How to get teachers to double

"A blinding flash of the obvious" you might call it.

"Why didn't I think of that?" I thought to myself.

I was having lunch today with Ted Sherrill, Pastor of First Baptist, Georgetown, SC. The topic was all about how to get teachers to double.

There seemed to be a general agreement that it is possible, even easy in a way. Maybe not easy. Do-able.

The average-sized Sunday School class is 10 people. Adult classes tend to be a little bigger, kids classes tend to be a little smaller. As a church grows larger, this number will stretch slightly. If a church uses the ABF, or mid-sized group model, there is normally a level of organization below the class--the care group or something like it. At this level, once again, we have average sized groups of 10.

Doubling a class in two years or less translates into 40% annual growth, or, going from 10 to 14 in a year. Does this sound do-able to you? Why isn't it happening already?

Ted gave me some insight, as well as an answer as to how it can double. It was a blinding flash of the obvious.

Going from 10 to 14 does not look like much, but if you can perfect this skill, you couldn't build buildings fast enough, you couldn't start new services fast enough, you couldn't launch new churches fast enough to contain the growth.

Andy Stanly points out that a group of 10 that doubles every two years or less--specifically every 18 months, will reach 1,000 people in 10 years. Check his math:


If this is so do-able, and it would result in such incredible growth, why isn't it happening already? Why doesn't it happen all the time? Why doesn't it happen routinely?

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. I have had long conversations about this. I have asked many groups about this. Today, I got a blinding flash of the obvious.

"The way I see it is this," Ted pondered out loud. "You have to say it and say it and say it and say it and say it. Then you get one teacher to get it. Then you say it and say it and say it and say it again and you get another teacher to get it."

Ted only had to say it to me once. It was a blinding flash of the obvious. This is what it takes to get groups to double, and this is why we are not doubling already. You have to say it and say it and say it and say it and eventually expect them to get it. Then say it some more, and some more, and some more and maybe someone else will get it.

Repetition is the mother of all learning.

It is the reason Paul said, "It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you." Philip. 3:1 [NIV]

I thought about a time, years ago when I did a sermon on predestination. You might be surprised to hear this, but I am a bit of a closet Calvinist. Not quite enough to make a real Calvinist happy, but a little too much so that non-Calvinist could get uncomfortable. Anyway, years ago, I preached a sermon on Romans 9, hammering away on such verses as, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." Romans 9:16 [NIV] and cross referencing verses like "You did not choose me, but I chose you." John 15:16 [NIV] A gentleman came up to me afterwards and said, "I agree with everything you said, Josh, but if you push that too far, next thing you know you will be talking about predestination." Talk about a word from the land of "DUH!" I had just spent 30 minutes talking about predestination.

(By the way, I love what R.C. Sproul says about predestination. He calls it, "The doctrine everyone believes." You gotta believe something about it, it is in the Book.)

Anyway, this is not a lesson on the Doctrine of Grace but a lesson on the importance of repetition. You need to say it and say it and say it some more.

Remind creatively

Say it creatively. Come up with as many ways to say it as you can. Use the Coming Back drama from Willowcreek. I use it nearly every night in my conferences and it is really powerful.

Use a variety of voices. Let your youth leader speak to how we can reach youth through parties. Let your children's workers tell about how it applies to kids. Let seniors talk about their battles with loneliness and how the church reached out to them. Let staff share, let teachers share, let "customers"--recipients of our  love through parties--share.

Share in the worship service. Share in your bulletin. Make a video. Send an e-mail to your people and tell the story. Tell the story when you do a baptism. Put up posters that highlight key phrases like:

  • People who are opposed to the gospel are not opposed to ice cream.

  • People don't care what you know until they know that you care.

  • We can double a class every two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.

  • If we love them, they will come.

  • All good ideas degenerate into work.

  • You have no idea how much trouble it is to have fun.

  • Give Friday nights to Jesus.

Adapt to your setting. Ted had his own version of the T.I.G.E.R. strategy, fitted uniquely to the South: G.R.I.T.S. I didn't take notes on the fine print. I can only imagine.

It reminded me of the TEXAS version I saw a few years back: Check it out:

T each a halfway decent lesson each and every week. Nothing else will do.

E ncourage every member and every guest (prospect) to attend your monthly social.

X - (cross) out a night for Jesus.

A ffirm the class toward discovering their ministry.

S tart new classes and groups.

If you would like John to do the Texas version at your church, he can be contacted at:

Dr. John A. Moody
Associate Pastor Education & Administration
West Conroe Baptist Church
Conroe, Texas 77304

Reminding by rewarding

Remind by rewarding. I am not talking about handing out big screen TVs. I am asking you to be obedient to this command: "Brothers and sisters, we ask you to show your appreciation for those leaders who work among you and instruct you." 1 Thes. 5:12 [GW]

The greatest management principle in the world is this: whatever gets rewarded, gets done. If you want people to give Friday nights to Jesus and invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month, catch them doing it and reward them. When someone joins the church, have anyone who had them in their home, or took them out to dinner to stand with them.

If you get an e-mail, like I did this week, copy it into your church Newsletter, as I am here:

My pastor and I attended your session at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio Friday 10/15/2004. I was excited about your concepts, so I came back Friday evening with my wife. I wanted her to hear it first from you before we discussed the ideas.

I teach an adult Sunday school class at First Baptist Church in Helotes, Texas. My wife and I decided to start with the “Pizza on Sunday” approach. At the close of our class on 10/17 we told the class that we would be at the local CiCi's Pizza after church every Sunday until further notice and that everyone was invited. I am also our A/V person so I do not get a chance to greet all of the visitors. I instructed my class to greet any visitors and invite them to CiCi’s after church. We had just two families visiting today, but they were both invited for Pizza. Well, one of the visiting families showed up. The husband, wife and 13 year old boy sat with us, ate pizza, and remarked, “All of you (there were 22 people present) are in the same Sunday school class?” We said we were indeed, they said they would like to attend our class the coming Sunday. We all agreed that we thought that would be great!

Everyone in my class is excited that the first time Pizza on Sunday snagged a visitor. One of the remarks for a present class member was “You mean we do not have to witness to them or anything hard?” I told them just “Love ‘em and feed ‘em!” “That will be easy!” was the response.

I called my pastor with the news. He was very excited. We are a small church with about 90-100 in attendance at Sunday worship. Our Sunday school runs around 40-45. We are going to LOVE our way to 300 in the next 5 years. I will let you know how it goes.

May God continue to bless your ministry,

Charles James

Adult I Sunday School Teacher

First Baptist Church of Helotes, Texas

Remind by modeling

Speed of the leader; speed of the team. The leader must embody the vision. How many times did Paul say, "follow my example." Truth is, they will follow our example whether we want them to or not. As badly as we would like them to exceed our example, they rarely will. Speed of the leader; speed of the team.

Truth is, doing hospitality is part of the God-given job description of pastors: "He must enjoy having guests in his home." Titus 1:8 [NLT]

Say it, live it, show it, tell it, say it again. Hopefully, one person will get it. When one gets it, get a big spot light and put it on that person. Then, say it some more, and some more, and some more. Then, maybe a few more might get it. Keep this up for a few years, and we might turn the ship. We might have a revival on our hands.

My dream is to see Southern Baptists have 20 million in Bible Study attendance (Sunday School and home groups) by the year 2020. That is what 2020 Vision is all about. My dream is to see the Capital-C Church double in the next 20 years. I have seen a small group double. I have seen a church double. I want to see the Church double. If we see it, we will have to say it and say it and say it again.