By Bruce Raley and David Francis
This is Part 5 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
The principle sounds easy: leaders creating leaders. But what are the practical steps leaders can take in reproducing leaders?
Step 1. Pray
You expected that to be step 1, didn’t you? It seems prayer always ranks at the top of instructions and lists. Because prayer always makes the list, we can easily overlook it and even ignore it. Please don’t! Prayer must be first and foremost.
When we pray, we begin to see God’s perspective. Let’s admit it, our perspective does not always align with God’s perspective.
As we (Bruce and David) discussed leaders we had enlisted through the years, we both can name Sunday School leaders and teachers we would have never dreamed would survive as leaders, much less excel. The Lord would place certain people on our hearts. We admit we even argued—or at least disagreed—with the Lord about the potential of some of these people. But, after enlistment and equipping, they became incredible teachers of God’s Word and ministers to their groups.
Begin with prayer. Ask the Lord to show you His perspective on people. Remember the principle is everyone reproduces after its kind. So if you are a teacher, ask the Lord to show you a potential teacher. If you are an outreach leader, ask the Lord to show you a potential outreach leader. Whatever your role, pray! Ask the Lord to show you someone in whom you can invest.
Step 2. Enlist
Meet with the person. Do not talk about the important issue of Bible study ministry leadership over the phone, text, social media, or e-mail. Don’t try to catch the person at church just before group time or worship. Set an appointment so you can sit down with the prospect and get to know each other, hear each other’s heart, and pray with each other. If you believe the responsibility is important, than you ought to recruit like it is.
Be sure to share that this meeting came about through prayer. Talk about God’s plan for leadership multiplication. Explain that after asking the Lord to show you a person or persons in whom you could invest and equip, he or she was specifically identified.
Talk to the prospective leader about the ministry in which God has you serving. Share the joys and blessings you receive because of your obedience to the Lord’s direction for your life. Tell him or her that you see potential within them to enjoy those same blessings and joys.
This is also the time to talk about the purpose and potential of the Bible study ministry. There are some people who have been engaged in Sunday School, small groups and other Bible study ministries, who do not understand the purpose. So many people still aim toward a goal of Bible knowledge as the ultimate purpose of Bible teaching. If people can know the details of the Scripture, even the deeper truths of God, then we have been successful.
Remind them that the ultimate goal is applied Bible knowledge. The Bible study ministry, whether it is Sunday School, small groups, or other expressions, should aim toward helping people know the full counsel of God and applying that truth in their life. Explain that the teacher, the outreach leader, the greeter, even the maker of the coffee has a role to play in helping people live and share the gospel.
Step 3. Equip
Multiplying leaders requires an intentional investment in others. We must not only enlist, but equip. Equipping is not a one-time meeting or book recommendation. It is ongoing and may take weeks or months. But effective multiplication requires training, resources and the confidence for new leaders to begin service.
One of the best methods for equipping is modeling. Ask your apprentice (or whatever name you deem appropriate) to watch what you do and ask questions about why you lead the way you lead. Demonstrate how you prepare for your ministry. Provide resources for additional preparation or training. Keep in mind, most people will emulate the leader. What the apprentice sees the leader doing, he or she will do.
I (Bruce) attended my first Sunday School training at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina in the Summer of 1982. I had just been called as Minister of Education and Youth at Walnut Street Baptist Church of Jonesboro, Arkansas. To say I knew little about education ministry would be an understatement. The only thing I knew was that Sunday School met at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings and I was in charge of it.
I watched the leaders in the conferences I attended. I took careful notes of not only what was being said, but also the manner and methods in which it was presented. I noticed the tools used by the leaders (overhead projectors in that day). I bought the recommended resources. I watched the various teaching and training approaches.
My eyes were opened that week to the potential of the Bible study ministry. Even more, the Lord put a burning passion in my heart for education ministry leadership. As a novice, I really did not know what to do when I got home. How would I communicate all this great information? Even more, how could I help my Sunday School leaders catch the passion I had experienced?
I went home and started Sunday School leadership meetings. We met every Wednesday night. Sunday School leaders would grab a dinner plate and come into our “worker’s meeting.” Guess what I did in those meetings? I taught the Walnut Street workers exactly what I had been taught at Ridgecrest. I taught them using the exact methods I had witnessed. Never underestimate the power of modeling! It is perhaps the most powerful means of equipping.
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.