Give Away of 100 SMALL Sunday School Changes

Monday 14th August, 2017
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In the Foreword of this book, David Francis, says:

Sunday School is a system. It’s a bunch of things—big and small—that make a Sunday School excellent instead of mediocre. Each relates to another and that to another and so on and so on. So what if every little thing you improved resulted in just one more person coming to Sunday School, coming back to Sunday School, enrolling in Sunday School, attending regularly in Sunday School, serving in Sunday School, and inviting another to Sunday School? Each of the 100 ideas you’ll read about in the book may seem inconsequential taken alone. But put 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 into practice and see what happens!

The book is divided into ten parts: teaching and learning, evangelism and reaching out, enrolling new people, caring for members, enlisting leaders, mobilizing the class of mission, leader development, making disciples, using classroom space well, and administering the class well. The 100 SMALL Changes articles came from the Sunday School Leader blog and were written by Sunday School champions across the country.

GIVE AWAY RULES. The book is available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents. But for those who Subscribe to the blog during the month of August 2017, you will receive a PDF version of this book. Only new blog Subscribers are eligible. Those who Subscribe will receive my new posts by email about once a week.

To receive 100 SMALL Changes, you must COMMENT to this post with your email address. DO NOT ENTER YOUR EMAIL WHERE IT SAYS SUBSCRIBE OR YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE. In August when you comment with your email, I will subscribe you. All previously subscribed emails will be ineligible.

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Starting a New Year of Sunday School, Part 1

Monday 7th August, 2017
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A new year of shepherding the disciples in your Sunday School class is near. What will you do to get ready?

My wife is a middle school math teacher. For her, there are four important areas of preparation for the new school year:  training, planning, room preparation, and relationships. In this four-part series, I want to focus on those four areas of preparation as they relate to Sunday School. In Part 1, I will focus on training.

Your Lord and His sheep in your care deserve your best efforts. That means training is needed: for new ideas as well as improvement of current practice. What kind of training will help you become even more effective? Consider these six ideas as you start this new year of Sunday School:
  • FOCUS. Determine your area(s) of greatest need. Start by addressing priorities. If you need help thinking of the most important areas needing focus, talk to a friend, your Sunday School director, or your pastor.
  • READ BOOKS. Read books and commentaries which help you better understand the context/background of Bible books you will be studying. Read books about teaching, reaching, and member care. I would encourage you to get a copy of my book, Disciple-Making Encounters: Revolutionary Sunday School. For free help, check out the great short downloadable books (PDF) by my friend, David Francis. Read books about the generation(s) in your age group: Silent, Boomers, Busters, etc.
  • READ ARTICLES/BLOGS. There are many sources for help here. There are many blogs offering devotionals and teaching plans that accompany LifeWay curriculum series and others. Sunday School University offers video previews of LifeWay series lessons for reasonable prices. This blog with over 1,200 posts is very searchable. You can also search the web and find much useful information--just be careful to check out the reliability of the source.
  • ATTEND CONFERENCES. Ask your pastor/Sunday School director to bring in a trainer or training team for your church. Share a topic or a need with your pastor or director. Attend an associational, state, or national conference. Super Saturday is an example here in Kentucky. LifeWay will offer an On Track Sunday School conference in March 2018.
  • MEET WITH A FRIEND OR GROUP. Share ideas. Determine priorities. Read and discuss chapters of books. Take turns preparing or leading the conversation. Add food and childcare as needed.
  • OBSERVE. When you are away from home, attend a Sunday School class. Pay attention to everything. Look at room arrangement. Look at the greeting process. Listen to announcements and prayer requests. Observe the teaching-learning process. What are areas your class does well? What could you or your class learn from this class?

What would you add to this list? Press Comments and share your ideas. Check back for Part 2 where I will focus on the important preparation areas of planning. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about training, check out these blog posts:

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Developing New Sunday School Teaching Habits

Monday 31st July, 2017
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Habits are usually developed over time. To become a habit, actions must be repeated. Some habits are chosen and others are encouraged (think brushing your teeth). Some habits are good, and others are bad. Consider this question: how do you establish good habits and end bad ones?

When you discover better ways to teach, how do you make sure they become part of your practice? How do you ensure they become a regular part of your preparation and presentation routine? How do you end bad practices and start better ones? Consider these ideas:
  • talk about the practice with a friend
  • practice the new behavior
  • set a goal with a deadline
  • write out a flexible weekly plan outline
  • ask someone to hold you accountable (to encourage your progress)
  • ask someone to help you with the new practice/behavior
  • make it a regular part of your preparation routine
  • introduce the new action to your class in small doses and watch for feedback
  • evaluate your experience and work toward improvement on the behavior.

