In many churches, Sunday School utilizes and mobilizes the largest group of people of any program, organization, or strategy. Imagine with me the potential that might be possible if Sunday School was operating at 100% effectiveness. Imagine what might be possible if the right people were in the right positions of responsibility. Imagine what might happen if each leader were giving his/her best effort.
What can we do to move from current reality closer to what we have imagined? I like what was written in a blog post entitled 12 Rules for ‘Bringing out the Best in People’. The author shares these twelve points from a book by Alan Loy McGinnis written in the last century. In Part 1, will share the first four points in all capitals followed by my commentary applying them to Sunday School:
- EXPECT THE BEST FROM THE PEOPLE YOU LEAD. If you expect nothing or very little, that is often what you will get. When you expect the best, don’t keep it to yourself. Expect them to surprise you. Share your expectations and your availability to ensure the success of teachers or other Sunday School leaders. Build in times for checking on (and affirming) progress as needed.
- MAKE A THOROUGH STUDY OF THE OTHER PERSON’S NEEDS. In order to bring out a Sunday School leader’s best, you need to get to know the person. You cannot challenge them to stretch toward their potential unless you have gotten to know their potential. Get to know their affinities and experiences. Check on their SHAPE: spiritual gifts, heart (passions), abilities, personality, and experiences. Help them to see how they can better utilize their SHAPE. Ask about his/her dreams, hopes, and plans. Find out what they need in order to see those come to fruition. Taking time to understand his/her needs, build trust and ownership.
- ESTABLISH HIGH STANDARDS FOR EXCELLENCE. Standards are consistently communicated and shared expectations for leaders serving in positions within a program or organization. They may specifically apply to a position, like teacher, or broadly to all Sunday School leaders. Each leader will feel more fulfilled when they are achieving high standards than when they are accepting mediocrity. As an example, this could include a teacher’s covenant. Much of this begins with and is reinforced through leadership.
- CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE FAILURE IS NOT FATAL. Bringing out the best requires that Sunday School leaders try new things. Encourage your Sunday School leaders to stretch and risk. But allow for learning from mistakes and failure. Pray for your leaders. Encourage them. Help them to know they will be supported in success or failure when they are trying new things. Otherwise, they will be frozen in past actions, unwilling to risk.
In Part 2 and Part 3, we will look at McGinnis’s next eight points: employ models to encourage success, recognize and applaud achievement, climb on other people’s bandwagons, employ a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement, appeal ‘sparingly’ to the competitive, place a premium on collaboration, build into the group an allowance for storms, and take steps to keep your own motivation high. From the first six points, which one could you utilize this wek to bring out the best in one or more Sunday School leaders? God deserves our best. Expect a lot. Bring out their best. Be revolutionary!