OK, you want to have a great Sunday School class or home group right? You want a group where people share, study God’s Word, bring their friends and experience transformation. If this is the kind of group you want, there are some things you must avoid. Here are 12 common mistakes of being a Sunday School or small group leader.
Mistake #1—Arriving late. I know you must be thinking, “Bob’s kidding me right? I mean, the first mistake is arriving late?” Yes it is. Other than not preparing any Bible study at all, arriving late is a leading cause of apathy for your group. Think about it, other than not showing up at all, nothing says “I don’t care” more than showing up late.
Mistake #2—Being unprepared. You need a plan when your group meets. Allow time for fellowship, prayer requests, prayer, announcements and Bible study. Organize your Bible study so that you are leading people into an experience with God’s Word. I carry a journal with me when I lead a group that has the order of what I’m going to do in addition to the notes I’ve made for leading the Bible study.
Mistake #3—Failing to call a hurting class member. When you hear of a group member who is having difficulty, don’t hesitate—call them! The window to minister to them later is kept open by contacting them as soon as possible. The window of ministry is closing the longer you delay. Not only is the window of ministry closing, but the group member is wondering if all that talk about “community” and “belonging” was really just that—a bunch of talk.
Mistake #4—No Bible in your Bible study. Ultimately, we need to remember that we need to lead our people to interact with God’s Word, not our opinion of the lesson or a pithy statement we read somewhere. Avoid using the Bible as a companion piece! The Bible is the focus of the group. Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is the judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”
Mistake #5—Failure to delegate. You probably have people in your group who account for millions of dollars at work; who make life and death decisions on our streets; and who teach precious young minds 40 hours/week. I think they can organize and run a potluck and some kind of prayer chain! They just need you to give up control.
Mistake #6—Missing leadership meetings. Most of us reading this article probably think that Sunday School or small groups is the most important organization of the local church. If true, you can’t afford to miss leadership meetings! OK, so your director may not be the best. None of us has a lock on perfection! I’ve found that when leaders are willing to engage, the better the meeting gets. If your leadership meetings are lacking some pizzazz, ask some thought provoking questions. A simple “Have we ever thought about doing . . . .?” will get people involved and working together. To rephrase John Donne, your group is not an island. Every class or group needs to be involved and informed on the greater purpose of the church.
Mistake #7—Failure to plan fellowships. My friend, David Francis, says Sunday School occurs in “social space.” For many people, a Sunday School or small group is the place where many people interact with each other. At the last two fellowships of the group I attend, I discovered one couple who were going through a similar family experience as my family. At the second fellowship, we paused for prayer when we discovered a group member who was burdened for a child in her school. Fellowships provide a relaxed atmosphere that allows people to share.
Mistake #8—Not following up on guests. I have discovered that this mistake is common everywhere. At a recent meeting of my peers, a leader shared his frustration. His family had moved to a new city and visited several churches. They filled out all the forms. Months later—not one contact from a single church. We are letting thousands of people, many of them lost, slip through our fingers because we are too lazy to make a couple of phone calls a week!
Mistake #9—No nametags! Every person in your group, including the teacher, should wear a nametag every week! You may know everyone in your group and think you don’t need nametags. That is not the point! You wear nametags because you EXPECT guests every week and you want to help them feel comfortable. It is embarrassing to talk to someone when you can’t remember their name.
Mistake #10—Hoarding your people. First, they’re not your people, they are God’s people. He created them for a purpose, and I doubt that purpose was to sit in your group for the rest of their life. The greatest compliment a teacher can receive is when people leave the group to serve elsewhere. You’ve done your job! You’ve helped make a disciple. Be counter-cultural—encourage your people to leave!
Mistake #11—Failure to launch. OK, you knew that this was coming. Your group needs to start a new group. Period. Groups that start new groups understand their mission. New groups create new places for people to serve. New leaders are needed. Your group is reproducing itself. Any organism that does not reproduce means the end of the species. Take a look at the zenith of your church and where your church is now. How many groups did your church have in its heyday? My guess is that it had more groups then than it does now. As the group leader, you are the most important person when it comes to starting a new group. Don’t procrastinate, get a new group started.
Mistake #12—Satisfaction. It is that simple. When a group gets satisfied, it is on an icy, slippery slope to nowhere. Basically, when a group becomes satisfied, it has lost its purpose. The group has forgotten its mission. Your group’s mission is to make disciples, not grow old together. An indicator of whether your group is satisfied or not is this: How many people in your group were baptized this past year? A second indicator: How many of the group’s prayer requests are about themselves, and how many requests are for lost people, witnessing opportunities and unreached people groups?
(Editor’s Note: This column is a combination of two entries on Mayfield’s blog at www.bobmayfield.com.)
Bob Mayfield is Sunday School and adult discipleship specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.