Sunday School

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.

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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

10 things that can make or break you as a leader.

Here is a great reminder from Chuck Lawless regarding leaders and the way they use words in their interactions with others.  Whether we always consciously think of it or not, Sunday School small group volunteers are leaders.  The minute you do anything other than show up, sit down, listen, and leave, you have taken on a leadership role.  Often, I find the truth to be that leadership in church is mostly about your approach to your place in the Kingdom, rather than whether or not you have an official role or title.  If you come to Sunday School or worship intentionally looking to be a blessing, you are a leader.

Similarly, we have LOTS of men at PSBC who are functioning as deacons.  Our constitution and by-laws prescribe that only a limited number hold an official capacity on an annual basis, but one doesn’t need a title to do the work of an office, nor does one need a set of by-laws to validate his role in the Kingdom of God.

As leaders in Sunday school, consider the following 10 reminders from Chuck Lawless about how important your verbal interactions with people are.  The small, seemingly inconsequential interactions you have with people can make or break you as a leader.

wrecking-ball-hitting-building

 I’m convinced that if you want to learn about leaders, you should listen to their words.
Do they greet others? The best leaders I know say, “Good morning” and ask, “How are you?” They understand that relationships facilitate achieving a vision, but that’s not why they speak to others. They’re just kind people who know that others matter. They recognize the affirming power of a few words, for a few moments, to a few people. A leader who walks past others without greeting them is simply too self-absorbed.
Do they speak more about themselves or about others? The focus of a leader’s words reveals the leaning of the leader’s heart. In the course of a day, do you hear about the their activities, exploits, knowledge, renown more than you hear about others? Good leaders point to others, knowing that their responsibility is to build an organization bigger than themselves. Their very words honor the teams that makes their effectiveness possible.
Do they speak more about yesterday or about today and tomorrow? Leaders who consistently speak of the “way things were” may be stuck in the security of yesterday, perhaps even in a previous organization. Their passion for today and vision for tomorrow are likely weak, if not non-existent. They may well be leading on fumes while gasping for yesterday’s oxygen. Indeed, the backwards-only looking leader is not leading at all.
Do they compliment as well as correct? You may know these leaders. They talk with others only when a problem occurs. Others dread seeing them approaching because they know the leaders have little good to say. Lunches are only for discipline, not for friendship and encouragement. Their compliments are few and fleeting, regardless of how hard others work. Often, their team feels underappreciated—and perhaps even used.
Do they speak of faith and prayer? I realize that expressing faith and prayer in some work settings is not easy, but leaders with a genuine faith will allow that faith to influence their words. They will not hesitate to speak about their God and their family of faith. They may not always pray aloud but will offer genuine prayer support for their team. On the other hand, leaders who speak little of faith and prayer may well be operating in their own strength.
Do they criticize or ridicule people in front of others? Some leaders get frustrated with people and then express disapproval to anyone in hearing distance. Others never miss an opportunity to ridicule people who aren’t as “smart” as they are. Here’s the danger with this kind of leader: if they talk about others in front of you, they may well talk about you in front of others. These leaders should not be trusted.
Do they honor their spouse and family with their words? The best leaders lead first at home and adore their family—so much that they talks about them positively. Every word about their spouse is honorable. They almost cannot help but brag about their kids. Leaders who ridicule or shame their family publicly are neither godly family members nor good leaders.
Do they use ungodly speech? The Bible calls it “coarse and foolish talking or crude joking,” and it is improper (Eph. 5:4). Some leaders fall into this trap to “fit in” with others, but such talk does not strengthen leadership. In fact, consider how many leaders have lost their position because of words they could not explain away once spoken. The wisest leaders speak only those words that build up others (Eph. 4:29).
Do they lie? To state the obvious, leaders are not trustworthy if their words are not trusted. Nevertheless, some leaders exaggerate statistics, overstate accomplishments, and embellish stories. In the ministry world, we even have an accepted phrase for it: “ministerially speaking.” We inflate the data and then joke about it—as if the truthfulness of our words really doesn’t matter.
Do they laugh in their conversations? Good leaders enjoy what they’re doing. They have fun, but not via ungodliness. They make the workplace a place of enjoyment without compromising the vision or neglecting the task. They look forward to coming to work, as do their team members. These leaders have learned to laugh at themselves, with their team, and in the face of challenge. A leader who never laughs is likely a leader without true joy.

 

Categories: Sunday School | 1 Comment

Spies in Church

When I was in seminary I heard stories about certain countries sending students to American seminaries to study missions.  No big deal, pretty cool actually, right?  Sure, unless it is a country that is closed and hostile to the gospel.  Apparently the potential exists for these countries to send students as “undercover spies” to learn the strategies and methods of missionaries who are posted in countries where preaching the gospel is outlawed.  These “students” then return home and set up sting operations to catch missionaries and persecute them.  That’s a pretty scary scenario.  The good news is that I also heard stories about these individuals, who as a part of their undercover mission are required to take classes in Bible and theology, were so touched in the heart by the gospel message that they converted and embraced Christ.

