9 Disciple-Making Sunday School Early Moment Actions, Part 1

Monday 8th January, 2018
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Too many disciple-making opportunities are missed in early moments of Sunday School lessons. The teacher and group members arrive late. Time is wasted. Expectation and attention are poor. What can be done to fill these critical early moments with life-changing potential?

In this three-part series, I will focus on nine vital disciple-making actions during the early moments. I shared in greater depth on this subject in my book, Disciple-Making Encounters: Revolutionary Sunday School. In Part 1, I will address expectation, early arrival, and teaching space preparation. Evaluate yourself in these three areas:
  • EXPECTATION. Prayerful expectation matters. What do you expect to happen? Are you expecting God to show up and work during your time together? Are you expecting the group to meet God in Bible study? Are you expecting lives to be changed--including your own? Is the group anticipating what will happen? Which attitude prevails: "I have to" or "I get to?" How is your expectation influencing your preparation?
  • EARLY ARRIVAL. Having been in hundreds of classes over the last twenty years, much time is lost because teachers and group members arrive late. Late arrivals cause interruption. Time for prayerwalking the class is missed. Fellowship development is limited. Arriving early allows opportunity for disciple-making impact.
  • TEACHING SPACE PREPARATION. Unchanged classroom arrangement reduces expectation. Dirty, cluttered rooms are distracting. Teaching space deserves weekly unique preparation, including utilizing a variety of teaching methods to address learning styles. This includes arrangement, direction, and even location of the leader. Details matter.

Take advantage of the opportunity in these early moments. Doing so well can reduce distractions and focus the possibilities for disciple-making. Raise expectations. Arrive early. Prepare the classroom. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about teaching, check out these posts:

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Setting Sunday School Goals

Tuesday 2nd January, 2018
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Even though continual evaluation is ideal, the start of a new year is a great time to gather your team to evaluate Sunday School. To fail to evaluate is a missed opportunity for improvement, progress, and growth. Consider the following:

EVALUATE. Pause to pray together and to ask your team these questions (write down your responses):
  • Strengths. What have we done well this past year? What were our strengths? What were our successes? In which areas did we make progress?
  • Needs. What are our needs? In what areas do we need improvement? In which areas do we need progress? What are our struggles and weaknesses?
  • Opportunities. What opportunities do we have in the year ahead? Where do we have the most potential to see growth? What might happen with some work and encouragement?

PRIORITIZE. Evaluation will naturally open your eyes to areas in need to attention and adjustment. Focus. Consider the needs and opportunities. Determine the priority of each. Which is most important? OR Which needs to be accomplished first?

SET GOALS. Set goals, determine actions to accomplish those goals, make assignments, and set deadlines. Again focus. Narrow your goals to three or fewer. Focusing on too many goals tends to dilute attention and energy. Here calendaring actions to accomplish goals is essential.

ASSESS AND ADJUST. Calendaring actions is not enough. Calendar meetings to check on progress. As challenges present themselves, make adjustments to goals and plans. Celebrate progress together along the way.

Pray. Evaluate, prioritize, set goals and make plans, and assess and adjust. Make disciples. Be revolutionary! For more ideas about setting goals, check out these posts:

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Sunday School Growth = New Leaders and Groups, Part 2

Tuesday 26th December, 2017
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In this two part series, each of these key actions will likely result in growth, but the greatest growth result will tend to result from adding both new leaders AND new groups. In Part 1, I focused on the why and how of adding new leaders. In Part 2, I will focus on the why and how of adding new groups.

WHY ARE NEW GROUPS NEEDED?
  • Full. Typically existing groups slow or stop growing after 18-24 months. Space and relationships get full. So other means are needed to reach, teach, and care for new people.
  • Care. The leadership care ratio (one leader per five members) is expanded with new classes. With every new leader and group, care can be consistently extended to more people. More care equals more discipleship and numerical growth.
  • Attractive. It is more exciting to be part of something new. New people don't have to break into existing relationships in new group since everyone is new. As a result, new groups tend to grow faster and reach more lost people than existing groups.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO ADD NEW GROUPS?
  • gather your leadership team to pray and determine where new groups are needed (identify target audience);
  • enlist the group leadership team and provide vision and training;
  • determine the group meeting place, date, and time;
  • set the launch date and communicate it;
  • obtain resources, supplies, and furnishings;
  • build relationships with and invite the target audience;
  • launch and celebrate the new group;
  • coach the new team to thrive.

