Studies God’s Word Together

The world doesn’t need Superman.

Neither does your Sunday School class.

superman

They need you.  More precisely, they need Jesus as His strength is revealed to them through your weaknesses.

The reality is that you teach a small group full of people who struggle.  No matter how much pressure you and I (as church leaders) place on ourselves to be super human, super spiritual, or super anything…that’s not what the world needs from us.  The world (and especially the small groups we lead) need us to be authentic, honest, and real.

The Bible promises that where we are weak, God is strong.  In our weakness, His strength is perfectly sufficient.  It doesn’t bless the people we serve to make them think that you and I have our act together.  It blesses them to see that we don’t, but that Jesus loves us, has purposes for us,  and redeems us anyway.

Consider the following words from Rick Warren, as he shared about one of his long time weaknesses:

One of the things I’ve figured out is that God has used this to build a praying church at Saddleback. I wouldn’t think of preaching without having my prayer team praying for me during the message. And they pray for me during each service through the entire service. What’s the lesson? God uses weak people! Paul had a handicap and he said, “I glory in my weakness.” It is an absolute myth that you must be a super human being to be effective in ministry. The goal is to last. What kind of ministries last? Ones that are real and authentic and vulnerable and honest and non-hypocritical about our weaknesses.

I believe that there are two great pillars of ministry. Paul’s confession and Peter’s confession. These are the two great pillars of ministry. Peter’s confession was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Obviously, ministry is built on that one, which is found in Mark chapter 8. But Acts 14:15 is just as important, which is Paul’s confession at Iconium where he says, “We are but men.”

I have met many pastors who are very interested in declaring their spirituality. But I haven’t met too many pastors in my life who are interested in declaring their humanity. But your humanity is actually one of your greatest strengths.

God loves to use weak people to work his life through and work His work through. Why? 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, “God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to put the wise men to shame. And what the world considers weak in order to put powerful men to shame. He receives glory.” God puts His greatest gifts in ordinary containers so that He alone gets the credit.

You can read the entirety of his comments here.

So my encouragement for you today is not to worry about being super spiritual, or super human in front of your small group.  Be honest, real, and sincere.  Give God the glory for doing the things only He can do.

I leave you with this wonderful word from Jesus about his expectations of us:

Matthew 11:28-30

The Message (MSG)

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

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3 reasons why it’s not a bad thing that we missed our goal on “high attendance day”

Our Better Together weekend at Poplar Springs Baptist Church was a tremendous success.  On Saturday morning, our Preschool Sunday School leaders provided childcare, and Children’s leaders provided breakfast for our Sunday School small groups who mobilized into service all around our community. We had as many as 12 adult small groups who got up early and went out serving on Saturday morning.  Every age group from preschool to senior adults were involved.  Here are just a few examples of some of the projects we accomplished:

  •  landscaping at the local fire department and providing food for the firemen.
  •  visiting elderly and physically struggling families, doing yard work for them and home improvement projects.
  •  visiting a local children’s home and organizing their clothes closet.
  •  visiting a family in need and covering their home with love by doing laundry, deep cleaning, painting, and organizing.
  •  putting together care baskets and delivering them to elderly shut ins and spending time with them.
  •  doing a huge yard sale and raising over $200 for missions.
  •  deep cleaning in the church sanctuary
  •  yard clean-ups (bushes trimmed, leaves blown, trees cut, buildings painted, etc)
  •  visiting a nursing home and sharing hope and quality time with residents

All day on Saturday I received feedback from people who were blessed by the service projects, and from people who were blessed to serve.  Here is an example from one message I received:

DUDE!!! I cant even describe how awesome today was for our small group. Life changing for us and the family we were helping. Our people serving and coming together was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Turnout was unbelievable, which was good because we needed all the help we could get. Can’t wait to show you the before/after pics. The impact we made is hard to measure with words… But we will sleep soundly and know that we literally changed someone’s life completely.

You can’t measure that kind of impact in the way we have traditionally measured success in church.

