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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4 Critical Actions for Sunday School Growth

Tuesday 30th May, 2017
What are the four actions every Sunday School must take or growth will not be possible. Stop and make a list. Which do you believe is the most critical on your list?
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What are the four actions every Sunday School must take or growth will not be possible. Stop and make a list. Which do you believe is the most critical on your list?

Allow me to share my list. Compare these actions with those on your list:
  • PRAY. We don't have to ask if God wants us to do the work of Sunday School (reach out, study the Bible, and care for each other). We know He does. But we do need to pray for His help and leadership. Pray for God to send workers into the harvest. Pray for people to be reached. Pray for disciples to be made and mobilized into service. Pray for relationships to be established. Pray for good decisions to be made related to organization, space, training, etc.
  • ENLIST MORE LEADERS AND START MORE GROUPS. To grow existing classes, additional leaders are needed. Prayerfully enlist outreach leaders, member care leaders, greeters, and apprentice teachers. Each new leader expands your care capacity by five people. Enlist 5 additional leaders and you can care well for 25 more people. Enlist the best of these leaders to help start new classes. Each class on average grows to 10-12 attending and 20-25 enrolled. Start 4 classes to increase 40+ in attendance with 80+ enrolled.
  • REACH OUT AND ENROLL MORE PEOPLE. No Sunday School can grow without enrolling new people. Attendance my increase for brief periods of time without enrolling, but those times will be rare. Pray for an reach out in care to prospects. Invite them to your fellowships and projects. Developing a relationship with them. Invite them to your class. Share Jesus with them. Ask if you can add them to your class care list (list of people for whom you pray, care in time of need, and invite to fellowships/projects).
  • CARE FOR ALL THOSE ON YOUR CLASS LIST. When a Sunday School has people dropping out faster than new people are enrolling, there is no way to grow. Care for those on your list--all of them--not just those who attend faithfully. Contact every member regularly (at least every other week). Share about the class and class plans. Ask for prayer requests. Pray together. Have a fellowship and a project every quarter to deepen interaction and time spent together. Eat together. Organize to meet needs. Communicate.

Without all four of thee critical actions, Sunday School is destined to decline. By the way, poor teaching can run off members and prospects faster than our efforts to care and reach out can grow the class. So keep preparing and teaching well. For help there, check out my new book, Disciple-Making Encounters: Revolutionary Sunday School.

Assess the four actions above. How are you doing on each? Which is your strongest? Which is most in need of work? How can you make plans this year to address all four of these actions? Grow healthy and strong this year. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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

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12 Steps to Start Extending Sunday School Class Invitations, Part 2

Monday 22nd May, 2017
In Part 1, I asked how to move scared and apathetic class members toward inviting lost and unenrolled people to Sunday School? In Part 2, I want to share six more steps. Keep in mind that in Part 1 I said doing so requires patient leadership.
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In Part 1, I asked how to move scared and apathetic class members toward inviting lost and unenrolled people to Sunday School? In that post, I shared the first six steps: pray, develop a prospect care list, plan a fellowship or project, make phone calls/visits, send mail/electronic reminders, and conduct the fellowship/project.

In Part 2, I want to share six more steps. Keep in mind that in Part 1 I said doing so requires patient leadership. Consider these additional steps:

STEP SEVEN:  Enlist greeters. Your class now believes prospects will come to a fellowship/project. They not recognize prospects may come to class. Greeters are needed to help the class make good first impressions. Greeters welcome members and guests. They register guests, encourage name tags, and sit with and introduce guests to the class. They walk guests after class to restrooms, their children, and worship. They follow up with guests.

STEP EIGHT:  Involve but don't embarrass. Since the public speaking is the number one fear, don't ask guests to read aloud, answer questions, or introduce themselves to the group. It is fine if they volunteer. If you break into smaller groups, avoid making the groups too small when you have guests. Explain terms even more with guests.

