Leith Anderson, senior pastor of Wooddale Church, Eden Prarie, Minnesota, has written an interesting article entitled 7 Ways to Rate Your Church. I want to challenge you to rate your Sunday School atmosphere using these seven categories of what guests (and members) are probably looking for. Anderson’s seven categories are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
Think in terms of evaluating whether your Sunday School rates one star (poor) to five stars (excellent) in each of the following areas.
- SENSING THE PRESENCE OF GOD. Sunday School should be a time of opening God’s Word and listening to Him speak. The teacher should lead attenders to meet God in Bible study. Jesus has promised where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in their midst. Attenders should be able to sense His presence. If they do, they will be hungry to do so again!
- OTHERS-CENTERED. I have been in classes that have been so focused on each other that neither members nor the teacher ever said a word to me. In addition to being God-centered, attractive classes focus on guests and on others in the community. They are genuinely interested. They are eager to get to know new people. They want to help.
- UNDERSTANDABLE TERMINOLOGY. It is easy to slip into clichés and jargon that guests don’t understand. Explain biblical and church terms. In most cases, there will also be members who understand more when you do. Don’t use initials like WMU, IMB, or SBC. Give brief, simple explanations. The same is true for terms like “Jesus in your heart,” “walking the aisle,” and “potluck fellowship.”
- PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE ME. Anderson makes a good point: “As soon as most of us enter a room, we look around to see what everyone looks like. Our level of comfort can be high or low depending on how quickly we find someone else who looks like us.” When we invite guests to Sunday School, we should meet them at the entrance to the church. When a church/welcome center greeter has brought guests to a class, the class should have people that look like the guests.
- HEALTHY PROBLEM HANDLING. There will be complications and problems in a healthy Sunday School. What Anderson said about the church applies also to the Sunday School: “What makes a healthy church is not the absence of problems. It’s how problems are handled.” When heating/cooling is not working, don’t complain about it in front of guests. Fix the problem. Apologize once and move on. Move to another space. But be healthy and positive about how you handle the issue.
- ACCESSIBILITY. Can all guests (including those with walkers and wheelchairs) access every area of your church? What about if it is a child, youth, or adult? Are you prepared to receive special needs individuals? Is access from the parking lot accessible?
- SENSE OF EXPECTANCY. You can tell this by listening. Is there an expectation about what God is getting ready to do in their class/Sunday School/church? Is there a sense of positive anticipation? Do they show up full of hope? Are they looking forward to God’s blessings? Do they believe God is getting ready to use their class/Sunday School?
Is your Sunday School a five-star, four-star, or other Sunday School? What could you do to address areas that are rated low? Focus on one area at a time. Get input about what can be done to address that area. Then work on it together. Be an attractive Sunday School. Be revolutionary!