In 1920, Arthur Flake became the first leader of the Sunday School Department of the Baptist Sunday School Board (now called LifeWay Christian Resources). He came to his work as a dedicated layman and salesman. Due to his success as Sunday School director for his Mississippi church, in 1909 he had become a field worker for the Baptist Sunday School Board. Though a specific source (book or writing) for the following Sunday School growth steps has not been found, it is clear that Flake was the source for these five steps for Sunday School Growth:
1. Know the possibilities
2. Enlarge the organization
3. Provide space and equipment
4. Enlist the leaders
5. Go after the people
In this five-part series, I will examine each of Flake’s steps and set them into context in the twenty-first century. The first step is to “know the possibilities.” For Sunday School to “know the possibilities,” it is essential to consider the context. What is the context for Sunday School work in this century, in this country, in your community, with your teachers, workers, and members? Consider the possibilities in these four contexts:
- SPIRITUAL CONTEXT. Too many Sunday School leaders forget the spiritual context. We have the power of the Holy Spirit. We have the mission of Christ to “make disciples of all nations.” We offer the hope of the gospel and eternal life through Jesus Christ that begins today. God’s Word does not return void. Sunday School ministers in this spiritual context.
- CHURCH BODY CONTEXT. Consider the people resources you have available? What are their spiritual gifts, heart (passions), abilities, personalities, and experiences? God wants to use it all to reach more people through your Sunday School. Who are in the circles of influence for your members? Who are their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors? These are some of the assets which expand the possibilities for your Sunday School.
- CHURCH FACILITY CONTEXT. What physical assets does the church possess? How can the church use the facilities seven days per week to expand your possibilities? How can your Sunday School use your facilities for Bible study and as a launching point for ministry? How can you reach, care for, and disciple more people? How can you use your facilities to touch your community, state, nation, and world?
- COMMUNITY CONTEXT. What is the physical location for your church? Where is your church located? Where does your Sunday School meet? In what community do you exist and minister? How far do you reach? How far does your Sunday School ministry extend? What assets does your community offer that God and Sunday School can use to expand the possibilities? What do census data tell you? What have you discovered by spending time with people surrounding your church? What is going on in your area? What can you learn by reading papers and news?
- CENTURY CONTEXT. What is the time context into which your Sunday School exists and minister? Where in time do you exist? What has happened in people’s lives during their life times? How does technology today enable your ministry?
Who is your church reaching? How many are in your area? What are they like? How can you reach them? What is your potential for reaching them? Get to know the possibilities. Pray. Follow God’s leadership to pursue the possibilities. Be revolutionary!