STEP NINE:  Follow up with all guests. After guests or prospects come to a fellowship, project, or class, follow up within 72 hours. Introduce yourself, your class, and your church. Follow up on any previous prayer requests. Thank them. Ask if they had any questions. Share about an upcoming lesson, fellowship, or project. Ask for prayer requests. Pray together.

STEP TEN:  Make regular caring contacts. Contact should be make every 1-2 weeks--face-to-face and by phone are more personal. Identify yourself, your class, and your church. Ask how their week is going. Follow up on any previous prayer requests. Share about an upcoming lesson, fellowship, or project. Ask for prayer requests. Pray together. (Mobilize care if needed.)

STEP ELEVEN:  Offer testimony practice once a month. Give everyone a sheet of paper and ask them to write out their testimony: (1) what life was like before Christ, (2) how I met Christ, and (3) what life is like since I met Christ. Allow a maximum of 10 minutes. Ask them to turn them. Read them as if you were not a Christian. Offer written suggestions about how to improve or explain things better. Hand them back the next month, and get in pairs giving them 3 minutes each to read their testimonies to each other. Repeat each month. In month five, ask them to share the testimony with a family member. The next Sunday, ask how it went. In month six, ask them to share their testimony with a prospect. The next Sunday, ask how it went. Each month thereafter, ask one person to share their testimony with the whole class and challenge them to share with prospects. Teach them a simple gospel presentation to add to their testimonies.

STEP TWELVE:  Add new members to the class care list. Ask prospects if you can add them to the class care list. When they ask what is a class care list, tell them it is your list of people for whom your class prays, invites to fellowships and projects, and helps in times of need. Set an annual God-sized goal for new members.

Keep in mind that a class that stops inviting is planning to die. Lead. Pray. Invite. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about reaching out, check out these posts:

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Barriers to Sunday School Growth

Monday 8th May, 2017
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Take a moment to jot down five contributing factors for your Sunday School not growing (or not growing like it could). What did you write? Which factor is the biggest one? Frequently the words of the Pogo comic from 1970 apply:  "We have met the enemy and he is us." (If you have not see the comic, go HERE.) What can you do this month, quarter, and year to address that barrier?

Some of the barriers you identified may be included in the following (in no particular order):
  • lack of prayer
  • lack of leadership
  • lack of a plan for leadership development
  • lack of vision, mission, and purpose
  • lack of goal setting and goals
  • lack of planning and accountability
  • lack of training
  • lack of new leaders
  • lack of new groups
  • stagnant spiritual growth by teachers and leaders
  • poor teaching skills and practices
  • lack of class involvement (in lessons and class ministry)
  • lack of member care, meeting needs, and contacts
  • lack of outreach and new members
  • lack of relationship development, fellowships, and projects
  • poor, inadequate, or insufficient space
  • poor or no organization
  • conflict
  • apathy
  • busyness
  • and many more.

I encourage you to go gather a team to go through your list or mine. Narrow the list down to the five factors having the most negative impact on growth. Then identify the top factor and lead your planning team to address it. Identify what can be done to overcome the barrier. Set goals. Assign them with deadlines. Calendar check up times to share about progress and adjust plans as needed.

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Release of Disciple-Making Encounters

Monday 1st May, 2017
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ABOUT THE BOOK
. Disciple-Making Encounters has been released today, May 1. This is a book about the much needed change in how we prepare for Sunday School and the way we lead class time. The book focuses on two encounters: the teacher encountering God in His Word while preparing the lesson and the teacher leading the class to encounter God in His Word during class. These two encounters are life-impacting and disciple-making.

