The Hyles Church Manual
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 10 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)
10. The Sunday School
The greatest business in all of the world is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Word of God. One of the most effective methods and means of propagating this Gospel and teaching God’s blessed Word is the Sunday school. In this chapter we are going to discuss methods and promotional material in the building of a great Sunday school.
Let us first be plainly understood by saying that nothing will take the place of the Word of God and consistent teaching of the Bible in the Sunday school. No amount of promotion, no amount of organization, of God. A consistent Bible-teaching program is necessary in the building of a great Sunday school.
Our discussion will be under three main topics: (1) the planning of the Sunday school program, (2) the preparing of this program, and (3) the promoting of the program of a great Sunday school.
Planning Of The Program
Choosing the Worker
Let us look in the first place to the planning of the program. We could not begin such a discussion without first discussing the choosing of the worker. There are many qualifications that we present here at First Baptist Church of Hammond to our prospective Sunday school teachers, workers, and superintendents. These are as follows:
(1.) Every worker in our Sunday school must be a converted, born-again person.
(2.) Every person who teaches in our Sunday school must be an active member of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.
(3.) We require faithfulness on the part of all of our Sunday school teachers and workers. By this we mean: faithfulness to the Sunday school hour, faithfulness to the morning preaching service on the Lord’s Day, faithfulness to the Sunday evening service, faithfulness to the Wednesday evening service, as well as faithful attendance to the Sunday school teachers’ and officers’ meeting preceding the regular midweek service on Wednesday evening.
(4.) We expect loyalty from our Sunday school workers. certainly no Sunday school, or any other organization for that matter, can be built successfully without loyal workers, loyal teachers and a loyal staff of helpers. The Sunday school teacher should be loyal to the church program, loyal to the ministry of the pastor, loyal to the Gospel and to the Word of God.
(5.) Every Sunday school worker is required to be doctrinally sound. by this we mean they should adhere to the doctrines of the church. They should certainly believe the Articles of Faith adopted by the church and be loyal to the teachings and doctrines of the Word of God.
(6.) We require that each of our Sunday school teachers and officers live a separated life. No one should open the Word of God to teach it to boys or girls or men or women in the Sunday school unless he is separate from the world. no teacher should participate in such questionable amusements as drinking any kind of alcoholic beverages, dancing, gambling, or other habits that would be detrimental to the testimony of Jesus Christ and the work of building a great Sunday school.
(7.) Last, but not least, is the important qualification of having a love for souls of men. Every Sunday school teacher should be burdened for souls and should be actively participating in reaching people for Jesus Christ.
Enlisting the Worker
Now that we have chosen the worker, let us enlist the worker. We turn to the enlistment of a Sunday school teacher. Probably one of the outstanding failures in Sunday schools today across America is the slipshod way in which we enlist our workers. Here at the First Baptist Church of Hammond we require that each worker be enlisted either in the privacy of his own home or the privacy of the office of the staff member. No one is enlisted casually; no one is enlisted walking down the hall of the church; no one is enlisted after the service at the altar or around the pulpit, but rather the person is enlisted privately. The work is laid upon his heart. The challenge of the work is presented to him, and he realizes the tremendous challenge and opportunity that is beaten presented to him as he assumes the responsibility of teaching the Word of God in a great Sunday school.
We give to the worker at this conference the qualifications. We alert him to what we expect him to do and what God expects him to do. We assure him that this job will occupy much of his time. We assure him that we expect faithfulness, and present to him the aforementioned qualifications for being a Sunday School teacher in the First Baptist Church. Then, we offer him time to pray about it-maybe a week or less. He then calls or stops by the church to give us his answer and to inform us as to his decision. Nothing could be said to magnify too much the importance of enlisting the worker properly.
Choosing the Material
Now that we have chosen and enlisted the worker, as we plan the program let us notice the choosing of the material. In the First Baptist Church of Hammond we use only the Bible as our literature. Children eight an over receive no quarterlies but only the Word of God. Though I am aware of the fact that there are many wonderful companies writing literature in our generation (I certainly admire good literature; and I am not opposed to Sunday school literature), we simply make a practice, however, in the First Baptist Church of using the Word of God and teaching only from the Bible in our Sunday school.