We served together on Saturday, and then worshiped and studied the Bible together on Sunday morning.  The energy in both worship services was amazing.  Here is an example of just one of the comments that was shared on social media Sunday afternoon:

I had the most awesome time of praise and worship today at PSBC ever. My soul just opened up and soaked it all in. Jarrett McNeely reminded me that we need to let Jesus rub off on us…amen. And Julie Putnam McNeely sang about The Blood and I thought I was gonna exlpode, then my Pastor spoke from Proverbs about bringing up a child in the way he should go and he won’t depart from it….it has been rough year and today just helped me put so much in prospective. Thank you PSBC for loving God and loving me…..

I think there were moments in both worship services when we all felt like we were about to explode.  The presence of God was overwhelming.  That kind of unity in heart and spirit is a work of God that man cannot manufacture.  We also had a wonderful morning in Sunday School, with more than 20 visiting families in attendance.  In the past 2 weeks our Sunday School average is 643, with 668 in Bible study yesterday.  Our attendance numbers are steadily climbing from week to week over yearly averages.  The energy and morale of our small groups has never been higher.   I believe we need to plan another weekend similar to this early in 2014.

But there was a moment before the second service when I felt deflated.  Clint and I usually meet in the sanctuary before the 2nd service.  Sunday we met and I asked about whether we had met the attendance goal.  Clint responded that we had fallen short.  We stood there for a moment letting that sink in, and then it was like we both looked at each other and realized that it didn’t matter.  We resolved to share the joy and excitement of the weekend with the congregation, and give God the glory for all the great things happening around us.  Why should anyone feel deflated or discouraged?  Clint did a wonderful job of celebrating God’s work and placing the number in context. “We are having church in here today” he said, “and we had church out there yesterday!” I could not agree more.

In light of these thoughts, here are 3 reasons why it’s not a bad thing that we missed our goal on “high attendance Sunday”:

  1. It provides us with an opportunity to rethink our scorecard for success.  I am not opposed to setting number goals.  I think they can be helpful.  But we can never make them the bottom line.  We are a spiritual family and we ought to measure success by spiritual standards.  Attendance numbers can be affected by lots of variables, and while they should not be ignored, they can’t become the bottom line for measuring spiritual health and growth.
  2. It creates a moment that we can learn from.  By every conceivable standard, we had a great weekend experience serving, worshiping, and being in small groups together…except one.  We set a number goal and fell short.  Perhaps we should seek God’s wisdom and pray for his leading in how we plan special emphasis weekends.  In the past we have set number goals, taken commitment cards, created incentives for meeting the number goal, and had success with that model.  This time we did it differently.  We set a number goal, but we planned other activities and created spotlight moments on service projects and included the worship service in our emphasis.  The service projects were a tremendous success, and the worship service full of energy.  Sunday School attendance was very high, even if it wasn’t at the goal level.  It’s my observation that we had a rich and meaningful weekend that will leave deep spiritual impressions in a variety of ways.  In light of the contrast however, we may be able to learn that there is a broader and better vision for special emphasis weekends than driving high Sunday School attendance alone.
  3. We are reminded to value people over programs.  We are not here to build a big Sunday School.  We are here to build healthy disciples.  The danger always exists as we create special attendance drives, that as people are invited they may feel used, or like a statistic. “Well, its ‘high attendance Sunday’ again and they’re inviting us back to church so they can have big numbers.”  Obviously that is not the point of what a high attendance Sunday is.  And I have confidence in our people to communicate more effectively than that as they make invitations.  But the bigger a deal we make of the goal number, the more pressure we create to live or die by it.  We must be a church that cares about what God cares about.  God wants us to grow, and wanting to grow is one of our core values.  Healthy things will naturally grow, especially healthy churches. Today however, I am considering the best ways to express that desire to grow, and what modes of growth really matter to God.  There is deep spiritual and real physical value to the things we accomplished TOGETHER this weekend.  Our people grew in ways that a number cannot express.  We didn’t meet the number goal, but I am thankful to God for what was accomplished.

You did a great job this weekend Poplar Springs.  You expressed in beautiful ways that we are Better Together.  There is not a single thing that I want you to feel deflated over.  Give God the glory for the great things He has done, and let’s pray together about what we might learn from our wonderful experience together.

