Tony Evans told a story about lying in bed and noticing a crack in the ceiling. He calls a painter and the painter repairs the crack and repaints. A few months later, Tony looks up and notices the crack had reappeared. A little annoyed, he calls the painter and he once again repairs the crack and repaints. A few more months go by and the crack again reappears. This time Tony calls a different painter. The painter observes the damaged ceiling and says he can’t help. Tony asks him, “What do you mean? You’re a painter!” The painter replies that, of course, he could repair the crack and repaint, but that isn’t the problem. The problem is that the house’s foundations are shifting.
Evans then preached a sermon on the shifting foundations in our world today. His text was Luke 6:46-49.
“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great!” (HCSB)
When I returned home, I began to ask, “If we want to build a strong Sunday School, what are the foundations?”
Here are four foundations to grow a great Sunday school:
- Dependence on the Holy Spirit. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain. If you want to grow a great Sunday school, start with prayer and ask God for a clear vision and strategy. Ask him to raise up the leaders and the teachers that will be needed. Start and stay on your knees.
- An appealing primary worship service. Worship and Sunday School have always been connected. The primary entry point for guests is worship. If worship was not appealing to them, then the chances of getting them involved in a Sunday school class is hampered. Style of worship is not the issue, as long as your style connects with the audience you are seeking to reach. In my work, I have the joy of worshipping with congregations of every size and of every style. The key issue to me is one of dynamics.
- Attractive teaching. What is attractive teaching? It is different for every person. Some people like a good lecture. I personally am a relational and logical learner. I like to discuss and debate. Regardless of how you teach, teachers need to be prepared. They need to be creative from week to week and intentionally use a variety of methods. Andy Anderson said, “Bad lessons run off more people than good outreach programs can bring in.”
- A solid organization. The first goal is to have a class for every age group. If you are a small church that currently has no babies or teenagers, at least have a teacher for every age group and make sure they are ready to teach each week, in case a guest family comes. Second, a solid organization should include a leader for each adult class to lead in teaching, one to lead in outreach/evangelism, and one to lead in ministry.
These are my thoughts on the foundations for growing a great Sunday school. Building on that foundation is where the work begins. Remember: How you see Sunday school is how you will lead Sunday school and measure its success. Begin to see your Sunday school classes as teams of people on mission with God. Don’t just measure the success of Sunday school on how many are attending. Measure it based on:
— The number of lost people who are getting connected and involved.
— The number of classes getting outside the walls of the building to conduct missions projects and start 1-5-1 branch plants.
— The number of members who see themselves as missionaries to a world where the foundations are shaking.
Sunday School will work, but solid foundations are essential to growing a great Sunday school.
Mark Miller is a Sunday School Specialist with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. To connect with Mark about these and other ideas, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.