RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–David Francis and Bruce Raley had high hopes for “Great Expectations.”
They weren’t disappointed.
Great Expectations — an online Sunday School training event broadcast during Sunday School Week at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center — drew an estimated viewership of 10,000-12,000 people around the world, according to Raley, LifeWay’s director of leadership and evangelism training and events, who co-hosted the event sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We think it’s the largest group ever gathered for Sunday School training,” Raley said.
The training is now archived, along with speaker PowerPoints, at LifeWay.com/GreatExpectations. There is no charge for downloading or viewing.
Francis, LifeWay’s director of Sunday School, discipleship, church and network partnerships, served as co-host with Raley. Using an agricultural metaphor, Francis told viewers and live audience participants that to get a “Great Expectations” Sunday School class, seeds have to be planted. Healthy things, whether plants or classes, will grow, he said.
Three characteristics of a “Great Expectations” Sunday School are: They expect new people and a great Bible study experience each week; they expect people to say “yes” to the total ministry of the class; and they expect to plant new classes.
Joining Raley and Francis in the webcast were Allan Taylor, minister of education at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.; Jeff Young, minister of spiritual development at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; and P.K. Spratt, minister of education at Jersey Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio.
Taylor discussed the importance of continually starting new classes while recognizing that people often are opposed to the process of multiplying. Regardless, he said, it is in new classes where growth takes place and that is always in the church’s best interest.
“It’s always God’s will for the church to move forward,” Taylor said.
Young noted the importance of making sure the church is ready to welcome newcomers. “Make sure everything is ready every week,” he said. “The Gospel may be offensive [as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:18] but the parking lot and nursery don’t have to be!”
He said to ask: Is everything clean? Is the website up to date? Are brochures updated?
“First impressions are lasting impressions,” Young said.
Spratt, reminding that Sunday School also must be about evangelism and effective training, offered three “Yes principles” for disciples:
— Disciples say yes when they embrace all of the Great Commission and leaders expect them to fulfill it.
— Disciples say yes to serving when classes are organized and members exhibit care for each other in authentic relationships.
— Disciple leaders say yes when meetings and training have purpose and leaders are willing to invest in workers.
After the July 11 webcast, viewers responded with e-mails thanking LifeWay for the online training.
Connie Wright, director of education at Pump Springs Baptist Church in Harrogate, Tenn., said: “Our Sunday School had pre-‘Great Expectations’ departmental training and then the live webcast was an awesome day in the Lord! All speakers were motivational and spoke to the themes with biblical clarity while enriching our understanding of the topics. Pump Springs had a light, boxed dinner during the webcast so it was sort of a dinner, five guys and a training! One of our SS leadership team members suggested Pump Springs’ follow-up to be ‘”Great Expectations” calls for “Great Preparations.”‘ We’ll be sitting down within the next week with the SS team to design the ‘roll out’ of this plan.”
A LifeWay regional consultant who promoted the webcast, Richard Edfeldt, subsequently received an e-mail from James “Eke” Brown, minister of education at Northside Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga.: “Had you not alerted me to the webcast of ‘Great Expectations,’ I would have probably missed it. We showed it to our Sunday School leaders. We had nearly all of our adult leaders there and some of our youth, children and preschool leaders. Our folks loved it! They wanted to know when we would do it again. Thank you again for making me aware of this training opportunity.”
Three past LifeWay online training events are available as free downloads: “The Summit: A Convergence of Small Group Experts” with Rick Howerton; “Sunday School vs. Small Groups” with Rick Howerton and David Francis; and “Worship: Reverence vs. Relevance” with Ed Stetzer and Mike Harland.
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.