That, however, is not the kind of spies that this article is referring to.  Today’s article deals with spies in church.  These spies aren’t sinister, they’ve actually been hired by the churches that they visit.  Many retail businesses retain the services of “secret shoppers” to visit their stores and evaluate customer service.  In this same way, it has become popular for churches to hire people to visit and provide an evaluation of their experience so that weakness can be addressed.  Chuck Lawless, Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary wrote an article about the most commonly reported problems these undercover church visitors discovered.

If someone visited your Sunday School class next week and did an undercover evaluation, what would they find?

spy

Below are the findings from Lawless’ article, and a comment of mine regarding how our church might be evaluated in each category. 

1. Church websites are often outdated, boring . . . and useless.

We typically tell the spy only the name of the church and the city, and we ask him/her to learn about the church first from the website. More than one spy has called us to say he cannot find the service times, isn’t convinced the map is correct (if there is one), called a phone number no longer in order, cannot determine the church’s basic beliefs, or thinks the church will be old and boring based on their Internet presence.

We recently had a couple visit, who informed me that they first heard about PSBC by discovering mypsbc.org.  I took that opportunity to inquire about the helpfulness of our website.  I was relieved to hear that they were impressed, and found it very informing.  I know that our web site is a major tool for connecting with new people, as is our church Facebook page.  Both sites connect with more and more people weekly.  Anyone wishing to help with these digital gateways should contact me to find out more.

2. Churches are not friendly.

Our spies know to take note of how many people greet them apart from a time when the worship leader tells the congregation to welcome one another. More often than not, no one greets our representative before or after the service. Churches are friendly, but most often only to people they already know. I once served as a spy myself, and the church greeter escorted me to the “friendliest class in the church” – where not one of 60+ attendees spoke to me!

We had an article recently which evaluated our friendliness as a church.  We cannot have too many reminders though, that friendliness can’t be banked.  It has to be displayed each and every week, and it has to be authentic.

3. Church facilities are not generally marked well.

Church signs often have more cluttered information than a person can read when driving by. Guest parking – if any exists – is not apparent until an automobile is far into the parking lot. In larger buildings, which entrance is best to use is not clear. Signage inside the building is not helpful. In some cases, the church can be an easy place to get lost!

This is an area in which we must improve.  We need to do an evaluation of signage and have someone make some practical suggestions for improvement.  I have some ideas about small sandwich signs which could be placed outside main entrances each Sunday directing people to the sanctuary , and children’s areas.  Let me know if you would like to help with this.

4. Churches aren’t prepared for guests.

Sometimes there is no guest parking. Often there is no welcome center (or there is an unmanned welcome center!). Our spies have attended churches with no means to secure contact information from guests. Some have attended small groups that gave our spies no study material for the day. I can count on both hands the number of churches that later followed up with our spies – who were, to the church’s knowledge, their guests.

We make a strong effort each week to follow up with guests through pastoral contacts, the Cookie Crew, and through Sunday School.  As far as I can tell we have adequate guest parking, though we need some parking designated for parents with small children or expectant mothers near the children’s wing.  We have an attractive welcome area in a prominent location, and Darlene Bacon does a wonderful job of keeping it staffed.  Again, this area requires vigilance each week.  If you would like to join in these efforts, please contact me.

5. Churches are poorly equipped for protecting children.

If our spies take their children with them, we tell them not to do anything that makes them wary in releasing their children to child care workers. If the children’s area is not secure, if the worker does not require needed information, or if our spies simply feel uncomfortable, they keep their children with them. That happens quite often.

We are taking strong steps in our preschool and children’s department to build a culture of security.  Required background checks on all workers, detailed registration with emergency contact information, and strict attention to who is allowed in and around children/preschool classes are just a few of the ways we are strengthening this area of our church life.  If we are to be a church that strengthens families, we must be a safe place for families to bring their children.

6. Worship through music often needs improvement.

Our spies understand that churches have different worship styles, and they know to contextualize their assessment as much as possible. What we hear from them is that worship through music is often poorly done, regardless of style. Musicians have not practiced, lyrics are difficult to sing, and leaders lack passion.

Our worship service is without a doubt, one of the great strengths of PSBC.  Credit is due to Christopher, but also our dedicated and skilled musicians, choir members, and sound/light technicians.

