Look around. Jesus was right. The harvest is abundant (Matthew 9:37-38). Was Jesus simply referring to the crops? No, he saw the crowds and had compassion for them (v. 36). Where is compassion today in our classes? Where is vision for the harvest?
What can we do to move class attenders out of the church walls into the community to connect with lost and unconnected people? How can we help them overcome their lethargy, blindness, and apathy? How can we help them to “have” care and “do” care?
After prayer for God’s help and examination of God’s Word, a good place to start is by working together on a prospect list. The sheer act of bringing attention to prospects by developing a list is a healthy exercise. It brings ownership to the list and pursuit of those on the list.
In order to help explain a prospect list, I will answer several questions in this series. Think about your class as we work through those questions.
WHO IS A PROSPECT? There are some class leaders and members who dislike the term prospect. They see it as a business or marketing term. But it is helpful to have a term that clarifies the difference between a class member and one who is not. Another helpful way to look at the term prospect is “prospective member.” These individuals are prospective members until they join a class, move out of the ministry reach of the church, or die.
So who is a prospect? Allow me to share a definition and then break it down into phrases:
A prospect is a person not enrolled in a Sunday School class for whom we have name and contact and people group information.
Now, let’s examine the phrases further:
- person not enrolled: the man, woman, boy, or girl is not on a Sunday School class list in any church (or has moved away from that church),
- name and contact information: we have a name and know how to contact the individual (preferably including address, phone, and email information), and
- people group information: we know age, gender, and other information that helps us determine for which class(es) they are prospects.
If we do not know whether they are enrolled in a class somewhere, they are not yet prospects. They are suspects. We “suspect” that they may be prospects. If we do not know their names or contact or people group information, they are also suspects not prospects.
Some prospects will not yet have accepted a relationship with Jesus. That will also be true of some class members. Most prospects will be unconnected—they won’t be a member of any Sunday School class or small group. But some may be members of a church or class elsewhere and be seeking a new opportunity. All prospects, however, will be “unconnected” to your class at this point in time. They have not yet been added to the membership list.
WHERE CAN I FIND PROSPECTS? Prospects (prospective members) are all around us. Some are family members who are not enrolled in Sunday School. Some are church members who are not enrolled in Sunday School. Some are friends or neighbors not enrolled. Some are workmates, classmates, or group members from the gym or other organization.
Other prospects are people with whom we interact in the marketplace and community. They may be waiters and waitresses. They may be store clerks. They may be delivery people. They may be firemen, policemen, or elected officials. In other words, prospects are people in our daily walk who are not enrolled in a Sunday School class. When we open our eyes, the harvest is indeed white!
A little caring conversation can help us move people from suspect to prospect. Here are a few sample questions:
- Are you going to church/Sunday School?
- Have you found a church home since you moved to town?
- Do you have a network of friends?
- You look like our age, would you like to go to a party with some of our friends?
Ultimately, we are trying to discover if individuals are in a Sunday School class and if they might fit the people group of our class. Why? We want them to join us because we know that God’s work through the Sunday School has the power to change lives.
In Part 2 of this series, we will define a prospect list, where to get the list, and how many people should be on the list. In Part 3, we will look at who’s in charge of the list, what to do with the list, and removing people from the list.