I believe that every adult Sunday school class should be a greenhouse of dynamic spiritual growth.
Our church recently hosted our annual Open House and saw a large number of people saved. Whenever there is a surge of new Christians it is a great time to put renewed effort into the health of the Sunday school department. Every new Christian needs loving growth and discipleship, and the best way to insure this is happening is to encourage the health of the Sunday school.
What are the characteristics of a healthy Sunday school class?
A compassionate teacher—There is far more to being a Sunday school teacher than preparing and delivering a weekly lesson. A compassionate teacher will see the needs of people and care for members of their class. Especially, they will reach out to those who are new and work to quickly assimilate them into new relationships in the class.
Biblically practical lessons—People who are new in the Lord come with lots of questions—about the Bible, about the Lord, about church, about life, about their current set of problems. We must be prepared with Bible answers to their many questions. And, as a teacher, remember that new Christians need more than biblical knowledge—they need immediate ways to apply biblical principles in their current life situations.
Soul-conscious members—The only way to truly integrate new people into a Sunday school class is at the member level. The most compassionate teacher will likely be unable to reach a prospect who doesn’t feel welcomed by the rest of the class. One of the greatest challenges for long-time class members is to watch for guests and leave whatever conversation they are enjoying with their friends to welcome the guest and introduce him to others. I challenge our church members to see every guest as a stewardship entrusted by the Lord to their class.
Attentive class helpers—From taking attendance to watching for when a teacher may need help distributing handouts, to leading music, to greeting guests, to visiting absentees, to assuming ownership of the tidiness of the class, a helper can be an invaluable asset to a teacher. On the other hand, a helper who is habitually tardy, loitering in the back of the room, or talking through the lesson is a great handicap to a teacher. If you are a class helper, make it your mission to do all that is within your power to encourage respect for the teacher and to help care for the class.
Concerned and involved care group leaders—At Lancaster Baptist, we divide our classes into smaller care groups to facilitate times of fellowship and oversight of needs. Whatever you call the “care group leader” and whether they be the teacher or another class member, it is vital that each member is included and cared for. A care group leader should be attentive to members’ needs and should watch for special physical or spiritual needs to help meet when possible and to bring to the teacher’s attention.
Obvious enrollment process—A guest should be encouraged to enroll in the class on the very first week they visit. This is not making them a member of the church, so it is not even necessary that they are saved and baptized. It is simply letting them know that you want to include them and that they belong in your class. It encourages them to feel somewhat committed to the class as well. Ideally, there would be a table with a class secretary in the class room so it is obvious where and how the enrollment takes place. Whatever setup you use, there should be an obvious entry point to being “in” the class.
Obvious discipleship process—A newly saved Christian needs to be discipled as quickly as possible. At Lancaster Baptist, we do this through our adult Sunday school classes. Teachers coordinate mature Christians to disciple new believers on Wednesday evenings. Every new Christian should quickly be encouraged by the teacher and class members, “You should enroll in discipleship—it’s awesome and will help you grow in the Lord!”
Respect for the teacher—This may look and sound a little different in each church, but the principle is vital. We should respect those who labor among us in the Word of God. As a class member or helper, give the teacher your respect and your heart. Share your needs, and allow them to pray with you and for you. Be open and accountable.
A genuine loving spirit—Most classes begin with this spirit, but it easily slips without our noticing. Guests notice, however! Every member and guest of your class should feel genuinely welcome and wanted. (And genuine is a key word there. We all resent fake enthusiasm or care.) This is an indispensable ingredient in growing a class.
Activities and fellowship—I believe our closest friendships should be with those within the church. Christian friendship provides a God-ordained stimulus and accountability for spiritual growth. And scheduled class activities help to facilitate time and organization for this camaraderie to develop.
Accountability and concern—Although this is in the first line of duty for the teacher or a care group leader, a spirit of compassion is vital for every class member. Is there someone who was a recently enrolled guest but hasn’t been back? Is there a member going through a difficult time? What could you do to encourage them in the Lord and in faithfulness?
How could you add health and vitality to your Sunday school class? In whatever role you serve—teacher, helper, or member—look through this list and pick a few points that you could assume as your personal responsibility. These needed ingredients will make a difference in any class in which they are added!