|Six Steps to an Intentional Sunday School Strategy||| Print ||
While most agree that Sunday School provides an effective vehicle for carrying out God’s purposes for His church, studies reveal that many churches do not have an intentional strategy for doing so. A study conducted by Lifeway Research in March, 2008 revealed that only 29 percent of smaller church pastors strongly agreed that they had a clear plan to accomplish what God had called them to do.1 Below are six steps that will help you identify and implement an intentional strategy that will enable your Sunday School to enjoy maximum impact.
For most churches it has been a long time since anyone considered why Sunday School exists in the first place. This important question reveals the core shared expectations of this ministry in your church. What part of the outreach and maturity process are you depending on your Sunday School to accomplish? What will be done through Sunday School that cannot be duplicated at another time? What part of your church’s mission will be deficient if not fulfilled through the Sunday School? Discovering the answers to questions like these is the starting point for the intentional Sunday School strategy you will implement.
When consensus about the purpose of Sunday School has been reached, you will want to share these ideas throughout the church. The church family should understand the unique role that Sunday School has in the church’s mission. You may begin by laying a Scriptural foundation through a sermon series, seminar, or Bible study. You can refer to church records, community demographics, and other research to help communicate the need for an emphasis on Sunday School. You will want to highlight areas that are thriving as well as aspects that need attention. If changes are forthcoming, it is crucial that people understand why they are necessary and how they relate to the mission of the church.
Time after time, a football coach who has just lost a game has been approached by the sideline reporter and asked about what happened on the field. The coach will often shake his head and say, “We had a good game plan . . . but, we just didn’t execute”. The execution phase is where details emerge concerning how the expectations will be pursued. If you expect Sunday School to be the means for contacting prospects and guests to your church, there must be a specific time, place, and method for doing so. If you expect Sunday School to be the primary time for people to learn and apply God’s Word, this should be reflected in your plan for curriculum and teacher training. If your church expects Sunday School to be primarily evangelistic, there should be an intentional strategy for inviting lost people, using salvation testimonies, and sharing the gospel in each class session.
Sunday School is dependent on volunteers, many of whom have little experience. Even the most faithful leaders need to be refreshed and resourced for the next season of ministry. An intentional equipping strategy will include opportunities to train leaders in the specific ways that the stated expectations will be accomplished. This may happen at a regular leaders’ meeting. You may provide resources through e-mail, your church website, or another internet based location. Arrange for your leaders to attend a training conference or work with your association to host an event at your church. Consistently pass along a recent article, helpful website, or book excerpt. While busy schedules are always a challenge, consistent equipping is your best ally for recruiting and retaining new leaders, curbing fears of inadequacy, building a cohesive Sunday School team, and helping each class stay on mission.
Good leaders constantly evaluate what is happening. For an evaluation to be consistent with your intentional strategy, it must link what defines the success of your Sunday School with the expectations that have been set. Are unchurched people being actively identified, invited, and included? Are leaders participating in equipping opportunities? Is there a more noticeable evangelistic effort being made in classes? Though perhaps not initially, a part of your evaluation will ultimately be how many people are attending, participating, serving, and responding to Christ through the Sunday School. Including the perspective of leaders, class members, and other church staff will also prove valuable in the evaluation process.
No strategy can remain exactly the same forever. Along the way, you will find it necessary to make adjustments, particularly in the early months of the process. There will be some incidents that you had not envisioned and weaknesses that you had not anticipated. There may also be parts of the strategy that grow at a faster rate and require additional support. If significant changes to the large structure have been implemented, be sure to allow plenty of time for them to settle into place before making impulsive judgments on their effect. During this time, it will be especially important to stay in close contact with leaders and to keep the expectations affirmed by the church for Sunday School in front of the people. From year to year, the entire process will be revisited as the Sunday School grows and reveals new needs and expectations that require attention.
1 ( “Lifeway Research Finds Poor Planning Hinders Small Church Progress” by Mark Kelly on Lifway.com)
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