Over the last twenty years, I have received hundreds of phone calls, emails, and texts from pastors, directors, and teachers asking for help. Some leaders are desperate. Many of these leaders know there are needs and problems to be addressed. A common concern has frequently been stated in these words:
I don’t know where to start.
From me, encouragement is offered in the form of a listening ear and provision of hope and help. Having listened to many situations over the years, allow me to share some responses to the statement above:
- PRAY. Begin there. Continue there. Turn to Him. Spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study. Listen with an ear to your own life as well as Sunday School.
- GATHER A TEAM. Ask a team to join you in praying, evaluating, and making plans. Keep the team size manageable.
- EVALUATE. Be honest. Start with a complete list of positives and strengths. Then list the challenges and weaknesses. Avoid trying to fix anything–yet.
- IDENTIFY NEEDS. From the strengths and needs, what are the critical issues that need to be addressed for Sunday School to be effective and thrive?
- PRIORITIZE. Determine the most important place to start. Ask yourself: if nothing else on the list could be done, addressing which issue would make the most difference? Do the same for the second and third issue. Don’t bother to prioritize past third–you will need to come back to the list later. Frequently priorities will change as you work on the top three.
- SET GOALS. What goals need to be set and pursued in order to address the first issue? What goals are needed to address the second and third issues? Goals should be measurable, be assigned, and have deadlines.
- MAKE PLANS. What plans will enable accomplishment of the goals? What steps will lead to carrying them out? Who should be involved? What should be calendared? What meetings need to take place? When does communication need to occur?
- CHECK ON PROGRESS. Meet regularly to assess progress. Affirm steps forward. Address roadblocks and challenges. Encourage accountability.
- ADJUST. When (not if) necessary, adjust plans and even goals. If things are going better than expected, adjust goals upward. If unexpected challenges occur, be prepared to revise or scale down plans.
- STUDY. Sometimes, you need more information in order to make informed decisions, goals, and plans. Ask your team to read articles or a book. Invite a church, associational, or denominational leader to lead you in a time of consultation and/or training. Consider asking team members to take specific assignments to bring a report back to the group. Learn and improve your decisions and plans. [Eg. Ask the team to read the David Francis book, 3D Sunday School. Have them identify which is the area needing the most work: invite, discover, or connect.]
Start with prayer. Gather a team. Lead them to pray, evaluate, and plan. Meet regularly to check on progress and adjust plans as needed. Stop to study when it will be helpful. Train. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!