When we examine the Great Commission passage of Matthew 28:19-20, several important words are customarily highlighted - "go," "teach," "observe." The word rarely mentioned is "them." What an incredibly important word that should draw our continued attention as Sunday School leaders, focusing our efforts toward reaching the lost in our neighborhoods.
The Open Group concept in Sunday School is foundational to a successful Bible study ministry in our churches. Over time, it's easy for people to focus their small group toward their own wants and needs, and less on those who are outside. As Sunday School leaders, we must continue to keep our collective focus on reaching those who are not part of our church, or God's Kingdom.
Several factors go into making our Sunday School agenuinely Open Group.
The curriculum. The best curriculum is that which provides for a Bible study experience each Sunday that is a stand-alone lesson. Your teachers may be teaching from a "quarterly" format, but the idea is that on any given Sunday, someone could walk in off the street, step into any of our classes and understand the lesson. Closed Group curriculum is more sequential in design, allowing for teachers to build on each successive lesson with the completion resulting in a study pieced together like a puzzle. Every piece is required to see the "picture on the puzzle box." Each approach to curriculum has a purpose in growing believers into more mature Christ followers. The key is in the appropriate use and the desired result.
The teaching approach. Open Group encourages the teacher/facilitator to allow for the inclusion of new believers, long-time believers and seekers in the same class. To accomplish this requires that the teacher is joined in this open approach by every member of the class.
Class membership buy-in. As members of an Open Group class, we form a team with the teacher; not just simply showing up to be spoon-fed biblical information. Collectively we:
- Invite guests to become involved in our group as members (Open Enrollment) so they know we genuinely want them in our class, and our lives. Make sure they understand that they may join the class even before they join the church.
- Look for new faces - beginning on the parking lot, not just in the classroom - and invite them to sit with us and meet our friends (Open Classes).
- Focus our attention on God's Word - which is ultimately the curriculum of Sunday School - and help others to feel comfortable with finding passages (Open Bibles).
- Become early adopters in fresh ideas that Sunday School leadership presents to teachers, and ultimately to our classes (Open Minds). What an encouragement when members help lead the way.
Sunday School leaders, teachers - effectively using the best curriculum choice for their class - and, members combine to effectively present an inviting Open Group for "them." Together, we can make disciples, fulfilling the Great Commission.