Grabbing Interest in Sunday School

Monday 20th November, 2017
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How do you get learners' attention? How do you get their minds in the room? How do you get them to stop thinking about the fight on the way to church, the grocery list, the errands for the week ahead, or the to do list for work? How do you get them thinking about God, His Word, and the lesson and truth for the day?

If you fail here, it may take them fifteen minutes to join you mentally and emotionally. If you fail here, they may not understand the scripture, its context, or its relevance to their lives. If you fail here, the time may be a wash, a waste.

So what can we do to capture attention and grab their interest? Good curriculum will offer many options. Consider the following list for a few ideas:
  • as they enter, ask them a question or give them an assignment to complete before they are seated,
  • pass out an assignment on an index card as they enter or in their chairs,
  • write a question on the board,
  • tell a story,
  • read a headline or news story,
  • get them into small groups to discuss a question, scenario, or issue,
  • rearrange the room,
  • show a movie clip,
  • bring in a guest speaker,
  • enlist someone to share a monologue or act out a drama,
  • give them an art project assignment,
  • and more.

Don't just get attention. Grab it. Don't just get them talking. Direct the talking. Don't just get them thinking. Get them thinking about God, His Word, and His will for them. Don't waste opening moments of another class. Use them for Him! Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about teaching and grabbing interest, check out these posts:

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Which Will You Lead: Sunday School or Five Programs?

Monday 13th November, 2017
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On average, which would take more of your time: leading Sunday School to be effective or leading five separate programs to be effective? Most of us would say Sunday School. A few would say that it depends on the condition of Sunday School and the programs and those enlisted to help. That is fair.

Let me describe the programs. You will need to develop and lead effective programs for the following:
  • assimilation (developing relationships, sticking together, and mobilizing gifts and service),
  • discipleship (leading people to follow Jesus in becoming fishers of men)
  • evangelism (praying for, caring for, inviting, and winning the lost and unreached),
  • financial development (strengthening stewards who invest in His Kingdom), and
  • leadership development (enlisting, training, and mobilizing leaders into service).
Wow, that is an important and huge list! Leading those five programs is essential to the health and effectiveness of the church. Leading those five programs to be effective, even with the right people enlisted would still require a fair amount of time and energy.

But wait a minute, are you saying that Sunday School can do everything on that list? Yes, and no. Without a significant investment of leadership, time, and energy, Sunday School will accomplish none of those well. But if you will invest in Sunday School, it can grow more and more effective in carrying out all five of these functions.

Allow me to explain one function at a time:
  • Assimilation. When every class (preschool through adult) enlist someone to lead member care, assimilation can be done well. It is important for the church to encourage every member to be part of a Sunday School class. In preschool and children's classes, one of the teachers is in charge or a parent or a caring leader has been enlisted. The work is to make contacts, plan fellowships, and encourage friendships. In adult and youth classes, every attender is asked to help with that work.
  • Discipleship. Teachers meet God in Bible study and are changed. Out of that encounter, they plan lessons to lead attenders to open God's Word and meet God in Bible study and obey Him. They create an encouraging environment where the class cheers each other toward obedience. Teachers invest in apprentices to help with teaching responsibilities.
  • Evangelism. Every class enlists an outreach leader who leads the class to pray for, care for, invite, and share Jesus. Prospect care lists are created for every class. Lost and unreached people are invited to fellowships and projects. Members in youth and adult classes are trained and sent out to share their faith. Regular caring contacts (often weekly) are made.
  • Financial Development. On average, the new people we reach in Sunday School will give similarly to those already in Sunday School--though there often is a lag in when they start giving. Example. If you reach 10 new Sunday School members, and Sunday School giving is $30 per person weekly, usually those 10 new people will give $300 extra each week. Usually starting one new class will grow to 10-12 in attendance and 20-25 in enrollment in 12-18 months.
  • Leadership Development. When adult classes enlist member care leaders, apprentice teachers, and outreach leaders, they provide great service opportunities in a safe environment. They can learn new skills with few fatal consequences. Teachers need help since the span of care is about 1 leader to 5 members. To grow, more leadership help is needed. Enlisting these leaders improves the class effectiveness and span of care and at the same time prepares them for leadership in other places within the church.

