Effective Sunday School leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--When it comes to maintaining a vital relationship with the Lord, Sunday School leaders never graduate from the spiritual disciplines prescribed through the ages for all Christians: praising God and hearing His Word in corporate worship; praying to the Father and reading His Word in daily devotions; allowing the Holy Spirit to work through our spiritual gifts to minister to others; obeying Jesus by witnessing to His love and sharing the Good News of eternal and abundant life in Him; and gathering with other believers for fellowship.

You could add other disciplines to this list. But there are some disciplines unique to the effective Sunday School leader. Here are a few:

-- Continuous preparation.

The Sunday session always goes better when you start preparing early in the week. That may mean simply reading the Scripture passage on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, and perhaps glancing at the teaching materials, especially the teaching aim.

There are obvious reasons to do this, but there are also some less obvious ones. By familiarizing yourself with the passage and objective of the lesson, you'll become more sensitive to illustrations the rest of the week in the things you read, the people you encounter, the experiences you have and even the things you see at the store. I was once in Wal-Mart and saw the cutest little toy barbecue grill. It made a crackling noise and came with some pretend food to cook, including a plastic fish. Knowing that the next Sunday's Bible story in our kindergarten class was "Jesus Cooked Breakfast for His Disciples," I couldn't resist buying it. The kids loved it -– and it related well to the lesson.

-- Consistent prayer.

You've probably heard it said: "We don't teach the Bible, we teach people the Bible." Effective teachers go a step further. They teach people the Bible in such a way that they address the needs in the lives of those people.

How do you keep the needs of people in mind? By praying for them. Make a notebook and dedicate a page for each member. Keep a list of the needs in each one's life. Note advances in their spiritual walk.

-- Concerned care.

Respond to your members in times of crisis. Occasionally try to see them face to face away from the class. Call or send a note on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Remember anniversaries of events other than marriage -– loss of a job or getting a new one, a successful surgery or the beginning of physical therapy, moving into a new home, the birth of a child or the death of a spouse. This kind of thing doesn't just happen. It requires spiritual discipline.

-- Conjunctive outreach.

Conjunctive can be defined as "serving to connect," "joined together" or "involving the joint activity of two or more." It is not just important that you set the example in outreach. It is also important that you take along other leaders to show them how it's done. Invite a group leader to accompany you on a visit to a prospect. Don't just tell them to do it; show them how it's done.

-- Concerted multiplication

Perhaps the most neglected spiritual discipline of Sunday School leaders is an intentional effort to multiply themselves. Always be on the lookout for an apprentice teacher you could train to help birth a new class. Watch for the person God may have gifted to be an outstanding outreach leader. Challenge someone to take a baby step toward leadership by enlisting them to serve as a care group leader.

Prepare, pray, care, reach, multiply. It will take discipline –- spiritual discipline -- as well as strength: the kind of strength the Lord provides abundantly to those in service to Him.


David Francis serves as director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.