Maximizing Sunday School Class Health, Part 2

Monday 7th June, 2010

In Part 1, I shared that I had read a recent article entitled How to Increase the Health of Your Sunday School by Steve Gladen. Gladen is the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church. While Saddleback has small groups rather than Sunday School, Gladen wants both to be healthy. In the article, Gladen shares ten practical steps for maximizing the health of your Sunday School class.

In Part 1, I shared the first five steps: strategically set up your room, understand ratios, build consistency at the table, set the table for evangelism and it will build attendance accountability, and know your sheep; help your sheep know themselves. In Part 2 of this two-part series, I will share the second five of Gladen's ten steps in all capitals followed by my commentary. Consider these suggestions:
1.        BUILD SPIRITUAL ACCOUNTABILITY. Use your time wisely in Sunday School to help attenders make spiritual progress. Take time to ask attenders what they did to carry out the truth of last week's lesson. Gladen encourages having participants "pair up with someone who will help them." This makes it personal and quicker than the teacher or table/circle leaders hearing from everyone. Asking accountability questions in front of the group can cause embarrassment due to the number one fear in America: public speaking.
2.        DEVELOP OWNERSHIP. I like Gladen's suggestion here. It relates to the fifth step in Part 1: know your sheep; help your sheep know themselves. Gladen says, "Have those who are strong in a purpose, help your class in that area. If someone is strong in...Fellowship, they can help keep track of birthdays and anniversaries...or help your class plan social events....Or people who are strong in...Discipleship may even want to help with the teaching time." Don't do the work for them; let them work out of their strengths. This creates ownership of class work.
3.        KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Gladen's suggestion is to avoid feeling like you have to accomplish all five purpose during the Bible study session. There are 167 other hours that attenders can accomplish important work. I do, however, like Allan Taylor's suggestion of scheduling time on Sunday morning to make assignments/hear reports from these areas. Doing so helps the class to understand the importance of balance. Gladen concludes his thoughts about this step with these words: "Release your people to develop themselves. If you keep everything in the classroom, you will suppress creativity and the Holy Spirit!"
4.        THINK TRANSFORMATION, NOT JUST INFORMATION. Gladen reminds people that Sunday School started in England to teach literacy and morals to children who were working in factories all week. The literacy text that was used was the Bible. Since our focus is not literacy, today we need to add an emphasis in Sunday School on application of the teaching/learning. Don't rush through the lesson communicating content and neglect helping attenders apply the truth to their setting and lives. Help them make commitments to live out the truth. Set aside time for them to listen to God's still small voice. Gladen encourages spending 40% of the Bible study session time on application.
5.        DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF DISCUSSION. Leading attenders to talk out loud about issues, leads to deeper thinking and ownership of ideas. It allows attenders to learn from each other. They realize their ideas are important and others have similar thoughts or questions. They know more about each other and know how best to encourage each other. While discussion takes more time than lecture, the time is well invested.

Which of these five suggestions could help your class take steps toward greater class health? How could you get it started? When could you begin? If you have had success or struggles in making any of these transitions in your class, press Comments below and share your story. Help someone, or get help from the Revolutionary community.

For more ideas about application of the lesson, check out these blog posts:

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