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.

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 2

Step 2: Enlist

Pastor, your role is crucial to the success of the Sunday School Challenge. Here are a few of the responsibilities you will need to accept:

  • Recruit a Sunday School Champion (or Champions).You will need one Sunday School Champion for each 4 or 5 classes or small groups including Children, Youth and Adult classes. They need to be the best you can find. See the job description below. Don’t recruit from the pulpit. Personally ask them to pray and accept the role you are asking them to take.
  • Work to prepare the church, Sunday School Champion(s), Teachers and other class leaders for The Challenge.
  • Create buy-in from leaders and members.
  • Cast the vision for the purpose and reason for the campaign (The Challenge) from the pulpit, in meetings and in one-on-one interactions.
  • Encourage leaders and members from the pulpit, in meetings and in one-on-one interactions. The Pastor should personally visit as many classes as possible each Sunday (or whenever they meet), to encourage them prior to and during The Challenge.
  • Celebrate publicly what God has done during The Challenge and affirm and/or reward the achievements of each class.

When you enlist your Sunday School Champion (or Champions), these will be their key responsibilities:

  • Meet with Pastor to agree upon the objectives and the strategy to achieve them.
  • Assist each class to set specific goals and develop realistic plans to achieve those goals.
  • Monitor progress of each class. Report to the Pastor weekly the progress of each class involved.
  • Encourage faithfulness to The Challenge. (NOTE: not every class will participate fully. Work with those who are willing and encourage those who are on the fence).
  • Keep the focus on achieving the objectives. (Reach and enroll new people, Teach toward life-change, and Involve members in ongoing ministry). Remind them that every class can improve.
  • Help modify existing plans for those classes who are struggling.

Below are a few articles, blogs or websites that have great and relevant information for you in recruiting your Sunday School Champion(s). Recommended articles are in bold.

Additional Websites that help:

The Sunday School Challenge – Step 1

Step 1: Pray

Two things I know. First, God has a plan for your church and your community. Secondly, God wants to use you in accomplishing His plan in your church and in your community. The book by Henry Blackaby entitled, Experiencing God, taught us to “find where God is working and join Him”. One of the most important aspects of the Sunday School Challenge is PRAYER.

Like you, I believe in the value and impact of Sunday School.  Your participation in the Sunday School Challenge can be a great foundation to move your church toward a healthy, growing Sunday School.

(If you are not yet a part of the Sunday School Challenge, you need to join us. Just go to LouisianaBaptists.org/SSC to find out more).

The primary objectives for the Sunday School Challenge are to 1) Reach & Enroll New People, 2) Teach Toward Life-Change and 3) Involve Members in Ongoing Ministry.  These goals begin through a commitment to prayer.  This campaign is built on prayer and a surrender to God’s leading.  Prayer efforts must be thoughtful and intentional for all involved.

To help you lead others in this heartfelt discipline, we have gathered resources for Step 1—Prayer:

  • PRAYER BOOT CAMP, developed by Claude King, based upon War Room’s “The Battle Plan for Prayer” is a flexible prayer training experience introducing the basics of prayer and weapons of our spiritual warfare. It is learning to pray by praying together. (Free download) blog.lifeway.com/growingdisciples/?s=Prayer+Boot+Camp.
  • CONSECRATE THE PEOPLE, by Claude King; an 8-day devotional guide to help Christian individuals, churches, and groups prepare themselves for a sacred assembly before God—a time to renew covenant commitments to the Lord. Download Here.
  • FRESH ENCOUNTER, by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, is a 28-day devotional guide which emphasizes “Seeking God Together for Revival in the Land.”  This guide leads you to seek the kind of relationship with God through which He can revive you and use you for revival and awakening.  Fresh Encounter Guides may be purchased for $3.99 each at lifeway.com/en/product/fresh-encounter-a-28-day-devotional-guide-P001305293.
  • COME TO THE LORD’S TABLE, from Claude King, is a 28-day devotional guide is a simple tool focused on church renewal, a daily guide to prepare mind, heart and life for meeting at the Lord’s table. Special attention is given to the preparation of hearts, and renewal of our covenant with the Lord in a worthy manner.  Cost is $6.99 each.   lifeway.com/en/product/come-to-the-lord-s-table-P001315091.

If you have scheduled your churches’ dates for the Sunday School Challenge, please let us know. We are available to assist you in any way we can. We are praying, expectantly, for His blessings in your church.

Sean Keith is the Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Check out other resources at LouisianaBaptists.org/churchgrowth.

The Sunday School Challenge – Overview

Over the last three or four decades, Sunday School Enrollment and Sunday School Attendance have steadily and consistently declined. There were a few bumps of growth, but the trend line has been heading down. Over the last several years God has challenged me to try and simplify what the average church needs to do to move toward a healthy, growing Sunday School. As I understand it, the average church in Louisiana has a worship attendance around 67. With the help of a focus group of Pastors, Directors of Mission, other staff and some lay leaders, we have developed the Sunday School Challenge. (You can find and download resources that will explain how your Church can participate in the Sunday School Challenge at LouisianaBaptists.org/SSC).

The goal of the Sunday School Challenge is to provide the Pastor and Sunday School Champions a tool to equip teachers and other leaders to develop a healthy, growing Sunday School class or Small Group. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (HCSB)

The Pastor can lead his congregation to accomplish three primary objectives through the Sunday School Challenge. They are: Reach and Enroll New People, Teach Toward Changed Lives, and Involve Members in Ongoing Ministry. The Sunday School Challenge seeks to engage every teacher/leader of every class to set a minimum of 3 goals during The Challenge. After setting goals, each class will develop a plan to accomplish the goals they have established with the help of their Sunday School Champion.

The Secret to a successful campaign is the Sunday School Champion(s). These wonderful leaders in your church will work with the Pastor to influence and encourage others to join God in accomplishing the three objectives listed above. Check out the Sunday School Challenge Guide for more information about the Sunday School Champion(s).

At the conclusion of The Challenge, the Pastor, in conjunction with the Sunday School Champion(s) will recognize and/or give rewards to the classes who have achieved their goals. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6 (CSB Bible) This verse skillfully reminds us that God gives the growth. Nonetheless, Paul planted and Apollos watered. We are to do our part. 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 meJohn 15:5 (CSB Bible) This gentle reminder should encourage us to be faithful and obedient to do and accomplish what God desires.

We celebrate what God has done and we reward and affirm those who worked toward accomplishing the objectives God has given us.

Honestly, there is nothing new in the Sunday School Challenge. Unfortunately, too many of our churches are not practicing these clear and effective principles in building a healthy, growing Sunday School. Why not lead your church to participate in the Sunday School Challenge?

Head to the website LouisianaBaptists.org/SSC now and download your guide to the Sunday School Challenge. Let us know when you plan to lead your church in moving toward a healthy, growing Sunday School.

Sean Keith is the Sunday School/Discipleship Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. More resources can be found at LouisianaBaptists.org/churchgrowth/.