Spend More Time on the Class or in the Lesson?

Before reading please take a few minutes to ponder.

–by Josh Hunt

I had my guess about which matters more. And I was right. But I thought it would matter a lot more than it does.

A Sunday School teacher or group leader is very different from a school teacher. Paul spoke of the idea that “We were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too. And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11). Sounds more like a parent.

Likewise, Jesus’ method of making disciples was largely built around what the Navigators call the “with them” principle. “He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14, NIV). Jesus’ plan for making disciples had a lot to do with spending time—lots of it—with them.

For all these reasons I predicted that groups with leaders who focused primarily on their group members would be growing—and, in contrast, groups with leaders who spent lots of time on the lesson would not.

As it turns out, spending more time with group members is a predictor of growth. Groups with leaders who spend more time with group members are 34% more likely to be growing than those with leaders who spend more time on the lesson.

So, it does make a difference. But compared to other factors we’ll look at later on, it’s a comparatively small difference. I have an educated guess as to why there wasn’t a bigger gap between the two.

People who spend more time on the lesson are more likely to be better teachers. And people like to hear good teaching. Teachers who spend more time on the lesson are more likely to report that they are four- or five-star teachers.

This suggests that there’s more than one way to slice the pie. You can get there through great teaching, or you can get there through spending lots of time with your group members. Either route shows that you care about the people in your group—and that shines through. But spending time with your group members conveys that message more directly—and thus is more effective.

My two previous pastors, both at the same church, are good illustrations of each approach. My former pastor Dr. Maurice Hollingsworth is one of the finest pastors I know. He spends lots of time “with them.” He really loves us like a parent would. There are a thousand people who are more active at First Baptist than I am. (My speaking schedule requires me to spend about 40 weekends on the road.) But when my dad had triple-bypass surgery recently, Dr. Hollingsworth asked about my dad. I don’t hear a lot of people going on and on about his preaching, but I have heard a lot of people say, “He sure is a caring pastor.” He is a people person par excellence and the church is doing well.

Our previous pastor, Dr. Frank Zamora (we called him Dr. Z.), was the opposite kind of pastor. (Have you ever noticed how churches tend to hire opposite kind of pastors, one after another?) He wasn’t much on hospital visitation. I think he did some, but you had to be really sick. I wouldn’t want to be so sick that Dr. Z would come see me!

But boy, could Dr. Z preach! He would knock it out of the park every time. And again, the church did well.

You can grow a group with either strong teaching skills or strong people skills. Lucky the man or woman who has both—and luckier the group who has him or her for a leader.

And if you’re truly bad enough at either one, you will struggle. Therefore, shore up your weaknesses. Make sure you’re at least halfway decent at both. Then, lean into your strengths.

Most of us tend to believe that the path to success is to shore up our weaknesses. For example, 77% of Americans believe that a student’s lowest grades deserve the most attention. If little Johnny comes home with school with one A, three Bs and one C, most parents want to talk about the C. Strengths research done by the Gallup organization suggests that what they ought to be talking about is how to lean into the A subject. “Even the legendary Michael Jordan who embodied the power of raw talent on the basketball court could not become, well, the ‘Michael Jordan’ of golf or baseball, no matter how hard he tried.” (Rath, 2007, p. 7)

Not to say we should avoid improving weaknesses. If we’re bad enough in critical areas, we’re in trouble. If a kid is bad at math and incredible at English, we need to get that kid good enough at math to function in society. But, the idea is to shore up weaknesses and then concentrate on building up strengths. Don’t try to make your student brilliant in math—you’ll both get frustrated trying.

Over the past decade, Gallup surveyed more than 10 million people worldwide on the topic of employee engagement (i.e., how positive and productive they are at work). People who are working in the area of their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and three times more likely to have an excellent quality of life in general. (Rath, 2007, pp. -iii-)
You can grow a group either through strong people skills or through strong teaching skills. Shore up whatever weaknesses you have and lean into your strengths.

I Am A Church Member

It is amazing for me to see the spiritual growth taking place in our congregation. Folks who had never stood before a group and spoke have shared their testimony. Some who made a commitment to serve as the Lord leads them stepped up and found a place of service. And just yesterday I received this note from Mathew Phillips. He gave me permission to share.

Tithing is an issue we all deal with when we become Christians. Recently I talked to our Pastor, Wes, and told him I was seriously thinking about increasing the tithing Debbie and I give to Walnut Street Baptist Church (Wes in no way put any pressure on me!)

The tithing went from what was about 5% of our income to close to 10%. While I believe in living one day at a time, what happened after making the leap of giving more, it did not take long for good things to start happening and give me confidence that made me very happy about our decision to increase the amount we give.

As a matter of fact, giving has become something I look forward to, remembering fondly something I remember that was said by a now deceased member of Walnut Street Baptist Church, Lloyd McKinnies, “None of us can out-give God.”

We Labor Together With God,

Summer, We Hardly Knew Ye

What a great way to conclude our summer series with such a great expression of worship on Sunday! Everyone’s presence enhances the complete worship experience. Although I must confess I had difficulty recognizing some of you in your “Sunday Best.”

The “I am a Church Member” series has already made a positive impact in our church family. I appreciate the renewed enthusiasm and positive attitudes that are already evident by your desire to volunteer, serve, and minister.

To those who shared your journey over the summer, I want you to know how much they meant to me. We are a very diverse congregation and the one thread that ran through each of your presentations was your thankfulness for your salvation and appreciation and commitment to Walnut Street Baptist Church. People’s lives have changed for the better because we are here!

