CONNECT3, booklet review

CONNECT3:  The Power of One Sunday School Class

Welcome to the eQuipping page for CONNECT3 – The Power of One Sunday School.

Session ONE
Become familiar with the credits, Contents, Introduction, and Additional help sections.  These pages, 2-5 and 48, give us the footing we need as we begin our study.

The credits, page 2, tell us a little about the author, David Francis.  Throughout our study, I’ll simply refer to him as either the author or David.  Be sure to read his bio.

The Contents, page 3, shows us where we’re going.  Each chapter in the booklet will discuss specifics of each level of connectedness and will address how each level relates to goals, member expectations, organizational structure, growth, evangelism, prayer, and …name tags!

The Introduction, pages 4-5, gives us the context of CONNECT3.  The booklet is the final installment in a series that began with the author’s book, The 3D Sunday School (click the title to read our review of that booklet).

In the Introduction, David shares what the booklet is all about:  Challenging small groups and Sunday School classes to become intentional about connecting with other people on three levels.  The author tells us that after reading the booklet, we should be able to:

1.  identify the level at which our class currently functions;
2.  discover ideas for operating on each level with greater meaning;
3.  decide to move to a greater level or stay where we’re at.

The three levels are identified as:  Class, Community, and Commission.

ANSWER the following questions (see the bottom of p. 4 to top of p. 5):

1.  The primary purpose of Class is _______  _______.
2.  Community is organized for _______ and _______.
3.  Obeying the Great Commission challenges us to become _______.

HOMEWORK:  For next week, read pages 6-9.  Study the chart on p. 5.  Note the line in the chart, Biblical Concept, and the Greek words associated with each level of CONNECT3.

Session TWO, pages 6-9 – Class:  Connecting with God’s Word
The author, David Francis, reminds us that “The foundation of the Sunday School movement is Bible teaching” (p. 6), and when it comes to teaching God’s Word, there’s a lot said about CLOSED GROUPS (pgs. 6-7).

Basically, a closed group meets for a specific amount of sessions, with believers committed to study in a deeper more intentional way.  Once the study begins, new attendees are discouraged from attending until the study is done in-full again.  Also, the study is reserved (generally) for believers.

Sunday School classes are designed to be OPEN GROUPS.  classes are on-going, can be attended or joined at any time, and believers and not-yet-believers are equally encouraged to participate.  In fact, there is an expectation for new people to attend.

Open groups “provide a complete Bible study experience at every session” (p. 7), even if it is part of a unit or series of studies.  New people are made to feel welcomed in this environment of Bible study.

David shares that a primary motivator for most unchurched people to attend a small group is to understand the Bible.  Bible study that combines several teaching methods, including lecture and discussion, are good ways to accommodate both believers and not-yet-believers, or even new believers.

QUESTION:  Is your Sunday School class OPEN or CLOSED?

On page 7, the author discusses Bible illiteracy and relevance.  The goal of studying God’s Word is to lead members/learners to APPLY what they learn to everyday living.

David cites research by Thom and Sam Rainer about reasons that 71% of churchgoers ages 18-22 drop out of church.*  Basically, “the research suggests a strong correlation between dropouts and a lack of Biblical knowledge” (p. 8 in our booklet).  Here’s the good news, in the Rainers’ words:

So what have we discovered about Christians who hear good sermons each week, who are involved in small group Bible study, and who study the Bible on their own?  We have found that such Christians rarely drop out, that they rarely become one of the dechurched.  And if they do, they are the most likely to return.  (*Thom S. Rainer & Sam Rainer III, Essential Church?  Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts (Nashville:  B&H Publishing Group, 2008, p. 199).

QUESTION:  The author states that members should be encouraged to prepare for the class’ study and spend time reading the Bible each day.  How does your class help members to connect to God’s Word on their own?

MORE from Essential Church:  Click HERE to see a few more notes from the Rainers’ research:  7 Sins of Dying Churches and How Churches Can Overcome.

HOMEWORK:  For next week, read pages 9-12.  I will focus our e-class on assimilation (pgs. 11+) and how assimilating people to God’s Word helps them connect in other ways.

