Sunday school is one of the best places to begin building community in your church, but often Sunday school consists of star teachers—and few people end up in leadership as a result. This is the story of how one church moved from a soloist (the rock-star Sunday school teacher) mentality to a choir (a host of people providing leadership) philosophy of Sunday school ministry.
At Glen Ellyn Covenant Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, the vision and planning team decided that one of the first steps in implementing a new church vision was through the adult Sunday school program. For 12 weeks this fall, the entire adult Sunday school met in the church gym to watch the Doing Life Together DVD Teaching Series. Following the 20-minute DVD teaching clip, circled their chairs, people divided up into groups of 8 to 10, and then discussed the questions from the Doing Life Together study guides.
The vision and planning team recruited three sets of moderators (three couples), who opened the Sunday school time with prayer and announcements and Scripture reading. They recruited three sets because they knew that out of 12 weeks, one set of moderators would, likely, burn out; it's difficult for anyone to provide leadership for 12 straight weeks.
After the introduction, which included reading the Scripture passage provided by the curriculum and DVD, the moderators transitioned into the DVD teaching clip. Each lesson was visually interesting and the speakers were outstanding.
After the DVD teaching time, the moderators asked all the "fenceposts" to stand up. Twenty-five fenceposts—or discussion guides—had been recruited to lead the discussions following the teaching. So, people circled their chairs around each fencepost, who then led the group in follow-up discussions. They also recruited more fenceposts each week than were needed, because, again, they knew that few would make all 12 Sundays. They wanted to spread out the work.
What happened was amazing—instead of Sunday school starting off with 140 people and ending up with 70 or 80 at the end of the fall, attendance stayed high the entire time. Instead of one Sunday school class being led by one or two teachers, more than 30 people were involved in some kind of leadership—as a fencepost, as a moderator, or as a hospitality (food) coordinator. The 15-minute time at the beginning of Sunday school for coffee and snacks (fruit, coffee cake, etc.) proved just as valuable as the content portion!
The fall program gave the church a new vision for how Sunday school can support the larger issue of spiritual formation and life change. Their purpose was to "do life together" as a congregation this fall, and the Sunday school portion was fully integrated in accomplishing what they set out to do.