This is part 12 of a series of posts from David Francis’ Transformational Class: Transformational Church Goes to Sunday School . Click here for a free download of the book, as well as training materials to help you present the material to your leaders.
- Transformational Church Goes to Sunday School
- Missionary Mentality, Part One
- Missionary Mentality, Part Two
- Vibrant Leadership
- Two Key Principles: Open Groups Practicing Open Enrollment
- Relational Intentionality
- How Care Group Leaders Model Relational Intentionality
- The Absolute Necessity of Prayer Before, During, And After Small Group
- Prayer Requests: The Best Indicator of a Transformational Class
- How does Worship Impact a Transformational Small Group?
- Which Comes First: Conversion or Community?
This excerpt is adapted from Chapter 6, “Community: Connect People With People,” pages 34-.
Transformational Churches are intentional about engaging people through community. The authors of Transformational Church identified five elements of group life in TCs:
- Mission orientation
- Multiplication Mindset
- Stranger Welcoming
- Kingdom Focused
Sounds like how you might describe a great Sunday School class or small group!
An Effective Triad: Scripture, Stories, Shepherding
I believe there are three components present in a group where people can experience a sense of community:
- Scripture, the Bible, is the textbook of the Sunday School.
- Stories are the vehicle for effective learning and for building community.
- Shepherding is the facet that pulls together the 24/7/365 ministry we call Sunday School.
Revolves Around Stories
Everybody has a story. In Transformational Church, the authors state that
people are a story. Here’s the basic idea as it relates to community:
No one’s story is complete…until it has intersected with God’s Story…which happens best in a community being enriched by the stories of others.
Questions, listening, silence, preparation, participation, and even name tags impact the development of a story-sharing community committed to shepherding one another and learning and applying the scriptures to daily life. A critical component of Christian community is sharing our second-chance stories. Those people we’ve invited to belong before they believe need to understand that we haven’t always had it all together— and in reality don’t have it all together now! But we move forward, confident in the hope that we know the end of the story.
Connect3: Class, Community, Commission
I noted earlier that groups function on one of three levels: as a class, a community, or a commission. Dwayne McCrary, a friend and coworker at LifeWay, created a chart to help others get a better handle on each level.
Scan the Community column. Does it describe your class? Do members see themselves as ministers or do they expect to be ministered to? Are people content to have confessed Jesus as Lord or do they strive to love God and each other more sincerely? Is the class list viewed as a list of people who have made a commitment to attend the class or as a ministry list that records the names of people (some who have chosen to belong before they believe) to whom the class has made a commitment to minister? (It’s the same list; it’s all about the class’ mindset!) What do the conversations—the stories—sound like? What about the prayer requests?
Multiplication Mindset: Start New Units
As a Christian educator, I’ve identified three expectations for every Sunday School class:
- Expect new people—and a great Bible study experience—every week.
- Expect people to say yes to all aspects of the ministry of the class and Sunday School.
- Expect to plant new classes.
Groups struggle most with the third expectation and the prospect of moving from Community to Commission. The Class level was fine. We got together once a week and listened to an interesting Bible lesson, perhaps just to have some place to go while the kids were in their classes. Then we discovered Community. It feels wonderful to be cared for and to care for others. We’ve grown to love each other and even invited others to be a part of our community. We intentionally keep our group open and practice
open enrollment. And now you want to divide our class?
Multiply or Divide?
Let me be crystal clear: Dividing a class is irresponsible (best synonym for “stupid” I could think of ). It is (pardon the pun) divisive! There may have been a day when a more trusting generation would let you do that. Not any more! If someone has to “do” it to a class, it’s dividing. The only way for a class to successfully develop a culture and legacy of new classes is to self-determine to multiply. More on that next week!
David Francis is Director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources. Before joining LifeWay in 1997, he served as minister of education at First Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. David and his wife, Vickie, love teaching preschool Sunday School and are helping start a new adult class in their church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.