From your experience, what ideas would you add to this list? Continue to learn. Continue to try new teaching preparation and presentation behaviors. Give God and His people in your care your best effort. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about teaching, check out these posts:

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Sunday School Conferences at Super Saturday 2017

Monday 24th July, 2017
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Training Is Needed

I pray that you have seen lives changed, leaders developed, new people reached, unsaved introduced to Jesus, and new classes started through your Sunday School this year. As you plan for the start of another Sunday School year, I am sure you recognize the value of training every Sunday School leader to carry out this vital work. The Kentucky Baptist Convention provides high quality, practical training for all areas of ministry through Super Saturday.

What You Will Learn

Training offered addresses: Church Finance, Church Revitalization, Collegiate Ministry, Discipleship, Evangelism, Preschool & Children, Sunday School, Women’s Ministry, WMU, Worship & Music and Youth. Click here to download a complete list of training being offered.

2017 Dates & Locations

All six Super Saturday events run from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, local time:
  • AUGUST 19, Lexington, Immanuel Baptist Church, 3100 Tates Creek Rd, Register
  • AUGUST 26, Erlanger, Erlanger Baptist Church, 116 Commonwealth Av, Register
  • AUGUST 26, Paducah, First Baptist Church, 2890 Broadway St, Register
  • SEPTEMBER 9, Owensboro, Walnut Memorial Baptist Church, 519 W. Byers Av, Register
  • SEPTEMBER 9, Pikeville, First Baptist Church, 126 4th St, Register
  • SEPTEMBER 16, Louisville, Highview Baptist Church, 7711 Fegenbush Ln, Register

Sunday School Conferences

Here are Director and age group Sunday School conferences offered this year:
9:00 - 10:00 AM:
  • Directors:  Grow by Praying and Planning
  • Adults:  Your Example and Time with God Matter (conferences divided by age groups)
  • Youth Ministry:  Sunday Morning Strategy
  • Preschool & Children:  Keeping Kids Safe
10:15 - 11:15 AM:
  • Directors:  Grow by Adding Classes
  • Adults:  Lead Your Class to Care for Others, Lead Your Class to Care for Each Other, and Grow by Adding New Members (Lexington and Louisville only)
  • Youth Ministry:  Twelve 24: Reaching This Generation of Students
  • Preschool & Children:  Impact Young Lives for God
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM:
  • Directors:  Grow by Adding Workers
  • Adults:  Plan for Increased Interest and Retention, Lead Adults to Apply the Lesson, and Continue Learning Beyond Class Time (Lexington and Louisville only)
  • Youth Ministry:  The Life of a Youth Worker
  • Preschool & Children:  Keeping Kids Safe, Impact Young Lives for God
For descriptions/benefit statements for these conferences, look for the link in the "What you will learn" section above.

Cost Is Very Affordable

Individuals can be trained for $15. A maximum church cost of only $75 means bringing a large group fits every budget. Sign up your group now. Press the Register button above next to your location of choice.

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Help, I Need More Sunday School Teachers, Part 2

Tuesday 18th July, 2017
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Replacing teachers who are stepping aside and discovering teachers for new classes can be tough. What can we do in those moments? In this two part series, I want to offer a response to the crisis of teacher shortage. In Part 1, I shared ideas for when the teacher shortage crisis comes with little or no notice. In Part 2, I will share ideas for planning ahead to be prepared for these unexpected times.

Life happens. We never know when some teachers or workers will choose to step aside. But some are easier to anticipate. A teacher is talking about retiring from work soon and relocating. Another is selling her home to move closer to her children. A teacher in failing health has been talking to his class about stepping aside at the end of the year. A couple teaching a coed class share with you about their burnout and need for a year off.

What can we do to ensure leaders are ready and available to step into vacated positions as well as to help start new classes that are needed? Consider these possibilities:
  • invite selected individuals to a potential teacher class six months in advance of when you will need new teachers,
  • ask current teachers to write down the name(s) of 1-3 people they believe would make a good teacher,
  • look through the list of VBS teachers and workers,
  • ask current teachers to apprentice a teacher before they step away,
  • ask current teachers to apprentice a teacher to be sent out to start a new class,
  • ask a potential teacher to read a book and talk about the chapters with you,
  • send a potential teacher into a class to observe a class for a month and debrief the experience weekly, and
  • help a potential teacher to prepare a lesson to be presented with the current teacher present followed by debriefing the experience.

