By David Francis
A missional Sunday School class and an international missionary have something in common: an assignment to reach a "people group." What people group is the mission of your class? Senior adult men? Empty nester married couples? Forty-something single adults? Nearly-weds and newlyweds? Parents? College students? High school boys? Middle school girls? Preteens? First-third graders? Preschoolers? Babies? A class with a missionary mentality thinks like a missionary, asking the question, "What can we do to serve and reach those within our community who fit our target people group?"
The basic idea behind this missionary strategy is simply to establish -- with as much clarity and specificity as possible -- who it is you want to reach. That is also the principle behind the time-tested model of an "age-graded" Sunday School. The principle is simply this: We will establish at least one open Bible study group for a person of any age. Most churches also age-grade school age children and students. Well, actually, they "grade-grade" them by their school grade or the one they just completed, regardless of age. Some churches have one department for all children while other churches have several departments for each grade. Likewise, students are assigned to classes based on school grade.
Many churches combine the concept of life-stage with the principle of age-grading. One church I visited had all adult classes identified by both life-stage and average age to help guests and those helping them discover the right class to try first. A perfect fit for us right now would be a class for "Empty Nesters" with an average age of 58. The benefits of such a system are: 1), providing multiple reference points, and 2), the ability to start new classes.
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Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!