NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The new Sunday School year will be here before you know it. Leadership positions are being filled, training is taking place and new curriculum is on its way. But have you taken time to think about your Sunday School strategy? Here are some questions and a few ideas to get you started.
— Is your Sunday School a strategy or a program?
Do you consider Sunday School just a program (a-once-a-week Bible study group), or do you consider it a 24/7 strategy of reaching, teaching, ministry and communication?
Originally, Sunday School was a program conducted on Sundays to teach English children, who labored in factories six days a week, how to read using the Bible as a text. But Sunday School has grown into a movement that is neither restricted to Sunday nor just a school. Churches that discover this dynamic have leveraged Sunday School to be their primary strategy for helping people connect, discover and invite.
— A connection strategy.
In the 1920s, a Sunday School could be recognized as “excellent” by the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) if 70 percent of those attending the Sunday School hour stayed for the worship service. How that has changed! Sunday School was once the front door for most churches — now worship is.
So Sunday School, meeting in conjunction with the primary weekend worship experience in most churches, is ideally positioned to be the primary strategy for connecting worship attendees to smaller groups of peers for the purposes of fellowship and ministry.
Is your Sunday School operating strategically and intentionally to connect people to the church, to each other and to Christ? Organizationally, you should have at least one person in each class — typically an “inreach” leader or group leaders — responsible for executing this part of the strategy.
— A discovery strategy.
“Are you suggesting that the Bible study element of Sunday school is unimportant?” you may ask.
Absolutely not! In fact, it is ideally suited to be a church’s foundational discipleship strategy. What makes Sunday School different than a high accountability small group discipleship ministry is that it is intentionally made up of “open groups.”
That means that anyone can attend and enroll any time. That person doesn’t have to be a church member. Actually, that person doesn’t even have to be a Christian. In the context of a strategically open group like a Sunday School class, boys and girls, men and women, can discover the truths of the Bible. They can discover the life stories of other people and how Christ has impacted those stories. They can discover opportunities for ministry.
Is your Sunday School operating strategically to help members and non-members discover? Most classes have a teacher who functions as the learning/discovery leader; do your teachers understand the strategic nature of their roles?
— An invitation strategy.
Taking care of the first two strategic elements of Sunday School makes accomplishing this one much easier, but it still must be intentional. When people feel connected and are having regular discovery experiences, they are intrinsically inclined to invite their unchurched friends, relatives, associates and neighbors to attend also. But they must be reminded. Usually an outreach leader is assigned the responsibility of helping the class make “inspire, invest and invite” an intentional, ongoing part of the group’s strategy.
As you look forward to the coming Sunday School year, I encourage you to take some time to examine your Sunday School strategy.
David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.