Monthly Archives: November 2012

How my daughter almost sabotaged Handel’s Messiah

A came across this post from 2008 and figured I would share it again.  We had been at FBC Thomson about the same amount of time we have now been at PSBC.  Hope it gives you a laugh and a blessing.

Sunday night we hosted the community performance of Handel’s Messiah at our church.  It was a great opportunity for my wife and I to take the kids and let them hear a fantastic choir and some of the players from the Augusta Orchestra.  It was a great performance.   When we came into the sanctuary, partly out of habit and partly out of desire to get the kids the best view, we decided to sit on the second row.

We were very close to the orchestra, and the Cello player in particular.  The kids behaved very well, and seemed to really enjoy the program.  My oldest daughter was particularly interested in the Cello, and the lady who played it so well.

Cello

At one point in the program, my daughter leaned forward, and I thought, “Man, she’s really into this.”  She was watching that Cello.  The lady who was playing it was moving the bow across the strings with intense concentration, oblivious to the 6 year old little girl 18 inches away.  I watched the Cellist’s bow move back and forth, and I knew my daughter was watching it too.  I saw her hands move to the top of the pew, fingers twitching as the bow moved in and out of reach.  But I gave her the benefit of the doubt, I trusted her to make the right decision.  I knew she was tempted, but I believed there was no way she would do what I knew she was thinking about doing.

Moments passed, and I became engrossed in the song.  I was looking at the choir when I heard my wife gasp.  I looked down and my sweet little girl had extended her arm and was waiting on the bow to move back into reach so she could grab it.  We were one second away from disaster.   With speed and stealth, I grabbed her arm and moved her a safe distance away from the bow.  The Cellist never noticed a thing.

A few moments later my heart started beating again and a few moments after that I started breathing.  My wife was horrified, and all I could do was shake my head.  I thought she could handle the temptation, but it proved too much for her.   She just looked at me and grinned.

I’m sure when I was a kid I would have done the same thing.  If I’m honest I must say that I was interested in how close the bow was coming to us, but…nah.  Note to self: Next time sit three rows back from the orchestra.

But we all fall to temptation sometimes don’t we.  That bow moving in and out of reach was just too much for a six year old little girl to resist.  We all have things that move in and out of reach in our lives that, were we to reach out and take hold, would prove to be embarrassing and disastrous.  But our Heavenly father is present, and He knows the temptations we face.  1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that God is faithful (even when we aren’t…time and time again) and He won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.  When we are tempted, God always provides a way out so we can stand up under it.

I pray that we will all determine to look for those ways out, and be strong when temptation arises.  I also pray that we would be smart enough to recognize when we need to position ourselves out of temptation’s reach.

Disclaimer: WordPress sells ads that may appear below this article. If you see a video ad, it has nothing to do with the content of this site for PSBC Sunday School leaders. I have no control over the content. Probably best to ignore them. Thanks!

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Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are your lessons “question friendly”?

I recently read a great article about engaging your class participants with the content of your lessons by creating a “question friendly” environment.  I want to share some of the tips with you here.

I am a huge advocate of discussion based learning environments.  I think that Sunday School is the perfect setting for this approach.  Discussions provide opportunities for people to interact with each other, share concerns, tell their stories in the context of the issue, and wrestle together with the lesson content.  Besides, who wants to get lectured to? 😉

They also provide the teacher or leader with a tremendous opportunity to give affirmation.  “That was a great point”, or “I am so glad you asked that question” are examples of ways to encourage comments and affirm people who are really engaged with what you are sharing.

Here are a few great tips from Mike Mack’s article:

Here are six tips for encouraging a questioning attitude in a training meeting.

