FIRST-PERSON: Free Sunday School tips

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--For each of the past six years, I have written a book for Sunday School leaders. Here at LifeWay, these small books are jokingly called "Franciscan Epistles." All of them remain available for free download at LifeWay.com/sundayschool. This year's book is "Great Expectations: Planting Seeds for Sunday School Growth," and it will be available around March 1 at the website mentioned above.

Like the previous five books, this year's book will be the key piece in a training system that includes separate teaching plans and PowerPoint presentations for conducting a training session with leaders of preschoolers, children, students, adults as well as general leaders or all leaders meeting together.

You'll also be able to find information on purchasing a "launch kit" that will help you plan a weekend Sunday School kickoff/launch event and/or do general promotion. Plus, I'll be recording the book so you can download as an audio file.

"Great," you may be thinking. "But what's the book about?" Here's a quick summary:

-- Introduction: What Do You Expect? The introductory material is a little longer than usual. I start off by asking the question, "Is Sunday School not cool?" which leads to a discussion of the Sunday School "brand." Next, I identify two "pressure points" for Sunday School: The influence of the small groups movement on the one hand, with its promise of biblical community, and the influence of the discipleship movement on the other, with its practice of going deep into biblical content.

Arguing that Sunday School is designed to strike a balance between biblical community and biblical content, I seek to convince readers that they should give strong consideration to making Sunday School -- or its functional equivalent by some other name -- the second step in the church's disciple-making process. Then I reveal the three "great expectations" addressed in the following chapters.

-- Chapter 1: Expect New People Every Week. This chapter is built on the idea of Sunday School as a system of open groups. An open group is defined as a group that expects new people every week. You'll also find a discussion of the culture, psychology, theology and sociology of invitation, followed by some ideas for creating an inviting culture. A closely related expectation is also discussed: A great expectations class expects a great Bible study experience every week.

-- Chapter 2: Expect People to Say "Yes." A great expectations class expects people to say yes -- to an invitation to attend, to enrollment, to preparation, to participation, to service within and beyond the class, to evangelistic prayer, to leadership meetings, to training, to new ideas, and maybe a few old ones. Reconsider ideas such as literature distribution, family responsibility through take-home sheets, visitation, class meetings, and separate classes for men and women.

-- Chapter 3: Expect Classes to Reproduce. In this last chapter, several concepts related to the expectation of planting new classes are addressed, including timing, developing apprentice leaders, breaking the news, celebrating the new plant, starting a visual "family tree" and establishing a 10-year plan.

My prayer is that the book will help you think about Sunday School in a fresh way and that it will be a tool you can use to share your enthusiasm about reaching, teaching and ministering to people through a growing Bible study ministry.


David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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