We are all doing something we’ve never done before. Just about every church I know is not having in-person Sunday School and now many are working on starting back. I have received lots of calls and talked with lots of leaders.
Here are some top tips to restarting your Sunday school:
- SET A DATE. Find out what’s going on in the local schools. When are they planning on returning to in-person instruction in the classroom? Talk with the leaders of your church to determine their level of comfort of starting back. After you gain necessary information, set a date.
- SURVEY YOUR LEADERS. Not all of your leaders will be coming back. Generally, what I’m seeing is about 1 in 3 decide not come back, right now! This will impact you greatly, so you need to find out their plans. Don’t panic! When you start back, you’re not going to be at the same place in attendance as you were before COVID so you may not need everyone.
- DETERMINE YOUR ORGANIZATION. You will need to consider the leaders that are returning, the possible attendance based on what you are already seeing, and what is the potential for new people to be reached. You will need to determine what classes/groups you will have on Sunday morning.
- REENLIST & ENLIST LEADERS. Once you know what groups you are going to have, then you need to make sure you have leaders for those groups. Remember to do everything you can to make sure you start at least one new group for new people. I can almost guarantee that if your church has been doing online worship, online groups, and reaching out to the community during this time, there are going to be new people that want to be a part of your church.
- TRAIN LEADERS. Now, you need to help your volunteers become successful as Sunday school leaders. Help them know how to prepare and lead a Bible study session for their specific age group. Make sure you equip them to minister to their group as well as reach out to the lost. You’ll also need to train them in your safety procedures. They will need to clean and sanitize their rooms as well as know how to practice social distancing in their classroom.
- COMMUNICATE TO THE PEOPLE. Now, you need to get the word out! The best method will be for the teachers/leaders of the specific classes or groups to call their members. A call from the leader is the best, but you will still need to over-communicate. Put it on social media, mail out reminders, put it on the church sign, etc. Remember that it’s been six months since you last met for Sunday school. They’ve gotten out of the habit of coming to your class, so you’ve got to work to get them back.
- HAVE A PARTY! Yes, I said have a party. You can have a class fellowship prior to the re-start of Sunday school. It doesn’t need to be anything big, just an opportunity for people to reconnect. Remember to obey all local government restrictions and do the social distancing. My class met at a local park, brought our own food, set up our lawn chairs about six feet apart, and had a great time of fellowship.
There are also things you need to consider as you make your plans to restart Sunday school classes that meet on campus.
- LARGE AREAS. You may want to use large areas such as a fellowship hall, gym, worship center, etc. instead of small classrooms. You could use a rotation plan for teaching, but still have the classes make contact with members for prayer requests and ministry.
- AIR FLOW. Wherever you put the classes or groups, make sure that there is adequate circulation of the air. I would not recommend using any classroom that does not have both a supply vent as well as a return vent. Also make the fan run always not just when it calls for AC or heat.
- SPACING. Go ahead and set up the room for the required social distancing. Remove any extra chairs from the room. I would not normally make this recommendation, but these are not normal days!
- REGISTERING. I would encourage you to ask your people to register for all Sunday school classes. This will help you plan for the use of space and make changes as needed. Your people will need to be flexible, knowing that this situation is constantly changing.
- OTHER TIMES. Because space is so limited and you’ll probably run out of classroom space, you may want to consider offering the use of classroom space at other times. Some churches are already doing this. The groups have to reserve the space through the church office, but the church provides the cleaning/sanitizing supplies.
Still another idea is to start some groups on a day other than Sunday morning and at some place other than the church campus. I hope you do this, and when you do start some groups off-campus, here are other thoughts:
- SMALL. I know that sounds weird coming from a church growth guy, but you really need to make sure the home groups are safe. I like to keep my home groups around 6-12 in attendance. Remember the space will really dictate this more than anything else.
- KIDS. Whatever is the policy and practice of the church to vet the volunteers that work with minors must be the same practices that you have for those that help with the kids for home groups!
- LOCAL IS KEY. You need to abide by the laws, regulations and recommendations of your local law enforcement, health advisors and government officials. Before you start the group in your home or your place of business, make sure you talk to those in the know. It’s better to be safe than sorry!