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FIRST PERSON: Coaching your Sunday School leaders to win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Enlist, equip, encourage. Enlist, equip, encourage. That’s the cycle of work for the Sunday School leader. It’s a lot like being a coach. The following are a few ideas for coaching your Sunday School leaders to be a winning team:

— Match their position with their gifts.

During one of his earlier stints as head coach of the Washington Redskins, Joe Gibbs was influenced by a study on spiritual gifts at his church. It changed the way he coached. The result was a Super Bowl championship. What was the big change? Using the natural gifts of his players to make sure they were in the right position and designing plays around their talents.

Sunday School leaders perform best when their assigned position matches their giftedness. For example, those with the gift of shepherd-teacher (Ephesians 4:11) make the best Sunday School teachers. Those with the gift of evangelism are terrific outreach leaders.

— Provide them with good equipment.

A helmet that is too big or cleats that are too tight can have a negative impact on the performance of a football player. On the other hand, a new jersey can sometimes create just the motivation a team needs to win a big game.

Do your Sunday School leaders have the best equipment you can provide? That includes good curriculum materials, of course. My wife, Vickie, and I teach a pre-K class at our church, and we want all the material we can get our hands on. We also appreciate having good equipment in the Sunday School room, including blocks, tables, chairs and access to a resource room. When I served as a minister of education, I always checked every adult room on Saturday nights to make sure there were markers and erasers, nametags, coffee supplies, etc. It was also a great time to pray for every class and leader, because the best equipment your leaders can have is not Under Armour, but God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10f).

— Help them understand the game plan.

Ever wonder about the multicolored, laminated page most football coaches carry on the sidelines during a game? Those are usually “down-and-distance” charts. They have developed a plan for that specific game about what plays might work best in every situation. Do your leaders understand the Sunday School game plan? Do they know what to do if a child is injured? Are they prepared for the student who arrives early? Are they equipped to get a visiting preschooler to the right room?

Teaching a pre-K class, we often have kids directed to our class who have just turned four years old, when a younger class would be better for them. Using a chart is an easy way to solve this. Using a word-processing program, make a table with seven columns and 13 rows. The top row is for title: Month, then six rows with the birth years applicable to the current group of preschoolers (this will change each year). Down the left side of the chart, list the months of the year, January-December. Now go back and enter — or just print — the appropriate class in each month/year cell. You can change the chart as often as necessary.

— Encourage them on game day.

Teams always get to the stadium early. So should Sunday School leaders. So should the Sunday School coach. Make a tour of your area or responsibility. Ask if your leaders need anything. Respond as quickly as possible. Say thanks.

— Stay focused on the goal.

Offensive linemen often have a hard time concentrating on the snap count in an opponent’s stadium because of the crowd noise. It’s easy to get distracted as a Sunday School leader, as well. Take every opportunity to remind your leaders of the goal: Boys and girls, men and women discovering the great truths of God’s Word and the faith stories of believers; connecting with Jesus Christ and with other Christians in loving fellowship and ministry; and inviting others to experience what they are enjoying.

Invite, discover, connect: That’s the work of the Sunday School team. Enlist, equip, encourage: That’s the work of the successful Sunday School coach.
David Francis serves as director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • David Francis