In a great article entitled Ten Tips for New Sunday School Directors, Wayne Poling suggests, "Give purposeful thought to the direction of your personal leadership for the Sunday School director." Wayne made me think. I believe this is essential not only for Sunday School directors but also for pastors, ministers of education, teachers, age group leadership, and even members.
In many churches, Sunday School is on autopilot. Sometimes this occurs because of leadership vacancies or transitions. Sometimes it occurs because of lack of knowledge by leaders. At other times it occurs due to lack of leadership despite knowledge. Many times it occurs simply because of assumptions rather than accountability. Occasionally, a Sunday School will be on autopilot due to lack of intentional planning or creativity.
Then, how do Sunday School leaders and members break out of autopilot mode? How can we be more purposeful in giving direction to Sunday School? Allow me to make several suggestions, but let me emphasize that the first one is listed first because of sequence and priority:
- PRAY. God has plans for us, for Sunday School, and for the church. Don't tune Him out. Instead, invite others to join you in seeking Him and His leadership. Pray for revelation, understanding, and direction. Pray for his presence, blessings, and power to accomplish that to which He has called you. Don't make plans and ask Him to bless them. Ask Him first what He wants you to do and where he wants you to go.
- READ/TRAIN. There are many good books and conferences (like Super Saturday) about Sunday School, teaching, small groups, assimilation, reaching, and many more subjects. Sometimes the smallest new idea or reminder of something that is no longer being done can birth creativity and energy to break out of autopilot. This is especially true when a leadership team reads or attends a conference and debriefs together.
- OBSERVE. Watch what is happening in your class, your age group, other age groups, or Sunday School as a whole. Look for successes. Look for great practices. Look for needs. Go to other churches and watch how they do things. Look for needs in your community. Observe and learn from what is happening along the paths you trod through life. Ask yourself what these experiences have in common with Sunday School.
- GATHER. When you gather a group of Sunday School leaders, the synergy and their collective experience and intelligence have the potential to release autopilot. Pray. Listen. Ask questions. Evaluate. Assess needs/dreams. Establish priorities. Set goals. Make plans. Watch God work!