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Sunday School Training Schedules

Ok it's one hour before your next Sunday school leader meeting...the clock is ticking and you are in your office thinking through what you are going to say to all these leaders.  You have laid out the vision, you have given them their teaching resources, and you find yourself struggling about what to talk about next.

As I have learned Sunday school is what it is going to be.  This means that we can dress it up any way that we want but when it comes down to the essentials, the same principles apply across the board from one place to the next.  That reminds me of when Henry Ford was asked what color someone could receive the Model-T car in and his response was simply, "you can have any color you want as long as its black!"  What I believe he was speaking of in this was how the color shouldn't matter, the main things were the main things and those were to be the same.

I truly believe that if we are going to have healthy, growing Sunday school programs we need to be intentional about training.  I understand that when someone is new they want to pour out their vision and make sure that everyone understands what is expected.  It can be at first the fire hose way of training.  I am going to put it all out there and then just let people catch what they can.  This can be very dangerous though in how it is received (water from a fire hose hurts) as well as how it is given (you can damage people in their service instead of helping them).

By having an intentional training schedule for Sunday school this helps you as a leader to address the specific needs of the Sunday school context while also setting the expectations for the group over a longer period of time.  In a way, Sunday school training is the Ministers of Education or Sunday School director's job security (sarcasm implied), in that it gives you a way to stay focused leaders, which is one our main roles.

How can this look?

1. Have a set time for training.  People know that Sunday school leadership meetings are going to happen in the 4th week of the month.  Unless a major church event overrides this time, this is when we set them, so that our leaders can plan out their months.  We also use a duplicate meeting system, meaning that we offer the same meeting on Sunday afternoons that we would offer on Wednesday mornings.  Our morning church schedule recently changed to where we have one worship service bracketed by two Sunday school hours before and after.  I plan on using these times for teachers to receive training as well.  Whatever we have to do to get as many people there, this is what we need to be prepared to offer and having that set time helps in that process.

2.Have balance in your training.  If we are going to have a balanced intentionality in our Sunday school meaning that we practice outreach, ministry, fellowship, and teaching at all the same levels, then this needs to be reflective in our training as well.  We have allowed in the church the "mini-pastor" role to arise as Sunday school teachers.  This means that we have relied so heavily on the past for all information to be disseminated through the Sunday school teacher, that in essence we are treating them as mini-pastors.  How I have seen some classes set up as well and their size, it is easy to see how some of these classes act as mini-congregations.  This is not the intention of Sunday school, especially if you are desiring to have a Great Commission focused Sunday school that needs to make new units.  They will treat the leadership as wolves coming in to attack the fellowship of the mini-congregation if you propose starting a new class.  If you have a balance in your training, then you are lessening the role of the teacher as being a mini-pastor and encouraging leadership to happen across the board.  It does not lessen their responsibility to teach and prepare dynamic lessons, it does however liberate them to know that the demands of teaching rests solely on teaching God's Word!  There are months where we need to not have teachers attend the leadership meetings, but we need to have only the outreach leaders attend.  This way they can receive focused teaching and leadership lessons that will help them to exercise their role in the Sunday school structure.  Whatever your structure is, let it be reflected in your training.

3. Be dynamic in your training.  It may cost you a little bit extra, but if at all possible feed the people.  Even if its cookies and apple cider at Christmas.  Anything is better than nothing.  When you speak though, be dynamic in what is presented and be excited.  Do not look at training as being something to only do, remember its a part of leading people through discipleship to grow more into the image of Christ.  This is a direct impact that you have as a leader in Sunday school and you can truly make a difference in the Christian walk of a leader, which I believe will overflow to their Sunday school classes.

4. Always have open training.  Sunday school isn't to be a secret meeting where backroom talk occurs or where people think that it takes a ritual to enter in.  The more open that you are in allowing anyone to come in and participate, the more doors that you are opening for leadership development.  Oh how I would I could get the entire congregation to come to one of the training sessions we would offer!  Could you imagine the difference it would make!  This is why when it is training Sunday, I always stand up and make the offer, " Sunday school leaders, don't forget about our training this evening, but for those of you that desire to learn more about Sunday school or desire to grow as leaders, please come and participate."  I can't say that I have had an increased of 1000% in my meetings, but it is always refreshing to see people come that are not the teachers.  They will become better Sunday school members and participants through their simple interaction in our training meetings.

By simply having a training schedule, you will begin to see the benefits as it requires you to take your time on giving information as well as being disciplined in how you are leading your organization.

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