In October of this year we had the privilege of having LIfeWay Sunday School Consultant, Allan Taylor in our state. Brother Taylor inspired and challenged us to take Sunday School back to its evangelistic roots and to use it as a primary tool to minister to people and disciple them in Christ. The workshop was like taking a drink from a fire hydrant, but let me share a few big takeaways.
1. Sunday School works if we work it. Far too many churches have their Sunday School on autopilot. No one is leading the effort to start new classes, organize ministry, invite new people or enlist and train new workers. Teachers too often come under-prepared and unenthusiastic about putting forth the effort to reach new people. Without a willingness to work the Sunday School, its impact weakens, and it becomes ineffective. The need is for leadership.
2. Sunday School is an effective strategy for church growth. Growing churches have learned that growing the Sunday School will bring growth to other key areas of the church. When the Sunday School grows, baptisms increase, giving increases and more people are involved in the worship service. Churches can be very busy without going anywhere, but a growing Sunday School still brings the results we all pray for, if we use it as a deliberate strategy to reach and disciple people.
3. Starting new classes is essential. Taylor outlined several ways to start new classes. It seems we fear the concept of “splitting the class,” but churches are more open to other methods. Sometimes a new member’s or pastor’s class can be developed into a new class. A class may be started relationally by enlisting a teacher and her closest friends to be on mission through the Sunday School. Some people can become trailblazers by seeing a need for a certain kind of class. With a fist full of prospects, they seek to start a class where one never existed before. Brother Taylor also spoke to starting new units based on a special topic or felt need, that could then be easily transitioned into a disciple-making class.
4. Sunday School classes must focus on making disciples who can make disciples. Taylor offered several biblical disciplines of a real disciple of Christ and challenged us to deny our self-centeredness, stay in the Word and obey the Great Commission.
5. Sunday School must become a leadership pipeline for the church. New leaders must constantly be developed in a growing church. As we enlist new leaders for ministries, we look to those growing, committed people who are already active in the Sunday School. In fact, as we organize leaders within the class to do member care and evangelism, we are preparing leaders who may serve in other areas of the church. Taylor insisted that each adult class needed an apprentice teacher who would one day take over the class or start a new one.
6. The Sunday School must be mobilized for the mission. The Sunday School can put more people to work doing ministry than any other ministry in the church. We generally want trained, “professional” pastors to preach the Word and provide the overall leadership of the church, but Sunday School is designed to be the ministry of the people. It is God’s “stimulus plan” for pastors to equip the people so they can also do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).
A growing, vital Sunday School translates into a healthy, mission-focused church. It doesn’t just help the church to grow, it helps the church to boldly grow!
Dave Frasure is CABA's Leadership Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.