I am writing from my back porch/deck. It is 72 degrees. The grass is brown but starting to green up. Spring is 3 days away. As I considered what to write, Ken Hemphill’s book, Bonsai Theory of Church Growth, came to mind. Let me explain what I mean when I say growing Sunday School is like a bonsai tree.
The Bonsai Tree
A bonsai tree is a miniature, decorative version of a full grown tree. To keep a bonsai healthy and small requires preparation and work. To neglect a bonsai results in losing the tree’s miniature size or health (or both). Here are three important considerations for healthy trees (chapter titles from Hemphill’s book):
- Keep the Pot Small. To keep a bonsai tree miniature requires the right size pot. If it is too large, the tree will not stay miniature. It is is too small, it may not stay healthy.
- Prune the Roots. In order to stay healthy in a small pot, you must remove the bonsai tree from the pot periodically to trim the roots.
- Pinch off the New Growth. In order to stay small, it is essential to remove the tree’s new growth (buds, leaves, etc.). The tree will not stay miniature if new growth continues.
Sunday School Application
As you can see from this list, to keep a bonsai healthy and small requires unusual thinking about plant growth. To keep a the tree healthy and small requires consistent maintenance. Similar thinking is being applied to our classes and Sunday Schools. Let me explain.
- Pot Size. We limit growth in classes and Sunday Schools by too few and small rooms and not enough caregivers (teachers, member care leaders, outreach leaders, etc.).
- Roots. Classes and Sunday Schools remain small when prayer, care, planning, training, and number of classes decline.
- New Growth. Growth ceases when groups fail to pray for, invite, and fellowship with new people and when guests are embarrassed, not welcomed, and not followed up.
Which of these three is keeping your class or Sunday School small or unhealthy? Gather a planning group to pray and prepare a strategy to address the area(s) needing work. Determine where to start. Set goals and make plans. Move groups to right-sized rooms. Use your space more than once. Add more classes and caregivers. Love and invite people. Make disciples. Be revolutionary.
For more thoughts, check out these two posts: Is the Size of Your Sunday School POT Keeping You Small, Part 1 and Is the Size of Your Sunday School POT Keeping You Small, Part 2.