Sunday school is the church’s primary strategy to connect people to Jesus, His truth, His community, and His mission.
Your church organized for mission
>> by Bob Mayfield, Sunday School and Adult Discipleship Specialist, BGCO
Undoubtedly, the single most used Scriptural passage in defining the church’s mission is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Commonly called “The Great Commission”, these three verses capture the heart and intent of Southern Baptists in Oklahoma and all over the world. So how is your church doing when it comes to the Great Commission? Just as important, what is your church’s strategy to carry out the Great Commission?
There is a great gulf between good intentions and executing a plan to fulfill good intentions. At the BGCO, we are partnering with churches to execute a plan that helps churches carry out their mission. The plan is called ReConnect Sunday School and churches of all shapes and sizes in our state are engaging this simple but profound strategy of evangelizing and discipling our state.
Defining Sunday School
We define Sunday School in this way: “Sunday School (or its functional equivalent: small groups, LifeGroups, etc.) is the church’s primary strategy to connect people to Jesus, His Truth, His community, and His mission.” We have discovered over the past six months since launching the ReConnect Sunday School initiative that a specific definition of Sunday School helps everyone understand the role and purpose of small groups in the church’s mission. Let’s dissect that definition a little further.
Sunday School is the church’s primary strategy. It is not the church’s only strategy, but it is the church’s primary organization when it comes to evangelism and discipleship. What the definition means is that other church ministries need to come into alignment with its Sunday School. Men’s ministry, women’s ministry, the food pantry, and other church ministries need to have a specific plan of moving the people they engage into the church’s Sunday School or small group structure. Rather than engaging both the lost and born-again people in a series of events; discipleship happens best in an atmosphere of ongoing small groups. In essence, the church’s ministries need to direct the people they reach into the church’s Sunday School organization.
At its very core, Sunday School is about relationships. We connect with people in Sunday School and recognize that evangelism, Bible study, fellowship and mission all happen best in a community of relationships. In the ReConnect Sunday School initiative, we have four primary connection points with which we want to engage our friends, family and neighbors.
Connect People to Jesus
One of the primary expectations of a biblically functioning Sunday School class is evangelism. A solid, Bible-based Sunday School or small group is one of the best environments for a lost person to experience the Gospel first-hand. Lost people know that accepting Christ as Lord is the biggest commitment they will ever make. What many lost people need is an opportunity to experience an example of the Christian life. A biblically functioning small group provides a lost person with a place to see real Christianity in action. Furthermore, a relationship with Christ becomes appealing. In ReConnect Sunday School, we are emphasizing the importance and value of evangelistic Sunday School and connecting people to Christ through a small groups strategy.
Connect to His Truth
Sunday School has long been known for its commitment to Bible study. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in truth. Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). In ReConnect Sunday School, we continue this emphasis of connecting people to the truth of God’s Word. Spiritual transformation happens when people commit to read God’s Word; practice what they read; and associate with some type of small group for accountability. Sunday School provides all three of these needs for life change.
Connect to His Community
Throughout the Scripture we see God calling us into community; community with Himself and also community with other people. Hebrews 3:13 tells us to encourage each other so that we may not be hardened by sin. The encouragement that we receive from the benefits of participating in a small group (evangelism, Bible study, ministry, and mission) helps prevent us from having a heart that is hardened by sin. In addition, small groups provide the opportunity for personal relationships, ministry, and fellowship that we all need.
Connect to His Mission
God has a plan for your life. That plan is for each of us to join Him on His mission to redeem a fallen world back into relationship with its Creator. God did not save us to sit and hide. He saved us to be on mission with Him. Sunday School / small groups is how the church is mobilized to accomplish its mission. We are encouraging small groups and Sunday Schools throughout Oklahoma to be on mission in the following ways:
Adopt an Unreached People Group. More than 6,000 people groups, representing over 2 billion people, do not have a way to hear the good news of the Gospel. God’s great movements begin with prayer and we are asking every class in Oklahoma to adopt and pray for a specific people group.
Be on Mission. Through the BGCO’s Serve Oklahoma emphasis, we are seeing multitudes of Sunday School groups do mission projects in their communities. Mission projects are opportunities for each group to practice what they learn in Sunday School and put the Gospel on display in the surrounding community.
Start a New Group. Starting new groups are the best and fastest method to engage more people with the Gospel and with God’s community.
Make Disciples and Leaders. New groups need leaders and the best place for new leaders to emerge is through the church’s Sunday School. Current leaders are asked to develop “mentorees” who will become new leaders for the church. Sunday School is about making disciples who can make other disciples.
These four key connections are the foundation of Oklahoma’s new ReConnect Sunday School initiative. Sunday School has several specific advantages that are vital to the doctrine and ministry of the local church.
It involves more people. Sunday School is the largest organization of the church and it makes sense that it should be about doing the mission of the church.
Sunday School involves the laity. Sunday School is a lay-led strategy that builds and disciples other lay people.
