We are trying an experiment in Oklahoma. Okay, I'm referring to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, not the Sooner football team! With our new "One Day Initiative", we are de-centralizing the way we have equipped lay Bible study leaders. I know many conventions follow a similar model for equipping the leaders of their small groups and Sunday Schools. In the past, we have generally focused on associational or statewide clinics and encouraged churches to bring their leaders to these events. Before I proceed, I want everyone to know that I am not opposed to these models. Oklahoma may indeed return to something similar someday for their Sunday School leadership training, the pendulum swings one way and then the other. We have all seen churches call a new pastor who is the polar opposite of the previous shepherd.
But for now, we are in our first year of a three year emphasis of trying something new. Instead of asking our pastors to bring their leaders to an event hosted by the BGCO and led by BGCO personnel or consultants, we are encouraging our churches to host their own training. In essence, we are saying that leadership development belongs to the local church, and we want to assist the church in this endeavor. We want to uplift and encourage the development of the leaders that God has put in our local churches. I believe that we have many "Davids" and "Esthers" who are waiting to be discovered.
So how are we de-centralizing the equipping of our Sunday School leaders?
1 – the BGCO is producing resources to assist with the training.
- To provide a consistent vision to encourage missional groups, we invited Ed Stetzer to Falls Creek where we recorded an outstanding video titled, "Missional Small Communities"; (there are actually 3 videos total)
- Age-appropriate conferences were written and developed, primarily by people in the field: pastors, education ministers, student leaders, and childhood leaders from across Oklahoma were enlisted for this task. We not only want to encourage lay leaders in our churches, but we also want to uplift our own pastors and staffs as well;
- All of the One Day Conference breakout plans are online, and include: conference plan, listening guide, powerpoint presentation, and handouts.
- Materials are FREE to BGCO churches. As part of our Cooperative Program partnership, I wanted to make the materials available so that any church, no matter their size or budget, could afford the materials. Non-BGCO churches can still download all of the Conference materials for free. They can also purchase the DVD album (that's right, 2 disc album) with the Stetzer videos, music videos, and promo videos for $10.00. Next year, these materials will be available in Spanish too;
- Churches of any size can host their own One Day training. I had a pastor ask me how his rural church of 25 people and 3 teachers could host their own training. My response was to invite his leaders into his home for dinner, show the Stetzer video on his DVD player, and then lead himself, or ask a teacher to lead one of the Conference plans for general leaders. He was thrilled!
2 – Customization (ownership). Remember that the intent behind One Day is that I believe the local church knows its mission field better than I do, so we encourage customization. That is why there are 26 different Conference plans. You can't do them all in one evening, so pick the plans that best fit your situation. Next year, we are going to add at least 25 more conference plans to this list, so a local church will have over 50 topics to choose from to train their leaders. By the end of the third year, there will be 75-100 topics!
3 – Local church leadership. The final piece of our de-centralization process is the leadership. Although we have a great staff here at the BGCO, we are encouraging the local church to use its own lay people to present the Conference plans to their peers. We live in a day and age where celebrities draw crowds. But I do not believe that there is any way to replace the peer-to-peer learning that takes place when we equip someone who has their "shoulder to the plow" alongside us. Sunday School is a lay movement; so is the small groups movement. I believe that by growing lay leaders in the local church, we are also supporting and broadening the ministry and leadership of the local pastor.