In the introduction of Allan Taylor’s book, Sunday School in HD: Sharpening the Focus on What Makes Your Church Healthy, he shares the story of Florence Chadwick’s first attempt to swim the twenty-one mile strait between Catalina Island and the California coast. Flanked by small boats to encourage and protect her, fog set in. Even though Florence had already conquered the longer swim across the English Channel, she became discouraged by the cold water and fog. She decided to quit despite being told she did not have far to go. A bit later after getting out of the water, she learned she had been less than a mile from her destination.
Here is are two quotes from Sunday School in HD:
When questioned later by a reporter about her decision to stop, [Florence] said, “I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the shore, I might have made it.”
Like Florence Chadwick we have lost sight of our destination.
I fully agree with Allan’s premise. Vision for Sunday School is in decline. In many churches, Sunday School has been neglected for so long that it has atrophied. Like weakened muscles in a cast following a broken bone, this neglect has made it weak and less fruitful while making leaders less confident in Sunday School as a helpful tool.
Much of the neglect is due to a lack of leadership and vision. A confident pastor, Sunday School director, or teacher can help others “see the shore.” They can paint a vivid picture of the destination. They can help others see where they are heading and why it is important. An inspiring vision is essential to create movement. Leadership is about movement. My definition of leadership is “taking a person or group where they need to be.”
There are many important dynamics needed for leadership to be effective: trust, relationship, confidence, encouragement, vision, and modeling. Sunday School today needs leadership which communicates an inspiring vision for Sunday School. Consider a few questions:
- Where are you headed?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- How can Sunday School help you?
- If you are successful in accomplishing your goals, what will it look like?
- If Sunday School were to dramatically impact your community, what would be the result?
- What would be possible if every leader and member of Sunday School worked together?
- Why is change so important? What good will change make possible? How will the benefit of change look?
- What inspiring stories of others’ successes could give Sunday School leaders the motivation for movement?
Begin now to paint a picture of a preferred future made possible through the efforts of Sunday School accomplishing great things for God. Lead your teachers, leaders, and members to dream the dream. Lead them to think. Don’t be afraid of questions. Put feet to the vision. Pray. Spend time evaluating and planning. Carry out the plan. Tweak the plan where needed. Communicate the vision in advance and while working the vision’s plan. Expect great results. Celebrate. Be revolutionary!