In Part 1 of this series, I said that a good coach knows that a winning strategy is developed with a good understanding of those involved and of what must be accomplished to arrive at the preferred finish line. This will include annual and ongoing planning sessions. For that planning to come to fruition, ownership of the vision and plan must include every player.
What actions are essential for coaching a Sunday School team toward success? This series will look at six simple coaching actions. In Part 1, I shared the two actions of pray and get to know the team. Here are the next two:
COMMUNICATE WITH THE TEAM.
Teamwork requires communication. Notice the word WITH. Coaches observe, listen well, and communicate frequently; they share vision and high expectations. They affirm, but they also listen to individuals and to groups. Coaches build ownership of the work by seeking input and working toward consensus plans. Sunday School coaches avoid surprises as often as possible. They establish and calendar regular meetings and plans to communicate them well in advance and in multiple formats. Those who miss meetings receive notes about what was discussed and the importance of their involvement in plans. Understanding and relationships are pursued. Conflict, when it occurs, is resolved.
CONDUCT AN ANNUAL TEAM RETREAT.
Effective planning takes time. For ownership of plans, all team members should be present (or as many as possible). Make sure you allow enough time (the agenda below could take from 3-6 hours). Share the agenda in advance. Meet away from church, where possible, to avoid interruptions. Make assignments. Provide food/snacks and childcare. Budget for expenses related to the retreat. Gather resources: Sunday School statistics, goal progress, calendars, budget, class rolls, prospect lists, organizational chart, and whatever else you may need. Then include the following in your retreat.
Retreat Agenda A
- Prepare spiritually (20-30 minutes). Prepare a time of private prayer and Bible study (perhaps facilitated by the pastor) for looking at scripture and listening to what God has to say about the tasks of Sunday School.
- Evaluate progress (30-60 minutes). Review how you did at carrying out last year’s goals and plans. Evaluate growth, Sunday School and class organization, age group balance, outreach efforts, ministry and fellowship plans, assimilation/first impressions, training, and all aspects of the work during the last year.
- Envision the goal (30-60 minutes). This is critical for forward movement. How can Sunday School help the church increase her Great Commission impact in the community, region, and world? Where does God desire our Sunday School to be in a year? What is the motivating picture toward which our Sunday School needs to move this year? On what dreams does Sunday School need to focus in the coming year? What would it look like if we were overwhelmingly successful in carrying out our Great Commission work through the Sunday School?
- Identify needs and priorities (30-60 minutes). Sunday School is ineffective when it attempts to do too many things at the same time. Instead, begin by identifying the top six needs on which your Sunday School must focus this year. Then prioritize that list. Which is the most important one? Which is the second? Is there one on the list that must be accomplished before others on the list? When you have numbered them, then make sure you focus goals and planning efforts on the first one first. Realize that you may not get past the top three before you need another planning meeting to evaluate the list to see if there are new needs and priorities.
Retreat Agenda B
- Set goals/make plans and assignments (30-60 minutes). Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable (with God’s help), realistic, and timely (deadlines). An example could be, “We will start a young adult (ages 18-30) Sunday School class by April.” Then write out the plans/actions to accomplish that goal. For our goal, those plans might include: (1) enlist a leadership team for the young adult class, (2) train the team, (3) decide on where/when to meet, (4) invite the church to pray for and invite young adults to the class, (5) introduce the leadership team in worship, etc. Then you will need to make assignments and set deadlines for each of plans.
- Calendar progress checkups (30 minutes). To carry out your work, coaches will want to gather their Sunday School leadership team together for regular times of planning. These monthly meetings will include the following: prayer, training (brief), vision check, evaluation and progress reports, celebrations, adjustments of plans, preparation, and announcements. These meetings will be added to the church calendar along with dates for prayer, promotions, training, budgeting, outreach events, and other plans.
- Teambuilding (30-60 minutes). As a coach, you understand the importance of working together. Your team can accomplish much more when they know and trust each other. That is why time is well-spent during a retreat for getting to know one another and building a sense of team. Get everyone involved. If the group is large, divide into age groups. End your team-building exercise with debriefing and a time of prayer in pairs.
- Training (30 minutes). Since you have your Sunday School team together, include some training. Where do you anticipate challenges or barriers in the coming year which need reinforcement? Where does teamwork need to be improved? Focus your training in one or at most two areas. Be practical and hands-on. Be clear and brief. Get them to practice—that will produce best results.
What Steps Do You Need to Take?
What can you do to carry out these two coaching actions? Begin communicating now. Plan time for your annual retreat. Your effectiveness as a coach and as a team depend on these two actions.
In Part 3 of this series, I will share two more important coaching actions: build team skills and provide resources to win. Coach your team to win. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!