Sunday School Revival

It is amazing what happens when you listen to people. Everyone should be slow to speak and quick to listen. Somebody smart wrote that!

For the last several months I have been listening to the people who attend my conferences. I have been using a very simple evaluation form -- one with two questions:

  • What did you like?
  • What could I improve?

People always say kind things. I think that has more to do with them being kind than anything I did. I was not surprised at all by two of the suggestions. I was shocked by the third. I didn't actually track it, but it was probably the most common suggestion for change. First, here are the two I was not surprised by.

  • Slow down. I work on that, but unsuccessfully. You just get me talking about doubling groups and I get all fired up.
  • Provide a fill-in-the-blanks note-taking piece. I actually used to do this. Occasionally hosts would drop the ball and not make copies. I always did better when that was the case. I just speak better when I am not tied to blanks that need to be filled in.

Now the one that shocked me. Again, this was the most common feedback I have received: make it longer; we want more time.

I was shocked because I so often hear from Ministers of Ed and Pastors things like, "People won't come to training. People won't come to long training. Keep it short. It is all we can do." The most commonly heard feedback I have received is: we want more; tell us more.

I have an idea coming, but let me introduce one more stream of thought before I get to that.

The program is not the problem

Ten years on the road and 1.7 million miles (on American Airlines alone) has taught me some things. I have found a church in a desperate, sometimes frantic search for new programs. They are looking for the next idea, the next model, the next system that is going to fix their ailing church and get their plateaued church growing again.

We are tempted to replace Sunday School with home groups. We have thought about replacing our traditional worship service with a seeker service. We have dabbled in replacing traditional music with a more contemporary feel.

These changes may not be a bad idea. But, the program is not the problem. Let me explain.

When I preach on Sundays I usually do a talk on, "Developing a heart for people who are far from God." I had a lady come up to me afterwards once and say, "You are darn right I don't like being around sinners. They smoke and they smell like they have been smoking. They drink and they act like they have been drinking. They swear. I don't like their language. I don't like being around them." She seemed to puff out her chest just a bit as she pontificated. She seemed to be proud of this attitude. She seemed to have an attitude that suggested, "Look at me! Look how far I am up the mountain of spiritual maturity!" But her heart did not have the kind of longing that God's heart has for people who were far from God. And, all the while she thought she was growing spiritually. I am afraid we are not growing spiritually. We are just getting more churchy.

I had a man speak to me one time before I gave my double your class talk. He gave me a warning, "I don't think we are going to be able to double our class." "Why not?" I questioned. "Well, we have about 18 men in a room that holds 20 chairs. We can't possibly double. Where would we put them?You can likely guess my response. "Have you ever thought about creating a new group?" Have you ever thought about moving 9 guys down the hall and saying 2 Timothy 2.2 to somebody in your group?"  "Oh yes, we have thought about that. My pastor has talked to me about that. My Minister of Ed has talked to me about that. Our group has talked about that. We are not willing to do that." Not willing. Those two words have been ringing in my ears for a while now. It is my conviction that those are two words that no God-loving believer ought to ever say to their Lord about anything. Not willing?

Somewhere along the line in our progress in the faith, we go through a door I will call the door of Lordship. We go through this door and we realize He is God and I am not. He is Boss am I am not. He is Lord and I am not. Not willing? Those are two words that no believer ought to ever say to their Lord about anything. Tell me it is not a good idea. Tell me it is not strategic. Tell me it won't help us reach people for God. Tell me you prayed about it and don't feel God's leadership in that direction. But don't tell me you are not willing.

I have had numerous people say to me, "I don't know if we want to double our class. We are just happy the way we are." There are two problems with this statement. First, we prioritize our happiness over the growth of the kingdom and reaching souls for God. That is a problem. But, there is a bigger problem, and that is this: we believe if we embrace the vision of doubling groups that our happiness will go down, not up. I can tell you without hesitation, this is not the case. I have talked to hundreds of group leaders who have doubled their groups. I have never had anyone regret it. I have never had anyone say, "I want my sleepy, comfortable group back."

Chris Imbach in Jacksonville, FL said to me once-oh, and by the way, he has like great-grand daughter classes now--"My group is the most exhilarating thing in my life." Exhilarating. There is a word I don't hear too often about Sunday School. Comfortable, yes. Nice, yes. But, exhilarating?

But, that is how doubling group leaders feel. They are fired up. They love it. Here is the dirty little secret: they are having a whole lot more fun than are their non-doubling counterparts.

Here is the situation (and a possible solution I am getting to). We have a lot of sleepy so-so Sunday School groups in some sometimes sleepy churches. And we think that if we introduce this program or that process that it will fix the problem. We don't need a new program or process. We need a new heart. A heart that loves the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. A heart that is fed up with luke-warm living and is sold out to God.

A lot of churches are thinking about home groups. They have a church full of sleepy, half-hearted groups led by sleepy, half-hearted teachers. Sunday school is boring. Indeed; it often is. So, we take those sleepy, half-hearted groups and move them to a home on Tuesday night. Do you know what you have now? Sleepy, half-hearted home groups. We don't need a new geographical location or a new time to meet. We desperately need a new heart.

A Sunday School Revival

Here is the idea of the day. What if we did a Sunday School Revival. Kind of an old fashioned idea, I know, but stay with me. Here is what I have in mind. The idea would be to be about half training and half preaching--somewhat modeled after Leon Kilbreth's Sunday School Revivals but updated for our times. (I have recently added a dozen of his talks on my podcast. See http://www.joshhunt.com/leon_kilbreth_audio.htm They are great. Search for Josh Hunt from within the ITunes store for a free download.) The goal would be to both challenge the heart and renew the mind.

Here is what a schedule might look like:

Sunday morning:  a sermon on developing a heart like God's heart

Each of the sessions below would be about 2 hours with about 20 minutes of robust, worshipful music to get started.

  • Sunday night: Adults: The Amazing Power of Doubling Groups. Pure vision-casting. A group of ten that doubles every 18 months can reach a thousand people in ten years. I will explore 2 Timothy 2.2 and tell a thousand stories where this has happened.
  • Children 's Leadership: KidTeach, Part 1

Monday night:

  • Adults: The Power of Hospitality
  •  Children's Leadership: KidTeach, Part 2

Tuesday night:

  • Adults: Doing Evangelism as a Team. How we need everyone involved to get the the work done.
  •  Children's Leadership: KidReach

Wednesday night:

  • Open mic night. Individuals share together what they learned, how they were challenged and what their plans are for the future.

Cost

In the spirit of a revival, we have in mind to do this for a love offering plus expenses, with one caveat. We would like to see ten churches financially involved in paying the expenses. My thought is that if ten churches are financially involved, ten churches will work to get a crowd there.

Conclusion

I did a meeting with Kevin Kilbreth recently. Kevin is Leon's son. He said the genius of his dad's Sunday School revival plan is that he had time to explore the whole plan of how to grow a Sunday School to the whole church--not just the Sunday school teachers. And, we have time to explore the heart issues, as well as head issues of training. Perhaps it is an old idea that will work in a new day.

 

 



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