Sunday School Update

We’ve made it through a couple of Sundays, so how did we do?  In all of the bustle to make Worship happen, we really haven’t thought through how Small Groups happen.  With that in mind, following are some suggestions on how to keep your Small Group together through the pandemic.

  1. Contact every member, every week. This is true for every age group. For senior adults, it is their lifeline through this journey. Everybody is hurting and struggling these days…all the more reason why we need each other right now. Call them, email them, text them. What we can’t give them is a hug. But, praying for them over the phone might just be what they need. Keep your group together. Contact them every week.
  2. Remind members to read their Bible every day. Encourage them to pray every day. Send them suggestions of what to read and what to pray about. Below, you will find a list of available resources to review and share.
  3. Remind them that we will get through this. Already, I am hearing from people whose anxiety is through the roof. Trust me, it will get worse before all of this is over; so, be an encourager.
  4. Encourage them to worship. Help them know how and when they can participate in worship, digitally, with your church. Encourage them to connect with family and friends and invite them to worship at the same time. Some churches are using FaceBook Live. Some are using streaming services. If your church doesn’t have those things, encourage them to find one that does. As for me, I sang when they sang. I opened my Bible when my Pastor preached. I bowed my head and prayed when they did the same. The key is to participate!
  5. If possible, have Bible study via digital media. Groups are using ZOOM, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime and FaceBook Live to have Small Groups. (SUGGESTION: practice before you go live.)

The more you can do, the more it will help members of your class or group through this very difficult time. I pray God will use you in ways you never thought possible. You might just learn something new.

Below are some resources to help your class or Small Group through this time. You may not be used to these things and some are more difficult than others. BUT, the people God has asked you to lead are worth the extra effort and time required to learn something new.

lifeway.com/coronavirus – Lifeway has generously offered free digital content for any church who is interested. There are tons of resources your church can offer. It is worth a look.

https://www.rightnowmedia.org/ – Right Now media has offered a free “limited access” to some of its best content for Bible study, discipleship and families. Just go to the website and click on limited access and complete the process. Check out these authors: Tony Evans, Chip Ingram, Phil Vischer, Kyle Idleman, Henry Cloud, Max Lucado and more.

What Can I do to Help My Sunday School Leaders during this Pandemic?

Many will lose regular, weekly contact with their class/group. On top of that, they may not have the quality Bible instruction they have become accustomed to every Sunday or whenever their group meets. Here are a couple of suggestions/recommendations that they might try:

Every leader of a group or class should make sure every member of their class/group is contacted and prayed for every week. Relationships are the most important ingredient to a healthy, growing Bible study group. Please don’t let anyone feel alone or rejected during this difficult season.

Encourage every member of your class/group to engage in some kind of Bible study at least weekly. Whether they are alone, with a spouse, family members or friends, make sure they have a plan. Here are some suggestions:

Use your Sunday School Members Guide. Most churches provide a printed piece that you can use for your bible study time. Call another member and read and talk together. FaceTime or Skype another member of your group/class. Read together, discuss and pray for yourselves and others.

Use resources that are available through Social media like Facebook. Your class may have a Facebook group page that you can discuss and chat with online.

Use digital media. Depending on whether or not you and your church use Right Now Media or Ministry Grid from Lifeway, you can find video support for what you are studying.

Ministry Grid – https://ministrygrid.com/training/. Each of the curriculum lines has an extensive library of audio or video support. Some of it is free.

Right Now Media – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/. This resource is also being used by several congregations in Louisiana. With a church subscription, members have free access to tons of material for use whenever and wherever. Here are some suggestions.

