In thinking about barriers, obstacles, and challenges to Sunday School growth, I invite you to pause to consider issues that your class or Sunday School may be encountering. In my experience, growing churches facing barriers are frequently able to find a way around or over the hurdle. So what are your hurdles? Name them and plan to deal with them!
In Part 1, I listed a dozen barriers. In Part 2, I want to examine the first three barriers. Consider the following:
- APATHY/SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY/LAZINESS. Growth and following the Lord’s leadership is not simply haphazard and reactionary. We are to be intentional. Consider these words of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, ESV). These are intentional choices with consequences. In turn, Sunday School is an intentional strategy to help the church to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Examine with me these three barriers and how to respond to them:
- Apathy. An apathetic person does not care. Though he/she will often deny this fact, the source of apathy is often not caring for Jesus. That apathy can frequently be traced to little or no investment in a relationship with the Lord. No relationship stays stable without intentional investment. Navigating the hurdle of apathy may require investment in personal Bible study and prayer, mentoring, sharing vision, and encouragement/challenge. Partner with an apathetic individual in these actions.
- Spiritual Immaturity. A baby acts like a baby. Young believers need intentional encouragement and discipling to move them from milk to meat. Doing life together with them helps. It also helps to show (not just tell) them why Sunday School actions and strategy are essential).
- Laziness. There are so many roots here. A focus on priorities helps. Motivation and understanding purpose helps. Goals, deadlines, and personal accountability can be fruitful. Laziness is often evidence of selfishness. Lead the person to spend time with the Lord in Bible study and prayer. Walk with him or her.
- BUSYNESS. Many have discovered that busy people get things done. They know how to organize, prioritize, delegate, and accomplish goals and tasks. The root of a busy person who does not get Sunday School work done likely comes from (1) lack of vision for the task/goal or (1) lack of understanding the importance of the task/goal. Take time to explain the vision, why their assignment is important, and how their work makes a difference. Sometimes, however, we should recognize that everyone needs to be involved in Sunday School work, not just a select few. Spread the work around. Make sure there is not another less-busy individual available who needs the assignment.
- LACK OF LEADERSHIP, VISION, AND PLANNING FOR GROWTH. I recommend an annual Sunday School growth planning retreat which includes spiritual preparation, evaluation, needs and dreams identification, prioritization, goal setting, and plan making. Flowing from the retreat will be goals, plans, calendaring, assignments, deadlines, etc. And monthly planning meetings will be regular times for reports of progress (accountability), review of goals (ownership), and adjustment of plans. Monthly meetings will follow meetings by the pastor and Sunday School director to prepare for the meetings. Sharing the vision, goals, and progress with the church helps to maintain attention and momentum.
What would you add to the discussion about these three barriers? Press Comments below to share your list of barriers, obstacles, and challenges. In Part 3, I will expand on the first three in the list: (1) lack of knowledge/training, (2) inward focus, and (3) conflicts. I hope to offer some simple strategies for moving beyond these barriers. Plan. Grow. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!