Monday, January 17, 2011

Transformational Church Goes To Sunday School

By David Francis

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Mere months after the release of the book by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer reporting its findings, the Transformational Church research project had already begun to create a buzz within the Sunday school, discipleship, and small-group movements. A lot of leaders are asking this question: "What might our Sunday school class or small group look like if it reflected the seven elements found in the Transformational Churches?" I've attempted to answer that question in a new book, Transformational Class: Transformational Church Goes to Sunday School. You can download it free at

Seven elements
In the Spring of 2009, a team of LifeWay consultants fanned out across the country to conduct interviews with pastors from multiple denominations whose churches scored in the top ten percent of the Transformational Church project's initial quantitative research phase. It was my privilege to lead that team, which assembled in Nashville to debrief this qualitative phase with LifeWay Research VP Ed Stetzer. It was amazing to hear that our consultants across the country, and across denominational lines, observed what I had recorded in my interviews with pastors in New England. In the next seven articles, I'll address one of the seven elements found in the TCs, and how it might apply in a small group or Sunday school class. Want to know what they are? Visit

Missional small communities
If you've ever heard Dr. Stetzer speak, you've likely heard him exhort church leaders to get people out of rows, into circles, and from those circles to engage them in missional activity in their communities and beyond. I believe that a group that intentionally pursues the seven TC elements will likely become that kind of class: a Transformational Class.

The power of one class
If you've ever heard me speak, you've likely heard me exhort Sunday School and small group leaders about the power of each and every class that practices the 3 R's of a Great Commission group: reaching people for Christ, releasing people to serve, and reproducing itself for kingdom impact. The seven elements can help guide such intentionality in every one of the 400,000-plus Sunday school classes in Southern Baptist churches, as well as small groups and classes beyond the SBC.

The power of story
One of the most challenging aspects reporting the findings from the Transformational Church research is digesting and reporting the virtual mountain of stories we uncovered. It will take perhaps ten years to unpack it all! But you don't have to wait. You see, you have a story. Your class has a story. That story is not complete yet. My prayer is that this series of articles will give you a fresh vision about what God can accomplish through your class. My hope for you is that 2011 will be a wonderful chapter in the story of your class or small group.

David Francis is LifeWay's director of Sunday School. His latest book is Great Expectations: Planting Seeds for Sunday School Growth. It follows a four-part series titled The 3D Sunday School, which teaches three strategies to help Sunday School leaders and teachers fulfill the Great Commission:
I-6 Invite: A Six-Lane Strategy toward an Inviting Sunday School
Connect3 - The Power of One Sunday School Class.
The Discover Triad: Three Facets of a Dynamic Sunday School Class.

David has previously served as Minister of Education at First Baptist Church, Garland, Texas, and currently teaches a preschool class on Sunday mornings.

Related Articles:
Transformational Church goes to Sunday school
How to Use the Transformational Church Assessment Tool
Transformational Church

Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!