Session THREE, pages 9-12 – Class:  Connecting with God’s Word
When we think about connecting people with God’s Word, we obviously want them in a Bible study.  That’s where it will happen.  We often wonder about “purging” our rolls of non-attenders or even extremely low attenders.  But in reality, those people are the ones we need to reach.  In Sunday School, the author calls this “belonging before believing” (p. 10).  Furthermore, “The evidence is overwhelming:  a person enrolled in Sunday School is about one hundred times more likely to receive Christ than a person who is not enrolled in a class or small group” (p. 11).

David states three types of distinct decisions that a person can make:

1.  enrollment in a Sunday School class
2.  commitment to follow Christ
3.  church membership

On page 12, there is a brief definition of assimilation:  connecting to a local church the people who accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and eternal life.  We view the process as conversation, conversion, community.  In fact, this model of connecting people to God (and His church) rarely works.  A better way is to reverse that process:  invite people to be part of our Bible study, invite them to be involved in our community of believers, and lead them to experience Christ’s love and their need for Him.  Assimilation, then, is practically problem-free.  Connectedness occurs because it is the main focus.  In fact, connectedness takes place in all three steps:  in conversation, in community, and most importantly, in conversion.

Participation in class is the first indicator of connectedness.  It is suggested that a healthy attendance-to-enrollment ratio is about 50/50.  Remember, non-attenders and low attenders form an outreach field that needs to be worked.

QUESTION:  How is your class doing in reaching out to non-attenders or low attenders on your class roll?  Talk to your teacher about this – volunteer to help reach out to this field!

Session FOUR, pages 13-17 – Class:  Connecting with God’s Word
The second indicator of connectedness is preparation, that is, “members seldom come to class wondering what the lesson for the day might be” (p. 13).  This is one of the tasks of a class leader – leading and expecting class members to prepare for the lesson in some way:  reading the Scripture at home, and reading and marking the curriculum.

Since we’re discussing connecting people with God’s Word, let’s set a “goal at the Class level of group development … to provide a consistently satisfying Bible study experience that people hate to miss” (p. 15).

The author wraps up this chapter – on connecting with God’s Word – by listing things a class should do to create a welcoming environment:

– greet visitors (and be early and prepared to do so)
– assist the visitor in filling out guest information
– introduce the guest to other people in class
– condition members to “un-clique” and to engage the visitor
– invite the person to accompany you to worship
– invite them to lunch!
– follow up with them the following week
– USE NAME TAGS IN CLASS!

Session FIVE, pages 18-23 – Community:  Connecting with One Another
The next step in the growth of an open group is from class to community.  The author cautions, however, that “the natural inertia of a small group will lead it toward being a closed group” (p. 19).  The group must be intentional about staying OPEN.

Community means that the class “roll” now becomes a “ministry list.”  David answers the question, “When should we drop inactive members?” with some good advice:

– Ask:  Has this person honored his/her commitment to the class?  Has the class honored its commitment to the person?”  There will be significantly different answers that will determine the status of the group member.

– Also, it would be appropriate to remove someone from the class roll if they have died, joined another church, moved too far from the church to receive ministry, or requested to be removed.

On page 21 is a great observation:  It should be harder to leave a church or Sunday School class than join a church or Sunday School class.

QUESTION:  What is meant by the third place?  (See page 21.)

When group members get to know each other, community builds.  The author, in his “nametag mantra,” brings up a good point about a Sunday School community:  It should socialize – organize – make a difference (p. 23).

Session SIX, pages 23-28 – Community:  Connecting with One Another
Ministry is not exclusive to pastors!  In the community level of the group, the goal is for more and more members to become ministers, serving one another, serving the class.

MULTIPLE CHOICE – Parties are great for fellowship but even better is:

a.  going to the movies together
b.  having the class sit together in worship service
c.  a ministry project together
d.  no parties at all

The community level of a group will require more leaders for things like planning activities, prayer leader, outreach coordinator, etc.

The most important reason for a class to move to the level of community is that people will be drawn to the open class environment AND be drawn to Christ, making a decision in the community to confess Jesus is Lord.

Session SEVEN, pages 29-35 – Commission:  Connecting to the Word
Here’s a refresher of where we’re at in CONNECT3:

– The Class level is about helping people connect with the Great Confession.
– The Community level is about helping people connect with the Great Commandment.

The third level involves active members who develop into missionaries.  At this level, the Commission level, the Great Commission is embraced inside and outside the church.

The chart on page 30 explains the Class/Community/Commission functions of Bible study groups.  Notice the ME (Class level), US (Community level), and THEM (Commission level) applications.

