A few years ago, I visited a large church in another state to do some assimilation training. While attending Sunday School and worship that day, I noticed that their ministry was complex, programs were competing for platform time, and there were major church events every weekend. From what I learned through conversation, the people were tired, event attendance was slumping, and there was little sense of cooperation.
Any disciple-making strategy that is one of many strategies for the church will be watered down and less effective. When the pathway toward disciple-making is complex, few will make the journey. When people can choose from several second steps, they will often hesitate to take that step.
In 2006, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger wrote Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples. Through research they found a noticeable difference in the effectiveness of disciple-making efforts in churches which had a clear disciple-making process through which they moved people, aligning all their ministries around it, and eliminating everything that gets in the way of that process and movement.
In an article entitled, Sunday School in a Simple Church, by Eric Geiger and David Francis, the authors identified significant differences that set apart simple churches from complex churches:
- Clarity: The simple churches know exactly where Sunday School fits in their [disciple-making] process.
- Movement: The simple churches intentionally move people to Sunday School.
- Alignment and Focus: The simple churches that offer Sunday School focus more on Sunday School than the complex churches who offer Sunday School.
They made a big statement: “Sunday School plays a more vital role in the simple churches than it does in the complex and struggling churches.”
What does all that mean? Geiger and Francis offer five responses to the research to strengthen your disciple-making efforts through the Sunday School:
- Clearly define the simple process God has for your church.
- Place Sunday School as the essential program for one aspect of your [disciple-making] process.
- Move people from your worship services to Sunday School groups.
- Funnel special emphases through your Sunday School.
- Prayerfully and carefully begin to eliminate non-essential [and competing] programs.
Their article closes with these statements: “Simple churches that have Sunday School use it strategically. Complex churches that have Sunday School are just putting on a program.”
Gather your leaders. Pray together. Define your mission and process simply. Utilize Sunday School as a strategic step in the process and move people into Sunday School intentionally. Make Sunday School central by promoting and working through the powerful organization called Sunday School, Examine the church’s programs, ministries, and events and seek to simplify so that there is less competition for Sunday School as a strategic part of your disciple-making process. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!