How, then, are our lessons chosen? Approximately in the month of September, our teachers and officers meet to discuss and pray about the lessons for the following year. Suggestions are presented, a discussion is conducted, and finally we vote upon what we think we should teach for the following year. Maybe we are in a building program, and we should have special lessons geared to our building program. Perhaps we plan to have a great enlargement campaign, and we plan our lessons around the program of the year. After we have discussed and prayed concerning the material for the new year, then we vote and decide concerning what subjects, Bible lessons, etc., we shall teach in our Bible Sunday school for the new year.
We have taught in our Sunday school the book of Romans verse by verse. We have taught the book of Acts chapter by chapter. We have taught famous people in the Bible person by person. We have taught the little books of the Bible and the insignificant characters of the Bible. We have taught Bible separation, Bible stewardship, and other important doctrines, subjects and books from the Word of God. This is how we choose our material.
One we have chosen the workers, enlisted the workers, and chosen the material, we turn our attention toward finding space for the class and the department. O course all of us would love to have adequate space. Each of us would love to have a beautiful educational building with Sunday school facilities that are first class. Most of us, however, simply dream about this kind of a Utopian situation, and have to do the best we can with what we have.
The first thing I would like to say about the finding of the space is this: a Sunday school does not have to have adequate space to grow. The church at Jerusalem had, it is said, over twenty thousand members and no church building. To be sure, it is an asset and an advantage to have proper space for our classes and departments. Once again may I emphasize, though it is an advantage, it is not a necessity. A great Sunday school can be built under adverse conditions and with limited space and improper lighting and building facilities. The only thing stops the work of God is the lack of faith in the people of God. When people have a mind to work, have faith in God and stay busy at the main task of reaching people for Jesus Christ, I believe that Sunday schools can be built even without proper space.
Here in the city of Hammond we had a tragic fire in 1964. Six hundred nineteen thousand dollars of our property was swept away overnight. In spite of this fact (minus $629,000.00 of our Sunday school facilities) we continued to grow. And today we are averaging one thousand more in Sunday school than we were at the time of the fire. At the time of this discussion we are utilizing a furniture store, a Knights of Columbus Hall, an apartment house and other inadequate facilities; and, through it all, the work is going forward. God is blessing and the Sunday School is growing by leaps and bounds.
Dividing the Classes
As we consider the planning of the program, we turn our attention to the division of the classes. I have read many books about class divisions. Some say that the beginners should have five per class, the primaries should have seven, the juniors between ten and fifteen, and the older young people no more than twenty per class. Much discussion has been presented concerning the decision of classes. I advance to you that I think the size of the class should be determined by the number of qualified workers. I had rather have a consecrated, dedicated worker teaching fifty than divide into small classes or small units and have inferior teachers teaching the Word of God to boys and girls. I do, however, advocate departmentalizing the Sunday school. I think it is certainly advantageous to have the beginners together. The breakdown in our Sunday school is as follows:
The Nursery Department-age three and under
Beginners-ages four and five
Primaries-first and second grade
Juniors-third grade through sixth grade
Junior High-seventh and eighth grade
High School-ninth grade through twelfth grade
The Junior High Department and High School Department are followed by the adult classes. Certainly departmentalization is important in the building of a great Sunday school.
As we think about the division of classes and departments, our attention is turned toward the adults’ division of classes. We have found it necessary to have many types of adult classes. I teach a large auditorium Bible class. Last Sunday we had 583. We have had as high as 1,100 in this class on a special Sunday. This class is the largest in our Sunday school. However, we have many other large adult classes. We have a young couples’ class, a couples’ class for middle-aged friends. We have a class for unmarried adults, a class for college-age adults, a men’s Bible class, and several ladies’ classes. These classes each perform an unusual and unique purpose in the building of our Sunday school. We have it helpful also to have classes for the deaf, the retarded children and many, many other groups that oftentimes are overlooked in the building of a Sunday school.
Preparing of the Program
We turn our attention now to the preparing of the program. We have been discussing the planning of the program. Certainly the first and foremost thing should be the planning of the proper program-the right kind of teachers, the right kind of lesson, the right kind of facilities, the right kind of division. These are certainly important things in the building of a great Sunday school; but we turn now to a discussion of the preparing of the program.
