Calling Teachers and Leaders

May 23rd, 2011

Many churches struggle to staff their Sunday School classes. In his book, The Ministry of the Volunteer Teacher, author Charles R. Foster emphasized that teachers are called by God and gifted to serve in the ministry of teaching. But it can be hard to help people identify that calling and step forward to fill a teaching role in the congregation.

You may want to consider some of the following suggestions for nominating and calling teachers.

Emphasize spiritual gifts. Gift discovery is both an individual and a community process. Offer gifts assessment workshops throughout the year. You might offer a series of sessions on Wednesday evenings, with presentations, small group discussion and a workbook. (Ministry Matters' free Spiritual Gifts Assessment might be a good place to start.)

As people discover their spiritual gifts and move to serve in these areas, a greater enthusiasm and excitement surrounds their leadership and service. When we accept the call to teach, those gifts are lifted up and consecrated for the benefit of the body of Christ.

Take "time and talent" surveys. One popular way of finding out each year how persons would like to serve is through time- and talent-commitment surveys, which can be a part of your stewardship emphasis. You might try putting the surveys on the church Web site as well as providing paper copies.

Have participants in a new member class or event complete an interest survey. Include in new member packets a copy of the interest form and information on opportunities to serve.

Be open and alert to a variety of gifts. Define the gift of teaching in broad terms. Greeting, record keeping, hospitality, and following up on students' birthdays are all important parts of the teaching ministry. The rotational model of teaching elementary children has certainly enlarged our understanding of who is a "teacher." Do you enjoy helping with computers, showing videos, reading or telling stories, or participating in art, music or cooking? Great! You can lead one of the rotational model learning centers.

Ask for nominations. Ask the staff and congregation to nominate people who would be good teachers. Think about teachers you might have had over the years — what qualities made them effective teachers?

Persons who are nominated might be sent a specially designed brochure or letter inviting them to consider teaching. Follow up with a personal contact. Keep records of who will be contacted, who will contact them and how, the prospects' responses and any future interest in teaching.

Make invitations specific. Lift up the opportunity for mission and ministry in your invitation. Don't just say, "Would you like to teach?" Be specific: "We have a group of 14 seventh-graders who come on Sunday morning. It is a very important and sometimes difficult time in their lives. They really need teachers who care about them. We would like you to prayerfully consider helping to meet this need."

Pray for discernment. Invite the entire congregation to pray for those who are involved in selecting teachers and leaders. Staff and committees with direct responsibilities for finding leadership need to pray for God's guidance and discernment in this important process.

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