  • Model a questioning attitude. At the beginning of a training meeting, ask leaders specific questions about their groups, what they need to learn to be a better leader, what plans they have for their groups. Throughout the session ask lots of questions. As you do training, for instance, ask how they have handled a situation in the past. Then throw out follow-up questions to everyone to continue allowing their minds to work. Other ideas:
    • Ask participants to solve a challenging small group problem.
    • Use a real or fictional small group leader who has a problem any group leader could have.
    • Have groups of three to five work on solutions together and then share possible solutions. Use this activity as a springboard to a discussion about solving that particular problem in real life.
      When people are active learners and feel like they learned something themselves rather than being spoon-fed, they retain the learning much longer.
  • Pass out index cards at the beginning of the meeting. Ask everyone to write down a good question before the first break. They can choose to remain anonymous. Answer some of the questions at a break. Nothing helps people learn than to know their questions are being answered. This also shows you really care about what they need to learn, not just what you want to teach.
  • Foster an atmosphere conducive to questions. Let leaders know their questions are welcomed. Respond with “Great question!” or “I’m glad you asked that.”
  • Allow yourself to diverge from your agenda.When someone asks a question, it is usually more important than your set agenda. (But use discretion, of course. Some questions involve such a small number of participants that if you answer it you’ll lose them.) If the question refers to something you plan to cover later, go ahead and jump ahead and answer the question, at least partially. If you wait until later, the inquirer may no longer be eager to learn it. Don’t miss the teachable moment! 
  • Keep it simple. If you take twenty minutes to answer one straightforward query, participants may be reluctant to ask more questions. You don’t have to teach all there is to learn (or all you know) on a particular subject at this time. Plus, if you say all there is to say, you limit their abilities to ask additional questions on the subject.

Remember that our next leadership training meeting will be the first Wed in December.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Let’s make an effort this week to call and contact everyone on our rolls who was out last Sunday.  It was a holiday weekend, and lots of people were sick.  I am thankful for the strong attendance we did have, but we have a chance this week to reach out and show some people that they were missed.  Make the most of it!

Disclaimer: WordPress sells ads that may appear below this article.  If you see a video ad, it has nothing to do with the content of this site for PSBC Sunday School leaders.  I have no control over the content.  Probably best to ignore them.  Thanks!

Categories: Studies God's Word Together | Leave a comment

3 ways to make the most of the Holidays in church small groups

The Holidays are crazy.  Family is coming and going.  Shopping for even simple things is complicated because of the crowds.  Temptation is everywhere to overeat and overspend.  I love the Holidays, but they are crazy times.

In many ways, the holiday season offers us time to pause and reflect on what matters most in life.  Faith, family, and friends are some of the things that we treasure during this season.  The familiar songs  bring back childhood memories.  The sights and sounds transform everything  around us into something new and almost magical.  Almost.

For many of us, the Holidays have a dark side.  The temptation to overeat and overspend is more than something to be joked about at parties…it is a pitfall and a threat.  The family that comes and goes, brings anxiety and takes joy.  Familiar songs are reminders of even more familiar feelings of loss left by loved ones who are not with us anymore.  Parties bring temptations and pressure.  The  Holidays can be times of darkness that expose feelings of loneliness,  depression, and fear.

But there is an antidote to loneliness, despair, and fear.

It is the power of the Gospel lived out through God’s people in Christian community.

Here are 3 reasons that church small groups matter more during the Holidays.

1.  In our small groups at church we have an opportunity to  rally around one another so that no one feels alone.  The holidays are busy times, and  we often need to say no to some activities so that we can  appreciate the simple experiences of family and friends.  But church small groups need to be sure and maintain connection during the holidays.  Fellowships are good, but thoughtful and consistent contact is better.  Care groups should be especially active.  Look at the rolls and see who’s been missing.  Everyone on every roll should be contacted during the holidays with a message that says, “We love you.  You matter.  We are here for you.”  The church is a family of families.  And for those whose families at home are currently a source of pain, we step in to be a source of joy.

2.  In our small groups at church we have a chance to remind each other what the true meaning of the season is.  We teach the Gospel of God’s great rescue mission and how it began in a simple stable.  We teach that God has called us to sacrificial service in caring for the poor instead of surrounding ourselves with excess.  When we care for the poor we live out the Gospel to hurting people.  We  teach that all of our needs for love, joy, and satisfaction are met in Jesus.  We teach truth.  We  proclaim hope.  We declare God’s goodness and mercy.  When we meet together to open God’s Word and walk in its light, we find guidance to make it down any path together.

3. In our small groups at church, we find strength to change lives through ministry together.  Yesterday I visited with a mom whose young child has cancer, and they will spend the holidays in the hospital.  Today one of our ministry groups encountered a family living in staggering need.  There are families in our congregation that are suffering in shame and silence, because no one has cared enough to notice the signs of pain.  There are families in our neighborhoods who need to be told that they matter to us and to Jesus…because today they don’t know that is true.  There are people who drive past our church everyday who are broken and need hope.  When we put our hearts, heads, and hands together as small groups we can make a difference in some of these lives.

