This is part 13 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?
- Community: Connecting People With People
This excerpt is adapted from Chapter 7, “Mission,” page 37.
What’s the difference between Missionary Mentality and Mission? For me, the former is about how you think and the latter is about how you act. Remember TCs discern the context, embrace values, and engage in actions. So in this case, mission is an action word.
Three Rs of a Class on Mission
An on-mission Sunday School class practices the three Rs: Release, Reproduce, and Reach. The biblical concept is kenosis, the Greek word in Philippians 2 used to describe how Jesus, though equal with God, emptied Himself, becoming a humble human, visiting the planet He had created, and obeying God’s missionary plan for saving mankind. The three Rs are about a class with the same attitude as Christ Jesus: a
class that’s willing to empty itself in missional activity.
Release: Sending Missionaries to Kids
A great step for a class that wants to become missional is to release members to serve in preschool, children, and student classes. Perhaps the primary advantage of an on-campus Bible study program like Sunday School is that there are classes for all ages meeting at the same time, just before or just after the primary weekly worship experience.
Such a ministry takes a lot of workers! And guess where all the adult leaders of preschool, children, and student classes come from? Adult classes! Sadly, some classes bemoan the loss of an active member to a teaching or leadership role in a class with kids or students. But a missional class celebrates it! They make a special poster with the names of all the class missionaries who are teaching kids. Or they create a bulletin board or wall display in their rooms with photos of these folks serving. These members are called Associate Members or Members-in-Service.
Whatever you call them, you should treat them like celebrities. Invite them to every party. Assign them to special Care Group Leaders whose sole assignment is staying in touch with associate members. Volunteer to substitute in their rooms. You get the idea. As you develop a Release culture in your class, more members will answer the call to become missionaries to kids and students. The number one reason people hesitate to leave a group, especially if it has become a Community, is they think they’ll be forgotten or become disconnected. Why do they feel that way? Because unfortunately, it’s usually true. As you celebrate and support associate members as missionaries from your class, more and more members will be more willing to take that next step.
Reproduce: Planting New Classes
Another huge step for a missional class is to be intentional about reproducing itself. David, are you talking about splitting our class? Not at all. That’s something that gets done to you. I challenge you to become intentional about doing it to yourself! The primary indication that your class intends to reproduce itself is the enlistment of an Apprentice Teacher and an Apprentice Director/Coordinator if needed. A candidate for enlistment as an Apprentice Teacher is a person who
- demonstrates an apparent commitment to Christ,
- has shown an ability—probably as a substitute—to facilitate an interesting and meaningful Bible study, and
- is committed to assuming leadership of a new group when the class is ready to give birth.
How will you know when it is time for your class to birth a new group? One huge indicator is when the room is too full to provide empty chairs for guests! Another is at the point where the teacher does not know every member’s name. Still another is that the apprentice leaders are ready. You’ll sense when your class is pregnant! Then it’s just a matter of preparing for the arrival of that new class!
Reach: The Power Of a Holy Conversation
There is power in one class. There’s also power in one conversation. Especially if it’s a holy conversation. What are the ingredients of a holy conversation? Let God’s Word help answer that question.
Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah … so that I might reveal it as I am required to speak. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person. —Colossians 4:2-6
Honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect… —1 Peter 3:15-16
A conversation is holy when people agree to hear each other’s stories. It is holy when you talk about destination. It is holy when it is gracious—and salty! Some translations of Colossians 4:6 even use the word winsome to describe this engaging and holy conversation. I don’t think we typically associate witnessing with the word winsome!
Transformational Church authors @edstetzer and @thomrainer are avid devotees of Twitter. I laugh when Dr. Rainer talks about some of the opportunities he has to tweet about his faith with a skeptical follower on Twitter. He calls it being a “Twittness.” To me, that captures the essence of the idea of being a witty and engaging witness!
So where can a person get “salt” for a holy conversation? In a Sunday School class or small group! Especially one that’s on mission. Do you recall the chart from
the previous blog post about the group levels (click here). Take a close look at the conversations row. Groups provide different kinds of “salt” for conversations depending on whether they are simply a Bible study group, have moved to experiencing community, or are involved in mission. The mission stories are some of the best ones! Allowing people to tell their mission stories will motivate others to get on mission as well. Inviting people to tell their story to illustrate a lesson point, photo bulletin boards, ending the class with a share time, and prayer requests based
upon mission stories are all ways these stories can be shared.
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.