This is part 1 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.
Churches across North America are being impacted by the research reported by Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer in Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations. I was privileged to direct LifeWay’s team of consultants and regional directors who fanned out across our country to conduct the interviews that were the core of the qualitative phase of this massive research project.
As the consultants met with Dr. Stetzer and the LifeWay Research team to debrief the interviews, it became apparent that most of the other pastors we talked with were all passionate about the same things. The greatest joy in their lives, evidenced by stories with themes we heard over and over again, is to see people becoming more like Christ, to observe their churches acting more like His body, and to celebrate the impact their churches are making in helping their communities reflect His Kingdom. Stories about those three things became the foundation for the subtitle of Transformational Church—creating a new scorecard for congregations.
Seven Elements under Three Categories
As our team of consultants conducted the pastor interviews, we asked questions grouped into nine topics. As it turned out, however, only seven distinct elements emerged from the research, with labels different from our original nine. These seven elements and three categories converged into what the researchers concluded was a “Transformational Loop” that could be found in the Transformational Churches. Here’s what that loop looks like:
Transformational Class: TC Goes to Sunday School!
What might a Sunday School class look like if it demonstrated the seven elements found in Transformational Churches? That’s the purpose of this series of blog posts and the question we will explore in the book. Each chapter will deal with an element in the Transformational Loop. Consider this book commentary rather than an extension of the research findings. It’s the same “So what?” or “What if?” process any pastor, church leader, Sunday School teacher, or small group facilitator might engage in while digesting Transformational Church and attempting to apply its findings in his or her own situation.
The Power of One Class
If you know me, then you know I have an undying faith in the power of each and every Sunday School class or small group to choose to become a missional small community that intentionally reaches people for Christ, releases people to serve, and reproduces itself for Kingdom impact. Your class can decide what kind of group you want to be and choose what kind of impact you want to have on your community and world. Can a single group or class be transformational even if it’s not part of a Transformational Church? The answer is yes! I believe a single Transformational Class could be the catalyst God would be pleased to use to spark a congregation toward being a Transformational Church—a church where the seven elements in the TC research are increasingly evident.
My best estimate is there are over 400,000 Sunday School classes in Southern Baptist churches. Assuming this is less than 20 percent of the total Sunday School classes in our country would mean there are well over two million Sunday School classes in North American churches. Maybe three million or more if you throw in small groups of various kinds. Denominational leaders like me enjoy speculating about what might happen if all—or even most—of these groups would determine to be Transformational Classes.
But for this series of blog posts, I want to appeal to you about your class or group. Not the other classes in your church. Not the other churches in your community. Just your class. Your small group. Will you open yourself to the possibility of becoming a missional small community? To exploring the seven elements that might be evident in a Transformational Class?
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.