Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday School Key To Growing Churches

By David Francis

Transformational churches clearly have an intentional process for making disciples. Yet, the focus is less on the process itself than on the people who benefited from it. So, we coined the term "relational intentionality" to describe it. Why not two separate elements? The concepts of helping people develop relationships and doing so in the context of an intentional disciple-making process intertwine in transformational churches.

This finding was remarkably consistent with the research reported in "Simple Church," a book by LifeWay President Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. Transformational churches have a clear and well-communicated process for helping someone move along a path of discipleship. That path is marked by different types of group experiences that serve as proxy indicators of spiritual growth. People can clearly identify where they are on the path and what kind of group represents the next step.


In most churches, the primary weekend worship experience is Step 1 in the disciple-making process. Step 2 is some type of smaller group experience that helps people assimilate relationally, introduces them to foundational discipleship through systematic Bible study and provides them a channel to give and receive ministry. Sunday School is an effective step 2 strategy.

Eric Geiger and I conducted an analysis of the 400 "vibrant" Southern Baptist churches in the Simple Church research. We found that 87.5 percent of those growing churches operated Sunday School -- or its functional equivalent by some other name -- as the second step in their disciple-making process. The remainder primarily used off-campus small groups, at least for adults. Am I suggesting that all the transformational churches were also "Simple Churches" or that they all operated Sunday school as part of their process? No. But the findings were very consistent.


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