Adults:

For those studying Explore the Bible Series (Romans) – How to be Right with God by Ed Young

Other Adult studies:

True Spirituality with Chip Ingram

The Power of Jesus Name by Tony Evans

Life, Money, Legacy by Dave Ramsey

For Families:

The Real God by Chip Ingram

Youth:

“Shaken” with Tim Tebow – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/204649

“Speak Truth” with Sean McDowell – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/297352

“Different” with Jonathan Evans – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/373895

“Not a Fan” with Kyle Idleman – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/187042

Children:

What’s in the Bible is a series by Phil Vischer, from Veggie Tales, all about the Bible – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/KidsShow/1?episode=1

Worship songs for kids – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/KidsShow/136822?episode=1

For Preschool Specifically – https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/KidsSeries/351613?episode=1

Study on Philippians (if they will search there are others just like this on most books of the Bible from the same guy that is listed at the top -https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/KidsShow/298875?episode=1

Whatever you decide to do, be consistent and make sure your encourage and pray for one another. We are not alone. God is with us. God is for us. God will not forsake us.

 

Contact Info:

Sean Keith
Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist
Louisiana Baptist Convention
Sean.Keith@LBC.org
Cell: 318-613-4837

What do I do when my Church has Cancelled Worship and Sunday School?

In light of all that is happening in our world, many churches are cancelling programs, events and services. There are three things every church MUST Do.

LIVE Worship – There is still a need for people to weekly engage in the big conversations about the church and its role in the community. Facebook Live is probably the quickest way to reach the majority of your congregation. To use Facebook Live, simply use your phone. Open the Facebook app. Near the top on the left, hit the LIVE button. Start the video. NOTE: Two important things. Audio is challenging. Speak clearly and succinctly. Secondly, at the end, make sure it is recorded on your phone and saved on Facebook on your account. If you are searching for help, contact other churches or your ASM (formerly Director of Missions) for assistance.

Tithe – As of today, Tuesday, March 18, 2020, Lifeway has offered an electronic method for receiving member’s tithes for free. Just go to: https://lifewaygenerosity.com/coronavirus. This will show you how to set it up for your church. In addition, encourage members that don’t do digital to simply mail the tithe check into the church office as often as they put it in the offering plate. DO NOT be afraid to share the needs and concerns to the church about finances.

Weekly Contact – In order to survive this pandemic, people will need to be contacted weekly by staff, deacons and Sunday School teachers. Everyone should be contacted by phone every week and prayed for and encouraged. Connectivity is important, especially at times like these. The consistency of contact and relationships are vital in making sure you still have a group to come back after all of this has passed.

Just remember, this too shall pass. Love on your people, encourage them and do all you can to keep them connected to God and one another.

 

Contact Info:

Sean Keith
Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist
Louisiana Baptist Convention
Sean.Keith@LBC.org
Cell: 318-613-4837

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 9

Step 9: Re-Launch

Do it again! It is tempting to just coast. Besides, we worked hard. Can’t we just enjoy the “fruits of our labor”? There is a season for everything. As soon as the celebration has concluded, it is time to start evaluating and planning for the next Sunday School Challenge. Your biggest question might be “why do it again?” And the answer is, your church members want to just coast, too. They also have lives away from the church. They have pressures in their lives and sometimes they just want one area of their life to be “less stressful.” That excuse works if church and faith are not a crucial part of your existence and life on this earth.

Life is a cycle. There is an ebb and a flow to things. One thing remains true: the Great Commission is never finished. Until we draw our last breath or God calls us home, we still have work to do. Sunday School is the church organized. It is the churches’ best strategy to reach and enroll new people; disciple people through teaching that changes lives; and involve members and guests in ongoing ministry. Along the way, staff and key leaders have to keep the machinery working by starting new classes, enlisting and training new leaders, managing and maintaining facilities, maintaining a budget, and so much more. The Sunday School Challenge makes sure we don’t forget the life changing aspects of our ministry when all of the administrative stuff screams for attention.

Hopefully you have celebrated what God has accomplished in your church and community. You have affirmed and rewarded leaders and members for their participation and accomplishments. You took the time to evaluate your process. Now, it’s time to put another date on the calendar…the next Sunday School Challenge. If you don’t calendar it, it will never happen.

