As I stated in Part 1, there are advantages that Sunday School classes have to offer that small groups don’t and advantages that small groups have to offer that Sunday School classes don’t. But many of the best attributes of one should be present in some form in the other. So what can we do to bring some of the best ideas, perspectives, and practices of small groups into our Sunday School classes?
I read a great article by Alan Stoddard entitled How to Turn Your Sunday School Class into a Small Group. In the article, Stoddard shares nine ways you can make your classes feel more like small groups “when you can’t make a shift to small groups.” In Part 1, I shared the first five of his ten ways. In Part 2, I will share his final five ways in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- REPRODUCE SMALL GROUPS IN YOUR CLASS. Don’t try to split your class unless everyone is for it. Instead, plan to launch small groups/classes. I have said multiple times in this blog that the teacher or apprentice starts a new group/class with a seed group of 1-5 other people from that class or others. Keep that goal in front of your class. Lead them to pray for it. How can they be against something they are praying for? Starting new groups makes the current class feel and act small and often leads to a new growth spurt. For more ideas, check out Five Types of Sunday School Classes You Can Start Next, Sunday School New Birth Stories; Sunday School New Birth Stories, Part 2; Sunday School New Birth Stories, Part 3; Five Actions to Make Sunday School More Valuable, Part 1; and Increasing Sunday School Class Attendance, Part 3.; and .
- CLARIFY THE WIN WITH YOUR FELLOWSHIP PHILOSOPHY. What do you want to accomplish with your fellowship activities. Stoddard emphasizes the importance of being honest with yourself. Friendship is spelled t-i-m-e. This is fellowship that continues beyond the moment. He says, “Don’t assume biblical community and life transformation happen in groups larger than 14.” This is true of many (but not all) mid-size and most larger classes. You can also plan fellowships of smaller groups within a larger class leading to deeper potential relationships (and possibly leading to the launch of a small group). Check out ideas in A Simple Two-Part System for Getting Sunday School Class Ministry Done, Part 4 and Part 3 of that series. Smaller fellowships can make the class feel smaller.
- INTRODUCE SMALL GROUPS IN YOUR LARGE GROUP SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS. Regularly divide your group into smaller groups for part of the session, even if you only have 4-6 people. This get the class ready for the idea of starting another group. Use circles, semi-circles, or horseshoes of 4-6 people if your class is larger. In a group of 4-6 almost everyone participates. The more they are involved, the more they learn and the more they connect with each other. When everyone is involved, it makes class feel smaller. For more ideas, check out Sunday School: Lead Them to Encounter God in Bible Study
and Why It’s Best Not to Use Tables in Sunday School Classes.
- USE QUESTIONS WITH PRECISION. Don’t ask one-word or yes/no questions. Most curriculum offer good questions, but the best questions are ones that lead your learners to examine the truth of the assigned passage or its relevance to their lives. They get the group thinking and engaged. The more they are stretched and challenged, the more personal and small the class will feel. For more ideas, check out Make Them Think in Sunday School!, Essentials for Sunday School/Small Group Bible Study Sessions, Preparing for Sunday School/Small Group Using the Inductive Bible Study Method, Part 1, and Keys to Increasing Verbal Participation in Sunday School.
- USE MULTIMEDIA AND A FILL IN THE BLANK OUTLINE IN YOUR CLASS. Today 60% of people are visual learners. Add that to the fact that 83% of what we learn, we learn through the sense of seeing. And then add it to the fact that retention increases from 20% for just hearing to 50% for seeing and hearing, and we should be challenged to add visual elements to our lessons! Add maps, pictures, and even video. Bring in a DVD or projector. It will capture attention and focus learning. The more they are interested and learning, the smaller the class will feel. For more ideas, check out Addressing Active Sunday School Learners Through Projects; Leading an EPIC Sunday School Lesson, Part 1; Leading an EPIC Sunday School Lesson, Part 2; Generating Excitement about Learning in Sunday School, Part 1; Generating Excitement about Learning in Sunday School, Part 2; Balanced Diet of Sunday School/Small Group Teaching Methods, Part 1; Your Sunday School Class Needs a Field Trip; Learning Styles in Adult Sunday School; and Using Drama in Sunday School.
How can you help your Sunday School class(es) to feel (and act) more like small groups? Look back over the list above. Review the four from Part 1. Which one(s) could you lead your class to begin implementing this month? Grow your class by making it feel and act smaller. Launch new small groups. Be revolutionary.