In an article entitled The Pastor: Key To A Vibrant, Growing Sunday School, Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, has listed seven steps that a pastor can take to begin to give attention and leadership to the Sunday School. I want to challenge you to read the whole article before you look at the seven steps at the end of the article which are listed here in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- AFFIRM THE REALITY THAT MANY CHURCHES USE HEALTHY SUNDAY SCHOOLS IN THEIR EFFORTS TO LEAD CHURCHES. A PASTOR CANNOT GO FURTHER UNTIL HE…IS CONVINCED OF THE IMPORTANCE OF SUNDAY SCHOOL. Talk with pastors who believe in Sunday School. Read books. Observe a healthy Sunday School. Sometimes it is difficult to have confidence in something you have never seen.
- COMMUNICATE YOUR OWN SUPPORT OF SUNDAY SCHOOL THROUGH PREACHING, WRITING NEWSLETTERS, RECOGNITION OF LAY WORKERS, AND CASUAL CONVERSATION. Your support is vital. It frequently must be said multiple ways and times to be heard. You will likely be tired of saying it, but it will need to be said over and over again along the process. Dr. Rainer’s list here points out several key opportunities. One I had not thought about is the casual conversation. Such conversation has the potential to have the most impact on individuals. Spend time with key leaders and talk about the importance of Sunday School.
- REALIZE THAT BUSINESS-AS-USUAL SUNDAY SCHOOL IS INEFFECTIVE. THE HIGH-EXPECTATION SUNDAY SCHOOL IS THE REMEDY FOR MEDIOCRITY. The saying goes that the height of craziness is doing the same things and expecting different results. Too many Sunday Schools are crazy, expecting to reach more people without higher expectations or efforts. Raise the standard. Expect more of leaders. Set out goals as challenges to reach toward. God deserves our best.
- MENTOR LAY LEADERS WHO WILL BECOME KEY LEADERS IN AND ADVOCATES OF SUNDAY SCHOOL. This journey should not be traveled alone. Target leaders whose potential or influence could be great. Take leaders with you to conferences. Ask leaders to read books and articles with you and debrief together what you are reading. Get together and discuss Sunday School and next steps. Invest in them for the benefit of Sunday School and its potential in God’s hands.
- ORGANIZE SUNDAY SCHOOL SO IT BECOMES NOT ONLY A KEY TEACHING ARM OF THE CHURCH, BUT AN ORGANIZATION MOBILIZED FOR EVANGELISM AND MINISTRY AS WELL. Sure, strengthen the teaching efforts. Train your teachers to teach even more effectively. But don’t neglect the reaching and ministry side of the Sunday School. Train greeters. Train outreach workers. Train attenders in evangelism. Organize your Sunday School to take responsibility for specific age groups. Set up an effective prospect assignment system.
- SLOWLY TRANSITION THE SUNDAY SCHOOL ORGANIZATION FROM LOW EXPECTATION TO HIGH EXPECTATION. THIS PROCESS MAY UTILIZE COVENANT AGREEMENTS, AND IT MAY TAKE 3 OR 4 YEARS TO COMPLETE THE TRANSITION. Very seldom will rushed change be as effective as intentional long-term change. Make a transition plan. Seek input and ownership. Provide training. Set up planning meetings. Enlist God-called leaders. Apprentice leaders. Set goals. Work with your leaders to develop covenants. Raise the expectations a little each quarter.
- DEAL WITH OPPOSITION LOVINGLY, BUT WITH RESOLVE. THE TRANSITION TO BECOME A HIGH-EXPECTATION SUNDAY SCHOOL WILL NOT PLEASE EVERYONE, BUT THE CONFLICT IS MOST OFTEN WORTH THE RESULTS. Opposition or resistance is likely inevitable. If you have taken the previous six steps, you can expect other leaders to step forward in support of high-expectation Sunday School during these times of opposition. Be patient but firm as you continue to move forward.
Pastor, pray for God’s leadership. Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. Be patient. Take leaders with you along the journey. The potential of the Sunday School with your leadership is great. Don’t allow Sunday School to remain mediocre. Be revolutionary!