How to Increase the Health of Your Sunday School

By Steve Gladen

6. Build spiritual accountability. Once people have identified areas in their life that need growth, have them pair up with someone who will help them by asking the question, “Did you accomplish what you set out to do?” This check up should be done as a natural part of the relationship. No set time, but the question should happen at least monthly. The Sunday school teacher and the table leader don’t need to know “what” everyone is working on, just that everyone has a “who” that is checking in with them.

7. Develop ownership. Have those who are strong in a purpose, help your class in that area. If someone is strong in the area of Fellowship, they can help keep track of birthdays and anniversaries around your table or help your class plan social events. If someone is strong in Discipleship, give them the responsibility of making sure everyone at the table (or the entire class) has created a Spiritual Health Plan and has someone in their life asking the question in number 6. Or people who are strong in the area of Discipleship may even want to help with the teaching time. See these recourses to help you build the purposes in your class (See 250 Big Ideas for Purpose Driven Small Groups and Don’t Lead Alone). Also when your class works on each area, they help individuals grow in the area they were weak. If you are weak in the area of evangelism and your class as a whole does an evangelism project, then that will help you grow.

8. Know your limits. Realize what you can do in the class time and what needs to be done outside of class hour. Generally in a Sunday school hour you can you can only do discipleship. You can do some fellowship and maybe you can take a class hour to only do worship. Here is the key, though. You can’t and shouldn’t do all the purposes in your Sunday school hour. Instead, determine what you can do during class time and have tables or a group of tables work together to do a purpose outside of class time. Release your people to develop themselves. If you keep everything in the classroom, you will suppress creativity and the Holy Spirit!

9. Think transformation, not just information. Sunday school originally started in England to teach literacy to children on Sunday because they worked in the factory Monday through Friday, sometimes through Saturday. Thus, Sunday School. Over time, biblical teaching was added and, eventually, the secular teachings were dropped as Labor laws were created and enforced and public school education became a part of life. Once you understand the roots of a movement, you can see why so much emphasis is placed on “teaching”. Teaching is not a bad thing, but just as time brought biblical education and secular education fell away, another phase needs to be added to round out the missing piece of discipleship or spiritual formation—application.

10. Don’t under-estimate the power of discussion. When you give people time for discussion, you are helping them work through the biblical teaching. Once you have set the truth, let them chew on it. Discussion gives class members the opportunity to talk through issues and create their own plan with input from others. Accountability starts to form between class members (whether they realize it or not). Your greatest challenge as a teacher is to give your class time to discuss and own the principles you have taught. I would work on a 60/40 format – 60% teaching and 40% time to apply it.

Steve Gladen

Steve Gladen is Pastor of Small Groups at Saddleback Church, which sees over 30,000 people gathering weekly in 5,000 small groups. He's the founder of and travels widely to speak on the topic of small groups and healthy, biblical community. He is the author of several books including Small Groups With Purpose and Leading Small Groups With Purpose.