During the 1990s I had the opportunity to serve two churches as the Christian Education pastor. One of my primary responsibilities at both of those churches was to lead them in the area of transitioning the medium-sized and large-sized adult Sunday school classes into small groups. One church responded with moderate success, while the other had phenomenal success and has become a teaching model for thousands of churches. I have definitely learned some things about what to do and what not to do when making this kind of transition. In this brief article I would like to share with you what some of those are in the hopes that it will be of help to those of you who are considering making this journey.
- Make sure you have the absolute support of the senior pastor and the rest of the pastoral team. Sunday schools are sacred ground in most churches. That senior pastor needs to be prepared to stand firm with you when change becomes visible and significant. If you have any doubt about this support, do not even think about making this journey without getting your resume ready.
- Go to school on churches like Flamingo Road Church (Baptist) in Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ginghamsburg Church (UMC) in Dayton, Ohio; and Church of Joy (Lutheran) in Phoenix, AZ, who have made this journey. All of these have conferences where they share their transitioning journey.
- Establish a clear vision and an initial strategy for where you want to go.
- Experiment with one existing class that will test the process before transitioning other classes. Every church has a renegade leader who will take this on. Spend a lot of time with this class. Train them well. If this class is successful, they will serve as the trailblazer for others to make this journey. As Indiana Jones' father said, "Choose wisely."