Are you afraid your teachers and classes will be overwhelmed if you dump all this on them at the same time? Then don't dump it all of them now. Gather them together for an evaluation and planning retreat. Help them see why all five functions are needed. Determine a priority order for adjustment and implementation. Work on implementing and improving one function every quarter or every six months. Even if it took two and a half years, think of the impact that could result! Monthly meetings to check on Sunday School progress would require significantly less time than even quarterly meetings for five programs. Invest now in leading your Sunday School. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about leading your Sunday School, check out these posts:

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On Track Sunday School Conference, March 2018

Monday 6th November, 2017
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LifeWay has put together another great conference designed for every Sunday School leader and team. It is being hosted at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, TN, which is not far from Kentucky. Enlist your team. Register. Make hotel reservations. Get ready for great training by experts and practitioners. Check out these details:

What Is OnTrack?
OnTrack is a conference uniquely focused on Sunday School and its best practices for departmental leaders, teachers, trainers, and volunteers. This short but essential conference provides your entire Sunday School team (staff, leaders, and teachers) with two kinds of training: vision-casting general sessions about the overall importance of Sunday School work in the mission of your church, and age-level and ministry-area specific break-out sessions for hands-on training and application. Every attendee will be encouraged and equipped by prominent Sunday School leaders to go home and immediately implement what they learn.

Registration/Cost

Schedule

Pre-Conference Sessions - Friday, March 9, 2018
  • 3:00-3:50 Session 1
  • 3:50-4:10 Break
  • 4:10-5:00 Session 2
    Friday, March 9, 2018
  • 5:30-6:30pm Registration
    • 6:30-7:30pm General Session (Ted Traylor, Pastor, Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, FL)
    • 7:30-7:45pm Break
    • 7:45-8:45pm Age Division Breakout Session 1
    • 8:45pm Dismiss

    Saturday, March 10, 2018
    • 8:00-9:00am Age Division Breakout Session 2
    • 9:00-9:15am Break
    • 9:15-10:15am General Session (Allan Taylor, LifeWay Christian Resources)
    • 10:15-10:30am Break
    • 10:30-11:15am Sunday School Seminary Session 1 (Keith Lowry, Specialist, Adult Discipleship, Baptist General Convention of Texas)
    • 11:15-11:30am Break
    • 11:30-12:15pm Sunday School Seminary, Session 2 (David Bond, Executive Administrator, Arkansas Baptist Convention)

    We brought a total of 10 people to the conference. Our Sunday School leaders really enjoyed it and greatly benefited from the training. I would highly recommend any church attend. We plan to attend next year's OnTrack conference.

    --Buster Gagel (Sunday School Director - Parkland Baptist Church Louisville, Kentucky)
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    Redesign Coming for The Sunday School Revolutionary!

    Monday 30th October, 2017
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    At long last, this eleven-year-old blog with over 1,200 posts will be freshened up. It will undergo a move and redesign process to be completed by year's end. More precisely, it will be moved to a WordPress platform and the posts migrated there.

    The WordPress platform will help me do things I have been unable to do for years. It will make many aspects of blogging much easier. My other blog, 28Nineteen.com (about discipleship) is already on WordPress. So I won't have to juggle two different blog apps.

    I will continue to write in the meantime. It will not interrupt your ability to search the blog to find the help you need. It is possible that Google and other search engines will be confused for a few days. Links which point to the old location for the blog may not produce results.

    If you are subscribed to the blog (entered your email), you will continue to get each blog post delivered by email when I write (usually once a week). If you are not already signed up, subscribing is simple. Sign up now so you get my posts delivered directly to your inbox.

    You will be able to find the blog at the same address:
    www.sundayschoolrevolutionary.com.


