, your homebound would like to be included! Some of my best prayer warriors were former class members that could no longer join us. I would take them a special prayer list, and they were thankful to be involved.

2. Encourage the family. Remember Birthdays, wedding anniversaries and special transitions like moving into High School or graduations. You called the pastor and staff, but their families came with them. Children especially feel lost the first year coming to a new church where they lost friends and family. Send cards and more to show your appreciation. They need to know that they are appreciated as well.

3. Serve! What would happen if you came to the Pastor or staff and asked, how can I best serve the church this week? They might faint!! We are all ministers! Take on roles that may seem simple, but will greatly help the staff. It may be moving furniture for a wedding, a fellowship event as a chaperone for camp or something else. You will encourage them in major ways!

4. Provide appreciation at appropriate times. One of my former churches was not able to meet all of our financial needs but provided fresh vegetables in the Summer, and other surprises! On my birthday in June, they gave a love offering to meet vacation needs. In December, they gave another love offering to help meet Christmas gifts for family. Perhaps your class could do a gift card to their favorite restaurant or another place. Perhaps you want to do something for them on their anniversary at the church? Perhaps you want to do something on Clergy Appreciation Day in October? We are all trying to serve God the best we can. Staff sacrificially give in ways that we cannot fully comprehend. Let them know you care.

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Five Ways Sunday School/Small Groups Make a Difference in Evangelism

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NIV)

Let’s first admit that we are all sinners. We need to confess each day, that it is only through the grace of God through Jesus Christ that we find acceptance. With that being said, we are called to help others know this truth. How can Sunday School/Small Groups help?

  1. Develop a prospect list of the unchurched to share with classes/small groups and let these groups know. They need to provide social events and service projects to invite new people. I can share many ways to do this as well as how to set up a prospect file (e-mail me at brooks@bgav.org)
  1. Enlist prospects for Bible study/small groups. The chances of an unchurched person becoming a Christian is exponentially more if they are in a small group/Bible study than in worship only. It has been proven that for every 13 unchurched in your Sunday School/Small Groups, you will see one new Christian every year (minimum). You will not see the same results from persons who come to worship only. Register people at every event you have.
  1. Make sure authentic community is the most important part of what you do. People want to know you care. Set up care groups to help (e-mail me if you have not set up this care group idea.) Please hear me! Do not try to care to get people. Many will read through your attempts! You need to show genuine love as Christ did.
  1. Serve your community outside the walls around you! This is a must! You will reach new prospects as you do so. You will have young adults and others willing to check your class out. (Again the motive must be pure. It is about loving the community and helping human need, not reaching new people.) New people will simply want to know your “why”!
  1. Find ways to help people see the love of Christ each class/session and beyond. People want to see the love of Christ through you, but you still must share how to accept that love. Make sure you are ready to do so.
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4 Ways to Serve the Community through Sunday School

One of my convictions for Sunday School to be most effective is for every Sunday School class to have an ongoing emphasis on service in the community. In one of my first blogs I mentioned Albert Winseman’s book, Growing an Engaged Church. In it he mentions that persons are more active and involved if they feel like they are contributing in some way. Every person needs to feel like they are making a difference. Ongoing mission projects that focus on the gifts and passions of your class will help to do just that!

Though each class should choose for themselves what to do, based on gifts and needs in the community, here are a couple of examples you may not have thought of:

Children’s Coloring Ministry Committee: Years ago I believed that every person had something to offer including children. I know that most children like to color pictures. I had the Nominating Committee choose five older children to form a committee to be voted on (like all other committees). Their job was to get all children involved in coloring uplifting pictures (with the help of their SS teachers who found pictures on the internet) to give to the staff and deacons to share with shut-ins, and persons in the hospital and at home who were sick. The children loved it and so did the recipients!

Youth Media Tech Day: Twice a year I would advertise in church and the community that the youth would offer free lessons for adults on how to use their cell phones- put in phone numbers to their address books and text along, with lessons on how to set up a Facebook page for those interested. Every time we offered this Sunday afternoon class we had adults from the church and community who wanted help!

For adults it is really discovering their gifts and passions and allowing them to be creative with the church’s support and encouragement. Examples:

Sports Clinics and fellowship events– Offer free lessons for children in different athletics. Have a fellowship gathering for those who love a particular sport. I know of a couple of laypeople in a previous community that formed a tennis fellowship two mornings a week for persons to play doubles tennis for a couple of hours. They began each time with a devotion and prayer time. It became a nonthreatening and encouraging event for Christians and non-Christians.

Crafts- I know of ladies and men who get together to crochet/knit for a Prayer Shawl Ministry. Others make Afghans for the nursing home and shut-ins. We even had some who made them for worship! When a person feels cold, we have them on the back pews and encourage them to wrap up in one.

Use these opportunities to do an inter-generational service project as well. Have some classes join together to serve and get to know each other. I could go on, but the bottom line is many of our churches and Sunday Schools have become inward focused in their approach and are missing opportunities to grow and make an impact on the community. In order for Sunday School to be focused on the future, service must become a part of classes. Feel free to message me if you want to share some creative ideas for other churches.     

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