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Enlisting Great Sunday School Leaders

Here are a few considerations for enlisting quality Sunday school leaders. These principles probably applying to enlisting workers for other ministries, as well.

Well, duh, you may be thinking. However, we often talk more about praying for leaders than we actually pray. Take a list of member names or a pictorial directory, find a quiet place, and prayerfully make your way through the names. Ask God to bring to mind a possible leadership fit. This will give you confidence – even boldness – when you approach a leadership candidate and say, “I’ve prayed about this, and God brought you to mind.”

Never Be Able to Answer One Question
There is one question you never want to be able to answer during an enlistment conversation:  “If I say ‘No,’ who are you going to ask next?” While you are praying, you may have a list of several names for a particular leadership role. You’ll probably rank them, and then pray some more. But once you feel confident that the person at the top of your list is the one you’ll approach, throw the list away. If you’ll do that, you’ll be able to respond confidently to the question like this: “I don’t know. You’re the person God has laid on my heart. If you decline, I’ll pray some more and ask Him for another name, but I don’t have a second choice right now.”

Enlist Face-to-Face
For one thing, it’s just too easy to say “No” to a phone call, e-mail, or letter. Make an appointment to meet for coffee and conduct the enlistment interview face-to-face. When making the appointment, don’t share too much. Just say something like, “There is an important issue I’d like to discuss with you. When could we get together in the next few days?”

Explain Your Expectations
Be clear about the expectations of the leadership role. Don’t make it sound more or less important than it is. If you have a brief job description, use it. If the person is expected to attend leadership meetings, tell them. If there is an expectation about curriculum materials, bring samples. One important, “entry level” position in adult Sunday school classes is the Care Group Leader. I have a one-sentence job description for this position! “Contact every member (among the 5-7 men or women assigned to your group) every week.”

Express What They Can Expect of You
Let them know how you will support their work. Inform them about available training. Provide any written materials that will help them understand the role. If it is a Sunday school role, you might even share with them about the free training materials available at www.lifeway.com/sundayschool.

Ask Them to Pray about It
Early in the conversation, tell the candidate that you will not ask for – nor accept – an answer that day – not even a “Yes!” Ask this person to pray about what you’ve discussed. Almost everyone will at least say they will. Respond, “I will, too. And whatever God tells you to do will be ok with me.” Call a few days afterward and ask for an answer, and be okay with a “No.” Be gracious. You won’t know all the reasons. Keep the door open for ministry or future enlistment.

If you’ll follow these principles, I’m confident you’ll enter the new church year with one of your strongest leadership teams ever. My prayer is that all Sunday school classes will be fully staffed to do great work through great leaders in 2011.  

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David Francis is LifeWay's director of Sunday School. His latest book is Great Expectations: Planting Seeds for Sunday School Growth. It follows a four-part series titled The 3D Sunday School, which teaches three strategies to help Sunday School leaders and teachers fulfill the Great Commission. David has previously served as Minister of Education at First Baptist Church, Garland, Texas, and currently teaches a preschool class on Sunday mornings.