    If you've been finding my blog at web.kybaptist.org/kbc/blogs/ssrb.nsf, go ahead and delete that address. That address will be going away after the first of the year.

    Keep an eye out for the new design. I plan to offer some give-aways when it rolls out. There is much work to do. God and His people deserve our best effort. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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    Sunday School Growth from Overflow

    Monday 23rd October, 2017
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    I recently asked a pastor what had been done to result in doubling average Sunday School attendance in four years (from 40 to 80). His reply was to the point: "Growth. It's really simple. God is blessing us."

    We should always be careful to give God the praise He deserves for sending workers, for sending the increase, and for growing His people. Our Lord is the reason the Bride exists. The Bride works to be ready for His return.

    The pastor added the following to his comment about God's blessing:

    "Obviously I think Sunday School should grow in ratio to worship attendance. Worship is growing because of door knocking, prayer, multiple evangelism attempts, Red Book, 3 Circles, and just doing things outside of the 'normal box'.

    We've had shotgun shoots, concealed weapons classes, local & far missions, KBC training events, SoulQuest, trips to the Ark, a pumpkin patch, relentlessly sending vans out to bring in kids, then families just to name a few. I'll do or try whatever it takes to get people to just come hear the gospel. If they stay, then I'll put them to work. If they don't, I'll offer to help them find another Bible believing, teaching, and preaching church."

    Part of what he was saying is that Sunday School has grown from the overflow of worship increasing. As worship attendance increased, more got involved in Sunday School classes. They came to worship, found their way into relationships, and moved into classes.

    OVERFLOW SPLASH.
    There are two common responses to overflow. The first is where actions are taken to increase worship and church participation but nothing is done to prepare Sunday School for growth. In this case the overflow adds nothing new to Sunday School. It simply splashes off the top and sides of Sunday School. When there is no increased capacity for holding more people in Sunday School (more care from new classes and additional leaders/teachers), it does not grow. And often, worship growth slows or stops as well.

    OVERFLOW FILL.
    The second response to overflow is the Sunday School that enlists and trains new leaders and starts new classes. Increased care and invitations occur. Classes want and expect new people to come. Because care capacity is increased, more people attend and join Sunday School classes. And frequently as Sunday School attendance increases, worship continues to increase as well.

    The pastor of this church said they annually bring leaders to Super Saturday for training and went on to say:

    "We have started new classes continually since 2013.... With new classes has come new teachers, either new to the church or those who were there but are now stepping out in their faith to teach."

    Training, new leaders, and new classes matter for capitalizing upon God's blessing. Will the overflow splash or fill your Sunday School? Are you ready? Is your Sunday School ready? Pray. Plan. Prepare. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

    For more ideas about Sunday School growth, check out these posts:

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    Annual Schedule for Sunday School Growth, Part 2

    Monday 16th October, 2017
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    In Part 1, I said that if nothing changes, Sunday School will not grow. Growth requires prayer, more workers, more classes, training, caring contacts, invitations, new members, and more. There is God to obey. There are people to reach, care for, and teach.

    In Part 1, I shared key actions that should be scheduled in a growing Sunday School from June through October. In Part 2, I will finish out the schedule by looking at actions that should be scheduled November through May. Keep in mind that these actions assume that regular planning and communication meetings are taking place. Consider the following:
    • NOVEMBER-DECEMBER:  Mobilize Missions, Ministry, and Prayer. Give the gift of care to those in need in the church, community, and world. Pray for the impact of Sunday School. Ask for God's help in identifying workers for the harvest.
    • JANUARY-FEBRUARY:  Launch New Classes and Provide Training. Evaluate needs and growth of all age groups, enlist leaders, and start new groups. Coach new leaders. Evaluate needs and provide specific training for all teachers and class leaders. January Bible Study is another way to supplement teacher and member knowledge of God's Word.
    • MARCH-APRIL:  Emphasize Outreach and Enrollment. Pray for prospects. Set aside a day every week to make visits, calls, and send mail to prospects. Set class goals for new members. Recognize those who meet or exceed their goals. Plan a fellowship or project to invite prospects.
    • MAY:  Appreciate Teacher/Workers. Provide a banquet or breakfast to thank teachers and workers for their service. Give gifts. Offer brief training (15-30 minutes). Recognize accomplishments.

