At the beginning of this week, I had the privilege of meeting with our Connection Group leaders here at Lancaster Baptist Church. Over the years, we’ve called our Connection Groups by various names—Sunday school and Adult Bible Fellowships are two—but whatever they are called, they are a vital part of our church ministry.
I’m thankful for the men and women who teach in our forty-plus classes and for the love and care they provide for our church family. Below are several of the tips I shared with them this week. If you lead in a class, I hope these are helpful to you as well:
- Use your class roster as a prayer list. The most significant way you can serve your class is to pray for each member. Besides praying for the health and physical needs of those in your class, pray for their spiritual growth. Sometimes as you’re praying, the Holy Spirit will remind you of a specific need to follow up on or will prompt you that this person needs some extra care. For these reasons, I keep a pad of paper with me as I pray.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.—Colossians 4:12
- Follow up on every guest. Don’t just assume that those who are interested will return or that only “organic” (which sometimes means “convenient”!) follow up will be productive. Have a system by which you are following up on every guest with a visit—until you make contact and are able to either present the gospel or hear their testimony. Encourage every new person to your class to attend a church new members’ class and/or discipleship lessons, depending on what structure your church uses. Basically, you want to have a clearly-defined process in your mind that you are guiding a guest through to help them move from “visitor” to an active part of the body life of your church.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.—2 Timothy 2:2
- Thoroughly prepare thoroughly-biblical lessons. Invest time in prayer and preparation to have substantive, biblically-rich material for class time. Using a curriculum can help. (Teachers at Lancaster Baptist Church generally use curriculum from Striving Together Publications.) But nothing can replace your time in study as you prepare to share the lesson with your class.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.—Hebrews 4:12
- Communicate needs. If you have a need as a teacher, perhaps related to facilities or supplies, be sure to communicate those to whoever oversees the Sunday school department. If you know of a class member who has a need, perhaps a significant health concern, a major transition, or family counseling, be sure to communicate that to your pastor.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Galatians 6:2
- Give acceptance. Everyone who walks into your classroom should sense an atmosphere of, “We’re glad you’re here, and you are loved!” Remember that acceptance is the optimum environment for growth.
So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.—1 Thessalonians 2:8
- Facilitate learning. Your job as a teacher is not merely to relay information—even Bible information. It is to facilitate learning and spiritual growth. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who uses His Word to bring truth to hearts. But we can grow as teachers, learning how to engage listeners and effectively relate truth to their daily situations. Jesus, who was the perfect Master Teacher, was always looking for ways to teach his disciples, inciting their curiosity and drawing their questions.
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.—Luke 11:1
- Develop a sense of community. Foster relationships within your class through remembering birthdays, bringing meals for members in the hospital, and encouraging your class to pray for one another. People today long for authentic community, and this is exactly what God designed the local church to be.
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.—Romans 12:13
- Plan activities. Part of developing relationships and encouraging growth with one another is doing things together. Plan regular activities that are fun and appropriate for your class demographics. Not only are these activities fun for long-time members, but they can be especially needful for newer Christians who often need replacements for their old friends and activities.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:—Hebrews 10:24
- Be available. One of the best abilities a spiritual leader can have is availability. Be available, not just during class time, but throughout the week as well for prayer requests, questions, the sharing of blessings, and anything your class members might need to encourage their spiritual growth.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.—Romans 12:15
- Emphasize within your class a local church paradigm. As helpful as an adult Bible class can be in fulfilling the mission of the local church, it is not the full church. Encourage your class members to develop a relationship with your pastor and to participate in the larger ministries of the church—outreach, revival services, etc. Another way to say this is to make sure your class complements the church, rather than competing with it.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.—Hebrews 10:25
I’ve often told our class leaders, “The Sunday school is the church organized to fulfill the mission of the church.” Of course, true, Spirit-led ministry isn’t organized in the sense of machinery. But it should be tenacious in care and follow up and spiritual investments into the lives of others.