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FIRST-PERSON: The ‘Es’ of effective Sunday School leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Sunday School leaders have different specialties. Some primarily teach, others primarily minster or administer. Regardless of each primary role, all effective Sunday School leaders must develop some organizational competencies. I believe there are five key “Competence E’s,” if you will: enlisting, equipping, encouraging, evaluating and envisioning.

— Enlisting. This is the endless task of a Sunday School leader whether he is a pastor enlisting a Sunday School director, a Sunday School director enlisting department directors or teachers, a teacher enlisting class leaders, an outreach leader enlisting people to take visitation assignments, or a group leader enlisting members to take food to a bereaved classmate.

Enlisting can be a joyous task! Effective leaders don’t view enlisting as an imposition, but as an invitation to serve God and neighbor by communicating a) this job is important, b) God has put your name on my heart and c) a need to pray about the task.

— Equipping. Once a person is enlisted, he or she must be trained to do the job. Consider making the training fun. I’ve heard of a church using a point system and presenting awards annually to workers who accumulate a particular number of points. They earn points for attending training seminars, participating in special outreach events, reading books, listening to CDs, or viewing DVDs and other online training. Remember, the starting point for equipping is a clear job description.

— Encouraging. All of us appreciate a pat on the back, a kind word, an appreciative nod, a sincere smile or an understanding wink. My wife and I teach a preschool class. Our division director occasionally comes by with a piece of candy attached to a brief note that just says, “Thank you.” It’s such a little thing, and we don’t even eat the candy, but it makes us feel a bit special.

When I was serving as a minister of education, I had a weekly habit of making the rounds to Sunday School classes, especially the preschool rooms, just to stick my head in the door and smile. Sometimes when you’re serving in a room of potty-training 2-year-olds who can’t tell you when they need to go, you just need someone to affirm that you are appreciated.

— Evaluating. John Kramp, vice president of LifeWay’s church resources division, often reminds those of us who work for him that the No. 1 job for an effective leader is to accurately define the current reality. How is it going right now? What’s going well? What could be going better? What are our plans for accomplishing our strategic objectives? What tactics will we use to achieve our goals? What changes do we need to make? How do we measure success? I’m sure you can think of other important questions to ask about your current reality.

— Envisioning. Evaluation is about assessing your current reality; envisioning is about what could be. Stand outside your church building, in the educational building hallway or at the door of your empty classroom and ask God to give you a vision for what it could look, sound and smell like if you got serious about doing excellent Sunday School work. Ask Him to give you a goal, and then start communicating that exciting and achievable future to others.
David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • David Francis