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Multiplying church teachers requires intentional effort

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–How do you find teachers for your Sunday School department? Do you guilt potential leaders into accepting the position? Do you use the surprise attack method in the hallway after the service? Do you talk, beg and plead so much that they agree so you’ll stop groveling at their feet?

If you use any of these methods, you’re likely left with teachers who don’t enjoy what they’re doing and have no idea what their responsibilities are in the classroom. Belinda Jolley, associate director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Sunday School department, offered insights during the July 26-28 National Sunday School Leadership week at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina, to break this cycle.

“Imagine if we had lived in the day when Jesus was calling the disciples,” Jolley said. “We would have probably thought he was crazy! They weren’t exactly the pillars of the community and were often hotheaded, cynical and rarely understood what Jesus was talking about. But look at how he blessed their ministry.”

Outlining five steps for multiplying church leaders for Sunday School, Jolley stressed the importance of completing all five steps in order to have leaders who are completely trained and ready for ministry.

1. Before leaders are even chosen, it is important for the group to pray for God’s guidance and write out God’s vision for the group. It is helpful to brainstorm a list of possible leaders and involve all members of the class in the process. “If you skip this step, all you’ll be doing is filling a position,” Jolley said. “You need to pray and pour over potential leaders. Before you enlist leaders, build relationships with your members so you know more completely what their gifts are. We always whine about our leaders, but it’s our own fault if we skip this step and wait until the last minute to fill leadership roles.”

2. After prayer and brainstorming, it is time to actually find leaders. Potential workers can be identified through response cards, prayer, observation and simply asking who is interested. After leaders have been enlisted, it is important to explain job descriptions fully. Rejoice with potential leaders, regardless of whether they decide to take the position or not. Alienating someone who says no takes away all possibility of him or her ever saying yes.

3. After choosing a leader, he or she must be trained. Many churches have potential leaders shadow or apprentice with current leaders. “We’d never have to worry about filling these positions if we had a constant cycle of apprentices,” Jolley said. “If you build a relationship with someone, then ask them to shadow you, you are training that person to immediately step into your position without a tough time of transition.” Jolley also recommended using training materials, including the “Adult Class Leader Administration Kit,” which can be found at www.lifewaystores.com.

4. Because too many church leaders “only see the class members all dressed up on Sunday morning,” Jolley noted, “They need to see one another as real people and build real relationships.” Jolley recommended that class leaders get together outside of church for informal meetings to discuss the class and nurture class ties. “Jesus had close connections with his inner circle, and we should follow that example,” Jolley said.

5. “Some people will never leave the nest unless you push them out,” Jolley said. “As leaders, sometimes we must push our people out of the nest so they can spread their wings and fly.” Some potential leaders have such low self-esteem they would never volunteer for a leadership position. In these instances, it may be necessary to step back and let them spread their wings. “Of course, you remain right there in the background, lifting them up in prayer and following up on their progress,” Jolley said.

“It’s so essential to build relationships with your class members,” she continued. “But even then we may not see the potential in possible leaders until we give them a chance. And sometimes, they will fail. But remember, Jesus called Judas, and that didn’t make his ministry a failure. Don’t get hung up on things that go wrong, but focus on what God is doing despite the things that go wrong.”

The Sunday School Leadership event at Ridgecrest is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information about this and other conferences, go to www.lifeway.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BUILDING THE TEAM.

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  • Brandy Campbell