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03/07/2010 / John Hanna

Nine ways to revitalise a Sunday school

This is what Steve Gladen says about how to revitalise a Sunday school:

Here are some practical steps to improve the health of your Sunday school or on-site small groups –

  1. Strategically set up your room. Use round tables with participants facing one another instead of the traditional classroom setting with everyone facing the teacher.  Using round tables accomplishes two things. First, it will facilitate stronger discussion since people will be face-to-face. Second, it will help you indentify a table leader if you don’t already have table leaders identified. If your church can’t afford round tables, just set your chairs up in circles or horseshoes (with open end of the horseshoe to the front of the classroom).
  2. Understand ratios. If your class size is over ten people, then you will need to start thinking about who can help you build health into class members. If one of your goals is to know the spiritual health of each person in your class, and then encourage them to take their spiritual next step; realistically you can’t know and follow-up on each person. Raise table leaders or people who have a passion for discipleship so everyone is encouraged to grow.
  3. Build consistency at the table. Once you set your room in tables, circles of chairs, or horseshoes, you will start to see people sitting with the same folks. Encourage that so they can get to know one another. When a group of new people come into the class, start a new table. People will not dive beneath the surface level conversation and feel safe enough to share what’s really going on in their lives unless they build authentic relationships with one another. This will only happen over time.
  4. Set the table for evangelism. And it will build attendance accountability. First, if your tables or circles seat eight, don’t fill the table full of eight people. Fill it with five or six and ask class members who they could invite to fill the table. Also, once you are seated in smaller circles, attendance accountability is a natural by-product. Why? When a group of six is sitting together it is pretty hard tonot notice when someone is missing! This will build an organic accountability through your classroom.
  5. Know your sheep; help your sheep know themselves. Plan a time for everyone to take a Spiritual Health Assessment and build a Personal Health Plan.  When your class members take the Spiritual Health Assessment, they will see which biblical purpose (Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, Evangelism and Worship) is their strength and which area they need to grow in. Then, table members can help each other to build an individual planner to help class members grow in their spiritual formation.
  6. Build spiritual accountability. Once people have identified areas in their life that need growth, have them pair up with someone who will help them by asking the question, “Did you accomplish what you set out to do?” This check up should be done as a natural part of the relationship. No set time, but the question should happen at least monthly. The Sunday school teacher and the table leader don’t need to know “what” everyone is working on, just that everyone has a “who” that is checking in with them.
  7. Know your limits. Realize what you can do in the class time and what needs to be done outside of class hour. Generally in a Sunday school hour you can you can only do discipleship. You can do some fellowship and maybe you can take a class hour to only do worship. Here is the key, though. You can’t and shouldn’t do all the purposes in your Sunday school hour. Instead, determine what you can do during class time and have tables or a group of tables work together to do a purpose outside of class time. Release your people to develop themselves. If you keep everything in the classroom, you will suppress creativity and the Holy Spirit!
  8. Think transformation, not just information. Sunday school originally started in England to teach literacy to children on Sunday because they worked in the factory Monday through Friday, sometimes through Saturday. Thus, Sunday school. Over time, biblical teaching was added and, eventually, the secular teachings were dropped as Labor laws were created and enforced and public school education became a part of life. Once you understand the roots of a movement, you can see why so much emphasis is placed on “teaching”. Teaching is not a bad thing, but another phase needs to be added to round out the missing piece of discipleship or spiritual formation—application.
  9. Don’t underestimate the power of discussion. When you give people time for discussion, you are helping them work through the biblical teaching. Once you have set the truth, let them chew on it. Discussion gives class members the opportunity to talk through issues and create their own plan with input from others. Accountability starts to form between class members (whether they realize it or not). Your greatest challenge as a teacher is to give your class time to discuss and own the principles you have taught. I would work on a 60/40 format – 60% teaching and 40% time to apply it.

    Biography

    Steve Gladen has been leading the Small Group Team at Saddleback Church since 1998 and currently oversees 3,500 adult small groups at Saddleback Church. Steve also founded the Purpose Driven Small Group Network, a free network of small group point people to make sure no one stands alone. His website iswww.smallgroups.net. He has co-written several books including: 250 Big Ideas for Small Groups, Building Healthy Small Groups in Your Church, and Don’t Lead Alone.

    Related Internet Links

    • Pastors Blogs /  Ministry Toolbox / Nine ways to revitalize a Sunday school
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