Lessons from the Foam Factory


I pretty much eat, breath, drink, sleep thinking about Sunday School and how to double groups. So, when I was at the Foam Factory last week with my daughter, I thought about Sunday School.

By the way, if you are going to double your group, it is going to have to become something you think about quite a bit. It will have to become fairly important to you. This stuff will not come easily. I like to teach that it is possible to double a class in two years or less. I never mean to communicate that it is easy. It is not easy. You are going to have to work at it, pray for it, and believe it into reality. It will become an important priority in your life or it will never happen.


That is the first lesson of the Foam Factory: you are going to have to really want this stuff.

This is why Jesus talked about laying down your life and dying to self and taking up your cross. It is why Jesus said, "If anyone does not give up everything he cannot be my disciple." The goal of doubling the capital C Church by doubling small groups will not come easily. We are going to have to want it. We are going to have to lay down our lives. We are going to have to eat, breath, drink, sleep, dream this stuff. That is the first lesson of the foam factory.

The second lesson is this: even simple things take a little explaining.

Perhaps it would be good if I did a little explaining about the Foam Factory.

The Foam Factory is: "A 40,000 square foot indoor play area with foam balls, launchers, turbo blasters, targets, turrets and more. Parents and kids alike can hit the mark in the FOAM FACTORY! " It is like a Chuck-E-Cheese on steroids.

When we walked in, I asked they guy at the door, "How does this work?" He said, "Just come in and have fun!"

It is true that this is not rocket science. It is also true that it needed a little explaining. It would have helped to know that we needed a bag to collect up foam balls so that we could go up on the second and third floor, put them in guns and blast people with them. That would have been nice to know. We figured it out in time, but it would have been nice if he had done a little explaining. There were other things about the Foam Factory that would have been nice to know. I don't want to tell you more than you want to know, but it all needed just a little explaining. That is the second lesson of the Foam Factory: even simple things need a little explaining.

It is not rocket science how to double a group every two years or less. I am still waiting for someone to come up to me after a conference and say, "That was really deep!"

Still, if you are one providing leadership to Sunday School teachers, you need to do a little explaining. You need to explain to them that although the lesson does not have to be Charles Stanley, it does have to be half-way decent, each and every week, nothing less will do. I was in a class not too long ago that was. . . (how do I say this politely?) no where close to half-way decent. My information indicates that about a third of our classes are in this category.

We need to explain to teachers that half-way teaching is not enough. They think that because we call them teachers, their job is to teach. Their job is to help us turn the world upside down. Their job is to pastor this group of people. Their job is to oversee the healthy functioning of this micro-church. Their job is to see that this group doubles every two years or less.

We can double every two years or less through half-way decent teaching and inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. I believe in a party-driven strategy modeled for us by Levi who, "held a great banquet." (Luke 5.29) If we will be obedient to the command of God to "offer hospitality without grumbling" (1 Peter 4.9) we can double a class every two years or less.

People just might eventually figure this stuff out on their own, but it would help if we explained it to them.

One method of explaining, by the way, you might purchase MP3s of a Double Your Class Conference, burn enough for all your teachers and let them listen to them as they drive. It is an easy way to explain it to them. Other methods include buying the book, attending conferences and using videos.

The third lesson is most profound. Good leaders design systems that reward desired behavior.

Imagine hundreds of foam balls dropping from hoppers, being shot from guns, and falling from buckets. Question: what happens to all these balls? Doesn't this make a bit of a mess? Who cleans up this mess? We can't get these kids to clean up their rooms; how will we get them to clean up this 40,000 square foot play room that is littered with little foam balls? They could hardly hire enough people to do it. Perhaps they could come up some ingenious machine that would do it.

Wrong, wrong and wrong. They designed a system that rewards the desired behavior. Yes, they got the kids to do it.

The designers of the Foam Factory made it obvious, even to the kids, that in order to have some fun, they were going to have to pick up the balls, put them in bags and take them to the second or third floor to shoot. Alternatively, they could use these vacuum cleaners designed for such purpose, or various other contraptions the engeneers had created. But, in order to meet the kids goal of having fun, they were going to have to meet the Foam Factory's goal of getting the balls picked up.

This is why the free enterprise system works better than socialism. It capitalizes on the self-interest of the individual for the greater good of society. My inclination to provide for myself motivates me to do things that create wealth for all.

It is the way God has designed the Christian life. That is why it is good news, good news and more good news. His commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5.3) It is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. We humble ourselves so we will be exalted. (Interesting question: should a Christian want to be exalted? See Luke 14.11)

And, it is how those who lead Sunday Schools and Small Group ministries should design those ministries. We should set it up so we reward the behavior we want to see happen. Not just talk about the behavior and ask for the behavior, reward the behavior. As God is a rewarder (Hebrews 11.6) we should be rewarders. We should reward the behavior we want to see done.

The Greatest Management Principle in the World is this: whatever gets rewarded gets done. If you want groups to double. Reward those who do. If you want groups to give Friday nights to Jesus, reward those who do. If you are not seeing the results you want, it is likely you are not rewarding the results you want. At the Foam Factory, they get six year old kids to pick up little foam balls thousands of times every day by rewarding them for doing so. Who knows what we might accomplish if we rewarded what we wanted to happen.

This idea is fully explored on the video series for pastors and staff, TIGER Training: Eight Things Teachers Must Have to Double Every Two Years or Less.

These are the lessons of the Foam Factory:

  • You are going to have to want really this stuff.
  • Even simple things take a little explaining.
  • Good leaders design systems that reward desired behavior.