What if I told you that your Sunday School can double or triple in a year? What if I told you the process is natural, connected to your interests and passions? What if I told you that it can begin with your current relationships, and those friends and acquaintances can do the bulk of the inviting?
I want to encourage you to read the book, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement by Dave and Jon Ferguson.
Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson, authors of Exponential, tell about Shawn who was struggling with friends who would not come to church. They would rearrange their schedule to go with him for water skiing but not church, until Shawn was encouraged to try a new approach:
He invited a couple of his best buds along-and of course they said yes. That first Sunday as he played hooky from church, he went skiing with two of his non-Christian buddies. He was about to get in the water when he got an attack of the “guilties.” So he said to them, “Guys, you know I’m Baptist, and I’m feeling kind of guilty for not being in church today. Do you mind if I read a bit of Scripture first?
His friends seemed a little uncomfortable, so he read the shortest Psalm he could find. Then Shawn said, “We Baptists pray for needs, so does anybody have any prayer requests?” One guy said he was unemployed, and the other guy said his grandma was in ICU. So Shawn prayed for the guy’s job and the other guy’s grandmother and then asked God to bless the day and the boat. Then they went skiing.
The next Sunday, at Shawn’s encouragement, his two friends brought a bunch of buddies. Again he read a little Scripture and got ready to pray. But this time he said, “We Baptists like to see if there are any answered prayers.” The one friend said, “You know, I did get a job this week. Thanks!” And the other friend jumped in, saying, “My grandma was released from the hospital this week.”
Then Shawn asked if there were any other prayer requests. After the guys heard those kinds of results, a bunch of hands went up. Shawn prayed for each person and asked God to bless the day, and then they went skiing. Shawn and his friends now do this weekly with more than sixty people. They gather near the dock, have breakfast, read a bit of Scripture, pray for each other, take up an offering to give to the poor, and then go water-skiing.
Recently they started bringing spare boat parts so if they come across someone whose boat has broken down, they can help out. Shawn looks back on this and says, “I think I accidentally planted a church.” [Dave and Jon Ferguson, Exponential]
How are you encouraging your attenders to invest in their circles of relationships? Would you be willing to send them out as missionaries if that meant they would not be in Sunday School and/or church? Would you be willing to pray for them, commission them, and send them out as missionaries if they might reach people your Sunday School and church could never reach? (By the way, does Sunday School have to be at the church building? The story sounds like a Sunday School class started at the lake!)
Pray. Lead. Send out missionaries. Encourage. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!