CHAPTERS.
The book's chapters lead the reader through encounter, preparation, and presentation basics. They include the following:
PART ONE: The First Encounter

1. Neglect of the First Encounter, 2. God's Word and the First Encounter, 3. Your Example Matters, 4. Seeking God in the First Encounter
PART TWO: Preparation from the First Encounter

1. Revolutionary Preparation Essentials, 2. Planning the Second Encounter, 3. Planning for Increased Interest and Retention, 4. Second Encounter Learning Space
PART THREE: Second Encounter Early Moments

1. Neglect of Opening Moments, 2. God's Word on Teaching, 3. Early Moment Opportunities, 4. Facilitate a Second Encounter
PART FOUR: Second Encounter Middle Moments

1. Neglect of Second Encounter Middle Moments. 2. Transformational Second Encounter Middle Moments, 3. Second Encounter Middle Moment Challenges
PART FIVE: Second Encounter Closing Moments

1. Neglect of Second Encounter Closing Moments, 2. Application Steps in the Closing Moments, 3. Change Practices in the Closing Moments, 4. Continue the Second Encounter

God and His people deserve our best efforts in preparing for and leading Bible study sessions. Since it is God who has the power to change lives, encounters are needed more than lessons. Our Lord calls us to be His disciples. Following Him requires relationship, time spent together, and obedience. Sunday School encounters with God in His Word can change us and the world!

ABOUT ME.
I have been teaching, working with, and leading Sunday School since I was 19. I had the great privilege of serving on the staff of five great churches in Kentucky and South Carolina. For the last twenty years, it has been my joy to observe, consult with, and train leaders from 2,400 churches in Kentucky. Those experiences have enriched my life and my understanding of Sunday School. In addition, over the last eleven years, I have blogged about Sunday School in more than 1,250 posts. Those rich experiences have contributed much to my thinking and writing and have led to the writing of my book, Disciple-Making Encounters: Revolutionary Sunday School.

SHARE MY PASSION.
If you would like to hear more about Disciple-Making Encounters, there are several things you can do.
  • Discuss. Secure copies of the book. Gather a team to read and discuss it. I will be working on leadership material (PowerPoint presentations and handouts) to support your efforts.
  • Training Event. To set up a training event for your church, association, group, or event, contact me at darryl.wilson@kybaptist.org or 502.489.3341.
  • Comment. Respond to this post by pressing Comments. Ask questions. Make comments. Let's start a conversation right here, right now. Your questions and comments can help others as we talk together.

PURCHASE THE BOOK.
Order your print copy from Aneko Press:  https://anekopress.com/product/disciple-making-encounters/. Or order the print or Kindle versions from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Darryl-Wilson/e/B001KE7GBG. To place a discounted large order, contact Jeremiah Zeiset at Aneko Press at jeremiah@lspbooks.com.

In all you do, make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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12 Steps to Start Extending Sunday School Class Invitations, Part 1

Monday 24th April, 2017
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How do you move scared and apathetic class members toward inviting lost and unenrolled people to Sunday School? My two word answer is patient leadership. Are you willing to lead your class? Are you willing to do so patiently? If so, I want to offer you twelve steps which work. In Part 1, we will examine the first six steps.

STEP ONE:  Pray.
You pray first and then lead your class to pray. Pray together for at least a month prior to taking step two. Pray for the people group of your class. Lead the class each to pray for 3 lost people by name. Pray for identifying, reaching out, caring, sharing with, and enrolling people. Pray for their salvation.

STEP TWO:  Develop a prospect care list.
Pray. Ask for names of FRANs: friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors who are in the people group assignment for your class. Determine a plan for making regular contacts (2-4 times per month for each person). Focusing on the top 5 or 10 may make your group more intentional.

STEP THREE:  Plan a fellowship or project.
Gather a planning team. Pray. Keep in mind the goal of inviting prospects. Make the event fun and easy to get acquainted. Communicate the plan to the class, including the goal to invite FRANs. Teacher announces that his/her prospect will attend.

STEP FOUR:  Make phone calls/visits.
Pray before making contacts. During calls/visits: introduce yourself, your class, and your church. Then invite them to the fellowship/project. Offer transportation. Ask how you can pray for them and their family. Then pray together.