    What would you add to the schedule offered in these two posts? These are suggestions offered to maintain the effectiveness of our work of Sunday School. The work needs regular emphasis and strengthening in teaching, reaching, and member care. Plan it. Schedule it. Measure it. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

    For more ideas about Sunday School growth, check out these posts:

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    Annual Schedule for Sunday School Growth, Part 1

    Monday 9th October, 2017
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    If nothing changes, Sunday School will not grow. Growth requires prayer, more workers, more classes, training, caring contacts, invitations, new members, and more. There is God to obey. There are people to reach, care for, and teach.

    Sunday School cannot rest upon past success. Jesus' commission for the church (Matthew 28:19-20) is Sunday School's mission to "make disciples of all nations." Relationships must be developed. Invitations extended. Jesus shared. Lost saved. Prayers prayed. God's Word studied. Lives changed. Families strengthened. Disciples grown and mobilized. Multiplication results.

    There are key actions that should take place in a growing Sunday School. The Sunday School Revolutionary is about those revolutionary actions and changes. But this post will focus on an annual schedule for some of those key actions. The following calendar assumes that the new Sunday School year (including promotion of age groups) will occur in September. It also assumes that regular planning and communication meetings are taking place. Consider the following:
    • JUNE-AUGUST:  Enlistment and New Classes. Talk to all current workers. Evaluate the year. Ask how serving could be even better. Ask if they will serve in the coming year. Replace any who are not returning. Consider classes in each age group (preschool, children, youth, and adults) which need to be started. What leaders are needed to staff the new classes? What additional literature is needed for new classes/leaders? Also plan and communicate the retreat (see September) and the training event (August).
    • JULY-AUGUST:  Space and Furnishings. Where will new classes meet? What needs to be done to ensure the space is ready? Are new or replacement furnishings and equipment needed? Who will prepare the space and order furnishings/equipment?
    • AUGUST:  Prepare for Promotion and Provide Training. What do you need to do to help prepare parents of preschoolers and children for moving to new classes? What do you need to do to help teens and adults move to new classes? What do you need to do to promote new classes (bulletin, during worship, contacts/invitations, etc.)? Do you have a list of classes, teachers, and room numbers for greeters to help guests find their classes? Participate in a teacher and worker training event.
    • SEPTEMBER:  Open House and Retreat. For Open House Sunday, invite every member and prospect, offer a light breakfast, have greeters in place, wear name tags, register guests, ask people to join, and at the end of the service offer an open house where people get to meet the teachers of every class. For the Retreat, encourage 100% participation, involve everyone,  evaluate, dream, set goals, and make plans. Evaluate attendance in new and current classes. Promote and set goals for Friend Day (see October).
    • OCTOBER:  Friend Day. Make contacts. Each person extends at least 3 invitations. Host class fellowships. Have high attendance day or contact contest with a focus on inviting and enrolling new people (friends).

    In Part 2, we will look at the remaining schedule (November-May). From your experience, what else should be added to these months (June-October)? Summer is busy behind the scenes. The fall is a high energy time that can bear much fruit with good planning and actions.

    For more ideas about Sunday School growth, check out these posts:

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    Important Sunday School Leader Job Descriptions

    Monday 2nd October, 2017
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    To make it easier to find the Sunday School job descriptions that I have shared over the last five years, I wanted to share them all in one post. Please feel free to customize each one to fit your vision, mission, and ministry.

