Church members across Oklahoma experienced a recharge of the Sunday School or small group ministry. Throughout the month of August, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), in partnership with associations and local churches, provided 15 regional clinics and drew approximately 5,000 small group leaders to be a part of the ReConnect Sunday School Initiative.
Bob Mayfield, who serves as the BGCO ReConnect Sunday School point person, was pleased with the turnout this year, well exceeding last year’s attendance with the addition of seven more regional clinics.
“Everybody has responded positively,” said Mayfield who shared there were many churches that did not attend the clinics, but used the ReConnect Sunday School material to have their own training sessions. “We redesigned (the clinics) a little bit this year and put extra emphasis on every single breakout session.”
Each clinic offered sessions specifically for pastors, Sunday School directors, and small group leaders for adults, students, grade school and preschool. Regional clinics were offered in Atoka, Elk City, Moore, Kingfisher, Lawton, Grove, Claremore, Poteau, Hooker, Ardmore and Ponca City.
Four churches in the Tulsa area offered ReConnect Sunday School clinics on the same day, Aug. 30, including Jenks, First; Sand Springs, Olivet; Tulsa, Memorial; and Owasso, Central. Mayfield said this arrangement produced a greater number of small group leaders in Tulsa area churches from approximately 100 last year to 472 this year.
Though this is the third year to offer ReConnect Sunday School clinics, Mayfield said the clinics offer different experiences each year. “We do different materials, different topics, so it’s new every year,” he said.
One feature Mayfield said was a “huge hit” during the sessions was the presentation of six teaching methods every leader should know. What made this a popular experience was the participatory element, as those in attendance experienced what the teaching methods were like. One method in particular was the “storytelling method.”
“If you’ve been going to Sunday School a long time, there are central Bible stories or passages you’ve become very familiar with,” Mayfield said. “So sometimes when we’re doing a Sunday School lesson and looking at a Bible passage everybody knows, folks tend to check out a little bit.”
In a ReConnect Sunday School clinic session, attendees got to experience an example of storytelling, but, as Mayfield said, some elements of the popular story were intentionally left out, and some were intentionally added.
“That’s how you lead off the lesson, and then ask ‘What did you learn about the story?’” he said. “They start to recall how it was different from what they remember, and then they are drawn to look in the Bible themselves to read how it was actually told. They have a new appreciation for the story, and they learn to identify with characters in the story.”
Another element that attendees learn is how important Sunday School or small group ministry needs to be emphasized in other areas of the church, especially at church special events.
“We are trying to help people understand they need to flip the direction,” said Mayfield. “What happens in many churches is the events are driving what goes on in the church. Instead of the events being a help or a program to reach the community, what we need to do is make that path from an event to a Sunday School class as clear and easy as possible. So somebody shows up to an event, like the men’s fish fry, their next step is getting into a Sunday School class, not come back next March to the wild game dinner.”
ReConnect Sunday School is beginning to promote a new evangelistic emphasis called “ConnectOne.” Mayfield said this will help Sunday School small groups to add witnessing to the focus on providing Bible study and strengthening the fellowship and support of class members.
“When we do a Sunday School clinic anywhere, we don’t need to convince teachers to teach the Bible. That’s a given,” said Mayfield. “We don’t have a problem convincing them to minister and fellowship and take care of their members. The truth part and the community part of our definition most Sunday School classes understand. Our problem is evangelism. Most church members have a problem of being engaged in evangelism. That’s why we are putting on the ConnectOne emphasis, and we are asking churches to mobilize their Sunday School to develop soul winners.”
Stay tuned for more information about the ConnectOne emphasis through the ReConnect Sunday School initiative.