3 Marks of WOW classes
I operate under five assumptions that often keep me up late at night. Right now it is one in the morning and I am writing because I just can’t get this off my mind. Here is what is rattling around keeping me up tonight.
- Group life can be great. By group life, I mean on-campus groups–what we historically called Sunday School, but it seems no one uses that term any more–or home groups.
- Group life usually is not great. Sometimes it is terrible. If you don’t believe me, you just need to get out more. Visit a few classes–not your own fine class–visit some other classes. You won’t have to visit long before you attend one that leaves you wanting to scream.
- The reason Sunday School is not growing is because it is not that great. It is not an outreach problem; it is a quality problem.
- By "great" I mean the kind of experience where people walk out and say, "Wow! That was great! I can hardly wait to come back! I am going to tell my friends they won’t want to miss it!"
- By this standard, there is not one group in a hundred that qualifies as great. I am not sure many of my groups would qualify as great. But, a few of them would and when they do, it is sweet.
Here is the sixty-four dollar question: How can we have a great group? What is a great group? Here is today’s stab at that question.
- Prerequisite: someone leading on the edge.
Providing enough freedom for an honest conversation to develop.
Providing enough structure that the conversation is on task.
Jesus spoke of walking the narrow way. I believe it was narrow because it is so easy to fall off one side or the other. This is a case in point. Effective teachers walk a razor’s edge. They provide enough space that it is an honest conversation. It is not just a one way communication between them and the group. It is not a two way communication between individuals in the group and the teacher. It is truly a conversation–unwieldy, reckless, unpredictable and somewhat meandering. It wanders back and forth like a crooked river.
But, like a crooked river, it heads relentlessly toward the sea. It may look like it is backtracking aimlessly, but there is an unseen force that is pulling it to the sea. Effective groups are led. They are not wandering aimlessly; they just look that way at times. They have a destination, a goal a purpose.
Each week, the purpose is a little different, but there is one. Each week we want people to walk out of here with a little clearer picture of what it means to walk with Christ. Each week we are being transformed, little by little, from one glory to the next.
Too many groups are theoretical musings about abstract ideas on politics, society, the rich and famous, the media and who knows what. Effective teachers lead the conversation to me and Jesus and how we are getting along and how each of us can be a little more like him.
Great groups inspire hope and confidence. Life has a way of beating us all down. Groups should lift us up. "Encourage one another," the scriptures say. Groups should do that. They should stir one another on to love and good deeds. They should inspire. They should motivate. Every teacher should be a motivational speaker. We should motivate people to live the life. We should make them want to live the life.
My Sunday School teacher, Richard King, asked a question a year or two back that haunted me for six months or more. "Are you growing?" I had to admit I wasn't. Or, at least, it didn't feel like it. Worse yet, I wasn't even sure what it meant to grow. I mean, I was having a quiet time every day, serving in my giftedness, giving, so on, so on. How did I need to grow? (It is embarrassing to admit this.) Well, after six months of thinking about that question, it finally hit me what growing is at this stage: becoming a little more loving, a little more prayerful, a little more kind, a little less prone to worry, a little more joyful, a little more concerned about the lost, a little more fruit of the spirit kind of living. Every day a little more.
That, to me, is what a Sunday School class ought to help us with: each of us ought to walk out of class thinking, "Now I see how I can be a little more . . . [fruit of the spiritish] this week."