A Teacher’s New Year Prayer

Last Saturday, my mom went home to be with the Lord. She joined First Baptist Church in Lexington, Tennessee in 1962 and begin teaching a class two weeks after joining.

She taught her Sunday School Classes faithfully for almost 50 years.

Every Saturday morning when I woke up, I would find my mom at the kitchen table making her final preparations for her lesson. She always prepared an outline and handout for her students. Many of the people who came to show their respect for my mom, would share that she had been there Sunday School teacher. They would share how their lives had been touched by my Mom.

As we were looking through her Bible, we found this prayer that she had wrote. I share with you today in honor and memory of my Mom.

 A Teacher’s New Year Prayer

 Give Us, dear Lord, throughout the New Year

A sense of your presence each day

May we trust that you are here with us

And will be each step of the way.

Help us, dear Lord, to be patient and kind

When things seem to go the wrong way

May we seek your wisdom in each circumstance

Andy trust you to guide what we say.

Bless us, dear Lord, with your Spirit of Love

Give us love for each student we teach

And may in our lives they see Jesus

And in us see His love and His peace.

Thank you, dear Lord, for the privilege we have

Of knowledge and truth to impart

May we make a difference in lives this year

As we teach from our head and our heart.

 Nell Miller





Posted in Sunday School, Teaching | 1 Comment

A Question for Every Sunday School Leader

Over the last year, I have had the joy of sitting in on over 35 different Sunday School classes or groups.  These groups have been from churches that averaged 15 to 1800.  At least three things took place in every one of these classes or groups.  People were prayed for.  Some type of fellowship took place among the members.  And the Bible was taught.

WOW!  If that is all Sunday School is, it is worth doing.

But this experience has caused me to ask a question.  It has become a question that I ask in almost every conference. It is a question that I often start every consultation. And it is a question that I have even asked from the pulpit.  Here’s the question:

If all Sunday School does is teach those who show up, pray for those who show up, and fellowship with those who show up, is that enough?

In every incident, the answer to that question from someone in attendance has been an emphatic NO.  But in most cases, their actions were speaking louder than their words.  Why? Because this is what the Sunday School has been allowed to become in most of our churches. It has become a ministry to those who show up.  Sunday School was never intended to become just a ministry to those who show up. It was always intended to be a strategy for reaching out to people who weren’t there and ministering to people who aren’t there.

While preaching on a Sunday School Focus Day at FBC Rocky Top, I found a gem in the church library.  It was a reprint of Arthur Flake’s book, The True Functions of the Sunday School.  He wrote, “When its priority as an outreaching, soul-winning agency is recognized, the Sunday School serves to strengthen the whole church program.”

At the end of most of the conference that I lead, everyone gets in a circle.  Then I quote from Ken Hemphill’s book Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur: “The Sunday School must be plugged into a passion for evangelism; otherwise, it will settle into the comfort zone of a maintenance organization.  By ignoring the evangelistic potential of the Sunday School, we have reduced Sunday School to a stagnant pool of introverted groups that look primarily to their own needs and interests and ignore the plight of the unsaved.” Then I ask everyone to turn around and pray that God would help us turn our Sunday Schools from being inwardly focused to becoming outwardly focused.

What’s your answer? If all Sunday School does is teach those who show up, pray for those who show up, and fellowship with those who show up, is that enough?

If you anConnect 1swered NO, then let me encourage you to lead your church to participate in the Connect>1 Evangelism Campaign this Fall.  (A sampler packet will be sent to every TBC church after Easter.)  The goal of the Connect>1 Evangelism Campaign is to equip and engage every church member in personal evangelism through the church’s small groups or Sunday School.

For help or information, contact me at 615-476-5564 or email me at mmiller@tnbaptist.org.

Posted in Evangelism, Sunday School | 1 Comment

Everyone needs a Buddy…Enroll them in YOUR Class

WIN_20150630_173636Since December, my little puppy dog has become my little buddy. In the morning, he can’t wait to wake me up so he can express his loyalty and love. When I come home, he is always excited to see me. Bandit and I have connected.

Connected. I really believe that people have a deep desire to be connected to belong to a group. A group that would love them and accept them for who they are. I have been blessed with lots of friends but my best friends know me and love me despite my warts. When I first moved to Spring Hill eighteen years ago, I found these friends in my co-workers and my new Sunday School class at Thompson Station Church.