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

What puts the cool in Sunday School?

I enjoy reading a variety of resources from people who I find to be honest voices in the world of church leadership and faith life.  I don’t always agree with the people I read, and I wouldn’t always express things the way some do, but I find working through a variety of perspectives to be challenging and insightful.  Today I want to highlight a few points from an article which is an example of one where author and I see the world differently on the subject of Sunday School.  To be fair, the author of this article is highly successful and has worked at several churches that I greatly respect.  Also, I have always enjoyed reading his thoughts and found them to be very good.  We come from different places in our approach to spiritual formation and discipleship in church life, as I am an advocate of Sunday School and he has served in churches that have moved away from having a Sunday School as a part of their small group philosophy.  Certainly, there are a variety of ways for churches to have deep spiritual formation programs.  Churches in Southern California or South Sudan might not have what we think of as a traditional Sunday School model, and be growing deep disciples very effectively.  In our context here at PSBC however, Sunday School is part of the church’s DNA and I believe is a very effective way to accomplish discipleship.  For what it’s worth, I think the author of this article would agree, and not advocate churches everywhere abandoning Sunday School in favor of some other form of discipleship strategy.  The key is the level of excellence with which you do something in your context that makes it effective in most cases.

We talk on a regular basis about qualities which, if present, assure that Sunday School W.O.R.K.S.  Certainly there are churches in community contexts where Sunday School should be effective, but is not, because it’s done poorly.  It may be those Sunday School experiences that have led some to want to move away from it. That seems to be the case with the author of this article, though I don’t know what his denominational background is.  It’s the reasons why Sunday School does work, and makes a huge difference in people’s lives that drive me to be committed to it.  In this article, the author highlights a few core values that are lost when churches abandon Sunday School.  I would add to his list, but I thought that it would be interesting for you to see what he highlights:

Basic Bible knowledge

From Kindergarten on we had the basic Bible stories drilled into us.  As much as I hated Sunday School, by the time I graduated I had a pretty good understanding of the basic scope and sequence of the Bible.

Connection with peers

My best friends growing up were the kids I went to Sunday School with. Part of it was affinity, part of it was age proximity and part of it was surviving an hour every Sunday together. Even though I hated Sunday School I actually liked going because my friends were there. I felt accepted and connected.

Relationship with an adult who (ideally) loves kids

Once in a while we would have a Sunday School teacher who taught because she really loved kids. I remember one teacher who hosted an Easter Egg hunt just for our class at a park near her house. That made a big impact on me. I also had another teacher who would come faithfully every week to our midweek class (our version of Boy Scouts) even though I was often the only one who showed up. (I was the pastor’s kid, I had no choice). He wasn’t a talented teacher or leader, but he cared about me. I didn’t have the maturity to recognize it at the time, but [he] taught me how to love like Jesus.

Spiritual heritage

My Sunday School class is where I learned my spiritual heritage. We talked about the heroes of our tribe; missionaries who made the ultimate sacrifice for the Gospel. We learned the tenets of our faith and the nuances of doctrine the set us apart. Much of it was legalistic and some downright whacky, but I understood who we were and what we believed. The core that I learned in those classes is still what I cling to today. It is a basic part of who I am.

A church needs a primary vehicle for small group fellowship, organization that makes service easier, consistent small group Bible study, keeping up with one another, and connecting new people in a personal way.  Without it, many crucial things that make the church what it should be are lost.  Churches with different models than ours have sought to replace these qualities with other strategies.  Some have been more successful than others, but we must focus on OUR responsibility to build fully developed followers of Christ.

It is unwise for us to measure our church health by the success, or lack there-of, in other churches.  What matters to us is how effective we are at doing God’s work in our context.

I believe that our strategy is good and biblical approach.  I see evidence everywhere that it is effective, and that lives are being changed through what we do.  Sunday School is a rich part of our church’s discipleship heritage. Generations before us were faithful, and our task is to keep up the good work.

It’s also important that we pray for, and pull for other churches to be successful as well, even if they do it differently than we do.

