From “Red Carpet Country” in the Northwest and Panhandle to “Green Country” in the Northeast, and from “Kiamichi Country” in the Southeast to “Great Plains Country” in the Southwest, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s (BGCO) ”ReConnect Sunday School Task Force” has covered every area of the state on its recent 60-day “Road Trip.”
The series of events provided information, encouragement and a challenge to Oklahoma churches to participate in the BGCO’s new Sunday School initiative.
“Beginning last summer, we conducted a series of ‘listening sessions’ with Directors of Missions from Oklahoma associations,” said Bob Mayfield, Sunday School/adult discipleship specialist. “This road trip was an important extension of this massive effort to re-engage with Sunday School and small groups to share the Gospel and reach our communities.”
In the fall 2012, the eight regional listening sessions were attended by more than 100 pastors. In response to the listening sessions, the BGCO ReConnect Task Force recommended an ongoing strategy that will develop over the next five years.
“The ReConnect Road Trip began on March 7 in Kay Association in Ponca City as the first step in sharing specific plans for the new initiative with Oklahoma churches,” said Mayfield. “Since that time, Task Force members have been to 24 associations. They completed the Road Trip at a bilingual presentation at Guymon, First on May 7.”
According to Mayfield, nearly 200 Oklahoma churches have committed to be on the leading edge of the new initiative “to impact lostness and make disciples across the state.”
Participants at the Road Trip rallies heard about Oklahoma’s unique definition of Sunday School: “Sunday School (small groups) is the church’s primary strategy to connect people to Jesus, His Truth, His community and His mission.”
Attendees discovered some specific applications to each of the “four connections” in the Oklahoma Sunday School definition. Artie Hudson, pastor of Pawhuska, Calvary, commented, “The Road Trip Rally in Dewey stirred my heart, and I have a new resolve to align our church’s ministries and events with our Sunday School.”
“At the conclusion of each rally, pastors were asked to make a commitment to three specific actions to help strengthen their Sunday School and make disciples,” said Mayfield.
“Pastors were asked to commit to Sunday School as their church’s primary strategy. Sunday school does not have to be your church’s only strategy, but it should be the primary strategy. Too many churches have a cafeteria approach to ministry instead of a specific menu with Sunday School as the main course. As a result, ministries begin to compete, rather than complement each other.”
Mayfield added, “Pastors play a key role. People follow the actions of their leaders, so we encourage pastors to champion, join, and participate in a Sunday School group.”
Churches also were asked to make a commitment to start new small groups within their congregations.
“Each new group begun by a church reaches about 10 new people,” said Mayfield. “New groups create new opportunities for new people to connect with Christ and with the church.”
Cameron Whaley, pastor at Yukon, Canadian Valley, said, “Starting new groups in our church is a vital way to grow and connect to new people. At the rally, we committed to start two new groups this year.”
Chris Wall, pastor of Owasso, First said, “I am grateful for the ReConnect challenge because it is in small groups that our people find both the challenge and encouragement to stay connected to the Lord and our church. At FBC Owasso, we are striving to start 15 new groups this year.”
The Task Force’s final component related to the ReConnect Initiative is to equip Sunday School or small group leaders.
“According to Eph. 4:11-12, one of the primary roles of the pastor is to equip and train the saints for the work of the ministry and to build up the body,” Mayfield said. “We see this illustrated in 2 Tim. 2:2, where Paul instructs Timothy to teach faithful men who will then teach others. This verse is an example of the role of pastoral equipping and how it applies to Sunday School.”
To assist local churches and to equip their leaders, ReConnect Sunday School offers training in three ways. Churches or associations may request an on-site training clinic for their leaders, and they may also obtain video training. As a final option, the BGCO has made an agreement with LifeWay Christian Resources to offer the “Ministry Grid,” a new online course resource for Sunday School leaders.
“We have been looking for a challenge and ReConnect is it,” said Comanche-Cotton Director of Missions Mike Tompkins. “As a DOM, it is exciting to hear our churches talking about starting new groups and reaching their neighborhoods with the Gospel.”
For more information about Oklahoma’s ReConnect Sunday School initiative, go to www.bgco.org/reconnectss.