I received a request over the weekend from a friend of mine who is involved in church architecture. He had, not one, but two requests last week from pastors who want to use Sunday School as their church plant’s primary growth strategy. Basically, both of these planters want to know how to start Sunday School from scratch.
Here is a ten-point check list if you want to start a Sunday School organization in your church or church plant.
1. Commit. Make a commitment and put it in writing that Sunday School is your church’s primary strategy for making disciples. Your partners will want to know this strategy anyway. Do this so that you can avoid having multiple strategies which only confuse the issue.
2. Partner. Sunday School is not a sideshow, but is a partner with the church’s corporate worship experience. They should help each other, and not compete with one another. Promote the spiritual benefits of Sunday School in every worship service.
3. Strategy. Write out your strategy. What parts of your church’s strategy is specific to Sunday School? Here are some areas that should be included:
- Bible Study
Decide early on what you want to accomplish through your Sunday School, and communicate it frequently and passionately. Every leader in the church should know why and how Sunday School works.
4. Enlist. Enlist your leaders. Decide how many Sunday School groups you are going to start with and enlist people to lead those groups. I would recommend that you personally enlist these leaders. No pleas from the platform or mailouts to your potential church members. Enlist your leaders face-to-face.
5. Equip. Your leaders need to know what is expected of them, and the best way to do this is to train them. For resources to equip Sunday School leaders of all ages, go to these links: www.lifeway.com/sundayschool; www.bgco.org/oneday; http://sundayschoolleader.com. You will find an abundance of resources at these sites. Also, contact your association or state Sunday School office.
Also, your leaders are going to need ongoing training, not just an orientation before you kick off your new Sunday School. Plan to invest in monthly leadership training. Give them books to study and videos to watch. Gather them together on a regular basis to inform and inspire.
6. Provide space. Okay, you’re a church plant and space is an issue. The chances are good that you are starting in a school. That’s great! You can rent classrooms for Sunday School, and usually the rent is relatively inexpensive. The church plant we belonged to in Arizona rented classrooms for $25, which averaged about $1/person. If not, be creative. You found space for corporate worship, you can find space for Sunday School (homes, restaurants, bookstores, and businesses).
7. Enroll. As people come to church, whether as a guest or as a new member, ask them to join your Sunday School. Do not assume that people know your church’s strategy, and do not assume that they know what you want them to do. Just be forthright and tell them – if you want to get plugged in, make friends, and grow spiritually we have an avenue for that… Sunday School. Also, make sure every person in your core group agrees to participate in Sunday School.
8. Curriculum/Resources. You need a game plan to make disciples and this involves systematic study of the Scripture. Do not leave this to chance and hope it happens. Remember, curriculum is a tool to help us study the Bible, not the other way around. Use age appropriate resources to help everyone from preschool to adults study God’s Word. In addition to being age appropriate, curriculum should be doctrinally sound and motivate participants to apply the Bible to life. You are also going to need to provide resources, especially for bed babies, preschool, and grade school. Generally, these resources will need to be mobile.
9. Accountability. Develop a plan so that you know every group and also who belongs to each group. Keep track of their attendance. This is more than just record-keeping, it is accountability. Sunday School is a partnership, a commitment of a person to the group and the group to the person.
10. Lead. Every church leader must participate in Sunday School. Note: “participate”… not just acknowledge. Every leader; the pastor, youth minister, and deacon must attend Sunday School. I am finding pastors who are rediscovering the Sunday School… by joining and attending their class every week. Many of these pastors do not teach the group, they just attend and enjoy the benefits.
Finally, I strongly encourage every planter to plant a missionary mindset in every Sunday School group. This means that every group needs to be evangelistic, start new groups, and produce new leaders by making disciples.
If you are a church planter or a pastor and you are interested in receiving our Sunday School “One Day” Resource kit, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will mail it to you at no charge. This kit contains a CD with 84 training seminars on it. These seminars can also be viewed and downloaded here for free. In addition, you will receive video presentations about Sunday School from Ed Stetzer, JD Greear, and Johnny Hunt.