The Annual Training Course
In the First Baptist Church of Hammond we have two great preparation meetings. The first one is an annual course for our teachers and officers. Once each year we conduct this course. It may be for five nights the same week, or it may be for five consecutive Wednesday evenings prior to our midweek service. It may be for three of these Wednesday evenings prior to the midweek service. We have found it advantageous for the pastor to teach such a class and have such a course annually. At this course we teach forty things. I list them one at a time for you:
1. Have a separated life.
2. Have a daily private devotion.
3. Have a daily, clean and pure thought life.
4. Start studying the lesson on Monday.
5. Have proper motives in the teaching of the Word of God.
6. Prepare yourself physically to teach.
7. Prepare yourself mentally to teach.
8. Prepare yourself spiritually to teach.
9. Pray daily for each pupil of your class.
10. Visit in the home of each pupil every quarter or very three months.
11. Visit all of the absentees.
12. Be a pastor to your pupils.
13. Attend the teachers’ meeting on Wednesday evening.
14. Support the entire church program.
15. Be faithful to every public service of the church.
16. When absent, contact the superintendent at least three days before the Sunday on which you are to be absent.
17. Have a monthly class meeting.
18. Organize the class properly.
19. Get up early enough on Sunday morning not to be rushed before teaching the Word of God.
20. Brush over the lesson again on Sunday morning.
21. Make the classroom attractive.
22. Greet the class members as they come in.
23. Meet all visitors before the starting of the class.
24. Properly introduce the visitors, making them feel at home in the class.
25. Enlist every new member possible.
26. Spend the maximum time of five minutes on announcements and business so you can get down quickly to the teaching of the Word of God.
27. Ask all visitors to fill out visitors’ slips.
28. Each teacher should tithe.
29. Leave the quarterly at home. I could not say enough about this. The cardinal sin in a Sunday school class would be for a person not to teach from an open Bible.
30. Teach only from the Bible.
31. Do not make any pupil read or talk.
32. Have an interest getter or a point of contact for the lesson.
33. Have a written aim for the lesson.
34. Stay on the subject of the lesson.. Do not allow anyone to get you off of the subject at hand.
35. Be the age of the pupils as you teach.
36. Teach until the bell rings or until it is time to dismiss the class and prepare for the morning service.
37. Take your class directly to the auditorium.
38. If you have lost people in your class, sit with them in the morning service.
39. Keep the Lord’s Day holy.
40. Make the work of the Lord the most important thing in your life.
These forty things are presented to our teachers and officers at the opening of each Sunday school year. This is one way in which we prepare the program. We dwell on separation at these meetings. For example, we teach our teachers how to prepare the lesson. We teach them to prepare themselves, to prepare the pupils, to prepare the classroom, and to prepare the lesson. In the preparing of the lesson we teach them to start studying the lesson on Monday afternoon. We suggest that every teacher read the lesson material from the Bible at least seven times before he begins to prepare his outline. We suggest they read it one time for content, one time looking for types of Jesus Christ, another time looking for thoughts, another time with helps, anther time with a classbook beside the Bible (so as to be able to apply the lesson to each pupil in the class), another time to outline the lesson and prepare it for the Sunday school class on the Lord’s Day.
Then we discuss at this annual course how to present a lesson. We teach our teachers to present the lesson only from the Bible. We teach them to seek limited participation from the pupil. For example, we never say, “What do you think about verse 2?” Why, they may think ten minutes about verse 2. Consequently, we seek limited participation. Ask questions that demand only a one-word answer or a very brief answer-a fill in the blank, a multiple choice, or some other question, or some other type presentation that will require participation, yet on a limited scale.
There are many other things that we offer in this annual course. Time Would not permit us to discuss each of these.
Weekly Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting
As we discuss the preparing of the program, we come to a very important subject probably most important single subject that we will discuss on the subject of building a great Sunday school. This is the Teachers’ and Officers’ meeting. Here, at the First Baptist Church, we have found it helpful to have a meeting prior to our Wednesday evening midweek service. Our meeting starts at 6:00 and ends at 7:30. The teachers and officers are required to attend this meeting. We have the following schedule: From 6:00 to 6:30 we have a meal. From 6:30 to 6:50 we have a twenty-minute time or promotion. At this time we have a pep rally. We present the plan. We challenge the teachers. We compliment, rebuke, scold, and promote the work of the Sunday school. We compliment classes doing a good job and exhort the classes doing a poor job to accelerate their work in the building of the class and department. It is somewhat a pep rally-a time of enthusiasm, zeal and pledging God to do better in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. At this meeting we present what we call the Echoes. The Echoes is a little paper (one sheet, mimeographed, but neatly done) given to each of our teacher at the midweek Teachers’ and officers’ meeting.
This is passed out as they come in for the meal at 6:00. This will discuss such things as the program for the future, activities for next Sunday, announcements to make in the departments, introduction of workers and other important facts concerning the growth and work of the Sunday school.
