A new book I am pleased to be a contributor.
Introduction by David Francis
Can your Sunday school still excel today? Really? I think by the time you finish reading the accounts in this book, you will join me in responding, “Absolutely! They really can—and do!”
One of the grand privileges I have as Director of Sunday school among Southern Baptists is to witness excellent Bible study ministries all across the country. I just enjoyed a little “slide show” in my mind of excellent Sunday school leaders and ministries I have witnessed first-hand. They are everywhere. They can be found in military communities like Lakewood, Washington, and Warner Robbins, Georgia. They are found in downtown areas like Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can find them in suburbs like Trussville, Alabama and Wheat Ridge, Colorado. You can find churches that actually have three separate Sunday school hours to accommodate all of the participants in places like Jackson, Tennessee.
They are found in college towns like Murray, Kentucky and Newark, Delaware as well as in border towns like Athens, Alabama and McAllen, Texas. Mid-sized towns like Camden, Ohio and Madison, Mississippi. They are near the water in Lakeside, Texas as well as arid places like San Angelo, Texas and Casa Grande, Arizona. You will even find them amid the hectic pace of the District in Fredericksburg, Virginia and Upper Marlboro, Maryland or the rural pace of Princeton, Kentucky, growing where the population is booming in places like San Antonio, Texas and Fayetteville, Georgia, and in places where the population is stagnant like Roscommon, Michigan and Cross Lanes, West Virginia.
I didn’t name the churches in these places. You can try to guess if you like. Central, Southside, Spotswood, Morningside, Glen Meadows, Faith, Deerfoot, Englewood, Parkhills, New Hope, Lindsay Lane, and a lot of Firsts! I absolutely fell in love with one church I visited this past year: First Baptist Winnsboro, Texas. If I had written a chapter about it, it might have been titled “Excelling in a small town where most of the staff is named David.” Pastor David Rose, Minister of Education David Booth, Student minister David Henry, and the other staff members, Scott and Jennifer Bowman, are all clearly committed to Sunday school. I led an all-adult Sunday school—about Sunday school, preached a message about the priority of reaching kids, and enjoyed lunch among some of the most enthusiastic folks I have ever been around. They got it! This is not an exceptional town. It is certainly not an exceptional building. It is a very typical and traditional church architecturally. The church has worked hard, however, to enhance its space for kids, doing much of the work with their own hands. It is seeing young families attend as a result. It works diligently at outreach. Some of its adult classes have moved to businesses off-campus to make room for growth. What I loved about this church is their commitment to have an excellent Sunday school whether all of the resources were present or not. Afterall, they did provide excellent training!
Seriously, what’s the point of the example of FBC Winnsboro? They are not waiting! They are not waiting for the town to get bigger, the church to get prettier, the staff to get smarter, or the people to get more committed. They are excelling with what God has given them in the location He has placed them for the time He has granted them. They are committed to training their leaders, enlisting more of them, and motivating the members to embrace Sunday school as a missionary movement to reach their town for Jesus. Their attitude excels. Their hope excels. Their vision excels. Their Sunday school excels.
Maybe your church is more like FBC Winnsboro than it is one of the suburban mega-churches you know of. Most are! In my denomination, over 10,000 churches average less than 50 in Sunday school. Another 10,000 average less than 100. Only about 3,000 average over 250! The rest are in between. A church is above average at 75-80 in weekly attendance in the churches I serve. What if? What if a lot of smaller churches decided to break out of double digits and exceed 100 in attendance? What if a lot of mid-size churches decided to break into the top ten percent by exceeding 250? You need not set your sights on mega-church status to excel in Sunday school. You just need to set them a little bit higher. If you will, the book you are about to read will help on your quest to excel.
What makes this book different is that it is not just a book of principles. It is a book of stories. Stories are powerful. These are real stories about real churches in real places with real leaders who face real circumstances and overcome real challenges. For what? To gather people—people with stories—together to learn, discuss, and apply God’s Story to their stories! If you’ve read any of my little books, you know I often repeat this principle: “No one’s story is complete until it has intersected with God’s Story, which happens best in a community being enriched by the stories of others.” I know of no better environment for that to happen than in a Sunday school that excels!