These are but a few of many ideas. Keep your eyes and ears open. Observe. Listen. Ask. Invite. Don't make mass announcements about teacher needs. Be proactive about training one or more. Apprentice. Read. Work together. Be prepared before there is a need. Develop your leadership pipeline now. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about raising up new teachers and workers, check out these posts:

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Help, I Need More Sunday School Teachers, Part 1

Sunday 9th July, 2017
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During this season of enlistment, I talked to a Sunday School director today who lost three sixth grade teachers. Two of them chose to step aside due to health. The third was needed in another ministry. Replacing teachers who are stepping aside and discovering teachers for new classes can be tough. What can we do in those moments?

In this two part series, I want to offer a response to the crisis of teacher shortage. In Part 1, I will share ideas for responses when the teacher shortage crisis comes with little or no notice. In Part 2, I will share ideas for planning ahead to be prepared for these unexpected times.

CRISES PROVIDING LITTLE NOTICE. What are some reasons we might have little notice? Consider these:
  • death, personal illness, or accident
  • illness of family member
  • job change or work schedule change
  • moving
  • a ministry need elsewhere in the church
  • changing churches
  • sin in the life of a teacher

RESPONDING WITH LITTLE NOTICE. What can we do when faced with the announcement of a teacher who can no longer serve--especially if we have two week's notice or less? Here are some ideas:
  • pray with and encourage the person stepping away (even if there is sin)
  • gather your team to pray about the need (by phone or in person)
  • brainstorm with your team about a short-term solution
  • consider your list of substitutes (ask the teacher for ideas as well)
  • in adult classes, consider faithful class members who might cover the immediate need (2-4 weeks)
  • in younger classes (preschool, children, and teens), consider faithful parents who might step in for 2-4 weeks
  • pull an experienced teacher out of an existing class which has co-teachers to cover the immediate need (2-4 weeks); if this is a younger class, provide helpers for each of the two impacted classes/teachers
  • send in a member of your planning team to cover the class for 2-4 weeks
  • combine the class with another class only if all other solutions failed and only for 2-4 weeks (combining classes tends to mean fewer workers and less care inevitably resulting in lower attendance)

Ignoring the situation will not make it go away. Be as prepared as possible, but when necessary move quickly to ensure quality teaching, ministry, and care continue. What have you learned when you have faced one of these situations? What would you add to this list? Press Comments and share your ideas. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about enlistment and leadership development, check out these posts:

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Eager Discussion in Sunday School

Monday 26th June, 2017
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What do we need to do to create an environment in our classes where people talk? How can we set it up so members are eager to discuss God's Word and life? How can we make it safe for them to do so?

Real Life Ministries produced 12 Simple Small Group Guidelines to help group leaders create an "environment that is safe for transparency, vulnerability, and growing closer in relationship with each other and with God?" That is a good descriptor of the kind of environment needed in Sunday School classes where participants meet God in Bible study and encourage one another in living out the change God expects.

Here are the big phrases in their guidelines:
  • safe group,
  • confidentiality,
  • listen,
  • pause,
  • silence,
  • no 'cross talk,'
  • no fixing,
  • no rescuing,
  • sharing,
  • be self aware,
  • use 'I' statements, and
  • conflict.

I encourage you to read 12 Simple Small Group Guidelines. Your class will benefit from these guidelines. But recognize that many of our classes are not prepared for them yet.

How could you lead your class to be prepared for them? I believe it takes a leader with the vision for this kind of environment--even if the leader is unsure about how to bring it about. Secondly it takes a leader who prays and cares for the group. When we see the potential for more than is being accomplished in the lives of class members, we are willing to make adjustments in the environment.

Third, I believe the leader will be more successful in leading in this direction when he/she develops a plan to do so. What needs to be done first, next, etc.? Fourth, the vision, prayer, and plan need periodic review to see if progress is being made.

At this point, gather a leadership team to help with the adjustments. Share the vision, call them to prayer, have them review the plan, and then gather them regularly to ensure forward movement. Finally, lead the class to develop or agree to a class covenant that includes these guidelines. This is a way of leading the class to see the value and commit to support the adjustments needed.

When the class becomes a safe place for honest conversation, then life change can occur. When group members really listen and conversation is confidential, then life change can occur. When we use pause and allow silence to encourage healthy conversation and help, then life change can occur. When we avoid cross talk, fixing, and rescuing, then life change can occur. When we share the time, are self aware, use 'I' statements, and work to resolve conflict, then life change can occur.

Create an environment where your class members want to talk and realize doing so will help self and others. This adjustment is needed now! Start praying and leading in this direction. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about discussion, check out these posts:

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Assessing Desire for Sunday School Class Growth

Tuesday 20th June, 2017
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Do you want your class to grow? I have had teachers tell me "no." They would support growth in maturity among current members, but they did not want any new people coming in "to mess up the class." That is just sad! That class had become happily closed to new people. They were not supporting the church in making disciples of all nations. In fact, as far as the class was concerned, they were discouraging individuals from participating in making any new disciples.

