I have said before that those who drop out of church stop growing as Christians and stop serving our Lord. There is much better retention of new and long-term members when they join Sunday School. In fact, Dr. Thom Rainer has said that 83% of new members who become active in Sunday School will still be involved in church in five years. Only 16% of those who do not become active in Sunday School will still be involved five years later.
Sunday School helps the new member develop relationships more than worship alone does. Class fellowships, projects, and small group Bible study session interactions lead to relationship development and affinity discovery. Opening God’s Word in a small group can be a safe way to learn more about God, His Word, and each other. It is for those reasons and more that I strongly encourage churches to add “participation in Sunday School” as an expectation for all new members.
But I believe Sunday School can and should do more. I believe Sunday School should be intentional about investing in the new Christian. I believe new Christians should be expected to join and attend Sunday School. And the class the new member joined should in turn be responsible for mentoring the new Christian to start well the journey of being a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What are some steps a class can take in this direction. First, pray for God’s leadership and help. Second, make the commitment as a class. Third, enlist a couple of persons willing to help.
What is a simple process for those who are enlisted to begin mentoring the new Christian? My friend, Steve Rice, is the Director of Discipleship and Assimilation for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Steve recently launched a new blog entitled 28Nineteen: all about discipleship. Check it out!
Steve recently wrote a blog post entitled How to Get Started with 1-2-1 Discipleship. I think Steve’s five suggestions are a great place to begin a mentoring relationship out of a Sunday School class. Steve’s suggestions are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
PRAY THAT GOD WILL LEAD YOU TO THE PERSON HE WANTS YOU TO DISCIPLE. Follow God’s lead. God knows better who will connect best with the new Christian. (Also, don’t limit your vision to the people in the class already.) As Steve said, “God will match you with the person He wants you to disciple.”
START BY BEING A FRIEND WITH THE PERSON (MAN TO MAN, WOMAN TO WOMAN). I like where Steve started here: “By nature, this method works through relationships.” Mentoring works best when the new Christian is not intimidated by how much you know or your position. Friendships are the medium for mentoring to unfold naturally. Go to lunch. Invite him/her to your home for a meal. Go to a game. Same gender mentoring is strongly suggested.
READ A BOOK TOGETHER. This can be a first step toward a more formal agenda. I like Steve’s suggestion, “You can choose a book of the Bible or a good Christian book to read and discuss.” Conversation flowing from the reading can lead to many opportunities to discuss day-to-day interactions as a Christian.
SUGGEST CLASSES AT CHURCH. When you recognize a class that will be offered that could be of interest or help to the person you are mentoring, ask him/her to attend with you (even if you don’t need the class). This will give you many natural opportunities to discuss and interact.
MODEL CHRIST TO THEM IN REAL LIFE. This suggestion is important, but it is often forgotten. Your example is powerful. Watch your words. Watch your life. But then take it to the next level. As you go through life, think about ways that the individual you are mentoring could benefit from your regular, ongoing life experiences. Ask him/her to tag along. Ask him/her to help. Allow them to see Christ at work through you.
Today’s post goes well with yesterday’s post, Grow Sunday School Through the Power of WE. Be intentional in your investment in new Christians through your class. Help them start well as disciples. Be revolutionary!