WHAT ARE POTENTIAL SOURCES FOR NEW GROUPS?
  • Gaps. Determine age group, gender, coed/single, or other gaps in your current classes. Start new groups to fill those gaps.
  • Absentees. Gather a list of people in your target group from existing class rolls who have not attended in more than six months.
  • Pastor's Class. Some will come out of relationship with the pastor. This could be early arrivers in the sanctuary for worship or in a classroom.
  • Church members not enrolled. Some will come to new classes who have not found a place in existing classes.
  • Unenrolled family members of Sunday School members. Some will come through caring invitations to fellowships, projects, meals, group time, and Jesus.
  • Seed group. Launch a class with 2-6 people from one or more classes since dividing a class often produces poor results. Never start a new group alone. And always leave room to reach new people.
  • Affinity group. Identify a common interest of people in your community. Launch a group for them.
  • Business group. Enlist church members to start groups at business locations around your community.
  • Many more. Consider groups for choir/worship team, special needs families, recovery issues, new church members, other languages, etc.

What if you start a new group every year for the next five years? You have the potential to reach 50-60 people in attendance, 100-125 in enrollment, and 8-15 by baptism. Can you afford to miss reaching these people who need the Lord and need to follow and grow more like Him? These people may be your future teachers, leaders, and deacons. They may become pastors and missionaries. Start new groups. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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Top Ten Sunday School Revolutionary Posts of 2017

Friday 22nd December, 2017
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It is wise to review investment of your time, energy, and resources. The annual sum total of time and energy required to contribute weekly Sunday School Revolutionary posts continues to be a great investment. People all over Kentucky, the United States, and the world are able to access Sunday School help at a time that is convenient for them. The blog is very searchable both on the blog and on search engines so that pastors, Sunday School directors, and teachers are able to find the help they need.

Here are the top ten posts for 2017:

Review these. Read or share them. I do want to warn you that the long-awaited update for the Sunday School Revolutionary is almost here. That will mean that some of the link in my posts will not functioning correctly. Be patient and check back. I will be working on updating the links and pictures in January.

When I reviewed the top ten posts, there are some things I learned:
  1. names are important for both new and existing classes,
  2. improvement is important to Sunday School teachers and leaders,
  3. growth is a goal of many Sunday School leaders,
  4. teachers and teaching matter, and
  5. many Sunday School leaders are revolutionaries, desiring to give God our best.

Keep reading and improving what you do. He and they deserve it. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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Sunday School Growth = New Leaders and Groups, Part 1

Monday 18th December, 2017
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In my previous posts, Sunday School Growth = Enroll Plus Care  Part 1 and Part 2, I emphasized the importance of adding people to our class party, prayer, and care lists (class rolls) and then caring for those on our lists. These are both key actions for Sunday School growth. Neglecting either one will likely produce no growth.

In this two part series, each of these key actions will likely result in growth, but the greatest growth result will tend to result from carrying out both adding new leaders AND adding new groups. In Part 1, I will focus on the why and how of adding new leaders.

WHY ARE NEW LEADERS NEEDED? The main two reasons are that
  1. Lose them: current leaders will eventually step down and
  2. Need more: more leaders are needed to increase care.

Many Sunday Schools are ill prepared to replace leaders when they need a break, become ill, die, move, or leave the church. In response classes frequently are combined or dropped. As a result, fewer leaders attempt poorly to care for more people. Classes need at least one leader for every five members (not just attenders). Any worse ratio typically results in poor care and decreasing attendance.

In addition, the existing set of Sunday School leaders are designed to achieve current results and not much more. If we (and the Lord) want to grow our Sunday School (make disciples of all nations), we need more leaders--not the same or fewer. More care requires more leaders. More leaders can care for more people. More care typically results in more attendance.

HOW CAN WE ADD NEW LEADERS? There are two main ways;
  1. Apprenticing: personal enlistment and apprenticing over 6-12 months by an existing leader and
  2. Training session(s): enlistment, training, and coaching of new leaders.

Both of these should be preceded by prayer that God will send workers for the harvest. Then the leader should look for the worker(s) God has or will send. Keep in mind that potential leaders who are not put to good use will tend to have their interest rot like a banana left on the counter too long.

Count your current leaders. Make it a goal to have more leaders this time next year so you can enlarge your care capacity. Enlist well. Apprentice and train them. Encourage and coach them. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this series focused on new groups. Watch your Sunday School grow. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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

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Sunday School Growth = Enroll Plus Care, Part 2

Monday 11th December, 2017
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In Part 1, I shared that there are many factors to Sunday School attendance increase, but two critical ones are enrolling new people and caring for those who are enrolled. So what can be done to increase enrollment and care? In Part 1, I focused on actions which can result in enrolling new people. In Part 2, I will focus on actions which can result in caring connections.