At this Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting, during this time from 6:30 until 6:50, we also introduce new workers. We do it like this: “It is a real joy to have Mrs. Jones teaching with us in the Primary Department. Mrs. Jones, would you stand, please. Mrs.. Jones, would you please stand, please. Mrs. Jones, on behalf of the many workers, teachers, superintendents and officers of the Sunday School of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, we welcome you to our facility. We trust that God will bless you in your new class and make your stay with us a happy and profitable one as we serve the Lord together. Let us all give Mrs. Jones a hand.” (All of the workers join in giving an applause to Mrs. Jones, welcoming her to the faculty and staff of the Sunday school of the First Baptist Church.)
From 6:50 until 7:10 we teach the Sunday school lesson to our teachers. The pastor has made a three-page outline prior to the meeting. This outline consists of an aim, a point of contact, an introduction, a body and a conclusion to the lesson. An example would be a follows: the aim: to teach my pupils the truth concerning the keeping of the inside clean as well as the outside; the point of contact: Teacher, bring a cup or a platter to the class on the Lord’s Day. Shine to a high gloss the outside of the cup but leave the inside dirty. Ask your pupils if they would like to have a drink of water from the cup. Of course the answer would be negative. Ask them why. They will reply that the cup is dirty. Immediately, you have their attention. You are about to teach them the story of Jesus’ rebuking the scribes and Pharisees for having external cleanliness but internal filth. Do you see the point of contact? The interest getter has gotten their attention directed toward the lesson. This outline also consists of a memory verse and questions and answers concerning the lesson. Some of these may be true and false questions; some, multiple choice; others, underline the right answer; others, fill in the blanks; but theses questions are the close of the lesson outline as presented each Wednesday evening.
From 7:10 until 7:30 a different staff member takes each department and applies the lesson to this particular age level. For example, one of our staff members will take the Junior teachers. With the information that I have given in teaching the lesson from 6:50 to 7:10, the worker takes the lesson and shows the teacher how to break it down and apply it to the Junior level or the level of each departmental age group. This is certainly an important time.
Let us review. From 6:30 until 6:50 we promote. From 6:50 until 7:10 we teach the lesson and present the outline. From 7:10 until 7:30 we present methods, plans, and ways to apply the lesson to the particular age level involved. I could not emphasize too strongly the importance of the weekly Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting.
Promoting of the Program
We have discussed the planning of the program; we have discussed the preparing of the program, and now we come to discuss the promoting of the program. Let us remind you once again that the program itself is the most important part of the Sunday school. Consistent week-by-week teaching of the Word of God and the preparation of the teacher, the pupil and the worker is tremendously important. However, it matters not how much we teach the Bible and how well we teach the Bible if no one is there to hear us teach the Bible. Then we have become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. Consequently, we must spend much time, energy and effort in the promoting of the program.
Of course the first and most important phase in the promoting of the program would have to be the visitation. Every Sunday school and church should have, and must have to be a great Sunday school and church, an active visitation program. We call our visitation program here at First Baptist “trotline fishing.”
When I was a little boy I fished in the creek near our house. I fished for crappie. I would get one hook, one line, one pole and fish. One day I noticed a fellow beside me who had two hooks and two minnows on one line. I thought that was a tremendous idea. Perhaps that would even double the amount of fish that I would catch. So I put another hook on my line. Later, I added the third hook to the same line. It wasn’t long that the tremendous idea dawned upon me that I had two hands; consequently, I made two poles. When I say I made two poles, I mean I made two poles. We used a limb of a tree and I put three hooks and three minnows on each pole. Finally, I decided to make a third pole. Consequently, I had three hooks on three different poles, giving me mine chances to catch the fish instead of the previous one chance.
One day I saw some men coming out on the creek in a boat. They went down the creek a bit and pulled up a big line, and there was big twelve-pound catfish on one hook and another big catfish on another. I said, “Fellows, what kind of fishing do you call that?”
They said, “It is trotline fishing.”
“That is for me,” I said. “Never again will I fish with one hook and one minnow and one pole. I want to put many hooks in the water.”
Now the average church fishes with one hook, one minnow, one line and one pole. This is the preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit. We at First Baptist Church have many hooks in the water. We throw our trotline in the water after the Sunday evening service ends. Then all week long we keep the hooks out in the water. On Sunday morning during the invitation we simply pull the hooks out of the water and se how many fish we find on each hook.
