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Low Sunday School expectations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–My friend Allan Taylor wrote an excellent book about how to have a high-expectation Sunday school. Since 1995, when he was called to First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., as minister of education, Sunday school attendance at Woodstock has doubled. After reading his book, “The Six Core Values of Sunday School,” I’m more convinced than ever that the reason many of our Sunday Schools are not doing a better job at reaching, teaching and ministering to people is that our expectations are too low.

What are some symptoms of a low-expectation Sunday School? If you have thought, said or heard any of the following about your Sunday School, it could be that your expectations are too low.

1. “Our members won’t prepare for class.” Many churches have abandoned the idea that people should prepare ahead of time for the small group Bible study experience. Everyone just shows up to hear what the teacher has to share and perhaps engage in some spontaneous discussion. In a high expectation Sunday School, members, guests and even prospects are provided a member book/learner guide, with the implicit expectation that they will at least read the Bible passage and some of the commentary before class. That makes the teacher’s job easier, makes discussion more meaningful and honors the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. As a bonus, it also helps the new believer or seeker start out on a more level field with the long-time believers.

2. “Our members won’t participate in outreach.” Do we even expect them to? Do we even talk about outreach during class? One of Allan Taylor’s insightful approaches to making sure outreach and ministry are emphasized as well as Bible teaching is the way adult class sessions are structured. He recommends a 75 minute schedule: Fellowship time (10 min.), announcements (5 min.), outreach discussion/testimonies/emphasis (10 min), care group time (20 min.), Bible study (30 minutes). FBC Woodstock stresses the importance of reaching and ministering to people. What a great way to build a high expectation Sunday School that balances the tasks of reaching, teaching and ministering to people.

3. “Our members won’t serve in the class, much less outside it.” Many Sunday Schools struggle not only with compelling folks to leave an adult class to serve in the preschool, children or student divisions, but also with even getting enough folks to serve as care group leaders, outreach leaders, secretaries, etc., within the class. You know the No. 1 reason most people don’t volunteer to serve? Because nobody has ever asked them! I’ve often heard teachers say: “We don’t have an outreach leader in our class.” I gently remind them that they do, because “If you don’t have one, you’re it!” Ask for help, and provide the support and training to help the new leader be successful. And never say, “It’s really easy.” Start out with high expectations, and watch how faithfully people respond.

4. “Our teachers won’t help us start new classes.” By nature, good Sunday School teachers are shepherds, and hate to lose any of their flock. The best teachers, however, know that Sunday School is about reaching people as well as teaching and ministering to them. Allan provides some really good ideas about how to motivate teachers to be agents of reproduction. If you would like a copy of “The Six Core Values of Sunday School,” call the education office at FBC Woodstock at (770) 926-4428 and they will help you.
David Francis serves as director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • David Francis