I was leading a seminar for Sunday School directors at Glorieta Conference Center a few years ago. The conference was an overview of Sunday School for leaders, and I wanted to make sure that if one of the participants had what I call a “burning question”, that they got a chance to ask it and have it addressed.
After a quick time of introducing ourselves, I asked if anyone had a question about Sunday School that they were really curious about and wanted the group to address it. One man raised his hand and said, “I heard the speaker last night mention something about Flake’s Formula. What is that?” I wrote the formula on a tear sheet and to my amazement, most of the other participants had not heard of Flake either. We spent the next two hours discussing the five principles. It was one of the best seminars I’ve ever led.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that any pastor or small group leader needs to know the principles that Southern Baptist Sunday School pioneer Arthur Flake established about 100 years ago. Even though the principles may be old (by our standard anyway), they continue to endure and impact small group ministries in America and around the world.
A quick bio on Flake and then we’ll get to the Formula. Arthur Flake was a businessman in Winona, Mississippi and left his business to join the Baptist Sunday School Board to lead the Sunday School department. Flake’s legacy impacts not just Southern Baptists, but almost all Protestant denominations and non-denominational churches as well. His five principles can be found in Sunday School, home group, house church, and church planting strategies.
While other denominations minimized adult Sunday School and shifted the bulk of their attention to a children’s only Sunday School. Flake realized that adult leaders were better groomed to reach and teach children if they came out of adult Sunday School classes. For the past 100 years, SBC churches have continued to offer Bible study for all ages, children through adults. Southern Baptist Sunday School enrollment increased six-fold under Flake’s leadership, from one million to six million people.
Now if you’re a pastor, education minister, Sunday School teacher, small group leader or a church planter; you need to know what has come to be known as Flake’s Formula. The formula is really derived from Flake’s “talking points” and it is based on solid growth principles that just about any person today will recognize.
- Know your possibilities (Have a vision)
- Enlarge the organization (Start new groups and support networks)
- Enlist and train leaders (Develop good leaders)
- Provide space (Groups need places to meet)
- Go after the people (Reach out to others)
Although we may state these principles differently today (as I did in the parantheses), the principles are still there and are still effective. I’ve found that a simple acrostic using the first letter of each principle will help you remember Flake’s Formula. K-E-E-P-Go. Also, my friend David Francis has written an excellent book based on Flake’s Formula, called Five Step For Sunday School Growth that I strongly recommend you give to your church leadership (it’s only $1.00).