By Bruce Raley and David Francis
This is Part 6 of a series of blog posts excerpted from Extreme Sunday School Challenge by Bruce Raley and David Francis.
- Part 1: The Strategic Purpose of Your Small Group: 4 Key Components
- Part 2: 4 Potential Outcomes for a Healthy Group
- Part 3: 2 Essentials for a New Group to Survive and Thrive
- Part 4: Identifying Leaders for Your Small Group or Sunday School
- Part 5: Multiplying Leaders, Step By Step
One area of church life that is often affected during tight economic times is leadership training and development. Funds for leaders to attend training and conferences are often cut. Plans for training for ministry leaders, such as Sunday School teachers, are struck from the calendar and budget.
At the same time, church leaders know that training, leader development and continuing education are essential even during financially lean times. Below are some practical ideas for training during tight economic times.
1. Online Articles
LifeWay.com has hundreds of articles that can be used for training. Once the LifeWay page is displayed, use the search box in the top right corner to find articles on the subject. Print or email the link of the chosen article and distribute it to every Sunday School teacher. You might even want to print a training article for Sunday School teachers and display it in the room when the teacher arrives every Sunday. The only cost for this training is simply paper and ink.
2. Online Training
Online learning is a growing wave and will be growing even greater in the days ahead. Online learning allows leaders to train at their convenience and at their own chosen location. LifeWay has a series of ever growing video training clips on lifeway.com. Note, since Extreme Sunday School Challenge was written, LifeWay has launched Ministry Grid, a comprehensive system for online training. Click here to find out more.
3. Sunday School Leader Guides
The leader guide for many of LifeWay’s curriculum lines often have articles and tips that help the leader. These articles can be used as the topic for discussion in leadership meetings.
4. Teach a Book
One of the most cost effective means of leader training is through a book study. The pastor, staff member, volunteer leader of Sunday School can choose a particular book, ask leaders to purchase the book, and lead group discussions in leadership meetings.
Over the past several years, I (David) have written annual Sunday School leadership books. The primary purpose behind these books is for training. Each of these can be downloaded for free. In addition, there are accompanying PowerPoint presentations and teaching plans for each age division. These can be found at www.lifeway.com/davidfrancis.
5. State and Associational Events
Many state conventions and local associations provide quality training events. These are often at little or low cost and usually require little travel. Church leaders can contact their state convention office and local association office to get a calendar of these training opportunities.
6. Ridgecrest Conference Center
The summer conference center event provides some of the best training for church leaders. The event provides more concentrated training than most other events, while also allowing for a setting of relaxation and inspiration.
While there is a cost involved in the conference center events, the costs can be reduced by traveling together as a group or with neighboring churches. Churches might also consider cutting costs by staying in lower cost housing or multi-room apartments.
Step 4. Empower
Effective ministry requires a delicate balance between total dependence on the Lord and personal confidence that He will use you to accomplish His purposes.
Overconfidence can be disastrous. Even more, it can be sinful. Whenever a leader begins to think that natural ability or confidence is all that is needed to be successful in a Bible study ministry, a fall is likely just around the corner. God speaks clearly on pride (see Prov. 16:18).
Every ministry leader should regularly take a “pride check.” But at the same time, leaders should also have confidence God has called them and He will empower them for His service. You might call this a “humble confidence.” It is an assurance the Lord is going to use you to accomplish His purposes as you totally depend upon Him.
Talk about this balance with an apprentice. Give assurance of your confidence in their call and ability. Moreover, remind consistently of God’s power that will be made manifest as we depend upon Him.
Empowering also includes the provision of resources. Bible study leaders often need more resources than group members. Leaders are expected to have mastered the Scripture passage and be able to explain it well. Biblical application is expected. Additional Bible commentaries, suggested teaching ideas, Websites, and other resources may be needed in order to be fully prepared for the Bible study session. Providing these resources and showing others how to use them will empower them as well.
Step 5. Encourage
One of Satan’s greatest tools is discouragement. Leaders can easily become discouraged because of a negative comment from a group member. Discouragement may come due to the lack of faithfulness of group members. Slow growth or small numbers can also be discouraging.
Discouragement can be particularly paralyzing to new leaders. It can even led to a new leader quitting and never being willing to lead again.
Every leader needs encouragement. Experienced leaders should make it a practice—even a habit—of encouraging new leaders. Seek out new leaders and intentionally speak encouraging words. Write a personal hand-written note. Buy the new leader a Bible commentary or resource that will help them grow and develop.
Never underestimate the power of encouragement!
This article is excerpted from Extreme Sunday School Challenge: Engaging Our World Through New Groups by Bruce Raley and David Francis. Download a free copy of the book by clicking here.
Bruce Raley is Director of Church Education Ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources. He served in education ministry roles in churches in Arkansas and Florida before being called to LifeWay in 2006. Bruce and Donna have two married adult children. In 2011, they began a new young adult group at their church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
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.