Prayer is the fuel

Following the Transformational Church research project, LifeWay’s team of consultants reported to Dr. Ed Stetzer and his team that prayer is the fuel that drives transformational churches. It will be the fuel that undergirds the work of a transformational Sunday school class, too. What might that look like?

Before class

The Sunday school teacher or leader who wants a transformational class will arrive early – not just to prepare before the first member or guest arrives, but to pray. Picture a leader standing in an empty room, arranged for people who’ve yet to arrive, asking God to provide direction for the activities that will soon take place. The leader envisions the faces of the boys, girls, men, or women who will enjoy Bible study, and prays about the needs they will share during class.  Now imagine a pastor, staff member, or Sunday School Director interrupting that time with his own prayer-walk through the education area! Leader and teacher join together briefly to ask God to honor their expectation that new people will come. That’s a picture of prayerful dependence.

During class

Sometimes the best thing to do – even in the middle of class time – is to stop and pray. How will you know? The Holy Spirit will tell you! Just obey Him. This is a regular and spontaneous pleasure for preschool teachers: “Thank you, God, for hands,” as Megan’s tiny fingers manipulate play dough. “Thank you, God, for birds,” as Tyler looks out the window. Even in an adult class, you can pause briefly to exhibit prayerful dependence.

After class in care groups

One of the many good reasons to organize an adult class into care groups is that it provides the opportunity to pray in those groups. About ten minutes of prayer time should be sufficient. Circle up into care groups. (I recommend five to seven men or women, even in a “couples” class.) Account for any absent member. Hear requests. Pray dependently.

Prayer requests perhaps the best indicator of transformation

In my little book Connect3 – The Power of One Sunday School Class, I propose that groups operate on one of three progressive levels: Class, Community, or Commission. What’s the best indicator of where a class is? Listen to the prayer requests. At the class level, they are general and safe. At the community level, requests are more personal. At the commission level, they start out as appeals for missions in general, and then perhaps for an Unreached People Group (UPG) in particular.

Requests increasingly focus on people in the group’s circle of influence who are far from God: “Would you pray that God would engineer the circumstances that I might share my faith story with ___________?” “Please pray that God would provide an opportunity for me to invite ______________ to church.” A tear sheet or poster in a room that lists the names of the people being prayed for is powerful evidence of a class that has discovered the transformational power of prayerful dependence.

David Francis is on e of the five of us on the All Star Sunday School team. The others are Dr. Elmer Towns, Dr. Steve Parr, and Allen Taylor and Josh Hunt. For more information on All Star Sunday School Training, See