As a minister of education in Arizona, I had a great young adult department director named Wade, or "Weighed" as he liked to put on his nametag each week. He was a tremendous leader and a tireless worker. His department was one of the livelier ones I've ever had and one hot August day he stopped by my office to tell me that he was over being mad at me. What? We had just had leadership training for all of our Bible study leaders and our keynote speaker was Ken Marler. Ken said the highest compliment a teacher could ever receive from the church's leadership was when they enlisted people in the class to become leaders elsewhere in the Sunday School. That month, we had enlisted about a dozen people from "Weighed's" class to teach in other areas. Ken's presentation had changed Wade's perspective about his role as teacher – no longer was it to have a big class. His new vision was to send his people to serve.
Tuesdays post discussed the need for getting people out of the "Sunday School Aquarium" of sitting and serving and into servant leadership. Part of your ministry as a Bible study leader is to replace yourself. Moses had Joshua, Elijah had Elisha, and Paul had Timothy; but who are you investing in to become a new leader? Realize that in our day and culture, we are not necessarily talking about who will replace you after you depart this planet, but who will be the person who will become a new teacher alongside you? There should be more than one person in the process!
So how do you grow a leader in Sunday School? Here are a few suggestions:
- Take them with you! When you make a hospital visit, take a class member with you. Do the same when you visit a guest. Moses took Joshua with him so that Joshua was ready for leadership.
- Delegate! Have lots of jobs. Give people the names of classmembers to call when they are absent. Ask people to bring food, or make the coffee. If you're a childhood leader, give those kids responsibilities.
- Share stories. Ask a potential leader to share their testimony with the class (give advance notice). Begin enlisting them to teach parts of the Bible study each week.
- Start sharing your secrets. Tell them your secret to encourage discussion when people aren't talking. Show them your favorite commentary, or show them the book you use to journal and write your lesson outlines in.
- Encourage them. Reward people when they venture out and try something in the group. Rewarding people when they try will turn hesitancy into boldness.
- Share your failures. Nobody is a success all the time. Be honest and frank, but often you can share a failure in a humorous way so that people can learn from it.
Although the bulk of this post has obviously been aimed at Bible study leaders of adults, it is appropriate for children and student leaders as well. Giving our kids opportunities to serve teaches responsibility, and it is counter-cultural. Our kids live in a "top-down" world. Teaching our children to serve at young ages helps them learn the biblical value of servant-leadership.
Finally, when people do leave your group to serve in another class or ministry, celebrate it. This coming Sunday, our married young adult department at the church I serve is having a celebration! They are beginning a new Bible study group next week and they are going to party. Reward what you want done!