How to Grow your Sunday School
(with 3 ideas to help you plan ahead...)
"Put your hands in the air!" Jane yelled. "We're going to do a scavenger hunt!"
The children looked at her curiously, and Gerald raised an eyebrow as he leaned against the wall of their classroom. "What are we looking for?" A little girl with some blonde curls asked before putting her hand down.
"You'll figure it out."
But Jane hadn't quite figured it out yet either ...
Gerald and Jane were so excited to teach in the Sunday school that week! Gerald loved teaching Bible stories, while Jane always had fun with crafts. But when they got to church the next Sunday after the scavenger hunt, there was no one in their class! What could have gone wrong?
Sunday school is a great place for kids to learn how to live a Christian life and make lasting friendships. They get to hear stories from God's Word, do crafts, play games, and eat snacks. But what about all those other things? ARE there other things? What about teaching our kids how to pray or read the Bible on their own? And what if they're not believers yet? How can we help them grow in their faith so that Sunday school becomes more than just an hour of sitting still and colouring for little ones? Are we responsible for all of that? Well, sure! We all are. And if teachers take some time to plan ahead before inviting their children into Sunday school, it will be much more effective.
Planning for Sunday school can be (but doesn't have to be) a difficult task. There are so many things to consider! For example, what to teach, how much time should you spend on each lesson, or what will the kids enjoy. This blog post will get you started with some suggestions for planning ahead of your next lesson. Planning is one of the most critical aspects of Sunday school. It can make or break that lesson! Planning saves time and helps us be creative with our classes and stay fresh in ministry.
Sunday school has been slow to grow in the past few years, and it's not due simply because of a lack of leadership or even quarantine. Churches need more vision and planning for growth in Sunday School to see new opportunities arise while reaching out to our young ones. So here are some ideas!
Every year, a SUNDAY SCHOOL GROWTH PLANNING RETREAT could be held to prepare for the future. A team of leaders and teachers can use this time to identify their needs and dreams while evaluating how far they have come in one year. Goals need to be set as well so that everyone stays on track throughout the upcoming school years.
At this retreat, you can start with goals and plans for the upcoming year, have activities and worship and brainstorming sessions, and wrap it up with a prayerful calendaring session where everyone shares their input. There will be assignments based on your shared calendar information after this meeting (even if the retreat is one day at the church building!). This information can range from quarter themes, developing lesson plans, assisting with fundraising events, leading children in biblical education activities.
Invite at least one elder to this retreat! SHARING THE VISION, GOALS, & PROGRESS WITH YOUR CHURCH LEADERSHIP helps maintain attention and keep the momentum going. It is essential to communicate with church leaders the plans for Sunday school for elementary-aged children because it helps them understand what you are planning and allows their input, which can be very valuable.
There are many reasons why it is important to share the plans for Sunday school for elementary-aged children with church leaders. First of all, because of their experience with the church body as a whole, they can help you brainstorm lessons and classes that best fit those kids' needs. Also, think about any specific concerns or questions about what should be taught in class during a particular period.
These discussions will allow them to analyse these issues directly with you instead of having parents contact their child's teacher individually without confirmation from anyone else at the leadership level within the church organisation as a whole. In addition, sharing plans and ideas with leaders also provides an opportunity to form better relationships between the different age groups in your church.
Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail;
take good counsel and watch them succeed.
Proverbs 15:22, MSG
Moving forward with what is decided at this retreat, a MONTHLY PLANNING MEETING will be a time to "check-in" and hold each other accountable for progress, review goals, and make adjustments as needed. Regularly set these monthly meetings so everyone will report on their progress, adjust plans as needed, and take ownership TOGETHER of the outcome. (PSST! Invite an elder!)
You can discuss what everyone is working on and who owns it. It is also an excellent time to look at your tangible goals to see if they are still even relevant or necessary (since we already know the spiritual goals certainly are!). Holding these monthly planning meetings where progress is reported, plans are reviewed and adjusted will create a more manageable (and fun!) Sunday school environment.
Planning and staying on track with your goals are imperative to the success of Sunday school. When you have a plan, it's easier for everyone involved in the process to stay organised and focused on what matters most-- our students' relationship with Jesus!
Creating time for planning with leadership and your teaching team is essential. It can also help your church financially by allowing us more creative license with teaching classes or developing new curriculum resources that will be successful over time.
First plant your fields;
then build your barn.
Proverbs 24:27, MSG
And remember Gerald and Jane? Their Sunday school class was not just the worst in their church; it was the worst for miles around. They had no idea what they were doing when they became teachers five years ago, but that never bothered them before. Then they went on their own "scavenger hunt" and spent two days together with a whole slew of teachers, brainstorming ideas for new lessons and activities that will engage children again. One month after Gerald and Jane returned home after the Sunday School Planning Retreat, LOTS of kids waited outside Sunday school, ready to come into their class! The following week the kids were bringing their friends to class!
That simple planning retreat went better than they could have imagined! The entire team shared excellent ideas on making it more engaging without being overwhelming, and everyone had a blast. After much prayer, praise, & planning, they returned wholly empowered by the Holy Spirit to do what God called them to do.
Just for fun. How about a plain ol' meeting over a retreat?
This short video will make you laugh, nod a little, and very glad you're not in that meeting! ;)
I hope this article has helped explain why planning is critical to keep Sunday School running smoothly and plan, plan, plan -- but make even planning SO fun your team can't wait to run home and get ready for their next class! If you're looking for some help getting started, check out these excellent tools from The Scripture Scout's Supercharged Sunday School, specifically The Leadership Retreat Plan for Sunday School Teachers!