STEP FIVE:  Send mail/electronic reminders.
Pray before making contacts. Send last-minute reminders inviting them to the fellowship or project. Include date, time, place, and your offer of transportation. Mention your class name and church.

STEP SIX:  Conduct the fellowship/project.
Pray before anyone arrives. Welcome all guests but introduce them privately. Ask members to pay special attention to their guests. Before the fellowship/project ends, the teacher thanks and invites everyone to class. Members follow up with their guests quickly.

In Part 2, we will look at the next six steps that continue to build on these important early efforts. The next six help to build the culture and structure for this effort to continue past the fellowship or project. Keep in mind that a class that stops inviting is planning to die. Lead. Pray. Invite. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about reaching out, check out these posts:

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Congratulations to Disciple-Making Encounters Book Giveaway Winners

Wednesday 19th April, 2017
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On February 20, I launched a giveway for blog readers of my new book, Disciple-Making Encounters: Revolutionary Sunday School. The book is set to be released by Amazon.com, Aneko Press, and others on May 1. The deadline to enter was March 31.

So I want to announce the winners:
  • Al Magness
  • Ron Shepherd
  • Sandy Kiper
  • Lewis Frizzell
  • Eloise Walters
  • Richard Nations
  • Jon Sutton
  • Linda Crawford
  • Cheri Farmer
  • Ben Jennings
  • Judy Williams
  • Bobby Bragg
  • Cleveland King
  • Ralph Wood
  • Chris Fowler
  • Tony Jones
  • Dwight Moss
  • Beau Carpenter
  • Beau Bredow

Books have been shipped. Thanks for entering the giveaway. May God use the book to rekindle your relationship with Him as you lead others toward the same goal in your Sunday School.

Let me know what you like about the book. Share with me any adjustments the book leads you to make in your preparation and presentation of Bible study. After May 1, I would like to see lots of reviews on Amazon.com.

If you would like to preorder the book, Aneko Press offers Disciple-Making Encounters: Revolutionary Sunday School for $10.49. For a case of the books at an even lower cost, contact Jeremiah Zeiset at Aneko Press. Amazon offers the print version of Disciple-Making Encounters for $14.99 or the Kindle version for $5.99.

Give God and His people your best effort. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!

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Sunday School Class Help: 4 Chair Discipling Event

Tuesday 11th April, 2017
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I want to invite you and your class team to meet and hear Dann Spader as he talks about his book, 4 Chair Discipling: Growing a Movement of Disciple-Makers. He will be live at the Kentucky Baptist Convention (Louisville, KY) and webcast to Paducah, Lexington, and Bowling Green (see addresses below). All locations will be able to ask Dann questions.

How does someone go from seeking truth about Jesus to knowing Him and making disciples in His name. The Discipleship Network of Kentucky and I would like to invite you and your class team to join us on April 20 to hear a simple process of moving people through four chairs.

  • WHEN: Thursday, April 20, 10:00-Noon (Eastern time).
  • WHO:  Dann Spader, author, disciple-maker, founder of Sonlife Ministries
  • WHAT:  4 Chair Discipling: Growing a Movement of Disciple-Makers (Dann will share about this book).
  • WHERE:  Live at the Kentucky Baptist Convention, 13420 Eastpoint Centre Dr, Louisville, KY
  • WHERE:  Webcast to three locations: First Baptist Church, 2890 Broadway St, Paducah, KY; Immanuel Baptist Church, 3100 Tates Creek, Rd, Lexington, KY; and First Baptist Church, 621 E. 12th St, Bowling Green, KY
  • COST:  $15 per person, includes a copy of his book
  • WHO SHOULD ATTEND:  pastors, associate pastors, Sunday School directors, adult and youth class teachers and leaders, and individuals with a passion for disciple-making
REGISTRATION.  Register now at www.kybaptist.org/4chair.

QUESTIONS.  If you have questions, contact me at darryl.wilson@kybaptist.org or Ron Moore, president of the Discipleship Network of Kentucky, at ronm@littleflock.com.

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