In Part 1, I asked where your Sunday School attendance is right now compared to worship attendance? Are you happy with your percentage (divide Sunday School by worship and multiply times 100)? Would you like to increase that percentage? Then, I want to challenge you to start praying, dreaming, brainstorming, planning, and taking steps to move from 50% to 60% or from 75% to 85%.
Last time I mentioned an article by Steve Gladen entitled How to Connect to Every Person in Your Church. In the article, Gladen said, “Eventually you want a goal of connecting 110 percent of your congregation in life-changing small group communities.” That really got me thinking. Do we really want to connect all our members and all our worship attenders in a Sunday School class? If we really did, what would we do differently?
In Part 1, I shared the first four of nine steps toward increasing the number of persons you are connecting: pray about connecting more people, write down the values and benefits of connecting people, dream/brainstorm about connecting more people, and remove the barriers and focus on the benefits. The final step in Part 1 came from Gladen’s article (but is my commentary). In Part 2, I will share five more steps from Gladen’s article in all capitals each followed by my commentary. How could the following steps help you move toward connecting even more people in Sunday School? Gather your Sunday School leadership team get them involved in these steps:
- UTILIZE ALL COMMUNICATION AVENUES. Do you really want to connect more people? How can they connect with a Sunday School class if they don’t know about it? What are classes for? Where do they meet? What kind of people attend? How will it help me? And say it over and over again. Communicate them in your church newsletter, worship bulletin, and posters/banners. Announce them from the pulpit in a variety of ways–in the sermon, announcements, illustrations, testimonies, drama, and more. Send out written invitations in the form of letters, cards, and e-mail. Don’t forget about your website and blogs. Mobilize your people to extend personal invitations to their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. Share about groups every time you gather people for any activity. Seek to connect everyone in the church and community!
- VIEW TRANSITION TIMES AS STRATEGIC TIMES TO CONNECT PEOPLE. People going through stressful times of life on average are more open to your care and concern. They are more open to connecting with a group. Walk through difficult and challenging times with them: divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, moving, and even births and weddings. Care about and for people during these times. I like Gladen’s suggestion here: “You need to have a strategy for connecting people going through similar spiritual steps and seasonal changes in life.” Extend the love of your classes during these times.
- UNLEASH THE POWER OF A CAMPAIGN STRATEGY.Lots of groups were started in lots of churches when they used 40 Days of Purpose. There are lots of campaigns out there by numerous publishers. Find one that fits. Launch new Sunday School classes at the church and away. Combine emphases in worship and in your classes. Eight to twelve people can frequently fit comfortably in a home. Ask for group hosts. Provide training and materials. Offer childcare. Invite people who are strategically located close to the group. Invite people to try it for a few weeks.
- HOST SMALL GROUP CONNECTION EVENTS. Set up your fellowship hall with tables, discussion questions, and potential class teachers (group leaders). You can mark the tables for age groups, gender groups, life stations, neighborhoods, or other affinities. At the end of the connection event, the group can decide if they want to continue together and when and where they want to meet–at or away from the church. After about four weeks together, they can decide if they want to stay together and what they will study next. And they can enlist a leadership team within the group.
- PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. Help your Sunday School classes/small groups to be caring. Encourage them to organize to meet needs. Help them to be transparent, open, and honest. Make them as comfortable as possible for new people. When groups are attractive, they will do all the work at promoting. In some ways, you won’t be able to keep new people away.
As a postscript, let me share something I discovered last week. Saddleback Church now has 130% of their worship attendance in small groups. I want to challenge you to begin now thinking about ways you can move toward a higher percentage. How are you doing with the first four steps? What do you need to do in prayer, values/benefits, dreaming/brainstorming, and removing barriers? Where do you need to start? When will you start? We cannot afford to lose them to growing as disciples and serving in Kingdom work. Begin now to take some prayerful steps toward connecting more people in Sunday School. Be revolutionary!