When is the right time to start new classes? The answer is "when they are needed and leaders are ready." What can we do to prepare for starting new classes? What can we do to discern whether a new class is needed? How can we get a new leader ready?
In Part 1, I mentioned an article entitled How to Start New Adult Sunday School Classes which shares actions with the letter, "E," that are "foundational building blocks on which new adult classes can be started." The web article content came from a brochure by Ron Pratt of the Baptist Sunday School Board, now called LifeWay Christian Resources. In Part 1, I shared Pratt's first three actions. In Part 2, I shared the middle three actions. In Part 3, I will share his final three actions to build effective new classes in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- ENCOURAGE: TO INSPIRE WITH HOPE, COURAGE, OR CONFIDENCE; TO HELP BRING ABOUT. This is more than education. This is motivation. This is support. This is affirmation. Pat new leaders on the back. Listen to them. Invite them to share their ideas. Build ownership. Catch them doing something good, and point it out to others. Respond with help. Be positive. I like Pratt's statement, "Do not let a few negatives destroy your mission or purpose." Invite others to join in sharing the encouragement with others. Encourage!
- EMBARK: TO SET OUT ON AN ADVENTURE; COMMENCE. At some point, you have prayed, considered possibilities, prepared, enlisted, trained, and are ready now to get started. While interest is high, do it! Two of the easiest times to start new classes during the church year are spring and fall. Fall, especially, comes with some natural energy and freshness. But when leaders and needs are ready, that may be the time to set out on the journey--whether it is spring or fall or not. Where possible attempt to start with a seed group of 2-6 people, including the apprentice or teacher. This will add synergy, energy, hands, and personalities to the efforts to start the new class well. Quickly enlist members of that seed group to class responsibilities. Plan fellowships and reaching efforts. Embark!
- EVALUATE: TO EXAMINE AND JUDGE; APPRAISE; ESTIMATE; TO DETERMINE THE VALUE AND WORTH OF. Each step of the way in starting new classes, pause to evaluate, including immediately after the launch of a new class. Pratt suggests asking five questions a few months after the start: "How do leaders and members feel about this new class? What was done that seemed to work well in forming this new class? What problems have been encountered that no one anticipated when class leaders were enlisted? What would leaders say to other persons in the church who might be asked to pray about starting another class? Do leaders and members see the value of and necessity for starting new classes?"
I like the way Pratt ends the brochure. He challenges us to remember that starting new classes requires time, energy, commitment, flexibility, sensitivity, and leadership. But when started on a solid foundation, these classes will help to create breakthrough. The n he states (with lots of "E" words), "The effects of this experience will create an environment attenders will enjoy with plenty of elbow room for everyone and an enthusiasm for the study of God's Word that will enlighten and inspire, creating an extraordinary opportunity to engage in evangelism while we give nothing less than our best efforts."
In Part 1 and Part 2, we looked at Pratt's first six actions for starting new classes: explore, examine, engage, educate, enlarge, and enlist. How are you doing in these nine areas? Look around you. What classes are needed? What resources are available. What spaces are open or need adjustment? Who needs to be enlisted, trained, and released into service? How can you enlarge the organization to support these new classes? Encourage the process and your leaders. Do it. Evaluate. Start new classes. Be revolutionary!