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FIRST-PERSON: Caring for the flock through Sunday School

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–I have often quipped that there are only two things wrong with the name “Sunday School.” Last month’s column mentioned this (see “Should we rename Sunday School?”), but I wanted to extend the discussion a bit. First of all, Sunday School is not just a school. In the late 1700s when it was founded, it was a school that used the Bible as a textbook to teach reading and writing to children who worked in British factories the other six days of the week. The children were called, “Sunday School scholars.” The movement, over the years, took on the added responsibilities of evangelistic outreach and caring ministry.

The second deficiency with the name is that Sunday School is not just on Sunday. Rather, it is a 24/7 network of outreach, communication and care. The group meets once a week (often on Sunday mornings) for Bible study and to enjoy the fruits of the week’s reaching and caring ministries. With this month’s column, I wanted to offer some tips for accomplishing that “reaching and caring” part of Sunday School.

Assign every child to a Sunday School teacher.

Let’s start with the preschool and children’s departments. Usually those departments each have a director and two, three or — if you’re very fortunate! — more teachers. Form care groups by dividing the names of the enrolled children equally among the workers. Each worker’s assignment is to make regular contact with the child and his/her parents. Early Saturday evening works well for a quick call through the list. Always make sure you speak to a parent first, introduce yourself and gain permission to talk with the child.

Enlist students to be care group leaders, too.

Youth classes are typically a little slimmer on adult leadership, so involve the teens themselves as care group leaders. Enlist a few of your more mature students and assign each of them about five other students of the same gender. Ask them to make a contact each week. Don’t be surprised if that contact occurs through a text message or instant message chat! As the teacher, ask the care group leaders to report to you about any issue that requires your prayer or personal attention.

Assign every associate member to an adult care group.

Before you even think about enlisting care group leaders for the people enrolled in your classes, enlist one or more to stay in touch with your associate members — those members-in-service who work in preschool, children and student Sunday School departments. Have the care group leader report to the class every Sunday morning any prayer needs or special events in the lives of your associate members. Care for them just like you do for those who attend your class — maybe even a little bit better! Put up their names on the wall or consider displaying photos of them working in their classrooms.

Assign every enrolled adult to a care group.

Enlist a care group leader for every five to seven adults enrolled in your class. That leader’s basic job description is simple: Contact every member, every week. I recommend that coed classes have men’s and women’s care groups with care group leaders of the same gender. Why? Because if you have a couple care group with a couple as the care group leaders, the women typically call the women and the guys are left out! A bonus to this system is that you have a ready-made communication chain for your men’s and women’s ministries.

Understand who is the care group leader for the care group leaders.

The teacher of the adult class usually functions in the role of care group leader to the care group leaders. In larger classes, it could be a different leader. The advantage of the teacher performing this role is at least twofold: 1) The teacher models the role by contacting every care group leader ever week and 2) by doing so, there is built-in accountability, and more importantly, an opportunity to learn what is happening in the lives of your class members.
David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • David Francis