By Bruce Raley and David Francis
This is Part 8 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
- Part 6: Leader Training in Tough Economic Times
- Part 7: Why Enrollment Matters
It seems like half the shows on television are about high-tech crime solving. Detectives from all over the country can solve any crime, apprehend any criminal, and bring justice to any situation as long as they can find a little DNA. A swab off a drinking glass, a minuscule drop of blood, or even a hair follicle is all that is needed to answer the mystery.
DNA is an abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA’s main function is the storage of information. It can be compared to a set of blueprints for a building or a recipe when cooking. DNA uniquely identifies you as an individual. It shows how you are different from every other person.
Some groups fail within a few weeks or months after being launched. In many cases, these groups lack the right DNA.
So what is the right DNA for a new group that will establish it well?
1. Disciple-making at the core
It has already been said several times, the ultimate goal of Sunday School is to make disciples. That begins through reaching those without Christ. Through connecting with believers and the Word of God, the gospel is proclaimed.
The gospel is not only for our justification; it is also for our sanctification. We study the Word of God together week after week. As we do, leaders and members are challenged to apply the Bible. Through growth in Bible knowledge and appropriate application of that knowledge, we grow in our Christian faith.
2. Network of people on mission
New groups offer an opportunity for the development of relationships. In fact, the establishment of these relationships is essential for a healthy new group start. This may take a few weeks or even a few months. But over time, groups should begin to feel a sense of trust and openness. This allows for greater transparency and opportunity to minister to one another.
The goal of developing relationships within a group is not just to do life together, but to challenge one another in Christian growth and ministry.
While groups may meet one time a week to study God’s Word, they have the responsibility to live out that teaching through the other 167 hours of the week. Groups should have the responsibility to care for one another, to minister to one another, and to reach out to those without Christ or a church.
One of the best ways for groups to develop and strengthen relationships is through mission projects. Every older preschool, children’s, student, and adult group should have identified mission projects in which members can engage.
Both of us (Bruce and David) and our wives were members of the same Sunday School class for a while. We knew the names of most of the other class members and some information about their lives.
But it wasn’t until our class worked together on a mission project one Saturday that we really got to know the other class members. That Saturday represents a significant turning point in the life of that group.
What is your group doing to regularly be on mission together?
3. Accountable for sending leaders and starting new groups
New groups are launched with the purpose of making disciples. But within that purpose are multiplication elements. Every group should begin with the intention of reproducing; sending out leaders and starting a new group.
The group leader should be the primary force in helping members find a place of ministry. That ministry may be within the work of the group. Very few groups are successful if there is only one leader. Successful groups utilize many leaders.
The group should also strive toward sending out group members to other places of ministry within the Sunday School. This is not simply to fill spots in other areas of ministry. Some members should be sent because it is the next step in their disciple maturation.
New groups should also begin with the intention of multiplying. Every Christian should make disciples and Christian groups should reproduce. A challenging, yet realistic goal, is for every group to reproduce every 18-24 months.
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.