Pray. Pray that God will guide each of you as you plan and strategize how best to use your resources for Kingdom work. Every time you do the Sunday School Challenge, it becomes a little easier to do it again. People become accustomed to the transitions and timing of things. Just don’t let it become mundane. Keep it fresh. Throw in a few new wrinkles.

In our culture today, the world needs stories of God’s transforming power. They need to see God’s people, doing God’s work and glorifying God for all He has done. Something so simple and yet so powerful. That is the Sunday School Challenge.

As always, the Louisiana Baptists, your local association, the SBC and Lifeway Christian Resources will be here to pray and offer assistance in accomplishing God’s mission for your church in your community.

Yours truly,
Sean Keith, Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist, Louisiana Baptist Convention

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 8

Step 8: Evaluate

What comes to your mind when I say the word “evaluate”? If the image is negative, I want to change that.  All too often, the images of inadequacy, failure or judgement, come to mind. But the kind of evaluation I want to describe helps us to improve, get better, and create greater opportunities for success.

Everyone feels inadequate at times, and, failure can make us want to never attempt something again. But often times, these are the very things that God uses to accomplish His greatest work. First of all, we can accomplish nothing for the Kingdom of God without Him. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. John 15:5 (CSBBible) Secondly, failure just means there is always a better way. In addition, sometimes in our failure, God can accomplish even greater things. 13I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (CSBBible)

Too often, we believe our success depends on us, when it doesn’t. God is the one at work in us accomplishing His purpose. 13 For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13 (CSBBible) The purpose of evaluation is to identify the ways that God works in us and the ways we prevent Him from working. God always accomplishes what He desires to accomplish. We need to determine how to “better join God” in fulfilling the Great Commission through our church. God is perfect, we are not. Together we can do so much more than just a few of us alone. This truth is, this is what makes the Sunday School Challenge a great tool for your church.

You need an honest evaluation of how to do the Sunday School Challenge better the next time. God is at work. Honestly, He is waiting for us to get ready to do His work and see His handiwork with in our churches and communities.

What worked? What didn’t work? How could we involve more people in praying and preparing for the Sunday School Challenge? Who are the right people to be the Sunday School Champions? Which classes are ready to push the limits and which ones need to make smaller steps? How do we get more buy-in from the people in the seats? Are there areas of our Sunday School Ministry that we need to focus on more than others?

Asking good questions gets better results, making sure everyone is on the same page and attempting to work together for greater results. A good evaluation process will ensure that the next time you do the Sunday School Challenge, you will be better prepared, more unified and focused. Below are some articles and tools that can help you to evaluate your Sunday School and the Challenge.

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 7

Step 7: Celebrate Victories/Successes

Let’s Party! Well not exactly. The reality is that in most churches we don’t celebrate enough. And what I mean by that is, we don’t tell people enough how much we appreciate them and all that they do for the church and the Kingdom of God. Even more importantly, we don’t celebrate what God has done. God is at work. Lives are being changed every day, all around us. We should celebrate what God has done, is doing and will do. Along the way, we need to show appreciation towards one another for the ways that God uses us.

Pastor, gather your Sunday School Champions and other leaders together and listen to all the stories of things that happened during the Challenge.  Plan to share these stories during your corporate celebration time. Use testimonies of lives changed, goals met, and show the value of what Sunday School/Small Groups can bring to the church and community.

It is strongly recommended that at the end of the Sunday School Challenge the church plans time to publicly celebrate all that God has done and all the work accomplished. People need to hear the outcome of their work. Were goals accomplished? What is the overall impact on the church and community? What specific stories can be shared and celebrated? Show appreciation for the things that were successful, but also, for the people who worked hard but did not accomplish their goals. The fact that a class set a goal and worked hard to achieve that goal should be celebrated and affirmed, too.

