Does Training Matter?  
I give my life training Sunday School teachers and small group leaders. Some days, I wonder if it matters. I wonder if it really makes a difference. I wonder if anyone really gets it.

I get some encouraging email from teachers who do get it and are doubling, and I love to receive them. (Email me at josh@joshhunt.com ) But, still I wonder.

This is why I was so encouraged to receive a new book produced by Steve Parr and the Georgia Baptist Convention Sunday School Office.

Training Your Sunday School Leaders contains a year's worth (52) ready to use lessons for training Sunday School teachers. Some of the topics include:

  • How to revive inactive members
  • Making ministry contacts
  • How to study the Bible
  • Steps to lesson preparation
  • Ten common factors of fast growing Sunday Schools

The book contains an introduction that is worth the price of the book. You can purchase it online at http://ssog.gabaptist.org Click on Resources ON THE RIGHT. It is toward the bottom.

Does training matter?

The Georgia Convention asked their churches how often they do training for Sunday School teachers. 40% said, "Never." On average, these churches were declining by 2.1% per year. The churches that were providing training monthly or quarterly were growing by 13.6%. Here it is in a picture:

Thom Rainer's research found the same thing. He said, "Training was a major factor for Sunday school leadership in these [growing] churches."

Steve Parr said, "Churches do not have more effective Sunday Schools because they love God more, have more talent, have greater intellect, or have more resources. Trained leaders will almost always surpass untrained leaders in effectiveness. Churches that provide training for their leaders  tend to be more effective in reaching the lost and assimilating them into small groups."

The Georgia Convention also did a study of their 50 fastest growing churches (a great thing for any State Convention to do). The fastest Sunday Schools were selected not only on the basis of raw numerical growth, but also considering baptism ratios and the like to make sure that they were growing by reaching the lost. What did all these churches have in common? Training. 

"The most common factor discovered in the survey related to the training  of leaders." 98% of the fastest growing churches were involved in leadership training. (Remember, 40% of churches do no training at all.)

Ken Hemphill's research supports these findings. "You must be willing to do whatever is necessary to secure and train adequate leadership because this is the key to natural church growth."

Andy Anderson agrees: "We ought to emblazon on the walls of our churches and our desks this motto: WE CANNOT GROW CHURCHES WITH UNTRAINED LEADERSHIP. We have never done it. We will never do it. Leadership must be trained if we are to reach people, teach them, and minister to their needs."

Andy Anderson goes on to say, "Sunday School Leader Training, in my estimation, is the most important meeting in the church. If you use this meeting correctly, it will revolutionize the church. If you use this meeting incorrectly, you will continue to limp along without sufficient quantity, quality or power."

What is training?

Parr defines training as follows: "Training is a systematic approach for conveying necessary skills to leaders that permit them to effectively carry out the ministry to which God has called them."

Carl George takes a broader definition. He speaks of V.H.S. as a model for training:

V - Vision. Teachers need to be continually reminded of the vision. We can take America for God by giving the ministry to laymen who are using their gifts to grow their groups to double their classes every two years or less. Rick Warren speaks of the Nehemiah Principle. Noting that Nehemiah had to recast the vision 40 days into the project of rebuilding the wall. Warren points out that we need to recast the vision about once a month.

H - Huddle. One of the keys to any good visitation program is the huddle after the visits. As everyone comes back to share their experience, everyone is encouraged. If you want to get your teachers to consistently give Friday nights to Jesus, you need to provide a huddle time. Let them share their stories and learn from each other.

S - Skill building. Teachers need to learn how to

  • Prepare a lesson
  • Encourage a daily quiet time
  • Open up the quiet person
  • Quiet those who talk too much
  • Make an effective evangelistic presentation
  • Recruit workers to the team

Parr's book delivers 52 practical lessons that deliver skill-building exercises.

When to do training

Training can be done at a variety of times. The classic weekly workers meeting on Sunday night or Wednesday night is still used effectively in many churches. Other churches hold monthly or quarterly meetings. I have a job because many churches hold an annual training event. Your Association or State Convention likely provides training opportunities.

One creative way to do training is to do it on Sunday morning from time to time. This is what I call the Law of Prime Time. If you really want to reach the masses, you have to get to Prime Time. In church life, Prime Time is Sunday morning. Some churches do training, say, once a semester on Sunday morning, asking each teacher to get a substitute that week. I was in another church that the pastor and Sunday School director met with a different teacher every week to evaluate the progress of the class.

What to cover in training

Training needs to cover these six areas:

  • Teacher training. Teaching is a craft and teachers need to be constantly sharpening their skills as communicators. The better the teaching, the more likely the growth.
  • Leadership skills. Vision casting, delegation, team building, goal setting, and planning are all topics that need to be covered on a regular basis for teachers.
  • People skills. It is all about people. We need to learn to work with them effectively.
  • Spiritual Development. As the teachers pour into the class, we need to pour into the teachers, giving the solid spiritual nutrition to help them grow in their relationship with God.
  • Biblical Content. Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Doctrine, and similar studies should strengthen the lives of our teachers.
  • Evangelism/ Church Growth You Can Double Your Class Video Series, soon to be released in a new double-effective format is an example of this category.

If you would like specific examples of content to teach your teachers, consider this list:

These ought to get your started and keep you busy for a while.

If you would like to see your groups double every two years or less, show them how. Train them. It really does make a difference.