By Dr. Steve Parr
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”
It is 9:40 AM and a family drives into your parking lot to visit your church for the first time. Are they new in the community? Are they potentially great leaders seeking a congregation where they might serve? Could it be that some crisis has led them to reconnect with the church? Could it be possible that they do not know Christ but are seeking answers to spiritual needs that have been raised though a recent crisis in their lives? You never know why they are there when they first arrive, but you do know that guests provide opportunities for the congregation to minister, develop relationships, and share the good news with guests that have honored you with their presence. They begin to make their way to a Sunday School class with the assistance of a friendly member or perhaps through the ministry of an intentional welcome center. What do they find when they get to the room? The lights are out. None of the members are present yet. Uh-oh! The teacher/leader of the class is not present yet! This is embarrassing. What goes through their minds? I shudder to imagine what they are thinking if they are not believers themselves. Does this ever happen? It happened this past week. I have heard it before and experienced it before both as a staff member and as a guest in a church.
I want you to imagine that I invite you to my home on a Saturday evening for dinner and fellowship. I extend the invitation and agree that the festivities will begin at 6:30 pm. You will likely get there a little early since you have never been to my home. You might ride around the block a couple of times, but you want to be sure you arrive at the agreed upon time. That is simply good manners. When you ring the doorbell at about 6:28 there is no response. You try again, double check to be sure you are at the right address, question if this is the right day, and get somewhat confused. Do you leave? Do you wait? I drive up at 6:40 with my apologies. I was at the driving range and wanted to finish hitting a bucket of golf balls. How would you characterize my behavior and my decision? I will say it for you: RUDE. How much more so if I decided to blow off the whole evening without informing you and did not even show up?
Listen to me my dear Sunday School leaders. Why should you expect members to participate enthusiastically and guests to attend if the Sunday School ministry is of no more value than this? May I ask a question: What time would you arrive if Jesus Christ Himself were the Sunday School director? That is the time that you should arrive. Colossians 3:23 says that we should serve “as for the Lord.” The following are some basic standards that every Sunday School leader should commit to in order to avoid these types of circumstances:
1. Every teacher should enlist an assistant teacher and/or a greeter team to insure that no guest ever shows up to an empty room.
2. Enlist someone to prepare an emergency lesson that can be taught with five minutes notice to guard against your class being stranded because of personal emergencies that you might potentially encounter. This helps avoid combining classes which can be disruptive to the plans of other leaders.
3. Never announce that you are going to be absent. Your members will take it as an opportunity to take a break themselves. Make the appropriate arrangements for your absence and your substitute can share about your absence if appropriate.
4. Contact your key leader (pastor, Sunday School director, minister of education, or appropriate leader) as soon as you know that you will have to be absent.
5. Avoid multiple absences. It is understood that you will be absent occasionally for personal commitments, illness, and/or emergencies. However, being absent once every four or five weeks diminishes your leadership with your class.
6. Remember that your leadership is critical. You are a key leader investing and making a difference in many lives. Standards such as these are not intended as a burden but as a safeguard to insure that you are leading the Sunday School “heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”