Plan a special worship service and have testimonies from those who participated. Give a report. Pray for all of the life-changing things that happened such as decisions for Christ, new people enrolled, people who are regularly reading God’s Word, new people using their spiritual gifts in service, etc. But most importantly, worship God for all that He has done. Then, eat! Because that’s what Baptists do.

There are many ways to affirm Sunday School–it’s leaders and members, and to thank God for what He is doing. Have each Sunday School Champion share what they saw and experienced, from their perspective. Sometimes we need to change things up. Involve lots of people. It will take a lot of planning but the outcome could be huge. People need to see, hear and experience that God is working, and understand that they have been a part of it.

Here are a couple of articles you may want to peruse for ideas. Honestly, there isn’t much out there about this topic. Maybe that indicates we need to be doing this more.

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 6

Step 6: Regular Updates

How’s it going? In the Sunday School Challenge, regular updates by the Sunday School Champions are crucial to preventing interruptions bringing the best results. If there are not regular and consistent measurements taken, how do you know how it’s going?

Dental, vision and medical check-ups are a regular part of our lives for good reason. We need to know if we are making progress or things are getting worse. If we see things moving in the wrong direction, we can act quickly to try and steer things in the right direction.

Finding and identifying problems early enough in the Sunday School Challenge can prevent major mistakes, later. Not to mention the fact that Satan will be hard at work trying to destabilize our best efforts. Satan doesn’t want to see new people reached, lives changed and more people actively involved in Kingdom ministry.

Don’t think of updates as accountability. Today, that word carries lots of baggage. Instead, focus on helping every class and every leader to avoid pitfalls that will limit their effectiveness. Simply put, ask every leader “how’s it going”? You should already know their goals and plans.  Checking in weekly to ask will help keep up-to-date on progress. Your purpose is to encourage, pray and offer to help. Each class make the choice to plan and execute their plan.

To be honest, this might be the most difficult part of the Sunday School Challenge. When people discover that we are going to follow up every week to see how things are going, it might make them feel somewhat uncomfortable. My best advice is to “just ask.” Resist the temptation to not ask every week. Frankly, if you give in before you start, you can never move forward.

Once each Sunday School Champion gets a report from each class, he or she should inform the Pastor on how it’s going and what is being done to keep things going. The Pastor is responsible for the Big Picture. He needs to know how things are going generally—it most of the classes are struggling, he can encourage, support and engage from the pulpit and/or in each classroom. If things are going great, he can challenge and push them to greater heights. The Pastor needs an accurate gage of what is happening so he can step in and guide at those opportune moments.

A “win/win” is when everyone is working together to accomplish what only God can do. If the Pastor, Sunday School Champions, Sunday School leaders and members are focused and working together in obedience to God; only God knows what could happen. Frankly, that is what all of us would love to see.

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 5

Step 5: Good Planning

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” (Quote: Anonymous). Great goals are only the first step in achieving success in the Sunday School Challenge. A goal describes what you hope to accomplish. Your “action” plan describes HOW you will achieve your goal.

After setting goals, each class will develop a plan to accomplish the goals they have established with the help of their Sunday School Champion. Merriam Webster describes a plan as, “a method for achieving an end” or “a set of actions that have been thought of as a way to do or achieve something.” A plan is what each class will do in order to achieve each goal.

Specific tasks include calendaring dates and assigning responsibilities within each class. A plan must be specific. The class needs to know who is doing what and when it will happen. Half the work of achieving the desired results is getting started. The other half is the execution of those plans. Poor planning achieves poor results. No planning achieves no results.

A Guide for How to Plan

What specifically do you plan to do to achieve your goal?

When will you carry out this plan?

Who is responsible for each aspect/part of the plan?

Has a date been calendared?

Have responsibilities been delegated/assigned?

Your will versus your actions. By setting a goal, you have decided that you want more for your Sunday School class than expecting members to find a spot to squat, sit and soak. Now, you choose to lead your class to work together to accomplish what Goddesires. In order to accomplish that, you need a plan. Then, you need to work the plan.

