In order for Sunday School to assist the church in making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), classes have to focus on people not in Sunday School. This is called outreach. Outreach includes many actions, but they all flow out of a decision--a choice to be obedient, to love God and others as ourselves.
Many classes, however, have been in maintenance mode for years. Most began with excitement and invitation, but after a few months many shifted toward self-focus in teaching and class activities. How can teachers, Sunday School directors, and pastors change this drift? How can outreach and focus on those not in Sunday School become a higher priority?
For many of the members of these classes, lack of outreach has become a habit. It takes more effort for a stationary object to begin moving. That means it is challenging to change the habit of not reaching out. Most class members will need patient encouragement and assistance to change this habit. It will take time, but the time is well worth the investment.
The ideal member attitude and behavior would be outreach as a lifestyle. Members would naturally be concerned for friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. They would pray for them, care for them, and invite them to be a part of their Sunday School community. No one would have to remind them. New people would be added to prayer and prospect lists. New people would show up at class activities as well as on Sunday.
What can a pastors, directors, and teachers do to lead classes to take steps toward an outreach lifestyle? Consider these four ideas:
PRAYER/CONVICTION. Lead them to study God's Word about lost people (Luke 15, for instance). Ask them to pray for people not in the class. Lead them to consider Jesus' compassion and mission for lost people. Ask them to consider the response God desires. Call for testimonies.
INTENTIONALITY. This can come from within the class. Someone has a passion or concern for a person or group. This leads the class to plan a project or ministry effort. Intentionality is about addressing a need discovered. It is about deciding upon a focus or direction.
LEADERSHIP. Often this means that someone steps forward to give specific leadership in this area. Sometimes this will result in someone in the class being designated as a class outreach leader to help the class maintain a conviction, focus, and habit of outreach. Otherwise, the drift tends to revert back to self-focus.
NEW HABITS FROM OLD ONES. Why not tap into actions class members are already practicing (habits)? Challenge members to invite prospects for meals. They already eat. Why not get to know prospects during a meal. The class enjoys fellowships. Why not ask members to invite guests to fun times together as a class? Is the class making plans for a service project? Why not invite friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to join in the project? Sometimes, the attitude follows the practice. Acting like you care can lead you toward a real attitude of compassion and care.
What can you do to help class(es) take steps toward on outreach lifestyle? Sean Keith has written a great post to help illustrate how to do this. Check out Using Outreach Events to Grow Your Sunday School. Pray. Study God's Word. Be intentional. Designate a leader. Make old habits new. Reach. Care. Invite. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!
For more ideas about reaching out, check out these blog posts:
- Sunday School Reaching out to the Community
- Confronting Excuses for Classes Not Reaching Out, Part 1and Confronting Excuses for Classes Not Reaching Out, Part 2
- Creating Sunday School Class Outreach Momentum
- Reach and Assimilate People into the Kingdom Through Sunday School Fellowships
- Understanding the Community Around Your Sunday School
- Grow Sunday School by Sharing Your Salvation Testimony
- Reaching Lost/Unchurched Sheep Through the Sunday School
- Your Sunday School Class Can Reach Hundreds in Ten Years
- Sunday School Outreach: Giving Sunday Night to Jesus
- Sunday School Class TEAMS
- Sunday School Contacts Result in Increased Attendance
- Effective Sunday School Visitation