“Going Back to School” part 3
I don’t know about anyone else, but I love learning about history. I’m not a history buff, but I do love learning about the past because it can teach us how we can build a better future. Sadly, many believers have no clue about their Christian heritage, which in my opinion, creates more problems than solutions. So I thought I would take this time to give a brief history about the Sunday school phenomenon that took place in the early 1900’s. Now as a disclaimer, Arthur Flake, the man I’m writing about, was Baptist and did his work through LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the largest distributors of resources for Baptist. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Arthur’s work in Sunday school had an impact on other denominations. So if your background does not come from a Baptist denomination, but if you’re interested in Sunday school, please keep an open mind. Furthermore, the strategies I’m writing about will also work with any small group ministry.
Arthur Flake became the first leader of the Sunday School Department at the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) in 1920[ref]
David Francis, “Five Step Formula for Sunday School Growth,”3. If you Google this title and write pdf at the end, a free downloadable copy you can print off will come up. This pdf will go into a lot more detail than I will.[/ref]. However, before Arthur Flake became the leader of the Sunday School Board, he was a successful department store business man, who loved Christ. Flake developed five strategies during his time as a businessman, which brought him great success in the department store industry, so he decided he would try these strategies in a church setting (and you thought using secular leadership strategies in the church was a new thing), through the Sunday school department. Well sure enough, his church grew dramatically while he was their Sunday School Director, which caught the eye of the Baptist Sunday School Board, who ended up hiring him.
During his time at the Baptist Sunday School Board, Arthur wrote several books on Sunday school; however, his five strategies were never explicitly laid it out, but they were always his main points when he spoke about Sunday school[ref] Francis, 3.[/ref]. So here are Arthur’s five strategies, which have been coined as “Flake’s Formula.”
1. Know the possibilities. Who do you want to come to your church? Everyone of course! But that task can get overwhelming pretty quick, so maybe the possibility is the neighborhood around your church, or even a local school in your area. Think geographically! In the end, the possibilities are endless, but narrow them down and ask God to open doors for you to reach these people!
2. Enlarge the organization. If you want new people to come to your church, you’re going to have to give them a Sunday school class to come too. So what does this mean for you? If you have a Sunday school class that averages 10 to 12 students, then you’ll need to make a new class from that group, so there will be room for new people to come.
3. Provide space and equipment. Your new Sunday school classes are going to need a place to meet, so you’re going to have to make space for them. Churches are notorious for having empty rooms that never get used, except for storage. So you now have my permission to throw out all the junk occupying that space, so you can have a new Sunday school class! Furthermore, make sure you provide all the resources that are needed to have a successful Sunday school class!
4. Enlist and train the workers. Your new Sunday school classes are going to need teachers, and you’re going to need to find them. Furthermore, these teachers are going to need to be trained too. Never wait to find a teacher until you need one. The best thing you can do is enlist and train your teacher before you need them, so they’re ready to go when you start a brand new class!
5. Go after the people. Now that you have determined who you’re going to reach, made space for them to come, and trained teachers to lead them, it’s time for you to go get them! However you want to reach these new people is up to you, but make sure to use your Sunday school classes as the way you reach them. Sunday school was intended to be evangelistic, so if you’re not using them as your way to connect new people to your church, you’ve basically wasted all of your time getting your classes ready. Don’t waste your time!
In the end, when I discovered all of this, I was shocked. I have been a part of Sunday school as a child, youth, and young adult and no one ever told me any of this. And sadly, many ministers are clueless about why we even have Sunday school or about Flake’s formula. This information is not meant for you alone. Share it with everyone who participates in Sunday school, so all of you can be on the same page and work together towards the same goal!