Why do some churches seem to be advancing the Gospel in their communities while others seem to struggle? You have probably been part of a Sunday School organization that was growing and was moving forward; you’ve also probably been part of a Sunday School that was not making much progress in fulfilling the Great Commission.
I believe that one of the key ingredients of a growing Sunday School or small groups ministry is alignment. Are the various things that the church and the group members expect of their Sunday School in alignment?
Rather than go into the almost innumerable list that may cause Sunday Schools or small groups to fall out of alignment, I have put together a short (and I’m sure incomplete) list of things a pastor and Sunday School director can do to begin creating alignment.
Unify (and follow) your curriculum. Many churches do not have a curriculum plan and simply let teachers choose whatever they want to teach. Can you imagine rowing a boat with that plan? My preferred curriculum is LifeWay’s “Explore the Bible” series, because I like the book by book approach, and that you teach through the Bible every eight years. I really believe that Sunday School or small groups should teach the whole word of God, and this curriculum does that. When all of the adults are studying the same book of the Bible, I find that hallway conversations about the Bible are encouraged. The pastor can also use his sermon to help reinforce a doctrine taught in Sunday School, or address questions that he has heard arise from the study of Scripture. I believe that having a consistent curriculum also allows us to be proactive to life’s situations rather than reactive to whatever the latest emergency may be.
Expectation. Make sure your teachers know what you expect of them. At Northwest Baptist in Oklahoma City, I gave our teachers (all of them, from babies to senior saints) five specific things that I expected from our groups in 2010-2011. We crafted the expectations from what we want to see our groups accomplish this year.
Training. Teachers and leaders need times of equipping. If you want to emphasize new classes, then make sure you have taught your leaders why new groups are needed, and how to start a new group. Train your leaders so that they can meet your expectations. Georgia Baptists conducted a research project with their 100 fastest growing Sunday Schools. The number one factor these churches all had in common was leadership training.
Emphasize. I like to have periodic points of emphasis where we ask all of our groups to get on board with a project or experience. Lately, I have leaned toward asking all of our groups to complete a class mission experience by a certain date, and giving them about eight weeks to complete their plan. I let them choose what they want to do. On the date I want them to have completed their mission experience, I like for the groups to put together a presentation of what they did in their class room and we use the Sunday School hour that week to encourage our people to walk through all the rooms and see what was done. These periods of special emphasis help unify our groups. Hallway conversations center around what the various classes are encountering with their particular project.
You may have some additional ideas about creating alignment for your small groups organization. Feel free to comment below…