Even a casual glance at Scripture shows how God seems to relish in changing the course of human history through a small group of people; or even just one person. Take the story of Gideon when, against all odds, God uses one person to begin a movement. Then God takes a small army of 300 men (does 300 count as an army?) to defeat a massive foe. How about Abraham, Joseph, and Moses? Solitary people that God chose to change human history. Remember the women too… Miriam, Ruth, and Esther. In the New Testament we have Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and John. In today's terminology, they were individuals against the machine!
As the leader of your group or class, you have an incredible opportunity to bring change to the people in your group. What kind of change will you bring? Many of us have gone through some type of building or stewardship campaign. During an emphasis like this, the pastor will preach powerful messages about how God can use our faith to change our neighborhoods. If a consultant is used, the consultant will often share stories of other churches who have seen great growth as a result of this kind of faith effort. But eventually, someone is going to look at their teacher in their Sunday School class or small group and ask what they think. Whatever the teacher says will usually be what the group does. If the teacher comes out against the plan (or provides less than enthusiastic support), the class will not participate. But if the teacher expresses their support for the project, the class almost always participates.
For this reason, I believe that the most influential person in the church is a person's Sunday School teacher. As teachers, we need to realize that the people entrusted to our care take our words and actions seriously. As a result, it is imperative that we make sure that we are speaking and living our lives in such a way that will help grow our group.
Here are some suggestions to help you be a wise leader of your class:
- Remember to focus on individuals. It is easier to involve an individual than a group.
- Avoid sarcastic remarks about the church and its leaders. Even remarks intended for levity often cause our members who are weaker in faith to doubt the pastor and his leadership;
- Allow others to speak before you express your opinion. Once you express your opinion about a subject, it usually closes the dialogue;
- Always remember there are two sides to every issue;
- Silence = agreement. If a member of your group expresses his/her opinion in class and you do not give a response of any kind, then they will assume that you agree with them;
- Personal relationships are vital. If a class member feels comfortable with you, they are more likely to tell you how they really feel… and in a kind way!
- Reproduce yourself. A key reason that we struggle finding enough leaders for our classes and church ministries is because the leaders of the key organization of the church – the Sunday School – are not reproducing themselves.
- Finally, leaders lead from the front. If you want your class to conduct a class mission project, for example, dropping occasional hints is not as effective as saying, "What would you guys think about taking a Saturday and helping out a needy person in our community?" Then pick a date and organize the class to accomplish the project.
You are already a person of influence in your class. The question we each need to ask ourselves is: "What kind of influence will I be?"