Does your church have a strategy to make disciples? If it does, do most of your church members recognize it?
We are in the early stages of 26 stop road trip among our Baptist associations in Oklahoma where we are initiating a disciple-making strategy in Oklahoma. You may recognize it; many people call it Sunday School.
What we have discovered however is that for many churches, the small group organization is part of a smorgasboard of ministries. Sunday School or its functional equivalent (home groups, LifeGroups, Connection Groups, etc) is seen as one of many “options” at the church that people may or may not choose to participate in. This smorgasboard approach to ministry causes a couple of problems that cripple the local church.
First, the smorgasboard approach prevents the church from having one primary strategy. Various ministries “compete” for time, money, leadership, space, and dates on the church calendar. The church lacks focus and confusion reigns as to what church members are expected to do. Many members just give up because the church lacks a clear, identifiable plan.
Second, a smorgasboard approach is inefficient and prevents the church from focusing its resources on its primary task of making disciples. Most church programs focus on one or two aspects of discipleship. No other church organization or ministry is as well equipped or as well designed to actually do the Great Commission as the church’s Sunday School or small group organization.
Instead of a smorgasboard approach, the church should work to align the various ministries of the church with its Sunday School or small groups. Creating alignment among the church’s many ministries and its small groups is vital to the church’s mission of making disciples.
We are in the very beginning of calling churches and pastors to re-connect with their Sunday School as the church’s primary strategy to connect people to the following four areas:
#1 – Connect to Jesus
#2 – Connect to His Truth
#3 – Connect to His community
#4 – Connect to His mission
But the vital key is that the Sunday School or small group organization needs to be the church’s primary strategy of making disciples through evangelism, Bible study, ministry, and mission. It is not necessarily the church’s only strategy, but Sunday School does need to be the church’s primary strategy and other church ministries need to come into alignment with the church’s primary plan.
Let’s say your church’s men’s ministry has a “Friday Night Fish Fry” and the guys invite a lot of their friends to the event. Everyone loves it. The food is good, the music is well done, and the speaker was fantastic. But at the end of the event, what are the men instructed to do? Come back in three months for the Wild Game Dinner? Check out the Antique Car show in the church’s parking lot next month? Instead of directing men to a string of events (i.e. “event addiction), the men’s ministry needs to have a plan to connect the men attending the event with the church’s small group or Sunday School. Why not feature a testimony from a man whose small group has impacted his marriage? How about a testimony from a guy whose Sunday School group rallied around him when his wife had cancer or he lost his job? How about sending the information from the registration cards the guys filled out to win that over/under shotgun to Sunday School classes? Even better, pre-enlist 2-3 men to start some new groups and let them have a moment in the program to invite the men to join their groups?
If we really do believe that life change happens best in small groups, then why not make small groups your church’s primary strategy and direct the other ministries to lead the people they reach into the church’s Sunday School or small group organization?
Alignment! It’s vital to the church’s mission of making disciples.