The First six months of 1966 my secretary gave me the report that 1,400 people had walked the aisle-either receiving Christ as Saviour or joining the First Baptist Church. That is in six months. In the first six months of the year, 721 of these had followed Christ in believers’ baptism and had been baptized in the baptistery in the First Baptist Church of Hammond. These people were not preached down the aisle. Oh, maybe a few came in response to the preaching, but 85% of these people had been dealt with or won to Christ in the home prior to their walking the aisle. This is what we call trotline fishing.
Jesus said to go into the streets, the lanes, the highways and hedges, and bring the halt, poor, sick, the blind to Himself. And so, we go where they are.
Let us notice for a few moments the hooks that we keep in the water in our visitation program: The first hook is the pastor’s personal soul winning. No one can build a great soul-winning church unless the pastor is a soul winner. The pastor himself should lead in soul winning. Every Sunday he should have someone prepared to walk the aisle professing publicly his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second hook we throw in the water it the staff. Each member of our staff is required to witness for Jesus Christ. My assistant pastors, yes, even the secretaries are required to spend at least four hours a week witnessing to unsaved people. Our staff last year brought over six hundred people down the aisles of the First Baptist Church professing Faith in Jesus Christ.
The third hook that we put in the water is the hook of our Sunday school teachers. Last year our Sunday school teachers led 411 people to Jesus Christ. We constantly put before our teachers and officers the importance of soul winning. Every Sunday of the year some teacher or officer brings someone down the aisle professing faith in Jesus Christ.
The fourth hook we put in the water is the deacon hook. We have sixty-six deacons here at First Baptist (one for each 100 members of the church). These are dedicated men, not chosen because of their financial position or social standing or emince in the community, but rather chosen because of their love for Jesus Christ and their love for the souls of men. These deacons bring souls to Jesus Christ and their love for the souls of men. These deacons bring souls to Jesus Christ. Every Sunday of the world some deacon brings someone down the aisle receiving Christ as Saviour.
A little girl who moved away with her family from our city and visited another church said she didn’t like the church. someone asked her why. “Well,” she said, “at the First Baptist Church at Hammond, the pastor stands behind the pulpit and the demons sit on the front. At this church the demons don’t sit on the front.” I am sure she was a little mixed up. She meant deacons, but she said demons. I am afraid that in far to many cases the word demons is more descriptive that the word deacons, for God did not intend for the deacons to be somewhat of a Wall street financier, but rather God intended for deacons to be men of compassion and burdened for souls. And so our deacons lead people to Jesus Christ.
The fifth hook we have in the water is the work with the handicapped. Our church has one person who uses several others to help in work with the handicapped constantly. The shut-ins receive periodical visits with a tape recording of the services and personal take format he pastor. It is nothing unusual for someone to roll down the aisle in a wheelchair. It has happened that some have been rolled down the aisle in hospital beds. We have a constant agreement that any handicapped person who is won to Christ can have a wheelchair, a hospital bed and ambulance service to come to our service.
A few weeks ago, in fact in the last four weeks, we had two people roll down the aisle in wheelchairs the same Sunday professing faith in Christ or being added to the church.
Our sixth hook in the water is the work with the deaf. On a recent Sunday we had fifty-one deaf people in our deaf section. Our deaf and hard-of-hearing work brings about fifty people to Jesus Christ every year. Last year sixty-one people came down these aisles professing Jesus Christ who were deaf and hard-of-hearing. This is a tremendous ministry of our church.
Another hook we have in the water is the rescue mission hook. Our church owns and operates a full-time rescue mission. We will average about two men per Sunday walking the aisles in our church for believers’ baptism who were saved in our rescue mission. Hundreds of others are saved each year in our rescue mission who do not actually stay for the Sunday services and come forward in our church.
Another hook we have in the water is our visitation committee. We have divided our city into fifteen different sections. Two fine, well-trained people are chosen to visit in each section of the city. For example, lets suppose that you and I are chosen to visit in section one. It would be our job to visit every new person who moves into section one. It will be our job to visit every person who visits our services from section one. These two people are chosen like Sunday school teachers and officers, and they are responsible for making a good visit in section one or their particular section of the city. We call this our visitation committee. Week by week people are brought down the aisles professing faith in Christ by these people.