Bruce, Liz, Sue, Tim, and Jerry accepted me while I learned to lead a conference or to consult with a church in those first few years of denominational work. In Sunday School, we got connected with some great couples and Vance and Valerie have become two of my truest friends. As we started new groups, new couples were allowed into the circle of friendship and today, Chuck and Marlene and Greg and Karen were added as they began to search for a new group to get connected with.

One of the surprising things is that even in the church, there are many people attending worship but not connected to a group. Lifeway’s research on Transformational Groups discovered that those connected and participating in a group versus those that just attend worship: Read their Bible more, prayed more, confessed their sins more, shared the gospel more, gave more, and served more. All great reasons to invite someone to belong to your group today. Begin asking two questions in every worship attender, How long have you been attending “your’ church? And then the most important question, Have you gotten connected to a group?

If they haven’t gotten connected, invite them to belong to your group or connect them with the right group for their age or life stage. People need to get connected. Everyone needs a buddy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chosen for a Reason!

IMG_1083Last October, my wife and I made the decision to look for a new puppy. A year earlier, we had lost our beloved Sprinkles after 15 great year of love and companionship. What a great dog and friend, Sprinkles had been to me, my wife and especially my daughters. There will never be another dog like Sprinkles. So kind and so loving and so loyal.

First, what kind of dog should we get? Sprinkles was a Shih Tzu. Our first dog as a couple who lived almost 18 years was a Cock-a-poo. And what a great dog, Bogart was. In fact, my dad would always say about Sprinkie-dink that he’s a good dog but he not’s Bogart. Our search began with reading about different breeds. We made the decision to stay with a small-medium size dog. My wife had some crazy love affair going for a Corgi, something about their cute ears.

The search began long after a longing and desire had sprung. One day during the summer, I almost brought home a little Shih Tzu but knew this was a decision that my wife should make together. After a search, we made our way to Shelbyville, Tennessee to check out a new litter of little Shih Tzu. One caught our attention, the breeder called him “Chocolate.” On the way home, my wife said, “I want him.” And our little “Bandit” was chosen.

In John 15:16, the Bible says that you did not choose me, but I chose you. Think about that, God chose me. He chose you.

John goes on to write, that I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. God chose us to bear fruit and he promises that he will provide anything that we need to produce fruit.

As a Sunday School leader, recognize that even before your church chose you and enlisted you to serve, God chose you. You and everyone of those that you teach and lead are fearfully and wonderfully made. They have been chosen to do good works. Your group members can change your church. They can change your community. The key is to see your class members not just as students but as missionaries who you are equipping to serve on a mission field.

Let’s START today…we were chosen for a purpose.

By Mark Miller, Sunday School Specialist, Tennessee Baptist Convention

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday School Matters! (#START)

Yesterday, I attended Sunday School at Second Baptist Church in Union City. There were three things that happened in each class in this church and in classes all across Tennessee and the World.   The Bible was taught.  People were prayed for and with.  Members had fellowship with one another. SS

Wow, each week all across the world, people are being taught the word of God, prayed for, and having fellowship in Sunday School classes and small groups.  Groups Matters.  Sunday School matters. 

I am thankful for every teacher that has agreed to serve in Sunday School this year.  You matter!  Your faithfulness each Sunday will make a difference in the lives of the students that you teach. 

A few weeks ago, I was in Charlotte, NC and visited the Billy Graham Library.  [What a treat and an inspiration.  Thank you Billy Graham for allowing God to use you in a mighty way.] But you know that there might not have been a Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization without a Sunday School teacher.  In one of the exhibits, they list the following:

  • Sunday School teacher Edward Kimball helped lead Dwight L. Moody to Christ;
  • J. Wilbur Chapman was  influenced by Dwight L. Moody evangelistic meeting;
  • Billy Sunday worked  at a Chapman meeting;
  • Mordecai Ham was converted at Billy Sunday meeting;
  • and Billy Graham was converted at a Ham meeting.

The powerful influence of a Sunday School teacher.  You matter and Sunday School matters.