The article I’ve referenced ends with this statement:

So am I suggesting we bring Sunday School back? Heaven forbid! I just think we need incredible intentionality around the elements we’ve lost. My fear is that we are raising a generation of children who love the entertainment we provide on Sunday, but have little understanding of the Bible, no close church friends, little connection to Christian adults (other than their parents) and a lack of knowledge about their spiritual heritage. In other words we have unchurched children growing up in the church.

Such a reality is a danger for churches who don’t have Sunday School, and for churches that do Sunday School poorly.  Let’s keep working hard to make our discipleship strategy accomplish God’s work in a powerful way!  In the end, its the personal care and hard work of the people who lead Sunday School that make it fun, memorable, cool for young people, and essential for grown ups.  May God continue to bless the church with His presence through our service.

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

Better Together Weekend

I am excited to announce that we have selected a theme and a weekend for our high attendance effort this fall.  November 9th and 10th will be celebrated at Poplar Springs Baptist Church as “Better Together Weekend.”

What can you expect?

On November 9th,  we will be celebrating God’s design for the church to be Better Together by organizing service projects all over our community.  We will be asking each Sunday School class to plan and carry out some kind of service project that morning.  The Children’s Sunday School Department will provide a pancake breakfast that morning before the projects begin, and the Preschool Sunday School Department will provide morning babysitting at the church so that the adults can serve with their classes.  Service projects can be simple or elaborate.  Classes are welcome to do yard work for the elderly, have a free car wash, or any other creative idea you come up with as a class.  The church will provide “Better Together Weekend @ Poplar Springs Baptist Church” yard signs to put out as you serve.

better together weekend

On November 10th, we will come together to celebrate being Better Together in Worship and Sunday School.  We are setting an attendance goal on that day of 725 in Sunday School small groups.  The vision for this day has two parts.  First, we are challenging our classes to contact every single person on their roles with a personal invitation to participate in the weekend. We have 961 people on our church Sunday School roles.   Invite them to come serve with you on November 9th, and then to come sit with you on November 10th.  Many people who have fallen out of fellowship at church don’t come back because they feel they have lost their place at the table.  Serving together bonds groups, and provides an opportunity for people to feel they belong before they come.  (Plus we can do some really good things to bless people!)  Second, invite your friends and neighbors.  I really believe that Poplar Springs Baptist Church is Better Together.  It’s the way God created us to thrive, in community.  This will be a weekend to invite all of your friends and neighbors so they can experience the greatness of what God is doing in us…together.

Next week’s teacher training will be a very special meeting.  More details will be coming about this special weekend.  Please make every effort to attend, or at least have a representative from each class present.

 

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

Are we a friendly enough church?

I recently read a great article by Brian Dodd about the characteristics of highly friendly churches.  Who doesn’t want to be a friendly church right?  I believe that friendliness is one of the great strengths of PSBC.  Churches are limited in many ways that are out of their control, and many of those limitations have to do with finances and facilities, but friendliness is only limited by a church’s commitment to love.

friendly church

Friendliness is something we can control.  This has a great deal to do with the Strengthening Families part of our vision.  God has placed people all around us who we should value, because they are valued by God.  Our own families, our church family, and families in our community.  When someone gets treated in a friendly way, it makes an impression; they feel valued.

Here are several of the characteristics mentioned in the article, and a comment of mine regarding each.

Highly Friendly Churches Leverage Social Media.

This is an area that PSBC has been lacking in, but in recent months we have established a strong presence.  Our PSBC Facebook page has over 300 “likes”, and a weekly average reach of over 5000 people.  They key is frequent posts, and a lot of “likes” and “shares” from our people.  The more those things happen, the more often our posts show up in people’s newsfeed.  So click away!!  We have a weekly video devotion on Youtube that can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, and email.  Our website traffic is higher than it ever has been.  If you feel God leading you to contribute in any of these areas, contact me.

Highly Friendly Churches Make Great First Impressions.

Just a few of the keys to PSBC making a strong impression include: consistent hosts at the Welcome Desk, friendly and knowledgeable greeters at every door, and SS class greeters present an early in the classrooms each week.  Our Cookie Crew does a wonderful job of following up each week with first time guests.  Contact me for info on how to get on the Cookie Crew, or to participate in any other first impression efforts.  We probably need a section of our volunteer services grouped together as “First Impression Ministries”. Contact me if you feel led to get in on this.

