Monthly Archives: May 2013

How we apply the Bible in Sunday School.

Last week we took a look at how we study the Bible in Sunday School.  This week I want to share some thoughts with you about how we apply the Bible to everyday living through Sunday School.  The following ideas are from a great article on one of Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life resource pages.

Here are four practices that can help you learn how to apply scripture as a group:

  1. Regularly include questions in your time together that pull toward application.  Whether you’re studying the Bible together or simply sharing a meal, steering conversation toward application moves the experience from information to transformation.  As important as it is to understand what the Bible means, if we don’t get to doing what it says we miss the point.

  2. Provide opportunities in group meetings to model or role play application.  Different learning styles (verbal, visual, physical, etc.) make it essential to build in different ways of teaching the principle.

  3. Add offline check-ins as an essential ingredient.  Groups that only interact during their meeting time rarely experience the depth of connection that produces life-change.  A quick phone call, a Facebook message or text, meeting for coffee or even sitting together in the worship service takes relationship to a new level.  Building in the practice of asking, “Have you been able to put what we learned into practice?” goes a long way toward becoming doers.

  4. Add a “how’d your week go?” component to every meeting.  Spending a few minutes talking about how members applied what was learned last week brings scripture to life.  Without application, learning never moves from information to transformation.

Each of these four points is well said.  I would, however, add a comment to #3.  Many of our small groups have Facebook groups, and I think that this a great development.  It provides a great format for the teacher to interact and follow up during the week with a point of application, or a check in.  Be sure that you create a “group” and not a “page”.  The difference is that when people in your small group join the Facebook group, they get a notification when someone posts.  That won’t happen with a “page”.  Not all classes will, or should, choose to have a Facebook group.  But I recommend that you do take advantage of some way to maintain conversation in the group outside of the classroom.

Always feel free to contact me with thoughts and ideas about these articles, or anything I can serve you with.  Thanks for all you do, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday!

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How we study the Bible in Sunday School

I’ve done it a thousand times.  You’re teaching a bible study lesson to a small group, you read a passage of scripture, and then turn to the class and ask, “What does this mean to you?” or, “So, what do you get out of this?”Bible study

For the vast majority of us, this question is harmless.  What we intend to ask the class is how they understand the meaning of the text to apply to their lives.  However, there is a subtle danger in evaluating scripture this way.  Our goal is to be clear, not only about the meaning of scripture, but about how we can get to that meaning.  We want to guard against the tendency to interpret scripture according to our own theories or ideas.  It’s too easy to let our experiences, prejudices, even fears dictate our understanding of scripture.

The goal of the bible student is to understand what the original intent of the writer was, as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write it. That is our goal because the original message of the Holy Spirit is truth that never changes, and it always speaks with life changing power to the heart of mankind. We believe that the Holy Spirit inspired individuals to write down words which have been passed on for us to read, and that the message those words convey is timeless. These words reach through the centuries to touch our hearts today, filled with the power of the one who inspired them: the Holy Spirit. They are the words of God.

 As we evaluate the scripture, we consider the writer, the historical context of the writer, the original audience, the central theme of the passage, as well as how a specific passage fits into the overall context of the book of the Bible in which we find it.  It’s also important to consider the overall sum of biblical instruction on an issue or topic when evaluating a passage. Scripture is often the best tool in interpreting scripture.  There are a variety of tools through which we study these elements, and for any of you who are interested I am always happy to make study tool recommendations.  In many cases, a good study bible includes a lot of this information.

Once we evaluate a text, the teacher’s goal is to help small group members understand appropriate methods of evaluation, and to arrive at a text’s central message.  The Sunday School teacher then leads the class in agreeing on a central truth and applying it to our lives.

You may be thinking, “Wow, that sounds really involved.  I’m going to have to re-read that.”  One of the strengths of our Lifeway curriculum is that most of the necessary textual evaluation is built into the leader guide.  That’s a reason to feel good about what we are already doing.  This is another reason why appropriate Sunday School curriculum is important.  It’s not enough for us to just read a bit together about a topic, share a scripture, and discuss our opinions.  We Study God’s Word Together.  It’s one of our shared values that makes Sunday School W.O.R.K.

This is another reason that I appreciate you all so much, and the sacrifice you make as teachers.  It is a substantial commitment, and you are always in my prayers as you do the work.  I am always here for you as well.  My goal is to be a blessing to you as you do the work God has called you to.

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Three keys to developing leaders in Sunday School

“I’m just a Sunday School teacher.” you might say.  Many Sunday School teachers, and perhaps many more Sunday School class participants think that all a Sunday School teacher is supposed to do is teach the lesson.  To be sure, teaching the lesson is a major part of the responsibility.  “Studying God’s Word Together” is one of our core values.  But another responsibility of leaders in a growing Sunday School is to develop more leaders.

leadership development

In Sunday School, we build disciples.  As we build disciples, we must be prayerfully looking for men and women who have the giftings which would equip them to take a step out into leadership on their own.  As you seek to identify and assist these individuals to grow, here are three keys to keep in mind.

1.  Consider your own experience.  You are a Sunday School leader.  How did you get there?  Was there someone who saw something special in you and challenged you to live up to it?  Did someone ask you to take on a responsibility, and then guide you as you rose to the occasion?  Perhaps you felt the call and talked to someone about taking a step towards leadership.  After you consider how you got to where you are, as yourself these questions.  Who have you asked to take on responsibility that will guide them where God wants them to be?  Do you have the kind of relationships with people that would foster someone feeling comfortable enough to talk with you about their callings?  Do you look at your class roster and regularly think about how you can stretch certain people into leadership?  As a Sunday School leader, we need you to be thinking about these things.

