As I said yesterday in Part 1, there are some unique opportunities provided by Sunday School AND small groups. Because Sunday School and small groups done well can be effective ways of carrying out the work of the church, it is important to understand why you want to add small groups before you do so. I suggested in Part 1 that you might benefit from reading a Street to the Seat blog entry by Kerry Mackey (pictured above). It is entitled Sunday School vs. Small Groups: Can they co-exist?. Mackey has been there, done that. The blog entry speaks from his experience about transitioning to Sunday School WITH small groups.
In Part 1, I shared the first three (of seven) of Mackey’s suggestions: senior pastor must lead the way, staff must be on board, and balance & health is our focus. Today in Part 2, I will share the second four (of seven) areas of preparation for and transition to Sunday School WITH small groups:. Mackey’s suggestions are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE NEEDS TO BE CONSISTENT.Here Mackey is talking about how to organize a class or group. Mackey suggests, “Set up the same leadership structure for both.” In other words, don’t have different leadership structures for Sunday School than you set up in small groups. As Mackey puts it, “The more you have the two leadership groups together the better.” This helps when you do training. This helps when you communicate. This helps when you are holding classes/groups accountable to accomplish goals. Mackey suggested a simple group structure that included “a Host, Co-Host, and a champion for each of the five purposes (fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism, and worship).”
- CURRICULUM. Here Mackey and I disagree a bit. We both agree that not “showing favoritism for either of the groupings is important from day one.” In other words, you should not buy curriculum for Sunday School and then ask your small groups to buy their own. He suggests transitioning “Sunday School departments to buying their own curriculum just like the decentralized small groups will do.” I agree that this will “free up financial resources to use in other areas of ministry.” But investing in curriculum for each class/group can also be a subtle way of reinforcing the connection of the class/group to the church. It is important to set up a list of approved curriculum pieces or publishing companies from which they may choose. Also, Mackey suggests, “If you have a library, allow groups to check out/in curriculum.”
- CHILDCARE. Some churches decide to handle the cost of childcare for off-campus groups. But Mackey says, “Childcare isn’t provided for decentralized small groups. It is a slippery slope. Don’t start down it, because if you do you’ll have a lot of clean up work.” In most cases, while childcare is provided for Sunday School, it is done with volunteers–not by paying workers. There are several options that should be communicated to small groups. Mackey suggests, that they can hire “their own sitters (in the same house or another house), pool their dollars to cover the costs, everyone is on thei r own for childcare, etc.” This issue needs to be dealt with before you launch the first small group.
- CONTROL. Mackey puts it this way, “GIVE IT UP!” He adds, “I say it like this, ‘We empower for growth until trust is broken.'” One way to keep in touch with what is happening in Sunday School and small groups is to put into place a coaching strategy. Enlist a coach for every 3-5 class/group leaders. Meet with the class/group at least once per quarter and then debrief with the leader shortly after the meeting. Encourage. Check on progress toward goals. Do this for both before launching small groups.
Let me ask again, should your church transition to Sunday School WITH small groups? I cannot answer that question for you, but I can challenge you to pray about God’s leadership. Invite others to join you in praying. Go wherever He leads! Be revolutionary!