Giving Sunday School Direction Through a Planning Retreat

Thursday 9th August, 2007

It is that time of year again. Vacations are ending. School has started or will start in the next few days. Football, soccer, and band are around the corner. Super Saturdays are set to begin in a week. And a new Sunday School year is almost upon us!

A few days ago I wrote an entry entitled Plan an Exciting Launch to the New Sunday School Year. Would you like that excitement to continue? Would you like to see your Sunday School take steps forward, to make progress? Pastor/director, I want to suggest that you gather your Sunday School teachers and workers together for a Sunday School planning retreat. (If you are a teacher, gather your leadership team together and have a class leadership retreat.)

Wisty Denton has written a great article on LifeWay's website entitled Simple Steps for a Youth Worker Retreat. Her main points are in all capitals followed by my comments. (For more suggestions, check out Hemphill and Taylor's book, Ten Best Practices to Make Your Sunday Schol Work, pages 24-37.)

DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO HAVE ACHIEVED AT THE END OF THE RETREAT. Of course, be open to God's leadership. Be flexible and ready to make adjustments, but without direction less or nothing will be accomplished. Having prayed in advance of the retreat, what do you hope will happen as a result of and during the retreat?

PICK A DATE WHEN MOST OF YOUR TEACHERS AND WORKERS CAN ATTEND. I know this sounds obvious, but it is more important than your own convenience or availability of retreat facilities. Set aside enough time to accomplish your agenda but keep it short enough so workers can squeeze it into their busy schedules. Schedule it sometime close to the beginning of the new year--can be before or after.

FIND A CONVENIENT PLACE THAT IS NOT TOO FAR AWAY FROM HOME/CHURCH AND IS NOT TOO EXPENSIVE. Keep in mind that a retreat site that requires a two-hour drive adds four hours to workers' time away from family. But I highly recommend getting away from the church or one of the group's homes. There is something about getting away from the familiar that brings focus. Also, keep cost down whether the church or individuals will bear the expense.

WORK UP AN AGENDA SO TIME IS SPENT WISELY. Pages 31-34 of Ten Best Practices offers a six-step agenda: make spiritual preparation, evaluate present work, identify needs, determine priorities, set goals, and plan actions. I have seen this agenda's effectiveness in many settings. Ideally, send the agenda out in advance of the retreat to help participants anticipate needs and pray for the retreat. 

PLAN TO INCLUDE ONE OR TWO SHORT TRAINING SESSIONS. Wisty is right on here. I believe every time you gather your teachers and workers together you should plan training to be a part of it, whether the meeting is for an hour or an overnight retreat. Notice her word, "short." Also, make sure the training is relevant to your direction and agenda.

PUBLICIZE THE RETREAT. Again, this is obvious, but you want to do more than just communicate that there will be a retreat. Build it up. Ask them to pray. Give them an agenda. Raise their expectations. Give the retreat a theme. Add a picture/logo to build on the theme.

Along with these great suggestions, I want to add two more. (1) Pray for the retreat in advance. Call for the leaders to pray. Ask the church (or class) to pray. Seek God's leadership. (2) Follow up on plans made at the retreat. Set regular check up meetings. Make assignments. Set deadlines. Walk the mile toward accomplishing great things for God through the Sunday School by taking one step at a time!

Don't go another year without direction for your Sunday School. Pray. Plan a retreat. Follow up. Be revolutionary.

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