As a missionary serving in Utah and Idaho, I am in an area where there is a predominant religion different from my own. This religion permeates much of the culture in the area.  One of the things they are recognized for is sending off their young people on mission for two years.  It’s a part of their culture.  Now I am not endorsing the merits of their religion or the legitimacy of their spiritual condition.  I only bring it up to point out an interesting fact.  As a community, they know how to celebrate the sending out of their missionaries.

If you have ever been in the baggage claim or TSA security area of SLC International Airport, you have seen what I am talking about.  Huge banners are displayed with balloons, flowers, stuffed animals and a massive party atmosphere that would send most TSA agents on high alert. This is all for the purpose of sending off or welcoming home their missionaries.

I say all that to ask, why do we not celebrate the sending off of our own “missionaries” who are leaving our adult small groups to serve the children, preschool, and student ministry departments?  If there is anything Baptists are known for, it is fellowship.  So why don’t we throw parties for adult volunteers that leave our classes to work in other areas of the church?  Too often, this is done in silence as the summer schedule winds down and the nominating committee twists the arms of people in our pews to “serve their time” by teaching in a SS class, like it is some sort of punishment.  That should never be the case.  These are times of celebration. Our adult classes need to create an atmosphere where service is a blessing and something our people look forward to being a part of.

Here are some tips to help change the attitude of service in your adult department to a culture where people look forward to their opportunity to go out on mission and serve in other departments of your church.

  • Have a commissioning service at the end of the summer for adult members going out to serve
  • Create a class poster with the names and photos of those serving the preschool, children and student departments as a constant prayer reminder in your class room
  • Have adult classes adopt children and preschool classes with the intention of providing for all the staffing needs of that class
  • Include the names of associate or in-service members on the ongoing class prayer list
  • During major holiday seasons, have adult classes host class parties for children and preschool classes where their missionary is serving
  • Occasionally offer additional adults to go and substitute teach for the missionary in service allowing them to attend their adult Sunday School class
  • Invite the missionary in service to every class party or event
  • Include them in the care group ministry of the adult class so that they are contacted every week, just as all the other members of the adult class
  • Create a culture of service within the DNA of your adult class so that serving in other areas becomes a natural part of being a member

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Jason McNair is the Religious Education Consultant for the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention.  He also teaches an adult Sunday School class at First Baptist Church in West Valley City, UT (when he is not standing in a TSA security line at SLC International Airport watching missionary welcome celebrations).