I pray that God will do more than you can even think or imagine. When He does, give Him the Glory He deserves. Below are some links on how to plan and execute.

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 4

Step 4: The Launch

All the planning and preparation builds up to this very important day—Launch Sunday.  The Pastor,  Sunday School Leaders and the Sunday School Champions have spent weeks encouraging and challenging one another to Reach and Enroll New Members, to Teach Toward Changed Lives and to Involve Members in Ongoing Ministry.

On this Sunday, each class will submit their goals to the Pastor and Sunday School Champions. The Pastor should articulate what God could prayerfully accomplish in the next 4 to 8 weeks as every class seeks to Reach, Teach and Involve members in moving toward a healthy, growing Sunday School class. Will we reach new people? Will we and those we lead be better students of God’s Word? Will we discover, understand, and use our spiritual gifts and equip those we lead to do the same?

The Pastor needs to commission every leader and every class to be faithful to carry out their plans to accomplish each and every goal. Pray over each class, each leader and each goal. Ask God to do a mighty work in the lives of all of them. This is a time to focus on hope for a better future and the desire to join God every day to accomplish His purpose throughout this Challenge.

What if nothing works right? What if we don’t grow? What if we don’t experience a move toward becoming a healthier, growing Sunday School class? Now is not the time to be a pessimist. Believe in God and believe in His people. If God is still at work in your church and community, (and He is) the only thing the Sunday School Challenge hopes to accomplish is getting everyone on the same page at the same time to accomplish something great for the glory of God. That is never a bad thing.

I know this is going to be difficult for some of you. It is a huge ASK that you are wanting your church to trust you and follow you. It is worth asking. You and your church will be better for it.

Oh, and by the way, don’t let this be the only time you lead your church through the Sunday School Challenge. This is something to do 1, 2 or even 3 times a year. Below are links to websites with resources  on helping your classes set SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals.

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 3

Step 3: Cast the Vision

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” (Quote: Lewis Carroll) More often than not, too many churches exist on 52 dis-connected Sunday’s every year. Even though each week seems similar to the week before, there is no over-arching purpose or direction. In one sense, we are predictable. In another, we aren’t going anywhere. 18“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

Vision – “the act or power of seeing or imagination” (Definition by Merriam-Webster) The vast majority of Pastor’s have a plan for what he will preach on any given Sunday. Less often, but in most churches, there is a plan of worship. We know what songs we are singing, when the offering will be taken up and which upcoming events are happening the following week. Most Sunday School teachers prepare a specific lesson for each Sunday. Some will even have a calendar of events and functions just for that class. Dis-Connected.

As Pastor, how do you plan to lead your church and your Sunday School to accomplish specific objectives to further God’s Kingdom? How will you lead your church to work together to accomplish the Great Commission? How will you lead your Sunday School to Reach and Enroll New People, Teach Toward Changed Lives and Involve Members in Ongoing Ministry?

The congregation needs to hear from your heart. They need to know “why” they should reach and enroll new people.  Why should they teach for life change? Why should they get involved in the ongoing ministry of the Sunday School and church? What will it look like when they reach and enroll new people; teach toward life change; and be involved in ongoing ministry? How will they accomplish these great objectives?

As Pastor, how will you help them to develop goals and action plans that move them towards accomplishing these objectives? Who is going to encourage them, equip them and lead them to carry out these plans?

Pastor, you are critical to the future of your Sunday School. They need to know that you value them and their efforts. They need to know that you are willing to support them whether it is a success or a complete failure. They need you to lead them forward.

Jesus described Himself as a shepherd and we are His sheep. You are the shepherd of the flock God has entrusted to you. Where are you leading them and how will you know when you have arrived?

Below are links to some great helps for you as you seek to develop a vision “message” as you lead your church to prepare for the Sunday School Challenge.