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)
All of us are called to “make disciples” as we journey through life. One of the ways we can move towards this goal is starting new classes. So how do we start new classes? It is time to revisit Arthur Flake and his five step formula. Arthur Flake was the first leader of the Sunday School Department for the Baptist Sunday School Board (1920) which is now Lifeway. He shared five steps for building and growing a Sunday School. Today we will look at the first step: Know the Possibilities: Where are the people? First you begin by prayerfully considering where to find prospects. A church should develop a prospect file that is twice the size of your SS membership. That may sound like a daunting challenge, but here are some ideas:
Census Data: Begin with discovering your community within a five mile radius to see potential. You can visit the VBMB link to get a demographic study of your area if you are a BGAV church: http://vbmb.org/evangelism/demographics/ Often we just try to set up a class based on what we think we need versus knowing the potential. Most churches want young adults and children, but some communities have more potential with senior adults. The study helps you to know who to target. Through a demographic study, one church discovered there was a large population of single mothers in the community. They targeted ministries and classes to reach this demographic.
Potential in the Pews: Most churches have a larger group in worship than Sunday School. Every person who comes to worship (but not Sunday School) should be a prospect for a class. My experience has proven that a new class for an age group or affinity group will have a much better chance to reach the person in the pew.
Think Special Events for Prospects: Register SS prospects at VBS and other events you have for the community throughout the year. Have a couple of persons with registration forms and/or surveys for people to register at the event.
Think Affinity and not Just Age group: People today tend to build community around passion rather than age. Start a class around hobbies and passion. Start a Bible study around golfers, tennis players, artists, needlework (like crocheting), horseback riders, motorcycle riders or a host of other hobbies. Use the hobbies to set up events to find more prospects. Consider having the Bible study as part of the event rather than just Sunday morning.
Start a class where people are rather than just Sunday mornings: In most communities you will have 20-40% of adults who work on Sunday morning. Discover other times for these adults to have Bible study classes. Have a couple of your people skip Sunday School one Sunday and go out where people are working. Ask them if they attend a weekly Bible study, and when would be a good time to offer a Bible study for them. (See Biscuits & Bible for an example: https://tonystopic.com/2012/05/17/biscuits-bible/ )
Come and Join us for the Leadership Gathering and I will be glad to share many other options for finding new people for Bible study: http://vbmb.org/events/lg/
There is a great harvest in our community. We need to be more intentional in discovering prospects for new classes!
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38 NIV)