NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–More than 350 Sunday School leaders and pastors from across the country attended the National Black Sunday School Conference to gain insights for making their Sunday Schools grow and meeting the needs of members and guests.
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored the Nov. 2-3 training at LifeWay’s headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.
Welcoming the group, Elgia “Jay” Wells, director of LifeWay’s ministry to black churches, said, “You are among a growing group of leaders God is raising up to lead His people back to the Bible. As you are challenged these two days, we want you to see why our lives must be based on the strong foundation of God’s Word. We must provide opportunities for people to come to know Jesus Christ and engage them in leading others to faith in Him.”
Wells defined Sunday School as the foundational strategy in a local church for leading people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for building on-mission Christians through Bible study groups that engage people in evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and worship.
Conference participants learned about IDC, the three-pronged approach to growing their Sunday Schools. IDC stands for invite, discover and connect.
“Did you know that 80-90 percent of people surveyed said that they first came to church because someone invited them?” asked Art Groomes, discipleship and evangelism specialist at LifeWay. “There is not a more powerful outreach tool than a personal invitation.”
Groomes cautioned, though, that most people do not come to church based on one invitation. “Statistics indicate it can take up to 20 touches before someone becomes open to visiting Sunday School or a worship service,” he said. “Sometimes you have to keep inviting them, letting them know what you have to offer.”
David Francis, director of LifeWay’s Sunday School area, said when a Sunday School celebrates its intentional focus on studying and applying God’s Word, every member discovers biblical truths through personal and group experiences.
“That’s not just about teaching -– that’s the teacher’s job. It’s about discovering biblical truth for themselves,” Francis said.
By the time people have been invited, visited and discovered what Sunday School has to offer, they are ready to make a connection with other people. The adage “first impressions are lasting ones” holds true. If guests are warmly greeted, asked their names, escorted to their Sunday School classes and introduced to the class members, they will feel welcome.
“Would you invite someone to your home, then ignore them when they got there?” Wells asked. “Of course not. Before they arrived, you would clean the house and prepare some food. When they arrived, you’d greet them at the door, invite them in and show them around. When they were ready to leave, you’d walk them to the door and wave goodbye. We need to do the same thing in our churches.”
Conference attendees participated in more than 50 breakout classes, each facilitated by a leader with a particular expertise in the conference topic, ranging from work with children to youth and adults. Classes for pastors were designed to help them connect with their Sunday Schools, reach out to guests, choose appropriate curriculum and understand how to minister the unchurched.
Cathy Hill, Sunday School superintendent at First Baptist Church in Yellow Springs, Ohio, said the conference “Understanding Today’s Adult” led by LifeWay Lessons editor Christian Crawley reminded her to open her eyes to the cultural and societal influences that adults are bombarded with. “She told us to be able to successfully reach out, we had to understand how unchurched people think,” she said.
The next National Black Sunday School Conference will be Oct. 24-25, 2008.
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For free downloads on building successful Sunday Schools and information about upcoming Sunday school training opportunities and guides to LifeWay Sunday School curriculum choices, go to www.lifeway.com/sundayschool.