And when Sunday School classes choose to engage in actions outside of class for the sake of the Gospel.  It will matter even more. 

Posted in 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, Organization, START, Sunday School, Teaching | Leave a comment

Get OUTSIDE the walls of Your Classroom! (#START)

Jesus ministered to the outcasts and the unclean. Matthew states, “A leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed” Matthew 8:2-3.

Where did this account take place?

People need the LordJesus called to those who were vilified and rejected by society. In Matthew, “He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So Matthew got up and followed Him. While Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Him and His disciples.”

Where did this encounter take place?

Luke 7:36-39 tells how Jesus responded to an immoral woman who was condemned and criticized. “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him—she’s a sinner!” Jesus looked at the woman who had anointed his feet with oil and said “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Did this saving experience occur at the church?

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus so he climbed a tree. When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and as the song says, “Zacchaeus, you come down for I am going to your house today.” Zacchaeus was a tax collector.

Where did this take place?

Who can forget the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman from John 4:5-10. Jesus, a Jew, witnessed to a woman. Jesus, a Jew, sharing a cup of water with a despised Samaritan. And where did it all take place? At a well.

None of these life changing encounters took place at the church. Jesus ministered to the outcasts, unclean, vilified, rejected, condemned, criticized, ostracized, and despised. And where did he meet them? In a house, on a road, at a well, in a tree. The harvest is not at the church. It is in the fields.

One song writer said it like this, “My house is full, but my field is empty. Who will come and work for me today? It seems my children all want to play around the table but no one wants to work in my field. No one wants to work in my field.”

It is time to start 1-5-1 Harvest Branch plants in the community. It is time for Sunday School Classes to move outside the walls of their classrooms.

Nothing happens unless and until we START! START is START_Logo_FINAL_BUTTONdesigned to help you move your classes to get outside the walls and into the harvest field. Contact me…I would love to dialogue with you about how START can re-energize your Sunday School.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Encourage Evangelistic Relationships (#START)

One way jesusJesus built relationships with lost people. The religious leaders of Jesus day constantly complained about Jesus’ willingness to eat with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus explained that, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

We must follow Jesus’ example and build relationships with lost people. The other day I got lost. I knew that I was lost and kept turning on streets that I thought would get me where I needed to go. For a time, I was too prideful to call and admit that I was lost. But, I finally reached out to someone who gave me directions. In no time, I had arrived at my destination.

While I knew that I was lost, many lost people have no clue that they are lost. They don’t know that they need to reach out and call for directions. Increasingly, Americans are becoming ignorant of Christianity. They might feel empty and realize that something is missing but they don’t know Jesus is the answer that they are looking for.

These lost people are not coming to our churches. They are not in our Sunday School classes. But they will respond to a relationship. The Harvest is great but if believers don’t build a relationship with lost people, most will spend eternity in Hell.

Let’s START building relationships with lost people. Sunday School classes catch a vision that Sunday School is more than just a Bible study with friends and take actions to be engaged in a Harvest field for the sake of lost souls.  There truly is only ONE WAY to Heaven! Through a saving relationship with JESUS!

Nothing happens unless and until we START!

What is START? START is a practical and flexible approach to re-engerize your Sunday School.  Call me or email me. I would love to talk to you about START.



Posted in 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, Evangelism, START, Sunday School | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


My passion is Sunday School. Almost weekly, I will get a call from a pastor who says something like, my Sunday School is not growing…can you help?

eyeOver the years, I have responded to this question in many ways. Early on, it was to look at the numbers and challenge them to set goals for classes, enrollment, attendance, teachers, teacher being trained, and analyzing space. Lately, I have come to realize that nothing changes unless the pastor…the director…the staff…the teachers…and the members ultimately SEE Sunday School Differently.

START was originally planned to help churches lead their classes to catch a vision for planting 1-5-1 Harvest Branch plants. But in my opinion, it has become much more. It is a tool, a strategy, an emphasis to help you as a Pastor or Minister of Education lead your church to SEE Sunday School Differently.

This is why it is the first session of the training module. Few 1-5-1 Harvest Branch Plants are started unless your church sees Sunday School differently. Seldom do our Sunday School classes move outside the walls of the church to conduct mission projects unless they see their class differently. Most Sunday School classes have very little lost people in them. Why? because of how they see their Sunday School. Significant growth will not happen unless you lead your church to SEE Sunday School Differently.

