How would you describe your Sunday School, Adult Bible Fellowship, Connect Groups, or whatever you call your primary strategy for reaching people for Bible study, fellowship, and accountability? If you’re like most churches, you’d say something like, “It’s good, but it could be a lot better – we just need someone to help.” If that’s you and your church, The Virtual M.E. may be just the ticket.
What is The Virtual M.E.? Let’s start with “What’s an M.E.?” An M.E. (Minister of Education) reminds us of a time when many churches had a specialized staff member who was an expert in Sunday School growth and health. This person provided guidance and leadership to the age group Bible study ministries at their church. They made strategic decisions about space utilization, curriculum choices, training of workers, and much more. Sadly, most churches could not afford to have this specialist on staff until they grew to a certain size, usually in the 400+ range. But churches that are smaller would benefit greatly by having this staff person. In fact, this leader could be the catalyst to help a church grow to the next level.
Now that we know what an M.E. is, let’s ask the question, “What’s a Virtual M.E.?” It’s a new ministry being offered by Lifeway to help smaller churches partner up with a church education expert. This practitioner would be assigned by Lifeway to a church that has requested this service. Meetings with the pastor and other staff members would take place online, by phone, and other electronic means – hence the term “Virtual M.E.” The relationship would be real, but would take place primarily in cyberspace. These Virtual M.E.s are people with years of church education leadership experience, advanced degrees in Christian education, and lifetimes of experience that can be focused on helping a church reach its potential.
How would a Virtual M.E. be able to help a church? There are many benefits of a partnership like this:
- Space analysis – churches often have more room and potential to grow than they think. A Virtual M.E. can evaluate a church’s space usage to help it maximize its potential to reach people.
- Gap analysis – by taking a look at a church’s Bible study ministry, the Virtual M.E. can identify “gaps” – people that are not being reached – so that new groups can be started to reach them.
- Sounding board – sometimes a pastor has no one to turn to when he needs trusted advice about the church’s Bible teaching ministry. A Virtual M.E. can be there to listen, evaluate, and provide suggestions.
- Training – a Virtual M.E. can make recommendations about the training of workers, helping a church develop an annual plan for improving the performance of its most valuable workers.
Dr. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, once said, “The inescapable conclusion could be paraphrased by the cliché: “Sunday School will work only if you work Sunday School.” In the high assimilation churches, basic organizational principles were at work continuously. Teachers were trained and taught weekly. New members were assigned to Sunday School classes. Care groups were created in all classes so that ministry could be effective. Outreach and evangelism were organized through the Sunday School. The higher assimilation churches had strong Sunday Schools. And that organizational quality did not happen by accident” (High Expectations, p.36).
If you’d like to know more about having a Virtual M.E. at your church, visit Lifeway.com/VirtualME
Ken Braddy manages Lifeway’s Ongoing Bible studies, leads his church’s groups ministry, and blogs daily on Sunday School and small groups at kenbraddy.com.