    GENERAL

    ADULT/YOUTH CLASS LEADERSHIP TEAM

    OTHER INFORMATION ABOUT JOB DESCRIPTIONS

    As I write other job descriptions, I will add them to this post. Every leader in your Sunday School should be able to read their job description to understand whether they are doing the job well or not. Training should be provided to support the duties of each job description. Planning and evaluation lead to greater effectiveness. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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    Job Description: Sunday School Class Member Care Leader

    Monday 25th September, 2017
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    Another critical member of the Sunday School class leadership team is the member care leader. Many of our classes are losing members faster than we are replacing them. Quality contact, care, fellowship, and ministry are needed. The member care leader cannot it (and should not do it) alone! As stated previously, a job description is essential for encouragement and effectiveness. I offer this suggested job description for you to customize. What are critical duties of a class member care leader? Consider the following:

    LEAD THE CLASS TO...
    • Recognize the need for care. This is more than communication, education, or training. This is also motivation and understanding why care is needed. In addition, it will be your goal unless you lead them to discuss member care and "own" the responsibility.
    • Keep good records. Keep contact records up to date. Ask members to verify address, phone, and email regularly. Record attendance weekly--even of latecomers. Notice attendance change patterns. Record results of contact and care efforts.
    • Pray. Pray together, in pairs, and separately. Pray in class and between classes. Pray for physical, spiritual, and life needs and concerns. Share nonconfidential requests so others may pray.
    • Make weekly contacts. Assign members to make contact with members, absentees, and dropouts. Communicate your care. Share about class plans and lessons. Ask for prayer requests. Pray together. Call for and record reports.
    • Organize to meet needs. Gather a team to develop a strategy. This includes a communication plan and how you will respond to needs/crises.
    • Plan/conduct fellowships and projects. Plan one of each every quarter. Invite and give special attention to invite absentees and dropouts (without embarrassing them). Plan for lots of conversation and interaction.
    • Encourage connection. Notice when a class member has fewer than 5 friends in class. Ask faithful members to invest additional time and attention with those individuals (in class and life).
    • Hesitate to drop anyone. Drop people from your member care list ONLY if they die, move out of ministry reach, or join another class (your church or another).

    This valuable member of the class leadership team helps the class to care for the sheep entrusted to the class. The member care leader is a cheerleader for care and ministry with members and absentees. But this work cannot be done well alone. For more ideas about member care, check out these posts:

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    Job Description: Sunday School Class Outreach Leader

    Monday 18th September, 2017
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    Leadership of class outreach efforts is essential to health and growth. Similarly, a job description for a class outreach leader is essential for encouragement and effectiveness. I offer a suggested job description and encourage customization. What are critical duties of a class outreach leader? Consider the following:

    LEAD THE CLASS TO...
    • Pray: pray for the class people group assignment; for lost and unenrolled people; and for class actions to identify, care for, and reach lost and unenrolled people.
    • Develop a prospect care list: ask for names of friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors in your people group assignment who are lost or not enrolled in a class; determine a plan to pray for and contact prospects 2-4 times monthly; and update the list regularly.
    • Plan and invite prospects to fellowships and projects: plan one of each every quarter; make the event fun and easy to get acquainted; before the event ends, invite everyone to class.
    • Make consistent caring visits and phone calls with prospects: call/visit prospects; follow up on previous prayer requests; share class plans for lessons, fellowship, and projects; ask how you can pray for the prospect and his/her family; pray together; and report nonconfidential requests.
    • Send electronic reminders about class plans: to support caring contacts and class plans, communicate by email, text, and social media.
    • Enlist class greeters to ensure positive first impressions: welcome members and guests, register guests, encourage name tag use, sit with and introduce guests, and follow up with guests.
    • Invite prospects and guests to enroll: ask them if you can add them to the class care list for prayer, ministry, and fellowships; set a God-sized goal for new class members.
    • Offer testimony practice: lead members once a month to write it out, share it in pairs, share it with family, and then share it with prospects along life's path.

    This valuable class team member leads the class to point outward. The class outreach leader is a cheerleader for prayer and care focused on lost and unenrolled people. Without new members, every class dies. This team member cannot be successful alone; class involvement is vital. For more ideas about outreach, check out these posts:

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