By David Francis
This is the sixth of an eight-part series of articles summarizing each of the chapters in Transformational Class: Transformational Church Goes to Sunday School. Each article addresses one of the seven elements of transformational churches and how it might apply in a small group or Sunday school class. To learn more about these seven elements, visit www.transformationalchurch.com.
The first of three 'elements' in the third 'category'
The three main elements of Simple Church are discern (the context), embrace (right values), and engage (right actions). Transformational Church, the book by Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer, shows its seven elements orbiting them. Worship is one of the three elements associated with engage. It's also the subject of chapter five in my little book, Transformational Class. You can download a free PDF copy.
A great 'step two' in a Simple Church
The research findings reported in Transformational Church were consistent with those Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger reported in Simple Church. That research compared a group of "vibrant" churches, selected because they had grown by at least five percent for three consecutive years, against a randomly selected control group. In essence, the research found that churches that communicated and organized around a clear disciple-making process helped members determine where they were in the process and what step they needed to take next. One program or type of group was primary at each step.
Assuming that worship service participation was step one, I was curious to determine what type of group was used as step two in the vibrant churches. Along with Dr. Geiger, I conducted an analysis of the 400 SBC churches in the "vibrant" group. Of those, 87.5 percent operated Sunday school - or its functional equivalent by another name - as the second step in their disciple-making process. The other 12.5 percent used off-campus small groups, or a combination of on-campus and off-campus groups.
What could be simpler?
Not all churches have the facilities to conduct their step-two group strategy in conjunction with their step-one worship experience, but most can. I often hear church leaders complain that their people will only give them two or three hours per week. It's probably more accurate to suggest that people will give two or three occasions per week. Churches that provide Sunday school before, after, or during the primary weekend worship experience consume just one occasion. They accomplish the first two steps of their disciple-making process with every member of the family on one trip to the church? What could be simpler than that?
A great assimilation tandem
Sunday school classes can accomplish all the purposes of a church to some degree. Worship is probably the least of the functions Sunday school serves, but it is a great tandem with worship in terms of assimilation. In his book High Expectations: The Remarkable Secret for Keeping People in Your Church, Thom Rainer reported (p. 45) a staggering difference between the retention of new Christians quickly assimilated into a Sunday school class and those whose only activity was a worship service. The sample group of churches tracked new Christians for five years. Of the group that attended only a worship service, 16 percent remained active. Of the group that also attended Sunday School, 83 percent were still active five years later.
Sunday school promotes daily worship
Disciples grow when they supplement corporate worship experiences with daily personal worship. Appropriate devotional materials can encourage and support these personal times. Sunday school is perhaps the best place to distribute such materials and promote their use. See the weekly devotional options LifeWay provides for every age group.
Worship and Sunday school are a great tandem strategy!
Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!