Is it possible that a bad or wrong attitude could slow or prevent growth? In thinking about barriers, obstacles, and challenges to Sunday School growth, consider issues that your class or Sunday School may be encountering. In my experience, growing churches facing barriers but are usually 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 and Part 3, I looked at the first six barriers: 1) apathy/spiritual immaturity/laziness, 2) busyness, 3) lack of leadership, vision, and planning, 4) lack of knowledge/training, 5) inward focus, and 6) conflicts. In Part 4, I want to examine the next three barriers. Consider the following:
- LACK OF OWNERSHIP. Two attitudes are often at play here. First, some forget that Jesus claims the sheep (John 10:11). We are caring for His sheep. And not all of the sheep are already in the sheep pen (John 10:16). Second, we are poor shepherds when we fail to “own” responsibility for His sheep (John 10:12-13). When a teacher, class, or Sunday School fails to “own” the responsibility, blame is quick. When Sunday School does not grow, some will put the blame on those who drop out and those who do not come to Sunday School. Instead, we will take ownership of the responsibility. Classes, including adults, will be age graded so they know who they are to pray for, pursue, and provide care.
- TURFISM. The opposite of a lack of ownership is turfism. It is the attitude that this is “my” class, so leave me alone. An ember pulled out of the fire goes out. A cell removed from the body dies. A branch cut off from a tree withers and dies. Connection, unity, and carrying out the Great Commission together is essential to life and growth. What can be done in the face of an attitude of turfism? Pray for and talk to the teacher. Open discussion can lead to issue resolution. If the teacher responds to growth plans, then the class will follow. If the teacher is unwilling to make way for growth (including starting new groups), there are a couple of options. One is simply to plow around the stump. Send all prospects to other classes who will care for them. Start a class for a similar age group. Another option is to follow the Matthew 18 principles of biblical conflict resolution with the resistant teacher.
- SETTLING FOR THE GOOD RATHER THAN THE BEST. God expects our best efforts. His people deserve our best efforts. Anything less is an unacceptable offering (think Cain and Abel). Satan desires for us to be lazy, busy, lukewarm, and less effective. Instead, we will want to excel in our teaching, reaching, and caring. We will want to prioritize our schedules to make the greatest contribution. We will have high expectations for ourselves, and we will hold others to positive accountability in carrying out His work. We will meet together regularly to pray, evaluate, identify needs/dreams, establish priorities, set goals, make plans, and carry out the plans. And we will adjust those plans when needed. Pastors, directors, and nominating groups also have to ask hard questions about getting the right people in the right places throughout the Sunday School. God-called people are needed rather than warm bodies.
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 5, I will expand on the final three on the list: 1) implosion of structure and span of care, 2) false growth assumption due to aisle traffic, and 3) lack of space. I hope to offer some simple strategies for moving beyond these barriers. Plan. Grow. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!