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FIRST-PERSON: Tips for a new Sunday School year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Except for Sunday morning worship, Sunday School is about the only ministry in a church that operates 52 weeks a year. Some church programs take the summer off, others operate on semesters with breaks between, but the “break” between Sunday School years is seldom longer than about six days.

So what are some ways you can make the beginning of a new Sunday School year feel like a fresh start, a new day, a time for starting over? Here are a few ideas:

— Enlist — and reenlist — every worker personally.

Some folks try to be efficient in reenlisting workers by sending letters with reply cards. The incumbent leader can check a box indicating whether he/she will serve again in the new year or plans to stop serving. I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid doing this. Why, you ask?

First, it makes it too easy to quit. More important, every leader deserves a personal contact. Call current leaders and say, “Just wanted to know if you plan to continue in your current role or are interested in doing something different.” Don’t even mention quitting (they’ll tell you if that’s their intention). Visit face-to-face with potential new workers. Tell them what is expected, what resources they’ll have and what training you’ll provide. Ask if they would be willing to pray about it. Assure them you’ll contact them in a few days and say, “Whatever God leads you to do will be OK with me.”

You’ll get more new workers and retain more current ones if you’ll invest a little time enlisting them.

— Conduct a kick-off event.

A week or two before the new year, conduct an event to recognize, motivate and train leaders for the new year. For ideas on such an event, visit LifeWay.com/sskickoff.

— Commission the faculty.

In a worship service, ask all Sunday School directors and teachers to stand or come forward for a time of prayer commissioning them to teach God’s Word in the new Sunday School year. Consider preparing a bulletin insert listing their names and the departments or classes where they will be serving. As a bonus, for preschool, children and youth workers print the name of the adult department/class where these leaders are associate members. Ask classes to make new posters or bulletin boards with the names — and possibly photos — of all members-in-service and call attention to them on the first Sunday of the new year.

— Get the rooms ready.

Use the start of a new year as a time to freshen and tidy up the rooms. Clean out clutter from desks and cabinets. Return materials to the resource room. Get rid of excess or broken toys. Put fresh paper on the bulletin boards. Maybe try to put the same kind/color of chairs in each room. Perhaps schedule a cleaning day on Saturday; during the morning, tidy the rooms and get things set up and then reward the work with a picnic lunch.

— Make the first day a big deal.

Whether you call it Promotion Day, Advancement Day or something else, make the first day a big day. Going against the conventional wisdom, I always observed this day on Labor Day weekend. Although attendance would be down somewhat because of the holiday, it provided a way for new teachers and new kids to ease into the transition. New, enthusiastic leaders would have absentees to call during the subsequent week. The following Sunday would be the bigger day in terms of attendance, but without many of the first day hiccups. It was like having two Promotion Sundays in terms of the attendance boost.

Many blessings as you begin a new Sunday School year.
David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • David Francis