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Chapter 16:
Supervision and Administration of Sunday School Programs

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© 2004, 1996 G. Edwin Lint

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Supervision and Administration of Sunday School Programs

Table of Contents

Introduction:
1. Teacher Training
2. Chain of Command and Table of Organization
3. Major program Goals
4. Job Descriptions
5. Performance Standards
6. Regular Observation
7. Performance Evaluation
8. Regular Reappointment of All Workers
9. Corrective Actions and Praise

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 Introduction
The term Sunday School is being used
in it's broadest sense possible. We are talking here about any structured program the church operates to improve the knowledge and behavior of any group of students, regardless of the chronological age of the students involved or the time of day or day of the week of the time slot involved. This includes everything from children's programs run in the traditional morning time slot usually reserved for Sunday school, to adult Bible study programs held Wednesday night from 7 to 9 PM. And everything in between.

And, the term Sunday School Managers means all persons that are responsible for making sure School school programs are carried out according to sound management and education practices.

The most common trap into which a Sunday school manager can fall sounds something like this:

Question: Aren't these teachers/workers toiling as a good-will service to this church?

Answer: There may be no money involved but there is time. The teacher's time, the student's time, the supervisor's time. Most importantly, there is the eternal destiny of the souls of the students involved.

Therefore, we can all do no less than adhere to the following principles of sound management and instruction:

Basic principles for all quality instruction:
Detailed descriptions of these points will follow later in this chapter...

a) Verbal reprimand.
b) Written warning.
c) Written reprimand.
d) Suspension.

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1. Teacher Training

All teachers need to be trained in the basic concepts of sound teaching practice. This includes everyone from the college graduates with teaching certificates to the pastors. Those who come in regular direct contact with students need training for the obvious reason. But, pastor and administrators need the same training, also, so they can provide realistic leadership and role modeling for their subordinates.

I have written a chapter for this book called, You Can Be a Teacher, Too. You can use this material as the foundation for your basic training. There is an expanded version of this same material at this link.

This material has been written specifically for persons that have no formal or certification in education and teaching.

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2. Chain of Command and Table of Organization

Exodus 18:13-27:
Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

This famous passage from Exodus contains the story of how Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was used of God to help Moses create the Bible's first chain of command. Since that day, this simple concept has been used by legal systems, armies, and governments across the world to organize large groups of people and get things done efficiently and effectively.

The typical large church may have a table of organization that looks something like the sample chart above. Of course, teachers/workers would be listed below the Associate Pastors in a full-size Table of Organization.

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3. Major Program Goals

Here is a sample three-part Major Program Goal for any Sunday school.

  1. Bring students into a personal relationship with Jesus,

  2. Help keep them true to Jesus, and

  3. Help all believers replicate themselves as frequently as possible.

Before you begin to think about job descriptions, you need to put in writing why you do what you do. Some folks call this a mission statement. I prefer to call this effort "Stating Major Program Goals". Probably the difference in the terms is largely semantic. Either way, the key concept in both mission statements and program goals is Why? Why do we do, what we do, when we do it, and how we do it?

Let's go back to the sample table or organization shown above and look at the traditional Senior Pastor with associate pastors for children, youth, and adults.

Starting at the top of the chart, here is an assortment of major program goals senior pastor might consider, depending on doctrinal emphasis of the congregation and/or denomination.

Here are a few sample goal statements for the pastors for children, youth, and adults.

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4. Job Descriptions

A job description should be written by the immediate supervisor of the worker involved, and reviewed/approved by this supervisor's immediate supervisor. This review is usually done in conjunction with a regularly-scheduled performance evaluation but no less often than once per year.

All workers in any organization need a job description that spells out in sufficient written detail the work that is to be done and how it is to be done. Such a job description must be presented to each worker when they are considered for appointment and should be available for periodic review by both the workers and the supervisor.

Here are some sample elements for various job descriptions. You can use your imagination from here:

The next step in the management process is to spell out performance standards that are both realistic and measurable.

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5. Performance Standards

Any supervisor worth his/her salt can tell the difference between a good worker and a poor worker. Yes, there are some poor workers in any organization, even if that organization is dedicated to the cause of Christ. Now, how is the supervisor going to sort out the good workers from the poor workers. You guessed it! By applying the written performance standards to the written job description.

There are differences of opinion as to how performance standard should be written. Should be be based on the excellent worker that we want all other workers to emulate? For this discussion, let's describe a good, average worker who is in the middle of the traditional performance range. He/she can do better, and worse with more or less effort:

[Apply this scale to the sample job description elements shown above]

5 Excellent -- All the Time
4 Very Good -- Much of the Time
3 Good -- Usually
2 Fair -- Frequently
1 Poor -- Seldom
0 Unsatisfactory -- Never

 

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6. Regular Observation

During my first two years of classroom teaching, I can't remember my principal making a formal observation visit in my classroom. Oh, he was in and out a lot; my room was right next to his office. But he never came in and sat down to review my lesson plans, never did a formal observation, never had a post-observation conference with me. If I did indeed become an effective teacher by the end of my probationary period, it was in spite as his supervision and not because of it.