Highly Friendly Churches Create Comfortable Environments.

Our worship services and Sunday School environments are warm and inviting.  This has a lot to do with physical environment as well as how welcome people feel.  Clean, neat, and well decorated spaces are critical.  We had a big “clean and organize” day recently that helped.  But we still have some dated posters decorating walls, cluttered corners, and furniture that’s in really poor shape.  I’d be glad to re-imagine your space with you if you feel like you want to do something different.

Highly Friendly Churches Passionately Serve Their Local Communities.

PSBC has local missions efforts taking place on a weekly basis, from men, women, youth, and children’s groups.  We MUST have a presence and reputation in this community that has service as a centerpiece.  This fall I have a goal of putting out a ministry catalog that lists all of our church efforts so people will know where they can get involved.  Send me an email with the local ministry you are involved in so it can be sure to make the list. dwalker@mypsbc.org

Highly Friendly Churches Care About Those Attending Their Church.

In some ways, this characteristic is more intangible and hard to measure.  In other ways, it may be the most tangible characteristic on the list.  We care about others attending our church by connecting in Sunday School.  We care about others attending our church by being aware of new people to greet on Sundays, Wednesdays, and at special events.  We care about others attending our church by giving to the ministry.  Valuing people requires action.

Highly Friendly Churches are Multi-Ethnic and Multi-Generational.

This characteristic is impossible to force, or manufacture on our own.  Our responsibility is to love people, love God, and serve in Jesus’ name.  We are a multi-generational church.  We host a vibrant, biblical, Hispanic fellowship each week on our campus that is growing and really blessed by our partnership.  Their presence is a blessing to us as well. We don’t sit around thinking about how to become multi-ethnic, we just love people because God does.   Our job is to stay committed to a Kingdom vision, and let God do His thing!

Highly Friendly Churches Use Humor.

I am so proud and encouraged by the way I see people laughing and enjoying each other all over our campus and at our community events.  They way we love and laugh points to the authenticity of our relationships, including our relationships with Jesus.  This characteristic doesn’t refer to having a comic worship service.  In my view, it refers to the way we laugh together as we enjoy a biblical life of joy in Christian community.

Highly Friendly Churches Have Volunteers Who are Glad to be There.

Do what you do because you feel led to, and want to.  God calls people to do every job in the church.  If something doesn’t inspire you, and you get asked to do it…say no.  You have our permission.  God has probably called someone else to do it, and by trudging through it you might be stealing someone else’s blessing.  It’s OK to say “no” to volunteer jobs that make you feel like you need ibuprofen just thinking about them.  That “no” frees you up to say “yes” to something you will love to do.  Just be sure you say yes to something!

Highly Friendly Churches are Passionate About Getting Better.

The overwhelming sense at PSBC is that we are just getting started.  The best is yet to come.  Every time we partner together for a ministry, service, or event that Worships God, Strengthens Families, and Changes Lives; there is an anticipation of God doing something spectacular.  We need everyone’s ideas, skills, and ingenuity.   God put you here with your unique skills and perspective to make us better.  Where could you apply your genius to make PSBC better?

Highly Friendly Churches Make You Glad You Were There.

We exist as a partnership of believers to be a blessing to God, a blessing to others, and celebrate the life change that comes through Jesus.  Every single week I am glad I joined in.  Aren’t you!!

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

What are you reading this summer?

I have a friend who loves to say that in life, and especially ministry, one’s ability to  lead is directly related to one’s commitment to read.

I have another friend who objects to that statement.  He suggests that reading is good, but that leadership requires traits that cannot simply be developed by reading about them.

In some ways I think they are both right.  However, I tend to agree with the first statement the most.  I know that in my own personal life,  a lack of reading sabotages my confidence and effectiveness.  Certainly it is true that leadership requires courage, conviction, and commitment.  It is also true that the inner man is not fortified in these areas without the infusing of God’s presence.  God equips us for his work by calling us to a task, equipping us through Scripture, and conviction from the Holy Spirit.