Sunday School is an extension of the pastor’s ministry. “God gave… pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints and the building up of the body” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
It is biblical. Though you may not find the term “Sunday School” in the Bible, the ministry of the Sunday School is there. The apostle Paul encouraged his protégé Timothy to teach “… faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
In this insert, you will find more than 220 churches and pastors that have committed to: make their Sunday School or small group organizations their church’s primary strategy; to start 665 new groups; and to equip their leaders. Your church can join the ReConnect Sunday School initiative by calling 405.942.3000 ext 4656 or online at bgco.org/sundayschool.
Master list of Church committed to ReConnect
To download a PDF version of the list of committed churches click here.
What do I expect from ReConnect?
>> by Mike Tompkins, Director of Mission, Comanche-Cotton Baptist Association
It started with a visit to the doctor. I had been feeling ill but did not know the reason why. A visit to the doctor solved that problem and created another one. Looking over the top of his computer he announced, “Your kidneys are only functioning at 36 percent.” Startled, I questioned the Doctor. “Am I going to live or die?” His answer: “Come back in a week and I will tell you.” Following a radical shift in diet and exercise I am pleased to report that my kidney function is now normal. That would not be the case had there not been a change. My return to health depended upon a renewed commitment to activities that result in a healthier, robust life.
As Oklahoma Baptists, we have seen the population of our beloved state increase while the attendance, participation, and baptisms in our churches have decreased. To address this unhealthy situation, our state has begun an aggressive new initiative to reach the lost and un-churched. It is called ReConnect Sunday School. I believe it will encourage and help our members have a closer walk with Jesus, share the Gospel more freely with our friends and neighbors, and strengthen our churches. As a Director of Missions, I have great expectations for our new state-wide strategy.
I am convinced that ReConnect is our wake-up call…our opportunity to see and respond to our current reality. Our response must be…dissatisfaction but not despair! Our church culture must change from apathy to passion, from being self-centered to being soul sensitive and prospect conscious. We must become proactive in acquiring a vision from God, being captured by that vision, and exercising wisdom in carrying out and casting that vision among our churches.
I believe ReConnect will move us forward into a situation where the Gospel is proclaimed, souls are being saved, and disciples are being made in great numbers. In my opinion, Sunday School and small groups is the best strategy our churches have to accomplish the Great Commission because it engages and puts lay people at the forefront of ministry and missions.
With its emphasis on encouraging churches to adopt Sunday School as their primary strategy to connect people to Jesus, Truth, Community and Mission; ReConnect will sharpen our focus. ReConnect is counter-cultural to the many theories of church growth and evangelism that we hear about today. Big events have their place, but when it comes to the everyday mission of the church, Sunday School and small groups are the most effective strategy.
As a Director of Missions, I am in daily contact with pastors, staff, deacons and lay people. Almost everyone I see wants to see their church impact their community with the Gospel. I believe that our best chance of accomplishing the Great Commission is connecting people to Christ through a small group, Sunday School strategy that has the Gospel at its heart. My prayer is that as our churches conduct their annual health check-ups this fall, we will step forward into the challenge the Lord has given us to reach the state of Oklahoma with the Gospel. I believe that ReConnect Sunday School is the strategy to lead us forward into a healthy future!
Even in Western Oklahoma
>> by Chris Doyle, Associate Editor, Baptist Messenger
It could be a common speculation of rural churches that it takes a large metropolitan area to make a church’s Sunday School program grow. There is proof in Western Oklahoma that would make this theory false.
Pastor Darrell Moore decided to start a Sunday School class for men ages 55 or better. He noticed there were many Durham Church members in this stage of life who were attending worship services but were not involved in any Sunday morning fellowship groups.
In January, he started a class, which meets every Sunday at 10 a.m. It is usually the same six men who will be there, but even in the eight months of meeting together, Moore can see progress. They were reluctant to participate at first, but now they have invested themselves into the class.
“Most of these men live quite a distance from everything,” said Moore, who became Durham’s pastor five years ago, when the church averaged 12-15 adults in Sunday School. “One of them has been baptized since the class started. If they are not able to be there, they will call ahead of time to let me know.”
The men’s class meets outside on “the patio,” Moore said, unless it’s bad weather. “Everyone was surprised at how well it has gone. I convinced them if they start new classes they’d get people to come.”
Durham now has three adult classes, which combined runs attendance in the low 40s every Sunday. Moore’s wife Rae teaches a young couples class.
Even in the short time that Moore’s class has existed, one of the class members has already stepped out and started to be involved in a children’s Sunday School class. Moore said he hopes the church will start more classes at all age levels and life stages. Currently they have one class that covers all six grades. They also have one preschool class and need to start another one.
With the resurgence of Sunday School at Durham comes the growth of other ministries. Moore said church members are now reaching out to serve truck drivers who come through their small community. Seeing 18-wheelers pass through town is a common sight every day, including Sunday, so the convenience store owner allows Durham Church to serve Sunday breakfast to truckers in the store parking lot.
Moore also said the church has a ministry with oilfield employees. So far they have passed out 10 cases of Oil Patch Bibles.
“We have come to realize that we can start classes just like city churches,” Moore said. “Just be consistent every week, and you will be surprised at how people will respond. I just wanted our church to do more in our community.”
And it happened through starting a Sunday School class in a Western Oklahoma church.