Sunday School that excels

A new book I am pleased to be a contributor.

Friend Day is an attendance campaign that became a national movement when a young lady–Kathy Burley–was reached for Jesus Christ through Heritage Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia. At the time, Heritage was a church plant averaging about sixty people in a store front building in a strip mall. I was asked to speak at the first service of Heritage Baptist Church in its new but small auditorium, approximately one mile away.

This Friend Day outreach program came at a great time for this young church because of (1) Intentional Evangelism. Pastor Rodney Kidd planned to reach the lost friends of his members when they moved into their new building. (2) Accountability Evangelism. Kidd asked everyone to invite a neighbor to the new building and get their friend to promise attendance by filling out a “Yes” card. Their signature and “Yes” indicated they would be present. Then, Pastor Kidd had each member hold up their card before the congregation. The fact “Yes” cards were shown publically indicated how each person fulfilled their responsibility.

When I told my wife Ruth the plans, she said, “Get me a “Yes” card; I have someone I want to bring with me.” My wife didn’t want me to be embarrassed because she wasn’t bringing an unsaved friend. Ruth and Kathy Burley shared a realtor’s office and had many conversations about salvation. Kathy was an honest seeker and had attended several kinds of churches searching for God, i.e., Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Presbyterian. Now this was her chance to attend a Baptist church.

The people responded so enthusiastically to the Friend Day campaign that a total of seventy-seven “Yes” cards were gathered. Then Kidd asked me, “Can I expect 154 people to come on Friend Day?” (77 visitors and 77 members). I answered his question with a question. “Would you be happy if 100 people came?” The church had never gone over 100 in attendance.

“Absolutely!” Rod answered. “I’d be happy if only one visitor came.”

Friend Day was a rousing success- 236 people attended the church. The new pews were filled to capacity, folding chairs had to be set up, and still people stood around the edges of the morning crowd.

Statistics from Friend Day’s campaigns indicate most people do not make a decision the first time they visit a church, rather they have to visit the church about three times before making a meaningful decision to join or to trust Jesus as Savior. (3) The Law of 3 Hearings). I preached the sermon, and at the invitation no one came forward.

Rodney Kidd had planned a comprehensive follow-up campaign to contact each guest seven times. (4) The Law of Seven Touches. Each of those who visited received a letter every three or four days: the first letter thanking them for their attendance, the second letter explaining the ministries of the church, the third letter detailed coming activities at the church, and the fourth letter contained general advertisement. While the letters were being sent every other day, different visitation teams went out to make personal contacts with all the Friend Day guests.

Mike, Kathy Burley’s husband noted, “We didn’t have any friends in Lynchburg before you went to Heritage Church.” Then he went on to explain that every couple of days they got a personal letter from someone in the church. Then in the evenings a knock would come at the door around 7 pm. Mike would say, “That’s someone from the church; we don’t know anyone else in this town.” Then he joked, “We haven’t been lonely since we visited Heritage Baptist Church.”

Two weeks after Friend Day, Rod Kidd phoned me around 9:30 one evening to tell me, “Kathy and Mike Burley just prayed to receive Christ this evening.” Kidd had visited them that evening. Their hearts were prepared for conversation by the friendliness of the church to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Steve Parr. (2013). Sunday School that Really Excels.