Another hook we have in the water is our bus ministry. The First Baptist Church operates forty-five bur routes. We bring as many as 1,500 people to Sunday school and to preaching service every Sunday. Yes, I said to preaching service! These people stay for the preaching of the Word of God. We have, I suspect, sixty or seventy people in our church who do nothing but go from house to house in certain neighborhoods and communities inviting people to come to church and Sunday school on our buses. We will secure a bus, enlist two or three workers, give them a certain section of our area, and they will simply work their section filling up their bus. Our buses will average through the year, I suspect, eleven hundred to twelve hundred people per Sunday, and many are saved who ride the buses to Sunday school and to the preaching service.
Another hook we have in the water is the hook with the Spanish-speaking people. In the Calumet region we have many Spanish-speaking people; consequently, we provide for them a Sunday school lesson in Spanish. Many Sundays we have Spanish-speaking people who come down the aisle professing faith publicly in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another hook we have in the water is our work with the retarded-children. There are literally hundreds of thousands of children in our great metropolitan area who are retarded. We provide for them a Sunday school class with trained workers. Many of the parents, unable ever to attend Sunday school hour and stay for the preaching service because we have a work for their children. Numbers of these have professed faith in Christ and have been saved in our services.
Another hook we have in the water is the hook we call the obituary column. A committee of people in our church reads the obituary column every day in the local newspaper. The family of every witness from the First Baptist Church. Still another group is the hospital group. We have a group of people who visit hospitals and win people to Christ in the hospitals.
Then, we have another hook in the water. We call it our honors team. Someone checks the newspaper daily and sends a letter of congratulation to every person who wins an honor. Let’s suppose that you have been selected citizen of the month. You will receive a letter of congratulations from the First Baptist Church along with a gospel tract and a card to fill out if you are interested in a visit from our church or one of our soul winners. Let’s suppose that your hog won a contest in the Country Fair, the Future Farmers’ Association, etc. You would receive a letter from our church congratulating you. Of course we may even send one to the hog, but we want the people in our area who receive some mark of distinction to know the First Baptist Church congratulates them and thereby they receive a gospel witness from our church.
Another committee chicks tragedies that take place. For example, if a person has a fire, he receives a letter of sympathy from the First Baptist Church and a gospel witness and a card to fill out. If someone has a car accident, a letter from the First Baptist Church, a gospel tract and a card to fill out.
Every person who marries in our area receives a letter of congratulation from the First Baptist Church, a tract and a card to fill out.
Every couple who has a new baby receives a letter of congratulation from our church, a gospel tract and a card to fill out.
So you see these hooks are thrown into the water after the services on Sunday. The visitation team, the pastor’s visitation, the staff’s visitation, the Sunday school teacher, the rescue mission, the bus ministry, the retarded children’s class, the Spanish-speaking class all of these hooks are in the water all week long. On Sunday we simply pull up the trotline and find the hooks that have fish on them, and they come forward professing faith publicly in the services of our church.
There are other hooks we have in the water-our youth visitation. Just last evening one of our young men stood in the service and said, “We had fourteen saved last week.” These were led to Christ by the teen-agers and young people of our church in youth visitation. We have a youth visitation night when the teen-agers go forth and win other teen-agers to Jesus Christ.
Another hook we have in the water is our ladies’ visitation. Each Friday morning our ladies, several of them, go out to visit and witness to those who need Jesus Christ.
There are many, many other hooks we have in the water-enough for now. I trust you get the idea. The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit is not enough. If one is going to build a great Sunday school and a great soul-winning church, he must have many, many different facets of this program, reaching every area and every type of person imaginable. This is what we call our trotline fishing.
Publicity and Promotion
Now, we turn from the visitation program as we discuss the promoting of the program to the promotion itself. I am a great believer in promotion. Our Lord has said that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. What a sad commentary on the work of the Gospel! Far too many churches have shut themselves away in a corner of their city, not making the city realize that they even exist. I believe that every person in town ought to realize the work of the Sunday school marches on. We ought to keep everybody in town conscious of the growing of the great Sunday school.
We do this by newspaper advertising. Every week of the world a big advertisement, advertising the Sunday school of the church and the services of the church, is placed in our local newspaper.
We also do this by the radio ministry. We have a “Radio Bible Class” taught by the pastor on Sunday morning from the auditorium. We have a daily ministry. This daily ministry, called “The Pastor’s Study,” is used greatly to promote the work on the Sunday school. This, added to our nationwide radio ministry and other forms of publicity locally, adds to the promotion of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Sunday school.
