Opposition to Sunday School Change

Monday 14th January, 2008

I spoke to a large Sunday School class yesterday. The Sunday School director and class teacher invited me to help the class consider the need to move toward regular use of table discussion groups. The teacher is a great lecturer who sensed the need to involve the class even more in the Bible study session.

Tracy had done a great job preparing the class for this change. The class had experienced some short exposures to small group work in the month prior to this meeting. Even yesterday morning, the class began with a brief table icebreaker exercise that connected to the lesson. So following lunch, Tracy spoke laying out the class direction for the year and then called on me.

I began by affirming the class, Tracy, and their progress in the previous months. Then following a short video segment, I challenged them to kick it up a notch through small groups! When I concluded, Tracy asked me to ask them for a commitment. When I asked, it appeared to be unanimous affirmation.

Unfortunately, not all Sunday School change is as successful as yesterday's appears to have been. What can we do in those moments to lead our Sunday School to make needed change in order to be revolutionary rather than mediocre? Rick Warren wrote a great article entitled How to Handle Opposition. In the article, he shares lessons that can be learned from Nehemiah 4. This points have much help to offer in the face of needed Sunday School change. His six points are in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • RELY ON GOD (vv. 4-5). Our leadership of the Sunday School should flow out of our relationships with God. Times of change call for even greater seeking after God, His presence, and His will. I like what Warren says here, "The greater the opposition, the more you need to pray. Don’t take it out on other people; talk it out with God."
  • RESPECT THE OPPOSITION (v. 9). Nehemiah led the workers on the wall to take up weapons in addition to their tools. He respected the opposition. Warren puts it this way about Nehemiah, "He was prayerful and practical." Attempt to understand the perspective. Prepare well to meet the resistance.
  • REINFORCE YOUR WEAK POINTS (v. 13). This takes honest evaluation. It may even require outside observation by someone not involved in the change. Where is your class or the plan for change weak? What needs to be shored up? Nehemiah placed armed guards at the low, weak sections of the wall. What steps can your class take to address the weak points of the change plan?
  • REALLOCATE RESOURCES, BUT DON'T STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING (v. 16). Nehemiah refused to stop the work to prepare for attack. Don't allow attacks to divert attention, energy, and effort away from needed change and progress for your Sunday School. Again, I like what Warren said here, "You could spend all your time putting out fires and never complete what God has called you to do."
  • REASSURE THE PEOPLE (v. 14). Rally your leaders and members. Encourage them. Calm their fears. Remind them why the change is important. Help them to see what victory will look like. Help them to realize that God is in control. Help them to see the progress that has already been made. Help them to focus on God rather than the opposition.
  • REFUSE TO QUIT (v. 15). Never give up. Keep taking one step forward. Don't get discouraged, and don't stop. Be stubborn. Be persistent until the change is complete.

Rely on God. Respect the opposition. Reinforce your weak points. Reallocate resources, but don't stop. Reassure the people. Refuse to quit. Prayerfully, persistently move toward needed change. Be revolutionary!

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