We have said that Sunday School (and all of the small group Bible studies that are in its orbit) is foundational to the health and future of any church.
Sunday School is the foundational strategy in the local church for leading people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for building Great Commission Christians through Bible study groups that engage people in evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship.
Let's pick out those five strategies and learn more about them.
Sunday School as an Evangelism Strategy
1. Sunday School emphasizes ongoing, open Bible study groups that reproduce new groups as the best long-term approach for building a ministry environment that A. encourages unsaved people to come to faith in Christ, B. assimilates new believers into the life of the church, and C. encourages believers to lead others to Christ.
2. Sunday School provides the most efficient churchwide evangelism training network to equip members to become passionate soul-winners.
3. Sunday School encourages participation in short-term Bible study groups and through special Bible teaching events (such as VBS) as effective ways to promote outreach and evangelism and to address specific life concerns, spiritual issues, church functions, and doctrinal issues.
4. Sunday School creates a great center for missionary power as people tell and live the wondrous story of Christ’s redeeming love.
Diagnostic Questions for Your Group
Does my class pray for lost people to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Does my class actively work to enroll lost people as class members?
Do my class members actively seek out prospects to invite to class?
Does my class seek out ways to help my church reach out to unchurched and undiscipled people?
Do I teach the Bible for evangelistic results?
Do I organize and train class members in personal evangelism?
Is my class looking into training new teachers who can lead new Sunday School classes?
Is there sufficient room for new people in my class? Are visitors welcome? Can an unchurched guest come into my class and understand what we are doing?
Simple Tips to Make It Happen
In addition to using those diagnostic questions as a checklist. These simple points will help guide you the right direction.
Your classroom must have sufficient space and configuration for visitors such that they will feel comfortable and accepted. Whether you sit in a circle or rows, you need to make sure that there are seats available where a latecomer won't have to cross the entire room. Also, anyone sitting next to an empty seat must be welcoming and personable with guests.
Your class members must be welcoming of visitors. Introduce yourself; learn names. When talking about topics or events, give enough of a background for a guest to be able to follow along. Include guests in conversation; don't wall off someone. Perhaps consider using nametags.
In fact, your priority is the lost, not church members! When given the choice between talking to a guest and a church member, you should focus on the guest. Everyone in your group needs to develop that mindset. We have plenty of other opportunities to talk to our friends later!
Your teaching method must be open—unchurched visitors must be able to come in any time during the year, understand what you are doing and saying, and feel like the lesson has meaning for them.
Be unapologetic and open about your group’s purpose: your class exists to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. You don’t have to hide that!
Celebrate victories when lost people become Christians. Nothing will motivate your class more than seeing a lost person saved. You won’t have to remind anyone about being evangelistic at that point!
Encourage your class members to invite lost friends and acquaintances to group meetings, and schedule events and activities outside of Sunday morning to invite those people.
Most importantly, your group must be looking to duplicate itself. Once a class reaches a certain size, it is less effective as an evangelistic tool; it must be willing to create new groups that will actively reach out to more unchurched people so that your church continues to grow.
What Does It Mean to "Teach Evangelistically?"
I have shared these before, and I will share them again. Teaching evangelistically starts with understanding these basic principles:
Lost people can study the Bible. God’s Word is intelligent and intelligible. Lost people do not have the blessing of the Holy Spirit guiding them into divine understanding of truth, but they can ask challenging questions (and expect real answers), and they can give their perspective on any discussion. As a leader, your job is to include them in discussion and consider their input very valuable, but give the ‘final word’ of any discussion to the Bible.
Relationships are most critical. James notes for his readers that telling someone to be warm and well-fed but doing nothing to meet his need is not what God wants us to do (James 2:14-17). Faith produces good works. The same is true of teaching. If a lost person sees you as a teacher, but not a leader or friend, your lessons will not be well-received. Taking the time to build relationships with all class members—lost and saved—goes a long way toward effective Sunday School leadership.
Integrity is essential. Lost people know when you don’t believe your lesson, or when you do not practice what you preach. Integrity does not mean being perfect. Be real and honest. Let a lost person know your own struggles and challenges; it makes the Christian life more real and more believable. And it also helps a lost person know that you are not selling something, but inviting him or her to join you on a lifechanging journey to Jesus.
Relevance makes a difference. We can expect growing Christians to realize the infinite value of every page of the Bible, but not so for a lost person. You must teach in such a way that everyone in your Bible study group can see and understand the implications for his or her daily life. This is tough because you have to balance the desire of some to ‘go deeper’ (which is often code for ‘teach me something that doesn’t change my living habits’) with the need for everyone to get the basic truth and meaning of a biblical passage. You can do it! Every bit of biblical content or knowledge has real and meaningful application; sometimes you have look harder than others.
To make a long story short, teaching evangelistically basically means that you prepare each Bible study to speak to both lost people and saved people. Work the gospel message into each lesson.