Sunday Schools That Thrive

Adult Discipleship


Thriving Sunday Schools are those where God’s Spirit is leading members to follow Christ faithfully (discipleship), engage the world with the gospel (mission), and grow in unity and love (community). While the work of the Spirit is beyond our control, if you are a Sunday School leader your job is to create an environment where these three purposes are embraced and lived out by your groups. Answer these five questions to encourage mission, discipleship, and community. 

What’s the point? 

Don’t assume every leader and group member knows why you do Sunday School, so tell them often and in a variety of ways.  Point out when you see discipleship, mission, or community happening in your groups. Sunday Schools that thrive connect group life to the biblical purposes of the church. (See Acts 2:42-47 for examples.)

What do you want me to do? 

As leaders we sometimes feel we need (or want) to do as much as we can for others. When this translates to one or two leaders doing most of the teaching, planning, calling, inviting, greeting, attendance checking, food delivering, etc., those leaders risk burnout and unintentionally stand in the way of discipleship, mission, and community. The leader’s role is to equip others for ministry, not do it all themselves. This year’s Discipleship Collective events will help Sunday School leaders engage others in mission, discipleship, and community. We hope to see you there.

How’s it going? 

Evaluate regularly with group leaders and wise observers. Be honest about areas of growth and areas of need in your groups without beating yourself (or others) up over the latter. Groups don’t change dramatically overnight.  Success for the leader is faithfulness over time to God’s calling. Sometimes that faithfulness requires change, patience, or both. But it always requires attentiveness to the Spirit of God, who brings about the results. 

Are we balanced? 

What’s your favorite—discipleship, mission, or community? Most Sunday School groups probably tend to emphasize one of these over the others. However, all three are present in groups that thrive. Talk with your group about which one(s) come easiest and which need some extra focus. Calendar an activity or event to strengthen those purposes that take more effort. You may discover group members who are passionate about the ones you are not. Invite them to lead in those areas.  

Is it fun yet? 

What makes you smile about your work in Sunday School? Step back often to see and celebrate God’s work through you and others in your Sunday School. Reflect on why you serve and how God has blessed you. People like to follow a leader whose life is marked by joy and thankfulness that comes from the Lord. Be that leader. 

by David Adams, Director, Discipleship, Texas Baptists on June 12, 2024