Just got back from a great time with some of my friends and Sunday School peers at the State Conventions Summit in Nashville. Yeah, after a hard day of deliberations, it's good to get away to Ted's for some food and some great fellowship with these folks.
Here are the highlights of the day from my perspective:
Ed Stetzer: When it comes to mobilizing the church, his research shows that about 40% of church members are serving somewhere in the church (greeter, teacher, usher, etc.). About 20% are involved in serving the community. Ed's comment was about the church being "indispensable", and he used Council Road Baptist Church of Bethany, Oklahoma as his example of a church that is trying to leave such a mark on its community that the community would feel the impact if the church ceased to exist. Ed has some wide-sweeping research of 7,000 churches, both Southern Baptist and other brands that will be released next year in a book he is co-authoring with Thom Rainer.
We had four presenters today in the Sunday School affinity group, which IMHO is the best affinity group in the State Convention network! Bruce Raley led us in a further discussion about Transformational Churches. Bruce drew a spectrum on the whiteboard that showed the tension involving "community" and "content".
Small groups or Sunday School classes typically align on one side of the spectrum or the other. We had some excellent dialogue with Bruce about this issue.
John Kramp spoke to all of the affinity groups at lunch with an overview of the many updates and also pioneering trek from Dallas to Portland via a stop in Arizona at "The Thing". Kramp's point, it is easy to get lured away and off-track from our original destination. But John also made a point that I think many people have been waiting for LifeWay to reinforce for some time, and I quote: "We believe that Sunday School is the most effective small group strategy."
Gary Hauk had a brief presentation and shared with us some of the new things coming in dated curriculum. Of particular note is LifeWay's efforts at getting more content in digital format and on the web.
Jason Hayes gave us an update on young adult ministry and Threads. I especially appreciated Jason's decision to stay with his "Four Markers of Young Adult Ministry". People who like a lot of change sometimes get impatient if material is not fresh off the printer, but many people need time to reflect and absorb new thoughts and ideas. By the way, the Four Markers of Young Adult Ministry:
- Community – relationships that are beyond the superficial variety that plague the church and the secular world.
- Depth – A lost person is more about content than topics. A key comment Jason made today, "Bible study should be more than a sitcom". We should not introduce biblical truth to people and expect them to process it in 30 minutes and then go to worship.
- Responsibility – Your choices in life make a difference (good or bad). Jason commented that lost people serve in soup kitchens and wonder where the Christians are.
- Connection – Young adults want to connect with older generations. Many young adults were not raised by godly parents, so how are they going to learn how to be godly parents? From older adults in the church!
David Francis was our final guest speaker today and brought a presentation on his new book and Sunday School resource, "Great Expectations". The basic premise of this resource is that churches, leaders, and yes… Sunday School teachers should expect the best from our people. The resource is positive and raises the bar of expectations.
Personally, I find the interaction among the Sunday School affinity group to be very valuable. As you can see from the picture to the right, we like to mix it up and learn. The willingness of this group to share, listen, discuss, and disagree and still recognize that we are on the same team is one of the strengths of this group. As was brought up by a couple of people today, we also appreciate the way LifeWay is presenting what most would consider some discouraging data. Instead of presenting the data like a eulogy, each presenter we have had has presented information from a missional perspective. LifeWay is sharing information in much the same way that a missionary would look at his mission field – what an opportunity to bring the gospel!
By the way, you can catch twitter updates of our Sunday School affinity group discussion by using the hashtag #ssag