The author reminds us that if we practice open enrollment (and we should!), and have both believers and non-believers in class, it allows people to belong before they believe.  This, our class, is our mission field – right inside our own group (page 31).

The author goes into some detail to explain how a class sends out missionaries to children and youth classes in Sunday School.  There are some great concepts here, most of which we practice at First Baptist.  For example, we consider all teachers of students to be associate members of an adult class.  The adult class, then, has the responsibility to support their teacher/missionary by prayer, special events or treats for the students, providing substitute teachers, and including the teacher in ALL adult class activities (see pages 33-35 for details about this).

CHALLENGE:  Learn who might be an associate member of your Sunday School class.  Take the initiative to:

– talk to the associate often;
– volunteer to substitute-teach so the associate can visit his/her adult class;
– lead your class to provide an activity for the associate’s class of kids/teens;
– create a prayer chart/ministry and assign students to adult members;
– ask your teacher to help you plan a joint activity during Sunday School for your class and the students to enjoy (provide breakfast in their class, do a craft day, play a game (how about “Are You Smarter Than a ___ Grader!”), etc.

Session EIGHT, pages 35-40 – Commission:  Connecting to the Word
We next read about the benefits of starting a new unit.  David defines a new unit as “a new group, a new class, a new ministry team, a new preaching point, a new mission, or a new church” (p. 35).  He states an important truth:  “The irreducible law of Kingdom growth is starting new units.”

Starting a new Sunday School class requires carefully planning its ‘birth’ from an existing unit.  A new class can also be started to meet a clearly defined need or ministry gap.

The author makes another comment that is noteworthy:  “(S)tarting new adult classes alone will not grow your church.  (T)he key is reaching kids and students” (p. 36).  We should provide kids the best space and the best teachers we have!  In another sentence, he adds, “Regardless of how many people your worship center seats or how many other rooms you have, if you are out of preschool space, you are out of space” (p. 36).

MEMORIZE this truth:
Reaching children and teenagers through Sunday School grows the Kingdom – and kids don’t come by themselves!

On page 38, we read that students also need to experience the Commission level of small group Bible study.  In truth, students not only need it but they want it.  A primary response to this is that many students do not drop out of church when they graduate high school.  This, alone, should justify student ministry, children’s ministry, and/or family ministries.

Session NINE, pages 41-43 – Commission:  Connecting to the Word
Every class needs an outreach leader.

QUESTION:  Do you know of someone in your class who is gifted in outreach and/or evangelism?  Sometimes a person may not know that he/she has this gift.  God might be leading you to help another believer know this (or, someone may let you know this about yourself!).

The class’ outreach uses a prospect list.  Refer to David’s suggestions on page 42.  At First Baptist, we have other ways to gather lists of prospects for the Kingdom.

LIST:  Using the author’s suggestions on p. 42 as a starting point, LIST what you know are your church’s activities and opportunities that reach out to people for ministry purposes.  You might even be part of one of these activities!

Prayer at the Commission level is an important activity for the class.  We have already encouraged you to help your class connect with a student class for which one of your adult class members might be a “missionary teacher.”  At the Commission level, prayer is focused on evangelistic efforts among the people associated with your members (David calls them FRANs:  Friends, Relatives, Associates, Neighbors).

QUESTION:  What is your class doing right now to reach people with the Gospel?  How can you help your class identify people who need to hear the good news of Jesus?

Follow these CONNECT3 steps:
CONNECT people with God’s Word in your CLASS
CONNECT with one another in COMMUNITY
CONNECT yourself to the world by doing the Great COMMISSION

Session TEN Session, pages 44-47 – The K Words:  Kerygma, Koinonia, Kenosis, Knametags!
The author gives us three key Biblical words that help define each of the CONNECT3 levels:

Kerygma denotes the __________ of the gospel, especially as delivered by the apostles.  One of several Scriptures that speaks about this is _______________.  (pgs. 44-45).

Koinonia is usually translated __________.  One Scripture that describes this well is Philippians __________.  (p. 45).

Kenosis means ___ _______.  The author states that God wants us to empty ourselves in __________ and __________.  (p. 46)

Finally, on page 47, the author writes a challenging statement that I hope you will take to heart.  Let me know how I can help you do this:

What if you’re the only class that is doing this (connecting ministries)?  That’s OK.  You don’t’ have to wait for any other groups to get on board before you start.

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