Posts Tagged With: Sunday School

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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Great fellowship opportunity this Thursday!

ImageEveryone remember this week to invite folks from your class to the Fourth of July church outreach.  Use it as a Sunday School fellowship that is ready made for you.  Invite potential new comers to the church, and make sure everyone on your role gets an invite, especially folks who haven’t been in a while.  It will be a great chance to reconnect.  I hope everyone is doing well, and enjoying your summer!  Remember that there are no Wednesday night activities this week, so there is no leadership meeting.  Thank you for all your hard work, and commitment to God’s Kingdom work through Sunday School!

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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?

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Sunday School care ministry nuts and bolts

The church is a family of families, and Sunday School is the family room.  It’s where we do life together in christian community! You’ve heard me say before that I love the idea of churches getting better at being bigger…by getting better at being smaller.  It’s easy to get lost in a crowd, but in a small group we are more likely to know what’s happening in each other’s lives, and be able to respond.

We  get better at being smaller, by getting better at taking care of one another in Sunday School.

I believe that there are a few essential qualities that make Sunday School great, and that we need to identify and stick to them.  Those qualities are: bible study, fellowship, and care giving.  That’s it.  Nothing complicated here.  But having a plan for each of those elements becomes very important to the health of the group.

Here is a great video about developing a care ministry plan for your class.  It’s less than 4 minutes long.  Keep in mind that it’s from another church, but the principles are right on.

Feel free to share your thoughts below, and have a great week!

152403-developing-the-care-ministry-of-your-small-group.html

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Sunday School is not…

In one of my conversations about Sunday School yesterday, I had a thought that I want to expand on a little.  Sunday School is not just another organization of the church.  Sunday School is the church, organized to accomplish many of the major biblical purposes that God has laid out for his people to engage in.  Through the organization of small groups we call Sunday School, we engage in Fellowship, Service, Discipleship, Care Giving, and more.  By “Care Giving”, I am basically referring to the action of ministering to one another.  We tend to think of  “ministry” sometimes as what we do outside the fellowship of the church, but “missions” is probably a better way to think of that specific type of service intended as outreach.  Missions is supported in many critical ways through the organization of Sunday School as well, by the way.

In the worship service, we experience the “community” of the church in that we worship together, and hear the Word of God proclaimed in preaching.  Those are critical  parts of God’s plan for us as a fellowship of believers which are not directly a part of Sunday School.  The teaching of the Bible that happens in Sunday School is different from the “proclamation” that happens in the worship service.  Neither part of our experience as the church takes priority over the other, both are essential to spiritual health.  That is why both the worship service and the Sunday School are necessary puzzle pieces in the life of a Christian.

As Sunday School leaders however, we must understand that what we accomplish through our service is a major part of God’s plan for the church.  It’s where deep, meaningful, spiritual community happens.  It’s where needs are recognized and sincere service to people originates.  It’s where Bible teaching meets real life, and disciples grow.  It’s where our plan for taking care of one another gets put into action.  It’s where our shared priority of missional living gets prayed over and reinforced.

Sunday School is not just another organization of the church.  It IS THE CHURCH organized to grow and do God’s work.

THANK YOU for doing your part in keeping us organized and effective!

Remember, we will not have a teacher’s meeting this Wednesday due to the holiday, enjoy the time with your family.  We will have your visitor forms in your boxes so that you can do your follow up.

Have you ever thought about how much of God’s plan for the church gets accomplished through the organization of  Sunday School?  Do you think that we ever sell the value of Sunday School short in any way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Happy 4th of July!

David

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the priority of prayer

E.M. Bounds famously said, “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.”

One of the most difficult things about being a Sunday school leader, especially a teacher, is balancing everything you want to accomplish during the time allotted for Sunday School.  You know the feeling, its time to start the lesson, but everyone is enjoying fellowship and not everyone has arrived yet.  Then there are prayer requests to be taken, and you really want to spend time in prayer as a group.  There’s a fellowship coming up and it needs to be announced, as well as the other church events that are upcoming and need to be discussed.  And of course, there’s the lesson you’ve prepared for that needs to be taught.  How do you get it all done!?

There’s no easy answer to that question.  Sometimes we can be more creative with how we share announcements and take up prayer requests.  Starting on time is hard but necessary.  But the one area that it’s critical we don’t compromise on is prayer together.  I want to encourage you all to spend intentional time in prayer with your class every week.  It doesn’t have to be long and extended, but it should be a priority.  Pray with each other, and for each other.  Pray for God to show your group how to reach out consistently, pray for the church to do God’s work faithfully.  Pray for whatever is specific to the needs of your group.  When we pray together, we give God time to get our hearts all on the same page…His page.

If you have trouble thinking of creative ways to have powerful prayer times in Sunday School, maybe this article will give you some ideas: http://bit.ly/MINUku

If you have something to add to the conversation, feel free to share it in a comment below!

I also want you to know that I am praying for you.  Always feel free to call or email me with needs and requests.  I’m here to help you and your class be the best you can be!

David

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