Over the last twenty years, I have read and examined many books on Sunday School and Small Groups. Many conferences were attended led by leaders from Touch Ministry, Carl George on the Meta Church philosophy, Rick Howerton formerly with Serendipity with Lifeway Christians Resources, and Bill Donahoe’s Willow Creek’s Small Group Conference.
Although a very good understanding of Small Groups has been gained, my passion and experience relates to Sunday School. Therefore, when someone calls the office, I will seek to answer their questions but will always refer them to Small group Leaders whose passion and experience is small groups. Over several weeks, I am going to share some discoveries that I believe can be transferable to both small groups and Sunday School.
The first transferable concept that surfaces is simply the importance of organization. Building the infrastructure for growth depends on the creation and management of small groups for small group churches or for program-based churches the creation of Bible study classes. Some churches are not growing simply because they are not ready to grow. The infrastructure is not ready to handle more people.
I remember reading a chapter in the book, Building a Church of Small Groups, and thought Arthur Flake* could have wrote it. The chapter talked about the importance of starting new groups (classes), recruiting small group leaders and coaches (teachers and directors), and providing training for these new leaders.
Harry Piland said it well, “If Sunday School is to improve, it must change. If it is to grow, it must plan for growth. If it is to achieve BREAKTHROUGH, its organizational structure must be dynamic. Growing Sunday Schools have growing, expanding organizations. They create new classes…So long as there is one un-reached person they will keep reaching out.” I believe the same is true for churches who utilize small groups instead of Sunday School.
A church’s infrastructure is a limiting factor…it might occasionally grow past its infrastructure, but eventually the church falls back to be the organization that the infrastructure can support. If you took out one of the bridge supports of the bridge shown, could you make it to the other side safely. Maybe…but eventually it would collaspe. A major reason churches stay small and plateau is because the infrastructure is not enlarged and thus, cannot support growth.
*(Arthur Flake served as the first Director of Sunday School for the Baptist Sunday School Board, now Lifeway Christian Resources)