UBA loves churches. Whether your church is large or small, sports choir robes or tattoos, has Sunday School every Sunday at 10:00 am or Tuesday small groups at midnight, the UBA team wants to help you be the best that you can be. #welovechurches
Sally Hinzie, UBA Church Consultant, has been a teacher of the Bible for over fifty years. She started substituting in her own class at the age of 12 and began teaching a class at the age of 16. In the early years, every Baptist church had Sunday School classes for children and adults on Sunday morning before worship. Even families on vacation would stop at the nearest town at 10:00 am, find the Baptist Church, and go to Sunday School and worship.
Through the years, Sunday School has changed names, times, and days of the weeks for many churches. Some new churches start with small groups only; some churches have both; others have been having Sunday School on Sunday morning all along the way. Recently, Pastor Jim Davis published a blog about why the church switched from small groups to Sunday School.
The important part is not what you call it or what time you have it. The important measure is making disciples, meeting needs, and doing it with excellence.
Sally offers some important tips specifically directed to those who take on the title of Sunday School Department Director. However, these are worthwhile tips for any aspiring group leader, no matter what that leadership might look like.
1. Be Prepared:
Have a personal Bible study and prayer time every day. If not, you run the dangerous risk of becoming like the hypocritical Pharisees. Jesus says in Matthew 12:34-35: " You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."
We can only give from the overflow of our own hearts. Your responsibility to those you lead is to fill yourself up with good things in God's Word so you speak from the same good you've stored up. Being in God’s Word and interceding daily for those you are leading is critical to leadership.
2. Meet Needs:
This is your flock – shepherd them! See that needs are met: make hospital visits, comfort grieving families, and provide for physical needs. The leader of a small group is the best resource for care and ministry. You are closer to families under your leadership and will have more detailed knowledge of needs and how to best respond to them.
3. Follow up:
Contact absentees and prospects on a regular basis. Delegate responsibility and train leaders how to contact people in order to build relationships – not nag. People come to church to be with friends. Your leaders can make friends through these contacts and look for needs to be met.
4. Have Fun:
Plan department fellowships. Josh Hunt, author of You Can Double Your Sunday School in Two Years or Less, says that one step to growth is to have some kind of fellowship or party every month. Make sure to invite every member and every prospect. Remember our previous thought – people come to church to be with friends. Deeper friendships and relationships are developed in relaxed social settings. So, use these fun gatherings to develop relationships with inactive members and draw in new members.
Facilitating regular teacher and leader or officer meetings is important. This is a time to cast vision – the vision of the church, the vision to reach the lost, the vision to grow the department. This is a time for accountability to goals previously set. One pastor I know said, “People will do what they see rewarded.” Accountability is often thought of as a negative process, but a reward is positive reinforcement. Public recognition is a reward in itself. Small tangible rewards do not require a big budget – a thank you card, or create a “way to go” certificate, or if there is a little money in the budget – a $5 card for a beverage or snack at a popular place.
6. BE MINDFUL:
Tick Tock – Are you watching the clock? Facilitating a group gathering can be a challenge, but it is your challenge. You need to make sure everything is done in the time allotted and that Bible study leaders have their full teaching time. If you meet Sunday mornings, you also need to make sure that classes let out on time for the worship service. Show respect to those meeting by valuing their time.
7. DO YOUR PART:
Being a liaison between your department and church policies is an important duty, as well. Turn attendance records and offerings collected to the appropriate church leaders. Communicating the department’s role in upcoming events keeps the vision of the church in front of the department. Following church policy when scheduling an event for the department prevents misunderstandings later.
8. MAKE DISCIPLES:
It is all about discipleships. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, “ …go and make disciples…” He did not say to make church members or Sunday School members or good citizens. Your ultimate goal as you lead this group is to make disciples.
What does a disciple look like? The ways your group needs to grow may vary. Maybe a disciple is one who is obedient. Maybe it’s one who walks with Jesus. Maybe it’s one who shares her testimony. Discuss what a disciple looks like with your leaders, and hold each other accountable for being a part of a team that makes disciples.
If you need training in small groups, age-graded Sunday School, the art of Bible storying, or any aspect of your discipleship process, contact Sally Hinzie at UBA. Whatever your means of discipleship may be, #welovechurches