Also, To everyone who participated with our weekly emphasis by bringing items and wearing t-shirts, camo, pink, ties, and high heels … THANK YOU! It was fun. Our God is a happy and fun God who enjoys the laughter and mirth of his children. There is nothing more precious than the giggle of a little child.

Join us this Sunday on Walnut Lane at 10:15. SOON and very SOON we will be worshiping on Walnut lane regularly. The trustees and Steering Committee will have a recommendation to make in the near future.

Welcome to Carbondale, IL

This week Southern Illinois University Carbondale is expecting its largest freshman class in twenty years. Many of these freshmen and their families will drive right by our church building on their way into town. In addition, several thousand other students will return for another semester.

Our website address is listed on the marquee. It is likely that more than a few of them will check us out through the website. So let me direct a few welcoming and informational remarks in that direction.


Welcome to Carbondale, SIU, and Walnut Street Baptist Church. I hope your Semester gets off to a great start. We have some of the best scenery and outdoor activities in the nation right here in our backyard.  A quick click to the Carbondale Convention and Tourism website will confirm that.

There are many on and off campus  activities scheduled this week to assist your transition to Campus. SIU and the Carbondale community have gone to great lengths to make your time here enjoyable and fulfilling.

If you are looking for a place of spiritual renewal and worship I invite you to consider Walnut Street Baptist Church. We are a multi-generational congregation with a diverse representation of age groups. Please make your way around our website and get to know us better.

While our building appears to be massive and intimidating we are welcoming and unassuming. We look forward to getting to know our guests better.


Sunday School (Bible Study) begins at 9 am. We have a small group class for every age. Our college class is active and led by Jamie & Chris Robison.

Worship is 10:15 AM.  Our service is casual (come as you are). We enjoy a blend of traditional and contemporary music in our worship.  Worship includes a biblical message presented by the Pastor.  Worship lasts about an hour.

On Sunday mornings you may enter through the large front glass doors facing Walnut Street. Someone will be there to greet you, direct you, and answer questions.


Dinner is served at 5:45 p.m. Just call or email to make a reservation. ($4.50/adult, $13.00/family)

Bible study and prayer begin at 6:30. This is a discussion based large group bible study. We also have a time of sharing and praying each week. During this time our children and youth are involved in mission and bible study groups.

On Wednesdays enter on the east side using the parking lot entrance.

I will be praying for you this Semester. I will pray that your stay in Carbondale and your education at SIU will be rewarding. I will also pray that you will have a rewarding spiritual experience as well.

If I can be of service please contact me at 457-0479 or send me an email WesHenson@gmail.com

We Labor Together With God,
Wes Henson, Pastor

I Love MY Church

Do you REALLY love your church? Are you committed to your church? Are you committed to Walnut Street Baptist Church?

When you are in love, you’re also committed. So, are you in love with Walnut Street Baptist Church? Not only must we love our church, we must love our church the way GOD loves our church.

  • God loves our church sacrificially. He gave His only son for our church.

  • God loves our church unconditionally. Even when the church messes up, God still loves us.

  • God loves our church eternally and He will NEVER stop loving our church.

When you love something, you never mind giving to it. You can give without loving, you cannot love without giving.

When you’re not supporting the church, you’re not supporting the Lord. When you don’t give to the church, you’re not giving to the Lord. When you don’t love the church like you ought to, you do not love Lord as you should.

There are many church people who forsake the church and never miss it. The reason being, somewhere along the way, the love for their church has slipped away.

Walnut Street Baptist Church may not be perfect but, it is the place where God works on people and makes them better. I Love MY Church, do you?

We Labor together With God,

Why You Should Love the Church

In the course of human history few institutions have been more misunderstood and maligned than the Christian church. Indeed, it would be foolish to insist that the church is perfect,   because it is made up of frail and fallible people like you and me.

Unfortunately, the criticism being leveled against the church today is not only coming from those outside the church, but from those within.

However, those who have a gloom-and-doom attitude toward the church are certainly overstating the case. Surely, the picture is not as bad as some would have us believe. What would happen if the church went out of business?

Here are nine reasons why you should love the church:

1. Love the Christ of the church.  The church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.    “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it’ (Eph 5:25),

2.  Love the creation of the church.  The church originated in Christ and was forged by a handful of believers who had been on their knees in prayer and empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world.

3.  Love the convictions of the church.  The convictions of the church are drawn from the Bible.

4.  Love the congregation of the church.  There are always some surly, cantankerous, obstreperous people in the church, but the best people I know are also in the church.

Click here for the remaining five 

No Particular Place to Go

Remember this Chuck Berry Song?

Ridin’ along in my automobile/My baby beside me at the wheel
I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile/My curiosity runnin’ wild
Cruisin’ and playin’ the radio/
With no particular place to go

That sorta kinda describes Debbie’s and my vacation last week. Well the “no particular place to go” part anyway.

As one who has a predilection to plan everything out to Nth  degree, I must admit I was a little uncomfortable with this undertaking. I also must admit it was a great way to travel. We saw and enjoyed places along the way that would have never made the vacation itinerary. Why we even stumbled upon “The Little Brown Church in the Vale.”

I still believe in the importance of planning and organizing. However, I also have a new appreciation for “driving by the seat of your pants” as well.

My time on the road reminded me to enjoy the unplanned moments in life. No matter how well you plan and how well you work the plan much of what happens in life is      still unplanned and out of our control.  Sometimes we just aren’t wise enough to realize it.

If we will accept it, God’s gift to us provides contentment and joy when life happens unplanned.

We Labor together With God,