In my years as an education minister I learned that as hard as I might work or as creative as I might try to be; the support and encouragement of my pastor was critical to our church having a successful, growing Sunday School. Now as the Sunday School specialist for a partnership of over 1,700 churches, I am learning the same thing from a new angle; effective, evangelistic Sunday Schools have pastors that support, encourage, and lead the way in Sunday School.
I am sure that most of you have heard the same thing. To their credit, I find that most pastors get the concept of being their Sunday School’s biggest champion. What I often hear (and heard again recently) is – HOW? How do I champion my church’s Sunday School (or small group) ministry?
Let me share five key ideas:
Of all the suggestions I am going to make, this first one sets the pace. Pastors, belong to and attend class every week. This simple act communicates volumes to your people. People tend to watch their leaders do these three things:
- They listen to what the leader says;
- They observe how the leader spends the money;
- They notice where the leader spends his time.
Pastors, I want to encourage you to both join a class and attend that class. I would go so far as to encourage your participation at their monthly fellowships and social events. Your people will notice that you are investing your valuable time by committing to be involved in your own class. By the way, the pastor doesn’t have to teach the class, just attend and participate.
You need to understand the mission of your Sunday School. I often state Sunday School’s mission like this: The Sunday School is how the church organizes to carry out its mission. Another way of stating it: “Whatever the mission of the church is, that is the mission of its Sunday School.” Until the church organizes its people and its resources, the church’s mission statement is just that – a statement. Sunday School is the only organization in the church where every member belongs. Why create competing organizations when the biggest one the church has just needs marching orders? To add a sentence to a famous quote by Bill Hybels:
The local church is the hope of the world. Sunday School is how the church organizes itself to extend that hope!
Learn the lingo
Like anything else, Sunday School has a lingo and pastors need to learn it. One phrase of that lingo a pastor should memorize and become conversant in is this one: Flake’s Formula. Virtually every founding principle of both the Sunday School and small group movements is found in the 5 principles found in Flake’ Formula. (PS: if you are unfamiliar with Flake and his formula, it will be in Wednesday’s blogpost.)
I have found that pastors that attend Sunday School consistently have solid understanding of this issue. Simply put, the Bible can be an intimidating book to learn. Your teacher needs a roadmap to teach his or her way through the Scriptures. Curriculum is the roadmap! As the leader of the Sunday School, I came to realize that a curriculum roadmap helps leaders teach the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Personally, I prefer LifeWay’s Explore the Bible series (EtB). If you teach EtB, you will teach from every book in the Bible and cover all of the major biblical themes in eight years. (For an overview of EtB and 10 reasons to use it, go here)
Finally, like any other organization, Sunday School thrives on good leadership. Ask your Sunday School director or education minister if you can speak at Sunday School leadership meetings. They will be thrilled! Also, mention or use Sunday School as illustrations or examples within the body of your sermon. People gravitate to what the leader elevates! Encourage your Sunday School leadership to participate in training events, and then attend with them! Of course, you are exercising good leadership when you attend class every week!