Desire is important. In fact, the desire for growth is best when found in all three class groups: teachers, leadership teams, and members. It will be rare for numerical class growth to occur when desire for growth is absent from any of these groups.

I want to share some questions to assess your desire for class growth. Score yourself from 1-7 points for each question, with 1 meaning "not true for me" and 7 meaning "very true for me."

PRAYER:
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I praying for God to send us new people?
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I praying God allows me to invite people?

GOALS:
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Have I led my class to own and pursue goals for caring contacts/invitations, class guests, and new members?
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Have I set personal goals for making contacts, inviting people, and encouraging class membership?

TRAINING:
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I encouraging my class leadership team to learn and participate in training regularly?
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I continuing to learn and improve from reading and training?

TEAM ENLISTMENT:
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I ensuring all needed class leadership team roles are filled?
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I praying for new workers to join the team?

CARING CONTACTS:
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Have I encouraged class members to make regular contacts with members and prospects?
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I making regular contacts with class members and prospects?

PLANNING:
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Do I gather my class leadership team regularly to assess progress, adjust as needed, and encourage additional progress?
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Do I spend time with my Sunday School director and pastor understanding how my class can help the church carry out her mission?

TEACHING:
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Am I encountering God in Bible study before I prepare lessons for others?
  • 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Do I plan lessons which will lead class members to encounter God in Bible study personally rather than tell them what I learned?

How did you do? If you scored below 60, your desire for growth needs some personal example and leadership. Identify some of these assessment areas on which you can work this year. Pick one to work on this month. Ask for help. God's help and class help. Share these questions with your leadership team. Make disciples. Reach more. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about goals, check out these posts:

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Plan for a Great Sunday School Year Kickoff

Monday 12th June, 2017
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Making something great requires an investment of time, effort, and intentionality. What can you do in the next couple months to move your Sunday School year launch from good to great? This is an important question for the Sunday School as a whole or the individual class.

The first thing is to gather your planning team. Ask them to spend time in prayer before the day. Gather somewhere you will not be interrupted. As the meeting planner, put together some key questions to bring out the thinking, creativity, and ownership of the group in the plans.

What are some potential questions? Consider the following (but don't limit yourself to these):
  • What could we do in the before we launch the new Sunday School year to increase interest and excitement?
  • Where could we tap into the most energy?
  • What classes could we add and promote that would attract the most attention and interest?
  • How could we communicate the values and benefits of Sunday School in an attractive way?
  • What testimonies could be shared that would make others want to return or try Sunday School?
  • What training is needed by teachers and class leaders that would generate enthusiasm for inviting absentees and prospects?
  • Would a classroom cleaning and decorating day help add attention and excitement about the launch?
  • Would having an Open House work (see Sunday School Open House)? Would online registration and promotion of classes help?
  • Would creating a brochure about all the classes help? How would it be used?
  • How could new signs for every class help attract more attention?
  • How might promotional signs around the building make the kickoff even better?

What would you add to the above? What deadlines need to be set? Who needs to be responsible? Time is quickly slipping away. Do as much as you can to make this new year the best ever! Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas, check out these posts:

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Attractive Sunday School Space

Monday 5th June, 2017
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Is your space attractive? Over the years, I have been in thousands of classrooms. I have seen space used in hallways, kitchens, and sanctuaries. I have seen some beautiful space that looked like it was never used. I have seen large and tiny spaces. I have seen piles and piles of clutter. I have seen wooden chairs, plastic chairs, metal chairs, and pews. Every time I think I have seen it all, I discover something new.

Think about a guest coming into your space. Would a guest find your space attractive? What are some attributes of space that contribute toward attractiveness? Consider the following:
  • right amount of space for the size of the group (too little space can be especially intimidating for new people, but too much space can make the group feel aloof)
  • comfortable temperature
  • no odors
  • clean and uncluttered (floor, walls, and furnishings)
  • nonglaring, unscuffed or marked paint
  • furnishings in good repair and the right amount (too many furnishings makes a room feel junky)
  • right amount of lighting (too much is intimidating, too little feels like a dungeon)
  • decorated appropriately for the expected audience (or audiences if used by multiple groups during the week)
  • unstained ceilings
  • orderly shelves and storage.

If these ten bullets are not descriptive of your space, it may not be attractive. What can you do to make it the most attractive possible? Do you need to talk to Trustees or a Property Committee about lighting, an odor, or paint? Do you need to clean up your space? Do you need to remove excess furnishings? Do you need to check if other space is available?

Do your best to prevent your space from becoming a stumbling block for guests or for learning. Assess your space. Improve where needed. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about space, check out these posts:

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