Growing Times articles are provided on this website for your personal ministry educational purposes.
Three articles on this page: The Weakest Link; Are Your Class Doors Open for Business; Learning Through Expressed Interest
The Weakest Link
A few of years ago another of the Millionaire ‘wanna be’ shows made it to our television sets. While visiting my wife’s family I sat through an episode of “The Weakest Link.” The title of the show no doubt comes from the old proverbial saying, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
I want to take a moment to think about the five links to a successful Sunday School class. Using the five functions of Sunday School, what is the weakest link in your chain (your class)? The five links are Evangelism, Discipleship, Fellowship, Ministry, and Worship. Let’s review them.
Evangelism—Is your class pursuing non-Christians? Are your class members attempting to bring new persons with them on Sundays? Is your class ready for non-Christians should they attend?
Discipleship—How are the members in your class being discipled? Sunday School is the entry point to discipleship. Yet what happens beyond the lesson being dispensed on Sunday morning? Discipleship and happen at a class outing, over lunch, during a class or church ministry project—just about anywhere.
Fellowship— is a vital key to growing your class spiritually and numerically. God has placed within each of us an intrinsic desire for fellowship and relationships.
Ministry—Is there any real ministry going on by your class, involving your class members? Active involvement in ministry brings about spiritual growth.
Worship—Personal and corporate worship by your class members is an important part of the Christian life. Several teachers have commented to me, “Our people do not understand worship.” It is sad but many of our members cannot relate one personal worship experience they have encountered with God. It is essential for you as a leader to help your people understand worship.
Your anchor may be positioned exactly where it needs to be. Yet, it will only be as effective as the weakest link of your chain. Take time this month to examine the links of your class. Come together with two or three other class members and pray about these links in the chain and your class. Set out to strengthen your weakest links and ensure your chain is functioning on all five strong links.
Are Your Class Doors Open for Business?
Friends since high school, James and Earl dreamed of owning their own business. Often, they would get together and discuss this possible business venture. They watched their community and realized a great need for a business like the one in their minds.
One day they got serious about this venture, realizing the need was growing every day. They sat down, made plans, and began to meet regularly discussing business plans. Their plan was coming together. James and Earl purchased a building and the needed equipment, put up a sign, and continued meeting weekly reviewing and rewriting their business plan.
Each week they would discuss different parts of their plan and how to execute it. Each week they would leave feeling good that they had been together discussing the good their business could do for the neighborhood and beyond. However, the people of the neighborhood did not know what was inside this building in their neighborhood.
Weeks, months, and years went by and the neighborhood changed. The culture was changing, too. Soon, there was no desire in the community for a business like the one James and Earl had dreamed of and planned for.
People of the neighborhood passed by the empty building day after day not knowing or realizing the potential inside the building. James and Earl continued to meet weekly discussing but never realizing the potential that lay just beyond the walls of their building.
It is a sad scenario, yet played out every week in churches across our nation. We purchase land, build nice buildings, meet weekly to plan and strategize the “how to” of our business (God’s work), yet we fail to do one thing. At least we fail to do it effectively. We fail to go out and tell the community of what great potential lies ahead if they would take advantage of what we have to offer (in Christ). Come in and see.
James and Earl never opened their door for business. Are the church doors open for business? Are your class doors open for business? Do your class members know it?
It is time to go out and “compel them to come in.” Today is the day. Now is the time. Let us go “Beyond the Walls”!
Learning Through Expressed Experience
Learning is validated and manifested through expressed experience. Parents and early childhood educators realize children are learning when they begin to name colors and point them out correctly. In school, teachers recognize learning is taking place as children begin to form letters into words and words into sentences, and when they begin to accurately complete simple mathematical equations. Throughout life this pattern continues as we learn to tell time, count out change, drive, develop relationships, discern, and work through situations and circumstances we are faced with.
As teachers and Christian leaders we need to take this observable reality into consideration as we prepare and present each lesson. Findley Edge in Teaching For Results says, “Christianity is basically an experience – an encounter with Christ that must express itself in experience. You do not truly learn a Christian ideal until you have both experienced it and expressed it in experience.”
This is another reason why it is important for teachers to know their learners, know who is sitting in front of you on Sunday morning (or whenever you teach). Knowing who they are by name is not enough. A teacher should strive to know about each person in his/her Bible study. What are their interests? Know about their family, work or school. How does she approach learning? Which learning styles really invigorate his approach to learning?
This may seem daunting or even overwhelming at first thought, to try to know all this about each person in your class. But trust me, with trust in the Holy Spirit and a little practice this will become a natural part of your teaching and it will produce life-change in your learners.
By simple observation and listening you will be able to learn much about your learners while you are with them in class. These are your two keys to knowing your learners. Observe and listen before, during, and after class. Who do they talk to? What do they talk about? How quick are they to leave? Do they arrive early, on time, or late? Do they sit with and talk to the same person(s) each week? People talk about what they are passionate about. Especially when they get together with friends.
I encourage teachers to also attempt at least one personal visit with each learner every year. This visit could be in his/her home or out for a meal or coffee, or soft drink. There is something about food and drink that breaks down communication barriers. This is another reason I encourage light refreshments in the Bible study classroom. It breaks down the communication barriers and people are more likely to open up and talk if he/she has a doughnut and cup of coffee or orange juice in hand. I also believe one important position or area of responsibility on the Sunday School classroom is the “Keeper of the Doughnut list” – Who’s bringing doughnuts next week? Spend some time with your learners one on one or with couples if you teach married couples.
The point is, if you want your learners to truly experience life-changing learning, you need to get to know them. Then plan and prepare your lesson so they can carry the learning experience into their world and express the learning in experience. The evidence of learning is not that they tell you it was a good lesson as they walk out of the classroom. Evidence of learning comes from actual application of the principles of the learning experience in real life situations – Monday through Sunday. This is teaching that changes lives. This is Teaching That Bears Fruit.