One of the most powerful ways to grow your Sunday School is to arrive early. On the surface, that may not make sense. But stop to think about how you can use those moments for God and those He has entrusted into your care. What could you do if you wisely invested 15 or 30 minutes prior to the official starting time for Sunday School?
According to the results of a recent Sunday School survey of growing and declining Sunday Schools, arriving early is a factor that contributes in a significant way (ANOVA) to the difference between the two. Here is the statement along with response percentages:
Teachers in my Sunday School arrive early to pray, prepare the room, and greet attenders. (Not true in any classes; True of some classes; True of most classes; True of all classes)
Responses to Question 39 Growing vs. Declining
- Not true of any classes 21.3% 27.4%
- True of some classes 50.0% 48.2%
- True of most classes 20.5% 17.3%
- True of all classes 6.6% 2.0%
Notice the three items listed in the survey question on which your early arrival time can be invested: prayer, preparing the room, and greeting attenders. Yes, there are more actions beyond these three in order to grow your class. Teaching, reaching, and care are essential. But on Sunday morning, your investment of unrushed time can make a HUGE difference. Notice that growing Sunday Schools are more likely to have classes that more frequently arrive early. (Numbers do not add up to 100% because of survey participants who failed to complete this question.)
- PRAYER. Arrive early and prayerwalk your class. Since many attenders will sit in the same seats each week, pray for them by name. Pray for their needs. Pray for the lesson and the truth God desires for them to hear and obey. Pray for a greater understanding and responsiveness to attenders needs. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help in relationships and teaching. Pray for guests and those who have not made a profession of faith. Ask for help in making disciples.
- PREPARING THE ROOM. Make the room invisible. Adjust the temperature so that it won’t be noticed. Clean up and straighten the room. Or do the opposite. Set the room up so that it says that something different is about to happen. Set it up to be used in your teaching plan. I remember doing that one Sunday only to have early arrivers attempt to straighten up the chairs. Write on the board. Make copies, Collect lesson supplies. Place a handout in seats. Meet attenders at the door to give them an assignment.
- GREET ATTENDERS. First impressions matter. When a teacher arrives late, he/she misses this great opportunity for listening and providing care for attenders (members and guests) as they enter the classroom. This can be valuable time that informs the teacher of ministry and teaching needs. It can deepen relationships between attenders and the teacher. It is a small act that says that you care. Look people in the eye. Listen. Connect. Follow up on previously-expressed needs. Pause briefly to pray when appropriate. Enlist others to help, but take advantage of the opportunity as well.
Do you see why arriving early can be so powerful? Make it a priority. Develop a new Sunday routine that gets you to church early. Invest the time. It will make you and the class even more attractive. You will better keep attenders and connect with guests. Watch as God uses that time. Pray. Prepare the room. Greet attenders. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!
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