2.  Consider who asks you insightful questions or has good suggestions.  Leaders are thinkers and problem solvers.  Who can you think of in your class that offers suggestions to improve the experience of others?  The people who are naturally thinking about those things need to be given responsibility and opportunity to grow.  Would they be good care group leaders, or fellowship coordinators? Who can you think of in your class that regularly makes great points or asks relevant and insightful questions?  People who are naturally wrestling with the scripture text and lessons in this way may have the gifting to become teachers themselves.  Talk with me or your department director about using such people as a substitute teacher some time.

3.  Pray for guidance.  The development of disciples and future church leaders is a spiritual process.  God has placed the seeds for these things in people’s hearts, and He makes those seeds grow.  Pray that God will give you the insight and ideas to effectively nurture those seeds, and stretch people.  Often God will inspire you to call someone out to leadership tasks that they don’t feel ready for, but need to be.  Never be pushy, or overbearing, but prayerfully nurture what God has prompted you to affirm.  Offer people specific insights into the things they naturally do well, and ask them if God has prompted them to take that gift to the next level.  There are few blessings in leadership more rewarding than helping someone discover God’s calling in their lives.

Finally, please share your insights with Clint, Leroy, and myself.  We are always interested in people who want to be used as the Sunday School ministry grows.  God has big things in store for us, and to realize those big things we need to be identifying and training new leaders.  Plans are in the works to offer a regular 6 week course to train, equip, and inspire future Sunday School teachers.  Your thoughts and suggestions will fuel who is a part of that course.  It will also be available to current leaders who want to brush up on things.  I am so excited about what God has in store for us.  Thank you for all you do, and I am always here to talk with you about any of these things.  Have a great week!

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Sunday School and Mothers Day

There are certain days that we in church leadership know will be significant in the life of the church.  Christmas and Easter are probably the ones that we think of first, but Mother’s Day and Father’s Day rank highly as well.  There are several reasons that this is true.  We are a church that has identified “Strengthening Families” as a primary value, and so it stands to reason that a day to honor mothers is a big day.  Family is God’s idea and design.  Family is God’s first plan for producing and growing disciples.  God’s Word calls us specifically to honor our parents.  So with all this in mind, what are some keys to making sure that we make the most of this special day in Sunday School?

mothers day

Here are 4 thoughts about Sunday School and Mother’s Day.

1.  Always point to Jesus. Of course we are going to honor moms on Mother’s Day.  But it is under the authority and command of Jesus that we do so.  When we honor mothers for their faithfulness, we honor God who gave them to us.  When Mothers are faithful to care for us and provide in all the wonderful ways they do, they honor God who is the ultimate care giver and provider.  Faithful motherhood is a powerful display of the redeeming love of our Savior who picks us up, forgives all our failings, and gives us a fresh start every morning.  Along with fatherhood, motherhood stands as one of the most significant platforms in our culture from which the love of Christ can be shown in all its glory.

2. Contact everyone this week.  Everybody knows that mom wants you to go to church with her on Mother’s Day.  For some that will be here at PSBC.  For others that may mean going somewhere else for worship.  Contact your people this week and let them know that if mom isn’t at PSBC that they are welcome to have her join them as an honored guest in Sunday School.  Consider creating a moment in Sunday School for people to share about their moms and let people know ahead of time so they can be prepared.  Big Sundays provide a great opportunity just to check in with everyone.  Make the most of it.

3. Be sensitive.  There will be some in your classes who have lost their Mothers, and for them this is a difficult day.  There will also be those who have lost children, and for whom Mothers Day is especially painful.  And we should not forget that there are women in our congregation who desire to be Mothers but for whatever reason have not been able to have that joy yet.  You know your classes better than anyone, and you know the unique situations in people’s lives.  Be purposeful in your words and be considerate.  Perhaps even a specific contact would be appropriate and meaningful for some.  God is not far from the brokenhearted, and the gospel speaks to all of our deepest longings.  To be reunited.  To be restored.  To be rescued.  To be needed.  Preach the hope of Jesus on Mother’s Day.

4. Be early and be prepared.  It’s a special day, and you as a teacher are a big part of our success as a church on Mother’s Day.  Pray up.  Make your contacts.  Set your care groups loose to reach out.  Prayerfully prepare for your remarks and sharing time.  Be there early and be ready to make the most of what God brings us on this Sunday.  I will be praying for you all, and I look forward to serving with you.

I am always available if you need me.  Remember that we do have a leadership/teacher meeting THIS Wednesday (the 8th).  Have a great week!

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Reasons small groups lose heart

Reminder that our next Wednesday night Sunday School leadership meeting will be May 8th.  The next meeting will be on May 22nd.  We will pick back up with our regular meetings on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month in June.

The following is a section of a great article by Rick Howerton about why sometimes small group members lose heart.  There are some good points here and I hope you find it insightful.

Small groups can easily lose heart. A group can be meeting but have no passion for being together. This can be avoided by knowing what causes a group to end up in the place of deadness. There are at least eight reasons that a small group can lose heart.
1. The small group leader doesn’t have a passion for the people she is leading.
2. The group has been together too long.
3. There is unresolved conflict between group members.
4. The group seldom connects to play together, enjoy meals together, etc between group meetings.
5. The group is self-centered and therefore isn’t missional.
6. If the truth were known, the group has no expectations that Jesus is going to do something beyond comprehension in and/or through them.
7. The senior pastor seldom mentions the importance of group life to the congregation.
8. Stories of life transformation through groups are seldom told in weekend worship services.
Have a great week and I look forward to seeing you Sunday!
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