Now, as we think of promoting the program of the Sunday school, let me suggest a few things of planning a year’s program for the Sunday school. In the first place, I would suggest that you plan the natural high days for the year. As the year begins, or sometime before the beginning of the year, the pastor and those interested in planning the program for the year should get down a calendar, look at the calendar, and plan the activities for the year.
The first thing we do is plan the natural high days. These days will include Easter, Promotion Day, revival Sundays, etc. We do not plan special activities on these days, for these days take care of themselves. People come to Sunday school on Easter and other natural high days will take care of themselves.
The second thing we do is plan the natural low days. Now there are natural low days in the year. One is Memorial Day weekend. Another is Labor Day weekend, the Fourth is July weekend, etc. Especially when I was pastoring smaller churches would I plan something extra special for these natural low days.
Then we plan for the natural low season. The natural low season, of course, is the summertime. We have heard about the “summer slump.” We have heard about the attendance going down in the summertime, and, certainly, in our area especially is it true. Many of our people have four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and some even thirteen weeks’ vacations, making the summertime a very difficult time of growing the Sunday school. Consequently, we plan something for the summer.
It has been our policy now for a number of years to have what we call the “Carry-the-Load Sunday.” Each department is requested to “carry the load” one Sunday of the summer. Each department has a given Sunday when they promote a big, super colossal Sunday. The first day, for example, is the Beginners’ day. The Beginners promote a big Sunday. Now, when they have a big crowd, the adults have a larger crowd. We do not have a single beginner child (age four or five) in our Sunday school who knows how to drive; consequently, the parents have to drive them to Sunday school.
The next Sunday the Primaries have a big Sunday; and the next Sunday, Junior I; and the next Sunday, Junior II; and the next Sunday, Junior High. Each department has a big Sunday. Because of the bigness of one department’s attendance, the entire Sunday school is helped because of the family coming with the person who has the big Sunday. So we plan for the summer season. In this time the pastor, or one of the pastors, goes to each department on their big day, preaches a gospel sermon and gives a n invitation trying to get people saved in each department-an annual tour of the department. These people who are saved come forward in the public services.
The fourth thing we do in the planning of a year’s program is plan for a special holiday. By this, we mean we plan something special for regular holidays. We plan something special for Mother’s Day. Just this last year we gave a little ball-point pen with a flower on top of it (you have seen these artificial flowers on top of ball-point pens with the words “Happy Mother’s Day-1966) to each mother who attended. We made of all these flowers a beautiful, Hugh corsage (I guess six feet high), and each mother received one of these ball-point pens with lovely flowers on the end. Mother’s Day is planned.
Something is planned for Father’s Day, for Thanksgiving Day, for Christmas and other special holidays. Some little something that will bring the people on these holidays certainly is advisable.
The fifth thing we do in planning the annual program is plan special seasonal days. Such things as “Back-to-school Day” when school starts, “Old-Fashioned Day” in the summertime, the fall “Kickoff Sunday” or “Round-up Day,” the church’s anniversary, perhaps the pastor’s anniversary and other anniversary occasions or special seasonal days are good to promote. These promote easily, by the way.
The sixth thing we do is to plan days for special activities. If you are going to have a vacation Bible school, why not have a “Vacation-Bible-School Sunday” and let it help your Sunday school attendance. If you are going to have a big youth camp, maybe you could plan a “Youth-Camp Sunday,” and the activities should be integrated into the Sunday school program and increase the attendance in the Sunday school.
Number seven, plan a ten-week spring program and a ten-week fall program. Beginning on the last Sunday of March and going through April and May and into the first Sunday of June, we have a tremendous spring program. Beginning with the last Sunday of September or the early Sundays of October, we have a fall program lasting through the early Sundays of December. These programs are the programs that become the life’s blood of our church. These programs are built maybe around contests, special drives, awards for those who bring so many visitors, etc. During one program we had New testaments engraved in gold given to every visitor or every person who brought as many as ten visitors during the ten weeks program. On the front of this Testament engraved in gold was a picture of the First Baptist Church.
We have church contests and departmental contests. We give prizes. For example, we have an annual Bible conference near here at Cedar Lake, Indiana. We have a contest each spring. The top ten people in the contest bringing visitors receive some help in attending this Bible conference. The first prize, for example, would be motel rooms and meals for the family who brings the most visitors during the contest. The second prize would be the same thing. The third prize perhaps would be just a cabin with meals, and the fourth prize would be the same thing. The fifth prize would be maybe just the cabin for the week, and the sixth prize would be the same thing. This creates a tremendous interest in our spring program.
