Over my sixteen and a half years of serving as the Sunday School missionary for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I have watched churches and Sunday Schools change. I have identified several problems. In this three-part series, I want to focus on three of the major challenges I see with which Sunday School has the potential for addressing:
- maintenance focus,
- poor span of care, and
- leadership shortage.
New groups are desperately needed. In Part 1, I will focus on the first challenge, maintenance focus. Many Sunday Schools and churches have shifted into neutral rather than mobilizing to carry out the Great Commission. Many are focused on survival rather than on the mission and growth. Many are doing the work in their own strength rather than in prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. Many are stuck doing things as habit and tradition rather than seeking creative solutions for having even great impact on the community and world. Ouch!
What are some evidences of maintenance focus? Check the list (which is not comprehensive) and see if any of these describe your class or Sunday School:
- resistance to send out needed workers for preschool, children, or youth classes,
- resistance to send out needed seed members for new adult classes,
- lack of care given to members who are on the class membership list but not currently attending,
- few or no fellowships, projects, or meals planned to strengthen relational connections with each other,
- no class or Sunday School greeters to create positive first impressions,
- no follow up of Sunday School or worship guests by classes,
- classes are territorial and unwilling to move when it would be helpful to the ministry of the Sunday School as a whole,
- no time dedicated to prayer for God to use Sunday School to reach new people and change lives,
- few or no guests attend Sunday School because few people invite them,
- few or no members because no one invites them to enroll,
- little or no money budgeted for Sunday School curriculum, training, or ministry,
- no training of current or potential teachers and workers in the last couple of years,
- classes have no outreach leaders, no prospect lists, and make no contacts,
- classes have no member care leaders and no systematic process for contacting members regularly,
- no new classes have been started in recent history,
- classes tend to be combined rather than teachers being replaced, and
- teachers are doing all the teaching, care, and outreach (such as it is) by themselves.
Score yourself for each of these 17 statements: Definitely true (1 point); Mostly True (2 points); Somewhat True (3 points); More Not True (4 points); Mostly Not True (5 Points); Definitely Not True (6 points).
How did you do? If you scored 50 points or less, you need to take immediate action beginning with prayer.
Pray for Great Commission attitudes. Pray for workers for the harvest. Pray for leaders to apprentice and train. Pray for greeters, outreach leaders, and member care leaders. Pray for systematic care of the sheep God has entrusted to us. Pray for compassion for and pursuit of lost and unenrolled people. Pray for Kingdom mindset, investment, flexibility, and creativity. Pray for more contacts, more new members, more attendance, more converts, more disciples, more leaders, and more classes. Pray for God to impact the community and world through your Sunday School!
Set goals. Enlist help. Start classes. Train people. Preparing for and launching new classes help us to prepare leaders. They help us to focus on those not coming. They make us expectant. New classes tend to grow more quickly and to be more evangelistic. New classes are not the only answer, but they are a strong piece of the puzzle. And our existing classes can either get in the way of or support these new classes. We have so much more work to accomplish for our Lord in making disciples of all nations (Great Commission). We cannot afford a maintenance focus for one more minute!
In Part 2, I will continue this series by focusing on the major challenge of poor span of care. In the meantime, start new groups! Make disciples. Be revolutionary!