I have been in all kinds of churches. They have ranged in attendance from a handful of people to over 2000. Some have been rural, some suburban, and others inner city. Some have been new church starts and others have been ministering for over 100 years. Some have had buildings while others did not.
Having served the Kentucky Baptist Convention as their Sunday School “missionary” for over 10 years, I have encoutered many differences in the ministry of Sunday School. For instance, some churches provide Sunday School curriculum; some teachers provide their own curriculum; and some use no curriculum (only the Bible). Some churches have no Sunday School or small group ministry–though I have helped some of these churches launch Sunday School.
One too-common issue is having no Sunday School records. I have discovered churches that have no list of Sunday School members (enrollment) or their contact information (address, phone, birthday). I have also discovered churches that do not keep track of attendance. And way too many churches keep poor or no prospect or guest attendance records. Without good Sunday School records, reaching and caring are usually hamstrung! I have written about some of these issues before (check out Using Sunday School Enrollment to Grow, Part 1; Using Sunday School Enrollment to Grow, Part 2; and Helping to Keep up with the Joneses: The Job of the Class Secretary).
I agree with my friend, Robert Stewart, who is the retired Director of the Bible Teaching Reaching Team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. He wrote an article entitled Good Sunday School Records and Evangelism Go Hand in Hand! The title says it well. In Part 1 of this series, I want to share the first five of his ten suggestions about using good Sunday School records for reaching and caring for the sheep that God has entrusted to you. His first five suggestions are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
PRAY FOR AN ATTITUDE FOR INVITING PEOPLE TO BE ENROLLED IN SUNDAY SCHOOL. I have been asked many times how to lead a Sunday School to reach out more. Prayer is where it begins! Lead them to pray for guests who attend. Lead them to pray for prospects by name. When they pray for guests and prospects, they begin to see them as real persons with real needs. Then your members will be more open to inviting guests and prospects, to praying with them, to sharing about Sunday School with them, to enrolling them, and even sharing Jesus with them. Some attitudes will only change through prayer!
BE ALERT FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO INVITE PEOPLE TO ENROLL IN SUNDAY SCHOOL ANYTIME, EVERYWHERE.Consistently teach your leaders and members to look for opportunities to invite people to be added to the fellowship, prayer, and ministry list of your class (that’s what it means to enroll). When they have prayed for people by name, it is easy to want them to be included in class fellowships and Sunday School. Ask people to enroll. Make it easy. Write down their information when you are visiting them in their homes, at work, at school, or in the community. People like to be invited–even if they turn you down the first time! Set a goal for enrollment every year as a reminder of how important this is!
ADOPT A GOOD ENROLLMENT RECORDS PLAN SUCH AS THE BROADMAN RECORD SYS TEM REVISED. Write it down. Then explain it to all teachers and class secretaries. Repeat as needed . I like what Robert said here: “Make it easy for people to enroll, but drop names only after exhausting every effort to involve and minister.” Record the attendance of every member and every guest every week–even if they show up late. Record the contact information of every guest. Keep good prospect information and record all contacts with prospects. Update all records regularly. Teach people how to use their records to respond to absences by members and to reach out to prospects and guests.
TRAIN TEACHERS AND WORKERS TO UNDERSTAND ENROLLMENT AS ONLY THE FIRST STEP. In the same way in which leading a person to accept Jesus as Savior is only the first step, we must realize that enrollment is an invitation to pray for, assimilate, care for, minister to, teach, disciple, and serve with new people. This means we should have a plan in our Sunday School classes for following up with and connecting to the new members. Invite them to member homes for a meal. Pick them up for class fellowships. Pair them with an Encourager who will intentionally invest relationally with the new person for the first critical six month. If extra efforts are not made to bring the new member into the relationships within the class, what Robert said will be true: “A lot of people don’t attend Sunday School because they’ve been!”
ENLIST AND TRAIN CLASS CARE GROUP LEADERS WHO WILL MAKE WEEKLY CONTACTS AND MINISTRY ACTIONS WHEN NEEDED. If everyone is responsible, then frequently no one does it. That is why it is vital to give responsibility to someone. Care group leaders pray for, contact, and care for an assigned group of members and prospects. I have written about care group leaders before (check out Care Groups: Prayer, Ministry, Assimilation, Invitation).
How are you doing with these five suggestions for using your Sunday School records to reach and care for more people? Which of the five needs some attention in your Sunday School in the next quarter? In Part 2, I will share Robert Stewart’s final five suggestions. In the meantime, pray. Challenge your leaders to join you in pray and in enrolling people. Challenge them to reach out and minister. Teach them how to keep and use good records. Be revolutionary!