What a privilege this last year to do conferences with Allan Taylor, Ken Hemphill, Steve Parr, Bob Mayfield, Jeff Young and Elmer Towns. Next year, it is going to be even better. Here is how you can host an event with your choice of these speakers.
I spent the first third of my career working at a local church learning to do Sunday School. We enjoyed eleven consecutive years of growth. We went from one Sunday School and one worship service to four Sunday Schools and four worship services—almost tripling in overall attendance.
I wrote a book on what I learned and spent the next third of my career telling folks that we can double a group in two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. I’d like to think I have helped some churches. However, I have to soberly face the fact that Sunday School is heading gently downwards. To borrow a line from Ken Hemphill, we still need to see the revitalization of the Sunday Morning Dinosaur.
I have a third of my career left. I don’t want to just keep doing conferences. Prayerfully, I want to see if we can turn this thing around. Here are eight things I have learned along the way:
- Sunday School still works today. Although many Sunday Schools are struggling there are a sizable minority that are flourishing. They serve as proof that Sunday School can still work.
- Training really helps. I can thank Steve Parr for the hard research on that.
- People like to listen to authors. I have often been asked how I became an independent Sunday School trainer. (The only one that I am aware of.) My answer is always the same: I got a book published. People give an unfair advantage to people who publish books. There are lots of people that are better speakers than me and have a better resume than me, but they don’t get the invitations I get to speak because they don’t have a book published. It is this insight that is behind All Star Sunday School Training.
- The biggest problem in Sunday School has to do with point #1 of Flake’s formula: Know the Possibilities. (I have looking at the mug that Bob Mayfield gave me and am reminded what point #1 is.) It has to do with faith. It has to do with knowing that Sunday School really works. My research indicates that groups that are marked by faith that they will grow are 12 times more likely to be growing.
- The big battle is convincing pastors to Know the Possibilities. Nothing is important till the pastor says it is important. I can talk about the glory of Sunday School till I am blue in the face but until the Pastor believes it, it is all a sounding gong and clanging cymbal.
- Pastors listen to pastors. They are not influenced by people like me.
- There is nothing like the power of example. The Bible and science agree that peer influence is one of the strongest reasons why an idea spreads. (Want to read a great book on this? Try Influencer by Kerry Patterson and friends.)
- The job of turning Sunday School around is a big one. It will require the cooperation of State Conventions, Associations and our fastest growing churches.
Based on these learnings, I’d like to make a few changes in the way we are doing All Star Sunday School Training meetings.
- Two speakers instead of three. Part of this is economic. One goal I have is to make these meetings financially self-supporting. If we can do that, we can schedule lots of meetings. By cutting the number of speakers from two to three we cut the expenses for the host by a third while increasing their income. (Participants are charged to attend. What comes in is divided between the host and speakers.)
- I will only plan meetings where we have the cooperation of the State and Association. Where we had state support, we had good attendance. Where we did not, we did not. Tim Smith told me this would be true. I should have listened.
- I want to put All Star meetings in the best Sunday School churches in the state. I’d love to come to your area. However, I want to put this meeting in the strongest Sunday School church in your area. If that is not you, may I suggest you forward this email to them and suggest to them that you work together to host an All Star Meeting in your area. You might also want to contact your State Convention Sunday School department.
- I want the local church pastor to have one of the speaking times. We want to influence pastors. The best way to do it is to let the Pastor speak. If we can get some testimonies from Sunday School teachers, all the better. If we can get some newly saved members to talk about how Sunday School touched their lives, better still.
I’d love to do an All Star Sunday School Training in your area. The new process works like this. We start with a host, then I will recruit two from our team to be the speakers. I will recruit them in your order of priority. Assuming we have good attendance, it ought to be free for the host. See http://allstarsundayschool.com/ for details.