We need to talk about the Regular aspect of observation. Many supervisors base their evaluations of their teachers on such things as casual contacts and conversations and not sit-down observations.

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7. Performance Evaluation

Each worker should be given a regular performance evaluation to assess on-the-job competence as measured against the relevant job description and performance standards. Such an evaluation will include the following areas: compassion, communication, content, and control.

During the probationary period, a formal evaluation should be done every 30 days with no less than 30 minutes of in-room observation to be done by the immediate supervisor. Such an observation should be followed by a sit-down interview to discuss how well the work met the performance standards during the observation.

When I was a school principal, I used a videotape recorder when I did an observation of teachers in the classroom. Of course, this was done with the teacher's prior permission and no one saw the tapes but the teacher and myself.

No one likes to be observed by a supervisor, especially when carrying a camera. But after a while, the teachers got used to it and so did the students. I always chose an area of the room to film from that would be least disruptive to the normal activities of the classroom.

After the observation, the teacher and I would sit down and watch the tape. To tell the truth, the tape often did much of the work. Teachers' comments would include such things as:

Using a video camera is something that worked for me but not all supervisors may feel comfortable with that much technology during a formal observation. You decide.

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8. Regular Reappointments

When a Sunday school worker has been appointed to work in the church education program, it should be clearly understood by all concerned that such an appointment is not for life, as is the case with the US Supreme Court Justices. The initial appointment should be for a probationary period, such as 90 days.

If this probationary period is completed successfully, a full appointment should be made for one year.

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9. Praise and Corrective Actions

If you are in the business of manufacturing and selling widgets for profit, your organization would have a formal program for handling praise for good performance and corrective actions for poor performance. In this work, you are dealing with never-dying souls and their eternal destiny.

Therefore, you should be no less diligent in dealing with praise and corrections.

When a worker is performing in the fair or lower range of the scale we talked about above, it's time to begin the Discipline/Praise Ladder Everyone knows about the discipline ladder but there's a praise ladder, too, and it should be used when Excellent and Very Good performance is observed in connection with a particular practice or event.

Here is the traditional Correction Ladder:
[Always remember to praise in public and reprimand in private.]

  1. The first time you, the supervisor, are displeased about something, have a private informal meeting with the worker. Discuss your feelings about the matter and give the worker a chance to talk freely, also.

  2. If you same situation persists, have a more formal [closed-door, sit-down] meeting and follow it up with a written letter of reprimand that summarizes what was talked about at the meeting. This letter of reprimand should include the chances of dismissal if the problem persists.

  3. If the same situation still persists, have another meeting and tell the worker that he/she will be suspended from service for one period/session and follow this up with a letter documenting what was discussed at the meeting and the details of the suspension.

  4. If the problem continues, give the worker a Notice of Dismissal.

Of course good work requires that you use the Praise Ladder:

 

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Glossary

Chain of command: The plan of organization suggested to Moses by his father-in-law, Jethro in Exodus 18:13-27.

Communication: The ability to share ideas and skills with others. Example: a musician or athlete can be an average performer while teaching a gifted performer how to do a better job.

Compassion: Liking people in general well enough to teach them.

Content: Knowing what to teach and how to teach it.

Control: Using organized classroom rules and behavioral programming to improve behavior.

Corrective action: The sequential application of the Discipline Ladder [See Discipline Ladder.]

Discipline Ladder: The sequence of events taken by management when a worker's service is not satisfactory. The typical sequence is: Verbal Warning[s], Written Warning[s], Letter[s] of Reprimand, Period[s] of Suspension, Notice of Dismissal.

Immediate supervisor: The person on the table of organization who is responsible for a given worker's day to day activities and for his/her regular performance evaluation.

In-service training: Training in job skills for workers who are already assigned and working.

Jethro; Exodus 18:13-27: The man who suggested to Moses the classic table of organization.

Job description: A written description of the duties for which a worker is responsible.

Letter of Reprimand: A step on the Discipline Ladder.

Major program goals: A written description of what an organization is supposed to be doing; the mission statement.

Notice of Dismissal: The final step on the Discipline Ladder.

Observation: The process used by a supervisor to evaluate a worker's ability to work according to the job description.

Performance evaluation: A written report on a worker's performance, based on formal observation as well as day to day contacts.

Performance standards: The degree to which a worker is working according to the job description.

Pre-service training: Training in work skills before a worker begins to serve.

Reappointment: The renewal of an informal contract to perform according to the job description.

Student: Anyone who is taught regardless of chronological age.

Sunday school managers: The persons assigned by the church to oversee the Sunday school program.

Sunday school: Any form of a church training program regardless of the age of the students or training schedule.

Table of organization: The classic means of getting a large job done by a small group of people. See Exodus 18:13-27

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This product is an excellent tool for creating IEPs and curricula. It consists of the following components:

  • 16 Subject Areas
  • 105 Goal Areas under the Subject Areas
  • 4,830 Objectives under the Goal Areas
  • 2,719 Suggested Activities for achieving the objectives.