The old adage says that as the Sunday School goes, so goes the church. How you see Sunday School will decide how the church goes?

Call me…email me….I would love to dialogue with you about Sunday School and how START can re-energize your Sunday School.


Posted in 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, Evangelism, START, Sunday School | Leave a comment


We celebrate fathers this Sunday. And I can’t think of a better father than my DAD!  He truly STANDS TALL!

My wife and I had the privilege of watching a pre-screening of the movie, When the Game STANDS TALL*. In the movie, Coach Ladouceur states, “Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life? That’s hard!” My dad certainly taught me there was more to life than just earning a paycheck or winning a game.

My father taught me to win at life. Growing up, dad was the hardest worker that I knew. He got up early in the morning, loaded his Colonial Bread truck, and worked each evening until the work was done. When he retired, the local Sonic placed on their sign,  Dad 86th birthdaycongratulations to Mr. Colonial. Everyone in my small town, knew Dad had earned it. Today at 86, he still works hard taking care of the Laundromat he purchased when he retired. The willingness to work hard and to give it all you got are vital to winning at life. Thanks Dad for teaching me to work hard!

He served his church as the Sunday School Director for 35 years, earning multiple Eagle awards for growth. At night after a hard days work, he would read the latest Sunday School training books, Sunday School leadership magazine, and earned His Sunday School Leadership Diploma. He constantly participated in association, state, and national training events. He didn’t just give a Sunday School report on Sunday morning…he embraced serving and leading the church to grow through Sunday School. He stills attends his Sunday School class regularly. Thanks Dad for teaching me to importance of education and for my passion for Sunday School!

Dad loves his family. He demonstrates love to my mom every day even though some days she wonders where her husband is and what happened to him. Thanks Dad for teaching me to Love!

Thanks Dad for your example on how to win at life.

*When the Game STANDS TALL was inspired by a true story of Coach Bob Ladouceur and the DeSalle High School Football team. What an inspiring and encouraging film. Join me in praying that God will use this movie to touch the lives of young men and women all across our nation. It comes out in theatres on August 22.

Posted in Christian Life, Discipleship, Stories, Sunday School | 1 Comment

Wake UP the Sleeping Giant! (#START)

My dad taught me to love war movies… In the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, the Japanese Admiral, Isoroku Yamamoto, responded to the Pearl Harbor Bombing with the quote, “I START_Logo_FINAL_BUTTONfear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” It is time to wake up the sleeping giant called Sunday School.

In Tennessee, I estimate that our Sunday Schools are made up of over 40,000 Sunday School classes, of which 23,000 Adult groups and 5000 are Youth groups. What a sleeping giant! My prayer is that God will wake this sleeping giant and fill the Sunday School with a terrible resolve to see Lost people SAVED!

Sunday School is not just another organization of the church. It is the church organized for growth and ministry. But, many Sunday School classes are resting…they are simply teaching those who show up, praying for those who show up, and ministering to those up. Sunday School is not supposed to be just a ministry to those who show up. Sunday School is supposed to be the Outreach and Evangelism arm for our churches. WAKE UP!!!

Take a look in the mirror. Does your class need to wake up? Does your class lack purpose and direction? Does your class have a passion for seeing lost people saved? If not, wake them up…see the fields that are white unto harvest. Challenge your class to become a 1-5-1 Sunday School class. A class that becomes burdened to see people get off the road to Hell and on the road to Heaven. Get your class outside the walls of your classroom, start a 1-5-1 Harvest branch plant, work and pray that God will allow your class to see 5 people come to know Jesus and baptized, and then multiply!

If you are pastor or Sunday School Director, wake up your Sunday School. Join us in re-igniting the Sunday School as a movement not just a program. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do. New people will be reached, more people baptized, more churches started, more leaders equipped and sent out, and more lives changed. To God be the Glory!

START was written for pastors to wake up their Sunday School. TN pastors locate the mailing that you received with the START DVD and planning Guide. Call me or email me. START will work, but nothing happens unless and until we START!!!

Posted in 1-5-1 Harvest Plants, Evangelism, START, Sunday School | Leave a comment