Deleece Nichols, daycare director at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., noticed too many parents of her preschoolers were not attending Sunday School. She mentioned her observation to her pastor, Randy Johnson, who then asked his assistant Dottie Gore to pray about starting a class specifically for parents of preschoolers.
Using "Life Truths," a parent-oriented resource in the "Bible Studies for Life" curriculum series produced by LifeWay Christian Resources, Dottie and her husband Odis accepted the challenge. Within its first six weeks, the class relocated twice -- first for comfort, then for growth.
As a woman who is active in the lives of her children and grandchildren, Gore knew the importance of parents being in a Sunday School class.
"Bible study is important, but so too is the fellowship and the support that comes from other people with similar issues," Gore said. "That's what so neat about this new Life Truths material. It's for people who are at the same place in their lives."
Gore searched the church database for all the preschool-aged children at the church or daycare and then determined which of those children's parents hadn't attended Sunday School within the last year.
"We didn't want to take from another class," she said. "We wanted to start a paper class -- names on paper -- and build it from there."
She also called each of her three married granddaughters as well as other parents of preschoolers at the church.
"I asked them, 'What would be an ideal Sunday School class for you?' and I took their advice," Gore said.
While she prayed with her husband for the 28 couples on the list she'd developed, Gore also put together a brochure titled, "A Brand New Sunday School Class Created with YOU in mind! That's right -- Just for You!" It went in the mail two weeks before the class was scheduled to start. On Saturday before that first Sunday morning class, Gore spent 30 minutes on the telephone, calling each of the couples and mostly getting voicemail.
Five or six people at the first class would have been confirmation that God was behind the formation of the class, Gore said. Instead, 18 showed up.
"We were blown away," she said, adding that they had to relocate because the air conditioning malfunctioned in the midst of August humidity.
But the next Sunday, 26 people were in the class, and over the next six weeks, at least 20 people and sometimes as many as 27 attended. The class relocated again when 24 chairs in a semicircle were several too many for comfort.
The Gores' efforts include providing breakfast for the class members in the form of a casserole, sausage balls, fruit and coffee cake, or something similar. The church provides coffee.
"We're just trying to meet needs," Gore said. "Ideally, we're hoping to sit around several small tables, to have more opportunity to interact. That's what young parents are wanting these days."
Parents in the class cite the Parent2Parent website at parent2parent.ning.com as one of the most helpful Life Truths resources, Gore said. Also, one class member has taken on the responsibility of sending out the Life Truths eDevotions with prayer requests each week.
Bradley and Lee Cormier, who have two preschoolers, are among those who attend regularly. He was raised Catholic and she was Baptist. Peyton, 4, and Elise, 3, attended the church's daycare and impressed their dad with more Bible knowledge than he had. For this reason, he was willing to try the new class. Now he is disappointed when his job requires him to miss.
"I'm not used to Sunday School," he said. "You had religion classes, being raised Catholic. You heard verses, but you didn't sit down and read the Bible. You learn in this class how to get closer to God through the challenge of being a young parent and having young children. As a father, I need to guide my children in the right path."
Nine new classes this fall, including targeted classes like the one for parents of preschoolers, are helping attract members to Florida Boulevard Baptist, which is located in a transitioning and declining area of east Baton Rouge. But the church has a new vision that focuses on making every member a missionary whose assignment is to be a disciple and to make disciples, Johnson said.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. For more information about LifeWay's Life Truths curriculum, visit LifeWay.com/LifeTruths.
Copyright (c) 2009 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net