But God has not called us as leaders to check our minds at the door.  We do not simply read instruction manuals (in our case lesson books) to those we lead.  We believe that God is the author of all truth, and that educated and experienced men and women follow God’s leading to communicate truth through books.  It is also clear that books influence culture.  Through the wisdom of God and the discernment of the Holy Spirit, we are called as leaders to engage the messages of our culture and separate what is good and healthy from what is not.  As teachers, we apply God’s truth to life in the midst of a culture that is largely being informed by what it reads.  One of my jobs in college and seminary was as a bookseller and Department Manager at Barnes and Noble.  Trust me, people are devouring what the New York Times tells them are the “must reads” of the summer, almost without consideration for the subject matter.  I have seen books fly off of the shelves in staggering quantities, simply because Oprah recommended them.

During the summer, many of our people are finding more time to read than they do during other parts of the year.  You may be finding the same to be true in your own life.  What are the books your small group members are reading this summer?  What are you reading?  Allow me to suggest three reasons that reading should be a priority for you this summer.

(We all know and agree that healthy discipleship involves reading the Bible.  It should go without saying that reading God’s Word is a crucial element to your personal health as a follower of Christ, your ability to discern truth, and your effectiveness as a teacher/leader.  Without steady and purposeful intake of God’s Word, the mental skill of separating truth from lies in culture is impossible.  When recommending books to our people, though this point should go without saying…go ahead and say it anyway.)

1. People in your small group are spending their summer reading.  Do you know what books they are into?  This is not a suggestion that you grill your people about their summer reading list, but I am suggesting that you pay attention to what they are talking about. The books they are drifting off to as they fall asleep each night are informing the way they look at the world.  Those ideas are in competition with what you are teaching on Sundays.  Or are they in agreement?  Where appropriate, ask people what they are reading, and share what you are.

2.  It is good when leaders can make good and healthy book recommendations to their people.  There is power in a book recommendation. It’s always good to have read a book that you are recommending, so you may need to go pick one up.  Whether it is fiction, history, biography, or Christian inspiration, you have the opportunity to inform your people’s reading choices.  Do a little research and make a meaningful suggestion.  Share your summer reading list with your class.

3.  Purposeful reading familiarizes you with the world of literature that is influencing our culture.  When making a reading choice, consider the author (what is their background, education?), who are the people who endorse the book (what organizations are they associated with, are they reputable?), and who is the publisher (what other books are they publishing, do they specialize in a genre or are they all over the map?).  I am always happy to talk with you about these factors.  I can recommend authors, help you evaluate endorsements, or talk about trustworthy publishers.

Here is a book that I have recently started.

Lifes Healing Choices

It’s called Life’s Healing Choices.  Here are some of the factors I evaluated in making the choice to spend my time on it.  The author is John Baker, who has served on staff at Saddleback Church, and is the author of Celebrate Recovery, which is a wonderful Christ centered program for addiction recovery.  Rick Warren wrote the Forward, and I know him to be a trustworthy source. Finally, the book was published by Howard Books, which is the primary imprint at Simon & Schuster for faith-based books and a member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.  They do  publish some books that are not faith based, but generally have a good reputation.  Again, all these factors together led me to feel confident that this book was one worth reading.  It is a subject that I want to learn more about, and I read with discernment based on what the scripture teaches.  An informed choice in picking a book can reduce the wasted time and money of getting a book and then realizing it isn’t trustworthy.

What are you reading this summer?

Categories: Keeps People Connected, Studies God's Word Together, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Quick User Review of Mystudybible.com

The following is a quick review of my experience using mystudybible.com to prepare a bible study lesson.

The primary difference between my experience and yours is that I was preparing a Bible study from scratch using only a Bible text and you will be using a written curriculum as well as the Bible text.  The review will still be meaningful to you I think, because you no doubt seek to use additional study tools when reviewing your lesson curriculum and preparing to teach.