Let me make one suggestion. Never have a contest with only one prize. If someone gets far ahead, others will give up and only one person is working. I would suggest that several prizes be given in every contest making it possible for the ones who are behind not to give up.
I would also suggest that the prizes be of a spiritual nature. We never give a prize unless it has a spiritual connotation. For example, we give Bibles, Christian books, commentaries, or maybe a trip to a Bible conference. These prizes add to spiritual growth. Also we give prizes the publicize the church. We would give ball-point pens with the church’s name on it, the pastor’s name and a Scripture verse. Only things that advertise the church or give spiritual benefit are used as prizes in our promotional program. We also plan a similar program in the fall.
The eighth thing we do is plan four big, super colossal days each year. We have one big day each quarter-the kind of a day that will double the attendance. I am of the conviction that a church that runs a hundred in Sunday school can come nearer having 300 on a big day than she can having 150. A big goal challenges people. A big goal instills in people a tremendous desire to do something big for God. Oh, we have played church long enough. We have played “little” long enough. It is time that we decided to do something big and launch out in the deep and build a great, growing Sunday school for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me share with you some of the big days and special occasions that we have used here at the First Baptist Church.
(1.) One is “Old-Fashioned Day.” This is an annual occasion and is one of the most enjoyable days in our church. We do not set a specific attendance goal on this day but we do try to have it on a weekend that would normally have allowed attendance than usual. A good time that would normally have a lower attendance than usual. A good time for “Old-fashioned Day” is the 4th of July weekend or the Labor Day weekend. We have on this day a collection of antiques that we should. Such items as old-fashioned churns, wash pots, spinning wheels, clocks, Bibles, curling irons and smoothing irons are brought and displayed for this special day. Many people bring antiques that others are interested to see. We use on this day an old-fashioned organ. We pass hats instead of plates. We use a mourners’ bench at the altar convert with old, worn-out quilts. We have a creek baptizing in the afternoon if weather permits or maybe in a pond nearby. In the evening service we have coal oil or kerosene lamps and lanterns lighting the building. The electric lights are all turned off. Our people wear old-fashioned costumes for this day, and so many wonderful things highlight “Old-Fashioned Day.” We preach old-fashioned messages, and old-fashioned songs are sung. We may sing fifteen stanzas of the “Old-Time Religion.” What a blessed day it is. It is not a novelty day, but rather normally the power of God comes and many are saved and people are brought back to the old-time religion of faith in Jesus Christ and remember the worship of yesteryear. This is “Old-Fashioned Day.”
(2.) Then we have the church’s birthday. On this day we could have a big birthday cake. We have had birthday cakes weighing as much as seven hundred pounds. We send out candles to each person in the Sunday school; he brings his candle for the birthday cake. A large candle is lighted for the department that reaches its goal on this particular Sunday. It is the “Church’s Birthday Sunday.”
(3.) Another day we have is “Back-to-school Day.” Personal letters are sent to the school students. A lovely gift is given to every person going back to school. A corsage oftentimes is given to each of our lady schoolteachers, a boutonniere to each of our men schoolteacher to come to “Back-to-School Day.” We have a special prayer of dedication for the schoolteachers and for the school students as we promote “Back-to-School Day.”
(4.) Another day is “Baby Day.” On “Baby Day” we have a special letter sent to the parents of the babies. We give a little gift to each child-perhaps a blue Testament to the boy babies and a pink Testament to girl babies. Maybe a little corsage is given to each mother or baby.
(5.) We have AHD an annual “Homecoming Day” in some of our churches.
(6.) “Picture-Taking Day” is a good day to have. Each class has its picture made. There are other days. On “Record-Breaking Day” a record is broken over the Sunday school superintendent’s head if the department’s record is broken. On “B One Sunday” we sent some vitamin B-1 pills out one time and asked everyone to “B One”: “Absentee Sunday,” “Good-Neighbor Sunday,” “Christmas Sunday,” “Ladies’ Rally,” “Mens’ Rally,” Round-up Day,” “Pack-the-Pew Day’ and other days are used in promoting the Sunday School of the First Baptist Church.
The biggest business in all the world is the Sunday school and the reaching of people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps no other facet of our church organization reaches more people than the Sunday school. Would God that every church across America that believes the Bible would launch out into a great Sunday school drive reaching more people and more people and more people. Let us challenge our own people to reach more and more for Jesus Christ. Let us build our Sunday school to the glory of God and the salvation of those without Christ.
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