Sunday School small groups always matter.  We need what we experience in them all year long.  But during the Holidays we need them even more.  This season offers us a chance to meet specific needs and  make a real difference through Sunday School.  Let’s work together to be diligent and make the most of it.

Categories: Keeps People Connected, Organized to Serve, Reaches Out to New People, Studies God's Word Together, Wants to Grow | Leave a comment

closing the back door to the church

As many of you know, we have had 2 very good weeks in terms of attendance at Sunday School and worship.  While I am extremely encouraged by this, it also makes me a bit nervous.  Like you, I want all of our guests and people who are making an effort to reconnect to have a positive experience.   While we can’t, and shouldn’t remove the burden of personal responsibility from those who come needing to be committed; we can do our best to remove any obstacles to getting involved.  The number in attendance is an important measuring tool because every number represents a person. Another number that really matters is how many of those visitors are joining us for a period without ever really getting connected.  Everyone of those numbers is a person who may be lost to the Kingdom.  We have a huge responsibility.

This effort is commonly referred to as the church needing to, “close the back door”.  At Poplar Springs, God blesses us with a steady stream of folks who are coming in the front door.  They visit us at our family friendly events, they visit us in worship, and many visit in a small group.  Reducing the number of folks who visit us in one form or another, never connect, and then quietly disappear is a big part of our effectiveness for the Kingdom.

Thom Rainer and the folks at Lifeway recently conducted a study that reflected the best ways to “close the back door” at church.  Here are the top 4:

The Big 4

Through our research, we discovered that four major factors were at work when churches closed the back door effectively. If all four were in play, the back door closed tight. But any one of these factors still contributes to more effective assimilation.

1. High expectations.

The first “big four” issue is high expectations.

Our research indicates that the American Church went through a period of more than 10 years when churches significantly lowered their expectations of members and attendees. The result was an exodus of people from the church.

“Why would I want to be a part of something that expects nothing of me?” a former active church member told our research team. Many churches are now attempting to remedy this problem with entry point or new member classes, where expectations of service, stewardship, and attendance are clearly established.

2. Small groups.

Second, churches that close the back door seek to get as many of their members as possible into small groups.

In some churches, these groups meet in homes. In other churches, the small group is a Sunday school class that meets at the church.

The key issue, according to our research, is that the small group is an open group, meaning it has no predetermined termination date, and anyone can enter the group at any point.

3. Ministry involvement.

The third key component is ministry involvement.

The earlier a new member or attendee can get involved in a church’s ministries, the higher the likelihood of effective assimilation.

Churches that close the back door have a clear plan to get people involved and doing ministry as quickly as possible.

4. Relationship connections.

Finally, the more new members connect with longer-term members, the greater the opportunity for assimilation.

In an interesting twist in our research, we found that most of these relationships developed before the new member ever came to the church. In other words, members were intentionally developing relationships with people outside the walls of the church. They invited them to church after the relationship had been established.

The interesting thing to me is that Sunday School plays a huge role in each of these factors.  We in Sunday School small group leadership are on the front lines of closing the back door to the church.  Our shared values reflect those opportunities:

Sunday School that W.O.R.K.S.will reflect these values:

Wants to grow

Organized to serve

Reaches out to new people

Keeps people connected

Studies God’s Word together

When we work together to accomplish these things, we will get the job done.  Thanks for all you do!  As always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.  Feel free to comment in the feilds below, or on facebook at facebook.com/dwalker96

We will not have a Sunday School leadership meeting on November 21, due to the church-wide  Thanksgiving service.  Our next meeting will be  on the 5th of December.

Categories: Keeps People Connected, Organized to Serve, Reaches Out to New People, Studies God's Word Together, Sunday School, Wants to Grow | Leave a comment

3 Qualities Every Group Should Reflect

In this week’s Sunday School leadership post, I want to highlight 3 qualities of a healthy Sunday School small group.  These have been adapted from an article by Dave Stewart at The Rock Church.  These qualities are biblical and serve as healthy reminders for us to keep the main things alive and well in our classes.

 

I am so proud of the 758 who were in attendance last Sunday at PSBC in Sunday School.  This is a great week to follow up with guests and those who were in attendance for the first time in a while.  The qualities listed below, in addition to the values we share that make Sunday School W.O.R.K are what will enable us to capitalize on this momentum, and retain some of the people who we have connected with.

