Sunday School's most unpopular expectation

Note: this article provided courtesy of Bob Mayfield who leads Sunday School for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention. He and the other State Convention Sunday School leaders have put together a new blog you may want to subscribe to, as I have. That way, you can get timely emails related to Sunday School on a regular basis. See

Ask almost any Sunday School teacher or participant what they love about Sunday School and you’ll get a variety of answers, such as: studying God’s Word, ministering to class members, fellowship, prayer and more. But there is little doubt about the Sunday School directive that gets the most opposition and has got to top the list of most unpopular expectations of a class: starting a new group!

No doubt about it! Starting new groups is unpopular. If you want to swim upstream in your church, start expecting new groups. If you want to experience the second coming of the Inquisition, announce to your class that you are starting a new group. If you want to upset the seating chart in your class, then start a new group.

But let me share more…

If you want your church to grow… start new groups!

If you want to reach more lost people with the Gospel… start new groups!

If you want to re-engage inactive church members… start new groups!

If you want to involve more people in leadership… start new groups!

If you want to provide more opportunities for people to serve and use their spiritual gifts… start new groups!

By the way, dead fish only travel downstream.

Here is how starting a new group addresses
each of the above statements:

First, for every new group your church starts, your attendance increases by about 10 people. We call it “The Power of 10″. So if you want your church to grow by reaching 50 people in the next year, start 5 new classes. If you want your church to decline by 50 people next year, combine 5 classes.

Next, for every new class you start, as a general rule you will reach the following people:

  • 5 inactive church members;
  • 3 people will step up as leaders for the new group;
  • 2-3 unchurched people will attend the group over the course of a year (and statistically speaking, at least one of them will accept Christ).

Starting new groups is the launching pad for all sorts of opportunities that are great for the church. New groups require new leaders. New groups provide more opportunities for more people with hospitality and administrive gifts  to serve. New groups break up the status quo. New groups get the church moving.

I could go on and on about numbers and multiplication and reasons to start new groups. One thing I’ve learned from previous experience though is that understanding the science of new groups is not a great motivator to start new classes. Cold facts are no substitute for a warm heart. It’s heartwarming for a teacher to see people that they have discipled step out of their class and start a new group. It’s heartwarming to see new people connecting to God and each other.

New groups require regular people to exercise the one thing that we all should have in abundance but often are found lacking - faith. It takes faith to start a class, faith to become a teacher or leader, and faith to serve. It takes faith to believe that God will be faithful. A new group is a way for a leader and a couple of core members to put the Gospel on display and be a part of redeeming wayward human souls.

If we are going to have a Sunday School awakening, it will have to include new groups. It is time for us to make starting new groups the “cool” thing to do. Starting new Bible study groups is where we need to send our best people.

It’s time for a new awakening of the Sunday School and classes need to lead the way. Buck the status quo, swim upstream and start a new group… The movement starts with you.

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