I was minding my own business this last Saturday enjoying being out and about running some errands one of which was getting the oil changed in my car. It was a familiar place because with my traveling for LifeWay I end up needing to get my oil changed every four to five weeks.
While there I got an email on my blackberry from a Minister of Education friend that got me thinking. And right there at JiffyLube it popped into my head the following response to a great question about Sunday School--how to give it "life".
Here is my email exchange with my friend about his Sunday School. Perhaps it will cause you to stop and think too.
I would like to know what some other churches may be doing differently in Sunday School that may bring "life" back to Sunday morning Bible study. We aren't doing bad, in fact, this past year our attendance was up from several years past, but I don't want to become stagnant. I would appreciate some input.
Thanks and God bless,
Good to hear from you. Great question!
The fact that you are asking the question, that your Sunday School was up this past year, and that you have the attitude of not wanting to become stagnant means that you are already ahead of where most churches are today.
I will give you a summary response here but I am glad for us to talk by phone or for us to have lunch for me to get a better focus on your situation and/or to unpack some more help for you.
Most churches are highly challenged to keep their Sunday School ministry fresh. Sunday School has become so familiar to us that sometimes it is under-appreciated and under-utilized for the signigicant ministry tool it can be. I talked about this on my blog at www.patford.blogspot.com on May 5 & 6, 2008.
In my opinion, here are some elements that contribute to the "life" of Sunday School:
1. clarifying/unifying purpose--when people genuinely understand the purpose of Sunday School it clarifies everything that they do or needs to be done; and it gives them a sense of being involved in something bigger than themselves and with a group of others for the cause of Christ--this is a matter of vision casting and ministry focus
2. engaging Bible study--people want a Bible study experience that has challenging content, relevant application, and with relational interaction--this is usually a matter of curriculum choice and training
3. fulfilling fellowship--people need to be relationally connected in order for their relational and emotional needs to be properly met--this is usually a matter of organizing and planning
4. meaningul ministry--people stick around where their needs are being met in ministry, or people are attracted to a place where they see the promise of that happening--this is usually a matter of organizing and training
5. FUN! --people want and need to enjoy what they are doing and with whom they are doing it; and they need to be appreciated and celebrated for what they do and accomplish--again this is usually a matter of planning
There are different ways to get at all this in ministry, but perhaps one of the easiest ways is to use the resources that David Francis has written in recent years under the title The 3D Sunday School--Invite (Reach), Discover (Teach), and Connect (Minister). They can be used in a variety of ways to help cast vision, to development attitudes and skills, and to especially inspire and motivate. You can see more about this beginning at: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=159462
Another way to get at adding life to your Sunday School is to explore introducing your people to the new Adult Spiritual Development process from LifeWay -- Connect, Grow, Serve, and Go. It is the spiritual development plan now being used at LifeWay as the foundation for its adult resources. So, it is the developmental process that undergirds all of LifeWay's Sunday School resources as well as the ministry of Sunday School itself. You can learn more about this at: https://admin.na5.acrobat.com/_a41466003/connectgrowservego/
I hope this gives you an idea or two that is helpful. Let me know how I might futher fleshout some help for you.
LifeWay Christian Resources
Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!