7. Churches are not always clear in “what to do” in response to worship.

We ask our spies to do their best to think as the unchurched, particularly in trying to follow the direction of worship. Too often for my comfort, our folks reported they would not have known what to do if they wanted to follow Christ, join the church, or deal with a sin issue. I can only wonder if others left the same way.

This is probably an area in which we can improve as well.  We need to provide clear instructions in spoken word and in writing for new and unchurched people as to how they might respond if they feel led.

These are a few of my first reactions to an interesting approach regarding church evaluation.  What are your thoughts about these findings?  Again, how might your Sunday School fare in such an evaluation?

Categories: Sunday School, Wants to Grow | Leave a comment

Organized to Serve

Here’s a great idea for getting organized with class mission projects.

Sunday School Mission Project Form

The link above is to a form that one of our Sunday School groups uses to organize their mission project calendar.  I thought it was great, and wanted to share it with you.  Feel free to adapt it and use it if it helps.

One of the marks of a church that is making disciples, is ministry in the community.  A fascinating thing happens when people begin to wake up spiritually to the reality of what God has called them to do, and be, in life.  They find purpose.

When you look with the eyes of Christ at the world around you, things jump out to your attention that need to be done.  “That widow needs her yard mowed.”  “There is a family who needs groceries this week.” “A ministry down the street needs volunteers to help organize the food pantry.”

People who are growing disciples even start to think about outrageous displays of love and grace.  “It’s going to be cold in a few months, wouldn’t it be great if we could donate coats to some local schools for needy children?”  “With school starting, wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to donate completed school supply lists to the families in our community who are struggling the most?”

Jesus inspires good works in those who have faith in Him.  But how are we supposed to accomplish the good works He inspires?  Our job as the church is to work together to accomplish the work of Christ in this world.   The church is God’s plan, His vehicle, to accomplish His will around us.

Naturally, service of this sort should flow out of Sunday School groups.  Sunday School is the church, organized to serve.

In addition, our vision is also a discipleship strategy.  Worshiping God, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives.  People come to worship, then take the next step of getting their family connected to this family of faith in Sunday School.   Sunday School builds community in the church, and in community, we serve. People’s lives are changed through ministry and missions.  Ultimately, new people who have been reached get engaged and begin the process all over for themselves; worshiping, connecting, serving.

We are the body of Christ.  We are his hands and feet.  We are his eyes and heart.  Jesus told us that the wold would know that we were His followers by the way we love.  So let’s love…loud.

Categories: Organized to Serve, Reaches Out to New People, Sunday School | 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

Where missions and Sunday School converge.

serve like jesus

Recently, I was a part of a group of 18 people who traveled together from PSBC to Belize on a mission trip.  Many of you probably came and heard our report.  If you missed the report and the highlight video, you can watch it here.  We were privileged to serve, and blessed to see so many wonderful things done for good in the name of Jesus.  As a group leader, I was blessed and encouraged to see how well our team functioned and enjoyed each other’s fellowship as we served.  Allow me to make one observation about small group dynamics and service, as well as make the connection to our work as Sunday School small group leaders.

When our small group gathered to meet and prepare, even to leave for the airport, it was clear that many of us knew each other and were familiar with each other’s names.  Some of us knew each other better than others, but some knew very little about their other teammates. Over the course of the week however, our relationships deepened and our fellowship grew rich.  Our group was multi-generational, and diverse and many other ways, but we had a common mission.  I observed, and experienced an extraordinary “coming together” throughout the week as we served.  The group became united around our experiences and purpose.

Very few things will unite a small group like coming together to serve others.  When you stand side by side with a group member and serve food to the needy, or care for an orphan, something special happens to your relationship.

As we have returned from the mission trip, I have observed the group’s warm interactions with each other in the halls at church, and working together at our Fourth of July family outreach.  I have heard plans for future mission trips with the same team, some local, some not.  I have heard plans for a cookout with the team.  There is a sense of great accomplishment, and optimism.  There is a sense of excitement about what is possible through our partnership.

The call of the Gospel to rescue the perishing and bring hope to the poor and needy is at the core of small group Sunday School life.

The same uniting experience is possible for your Sunday School small group.  The same bonding through a shared mission is possible.  Need exists all around us.  We must ask ourselves if the willingness to roll up our sleeves and serve together exists.

Sunday School is the church organized to serve.  It’s in our vision statement for Sunday School.  It’s one of the core values of our church purpose, to Change Lives through missions and ministry.  It’s in our DNA as new creations in Christ.

Missions and ministry is the essential element of a healthy, united community of faith and discipleship.  That is what we are building in Sunday School.  Find some way to get your small group in action serving the needy in our community.  Just do it.  Through your actions lives will be changed in Christ, and your group will grow deeper together.

If you need help finding a project, just give me a shout.  I have you covered.

Categories: Organized to Serve, Sunday School | 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

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