 

1.     Authenticity in Relationships (aka- Community)

God created us for relationships with others, and without them, we are isolated and vulnerable to discouragement and defeat. Sunday School small groups are a safe place to be honest and transparent about the victories and struggles in life. As you spend time with those in your group, you’ll find those relationships growing into true friendships. The best place to grow closer to Jesus is in a community of friends!

 

2.     Spiritual Formation (aka – Discipleship)

When Jesus met with his disciples for the last time before he ascended to heaven, he gave them their marching orders:

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20a)

This passage is at the core of what the church is called to do – make disciples. A disciple is a learner, one who is in the process of becoming like their master. And that’s our goal, becoming like our master, Jesus! Every Sunday School small group includes time spent in the Word, prayer, and encouragement for spiritual growth. But ultimately, we each need to take responsibility for our own growth. Then when we meet together in Sunday School, we “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24).

 

3.     Missional Impact (aka – Community Outreach) 

Sunday School is the church Organized to Serve.   Every small group needs to be focused on serving others outside of their own group on a regular basis.  The Fall Festival/Trunk or Treat was a great example of that kind of effort, so was Kim and Joe Henderson’s class “Acts of Kindness with a Purpose” emphasis.  Your class is probably engaged in something that reaches beyond the boundaries of the group itself.   Keep up the good work!  The holidays are upon us, and this time of year always provides wonderful opportunities to reach out as a group.

 

How is your class doing in these three areas?  What would you add to this list of qualities?

 

I look forward to seeing you all this Wednesday night at our leadership meeting.  Have a great week!

 

As always, I value your thoughts.  Feel free to comment in the space below, or on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dwalker96sc

Categories: Keeps People Connected, Organized to Serve, Reaches Out to New People, Studies God's Word Together, Sunday School, Wants to Grow | Leave a comment

My Study Bible

This week you will notice a new link under the “Recommended Resources” on the right hand side of your screen.  There are actually 2 new links.  One is a link about collaborating with other teachers who use Lifeway material.  Lifeway has a new experimental website that allows teachers everywhere who use the same curriculum to share ideas and communicate.  If that’s something that interests you, log on and check it out.

The resource that I would really like to encourage you to check out is called, My Study Bible.  Here are some of the best features:

The Bible

The site offers an online Bible that is really easy to use.  The good news is that it’s HCSB which is an excellent translation, and the one most of your literature uses.  The bad news is that you can’t access other translations on the site as far as I can tell.  I like to read other translations when I am studying.  I find it offers a fuller perspective on the text, but you can still use other sites such as youversion to access other translations.

On the right hand side of the screen on mystudybible.com you will also see a number of other tools.

Study Bible Notes Tool

The study Bible notes tool lets you access all the great insights that come with study bibles.  These are insightful and brief comments tailored to each text.  They often discuss the background or cultural setting of a text, pr share insight into the biblical language used.

Word Study Tool

This is a tool that allows you to look deeper into particular words in the scripture, their original language, pronunciation, and translation.

Topical Concordance Tool

This is a tool that allows you to search the bible using topical key words to find texts that are relevant to your message.

Dictionary Tool

This is a really convenient Bible Dictionary which will allow you to dig deeper into the definitions and backgrounds of the words in each text.

Pronunciation Tool

Can’t figure out how that word should be pronounced…maybe hearing it  will help.

Commentary Tool

A collection of some of the best commentaries available.

Footnotes Tool

Alternate words, related scriptures, brief explanations for every time your study Bible has a footnote.

Video Player

Watch a brief devotion or sermon based on the text you are studying for additional insight.

I hope that you find this site as useful and insightful as I do when preparing for your lesson.

A few announcements:

1. We had a huge night at the Trunk or Treat.  Hundreds of invitations were given out to Sunday School and Worship. We will have the new Welcome Center staffed this Sunday and will escort all new guests to appropriate Sunday School small groups.  Keep an eye out for new folks.

2.  Use the rest of this week to call the folks on your role who haven’t been in a while….not because it’s high attendance Sunday and we want big numbers, but because they matter.  You might explain that as well so they don’t feel awkward when they learn that it IS high attendance Sunday.  It’s simply an opportunity for us to celebrate the community of Sunday School.

3.  Call your Care Group leaders and dispatch them to reach out as well.

4.  We will have a Director’s meeting this Sunday at 5:00 in the Conference Room.

5. We will have our next Leadership meeting in the Fellowship Hall next Wednesday, the 7th.

I’m praying for a huge day this Sunday!  Join me in expecting God to do great things!

Categories: Studies God's Word Together, Sunday School, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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