First things first, The main tabs you will need to familiarize yourself with are the tabs at the top and the drop down tabs on the right hand side of the page.  The most useful tab at the top is the “Library” tab.  There really is an impressive amount of information there in terms of Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries, and video series.  All by Broadman & Holeman of course, produced by Lifeway.  That’s fine with me because they are excellent.  Mystudybible.com is produced by Lifeway, so naturally they showcase their resources and you can easily make purchases from the site if you want a hard copy resource at home.

The central pane of the website is where you will do your reading, and is organized by tabs as well when you open different resources.  It’s pretty user friendly.  The Bible texts are well presented, and if you hover your cursor over underlined words there is excellent word study research available.mybiblestudy

Here are some highlights:

Most Helpful Tabs:

The top Library tab: use the Bibles and commentaries.  I found them convenient and resourceful.

The Bible Study Notes tab on the right hand side of the screen:  These tabs provided pretty good contextual insight, referring to other texts in the scriptures.  Under the HCSB Study Bible heading, click on “Read”.  This provides good study guide notes on the text.  The other study guides are for sale and not for use on the site, but the HCSB Study Bible is very insightful.

The Pronunciation Tab:  This was good for me as I was teaching an old testament text with some hard to pronounce names.

The Video Player Tool tab:  There was a 6 minute video on my passage that totally influenced my insight into the text.

Least Helpful Tabs: 

The Topical Concordance tab:  This seems to be designed to show you resources you can purchase, not readily use on the site.

The Commentary tab:  Use the Library tab on the top bar for commentaries.  This tab on the right hand side seems designed to sell you commentaries rather than provide immediately accessible information.

There are certain features that are available only if you “sign in”, and I would recommend spending some time on the site before you sign in, so you can know if you feel you will use it frequently enough to warrant keeping up with another username and password.

You can use the Options tab to personalize the site if you like it enough.

All in all I found the site to be useful enough that I will refer to it in the future when preparing lessons.  I hope this quick review has been helpful and might save you some time in exploring this resource.

Again, thank you for all that you do, and if I can ever serve you, please let me know.

David

 

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

4 Ideas to Fire up Sunday School this Summer

Summer is here. We all know that Summer can be challenging when trying to maintain a high interest level in our churches and small groups. Summer brings free time and distractions, vacations happen, and regular routines are out the window. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that church attendance is out the window…but sometimes it does.

If the church just chugs along with business as usual, we make it easier for people to check out. I think that this is especially true in Sunday School. Summer offers opportunities for Sunday School groups to do some different, and creative activities which accomplish our vision (Keeps People Connected), and drive up the interest level . Here are a few suggestions:

1. Outdoor service projects. Meet on a Saturday morning and clean a senior citizen’s yard.
grill Have someone in your church or group who was in the hospital or has a newborn? Meet on a Saturday, or an evening and do their yard work together. It’s a way to reach out, and stay connected. Remember, we are Organized to Serve! Small groups that serve together, stay together.

2. Host a block party to create interest in your small group. There’s someone in your group that lives in a neighborhood which would be open to a block party. Have several people in your group bring their grills, pass out invitations to everyone on your street a week ahead of time, plan some games for the kids, and end the evening by inviting your neighbors to join you for Sunday School and worship. This is a great way to Reach out to New People!

3. Pick a Friday night and have everyone in your small group invite a neighbor over to their home for dinner. If you have 10 families in your small group, with everyone participating that would be 10 new families receiving an evening of relationship building and a personal invitation to Sunday School and worship that weekend.

4. Take advantage of the church’s 4th of July community outreach. On the evening of July 4th, the church is hosting a fellowship for the community that will feature free food, fireworks, inflatables for kids, and the band Big Blue Planet. Set up a tent for your Sunday School group and invite all of your neighbors to attend. Treat it as a Sunday School class fellowship. The point is to experience it together, and invite a friend.

PSBC_JulyFourth2

If I can help you with resources or brainstorming for any of these events, I will be more than happy to. Last summer we enjoyed strong attendance throughout, and with some creativity and hard work this summer can be even better! Thanks for all you do. Always contact me if you need anything at all!

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

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!

Categories: Keeps People Connected, Studies God's Word Together | Leave a comment

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.

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

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