MAKING CARING CONNECTIONS.
What can a class do to make caring connections with unenrolled and lost people? Enlist an outreach leader who will lead the class in the following actions:
  • pray for prospects (friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors) who are not enrolled in Sunday School;
  • intentionally develop caring relationships (friendships) with unenrolled and lost people;
  • spend time with lost and unenrolled people;
  • eat meals with prospects;
  • invite prospects to class fellowships, projects, and Bible study sessions;
  • introduce prospects to your class member friends;
  • regularly (2-4 times monthly) contact prospects for care and prayer;
  • respond in caring ways during times of stress and need in the lives of prospects;
  • ask for permission to pray and help;
  • care enough to ask if prospects would like to the added to the party, prayer, and care list for the class (enroll them if they say yes).

Is it better for one person to develop an ongoing interest and relationship with a prospect, or is it better for several people to connect with a prospect. My answer is "yes!" One and many both have benefits. Focus regular efforts through one caring person, but encourage multiple people to reach out in care as well.

Without care, people will not enroll. Without caring connections, people will never come to class. Without care, many will miss the most important relationship in the world: a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Lead your class to care and enroll. Meet needs and love people to class and to Jesus. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about caring for members and prospects, check out these posts:

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Sunday School Growth = Enroll Plus Care, Part 1

Monday 4th December, 2017
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There are many factors to Sunday School attendance increase, but two critical ones are enrolling new people and caring for those who are enrolled. When enrollment decreases, attendance almost inevitably decreases. When caring contact, fellowship, and ministry decreases, attendance follows.

So what can be done to increase enrollment and care? In Part 1, I will focus on actions which can result in enrolling new people. In Part 2, I will focus on actions which can result in caring connections.

ENROLLING NEW PEOPLE. What can a class do to enroll new people? Enlist an outreach leader who will lead the class in the following actions:
  • pray that your class will invite and enroll people in your people group;
  • set a God-sized goal for enrolling new people, remind the class of the goal, and regularly report on progress toward the goal;
  • make a prospect list by asking class members for the names of people in their people group (friends, relatives, associates, neighbors); update the list at least quarterly;
  • make caring contacts (visit, phone, mail, and electronic) weekly with those on the prospect list; report results of contacts every week;
  • plan fellowships/projects every six weeks and ask members to invite prospects;
  • welcome, introduce, register, and thank guests who attend class; don't embarrass them;
  • follow up with every guest within 72 hours thanking them for visiting, asking if they have questions, inviting them to a fellowship/project, and asking for prayer requests and praying together; and
  • ask guests and prospects if they would like to the added to the party, prayer, and care list for the class (enroll them if they say yes).

Enrolling new people and then ignoring them guarantees interest and connection will be lost. Caring for those enrolled is essential or enrollment and attendance will decline. Part 2 will address the essential actions of care that must accompany enrollment. Enroll. Care. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about enrollment, check out these posts:

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Involving Internal Learners in Sunday School

Monday 27th November, 2017
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Whether your class is small or large, there is a constant. People are different. Some are emotional while others are logical. Some are extroverts and some are introverts. Some are quiet while others are talkative.

In previous blog posts, I have addressed the issue of the overly talkative person (or dominator):
One of the contributors to whether a person is talkative or quiet is how they think. Some of the participants in our groups are external thinkers and some are internal thinkers. Let me describe the differences. External thinkers think out loud. They process a question or thought while they are talking out loud. Internal thinkers, on the other hand, think quietly until they come up with an answer. They will tend not respond until they have enough time to think through a response.

This is, however, a problem in most of our groups. The external thinkers are usually the quickest to respond to any question--even if they have no idea of an answer. Sometimes their quick answers are good ones; sometimes they are not. Sometimes if we give them enough time, they will get to a good answer.

The consequence of external thinkers responding first is that internal thinkers have not had time to think of a response and seldom get an opportunity to share one--unless given time. What can a teacher or group do to involve more internal thinkers--who often have good responses when given time to think? Consider these ideas:
  • ask participants who have already answered a question to allow others this time;
  • ask frequent responders privately to help you involve more people in the group by allowing 2 or 3 others to respond before they answer a second question;
  • ask the group to think for 45 seconds silently before calling for answers;
  • get everyone into pairs (everyone has to talk in pairs);
  • get them into groups of 4-5 with instructions for everyone to participate; and
  • allow enough time for participants to think and write down a response to a question.

In nearly every class, there is a balance of external thinkers and internal thinkers. Because participation increases enjoyment and benefit from the Bible study experience, it is important to balance involvement by the talkative and the quiet. Work to get everyone involved in some way every week. If your group is large, get them into smaller groups. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about increasing participation and involvement, check out these posts:

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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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