Pastors and Sunday School Superintendents alike often ask, “How can I motivate my teachers?” They often struggle with getting their teachers to come early for prayer, to do absentee follow-up, keep their rooms clean and decorated, and to help reach attendance goals. Clearly, motivation is the key to a vibrant, growing Sunday school and Sunday school staff. But the problem is how to effectively encourage these areas without nagging or embarrassing them.
Many have tried the “Teacher of the Month” approach. Often times the teacher is asked to fill out a weekly evaluation as to their faithfulness in various areas. From this and other criteria, a teacher is selected and presented with a “Teacher of the Month” certificate and their name perhaps engraved on a wall plaque. Hopefully the recognition encourages the teachers to be faithful in the various requirements of the Sunday school ministry.
However, a problem often arises. Every church seems to have two or three teachers that naturally excel. Whether because of talent, burden, more time, or some other reason, they seem to always score the highest. What happens is that “Sis. Jones” and “Bro. Carl” get the “Teacher of the Month” award most of the time. The other teachers become discouraged. “Why should I even try?” they say. “I could never do as good as Sis. Jones.” The result: The award goes to a select few and the others simply give up
Some have tried to solve this problem by making a rule that you can only get the award once each year. The response becomes, “That’s fine, but there are only eleven teachers in our Sunday school. If I simply do nothing it will eventually come to me anyway.” The end result is little motivation and some times hurt feelings.
Is there an answer? Is there an effective way to motivate, encourage, and challenge the Sunday school staff to quality and excellence in their ministry?
Yes, and it’s called, Aim for Excellence. It is a way to give “honor to whom honor is due.” Everyone appreciates being appreciated. No one likes to be taken for granted. Aim for Excellence allows every teacher to set their sights upon a basic “standard.” This standard for excellence becomes their monthly goal and a way to evaluate performance.
How Aim for Excellence Works
Churches using this program will first need to obtain the Aim for Excellence form (see the end of this article). This form is used as a master to make monthly copies for their staff. After meeting with your Sunday school staff and explaining the program, one form is given to each teacher or class worker with their name written at the top. That teacher will use this single form for the entire month. Each Sunday morning of that month, the teacher should be handed his or her form when they arrive. They will then evaluate themselves in each of the areas listed: First they write down what time they arrived. If they were on time for teacher’s Sunday morning prayer meeting they receive 20 points. If they were in their classroom on time they receive another 20 points. If they completed their absentee follow-up on all absent students they receive 20 more points. If they prayed for their students daily, calling each by name they receive 15 points. If they spent at least one hour preparing their lesson that week they receive 15 points. If their room was clean and decorated before arriving on Sunday Morning they receive 10 points. When they add up their points for that week, here is a possibility of 100 points.
It should be stressed to the teachers that this is a self evaluation. The scores are not being used to “police” a teacher’s performance. But rather, this evaluation is between them and God. Every teacher hopefully wants to do a good job. This program will help them determine how they are doing and in what areas they can improve.
What each teacher is hoping to reach is the established Aim for Excellence goal. This goal is set by the pastor and Sunday school superintendent. I encourage churches to set this goal fairly low in the beginning. All teachers should be able to reach the goal most of the time with basic effort. Most select a beginning goal of 75 or 80%. The reason for this I’ll explain shortly.
Then, after class, the teacher writes in his or her “Class Totals” for that week: Total Enrollment, Class Attendance, Number Absent, Total Visitors, Class Offering, etc. Once filled out, this form is then returned to the Sunday school office along with their offering envelope. In most churches this form would replace your regular report form for attendance, absent, offering, etc. You should try to avoid double paper work.
The Aim for Excellence form also asks each teacher to note how many students from their class received the Holy Ghost and/or were baptized that week. This means in any service. There is a reason for this: if a teacher is writing “zeros” month after month – all year long – hopefully something will spark in his or her heart to ask “why” and will continue to be strongly motivated to pray for each student.
This same form is given back to the teacher the following week after the superintendent records the class totals. On the last Sunday of each month, the teacher should determine his or her monthly average to see if they reached the Aim for Excellence goal.
We must understand that every teacher will have good and bad weeks – that’s life. What’s importance is the month’s average. The teacher should average together the four or five Sundays and write it in where it says “Your Average This Month.” If the average is equal to or above the Aim for Excellence percentage, then they have reached the goal.
Aim for Excellence Recognition
Recognition for the teachers that reach the Aim for Excellence goal each month is essential. Announcements can be made from the pulpit during service (The following teachers were a part of the Aim for Excellence team this past month – lets give them a good round of applause!). A note can also be placed in your weekly bulletin. But the best recognition is to position a small, attractive bulletin board in a highly visible location. The top of this bulletin board says Aim for Excellence. Under this is clearly stated: The following teachers obtained the Aim for Excellence goal for the month of November. The photos and names of that month’s Aim for Excellence team are then displayed.
It should be noted that any teacher that fails to reach the Aim for Excellence goal is not reprimanded in any way. They are simply not listed with those who did reach the goal. It is my opinion that positive motivation is usually more effective than negative motivation, especially with volunteers.
One of the benefits of this approach is that every teacher can reach for and obtain the goal instead of only one. They are not competing against the other teachers; they are competing against themselves to improve their score.
This motivational method will still allow you to choose a “Teacher of the Year” to honor at your annual Sunday school appreciation banquet. This gives special recognition to someone that has shown outstanding performance without discouraging the others.
You Can Steadily Improve
Recognition is a natural motivator. Everyone likes to be appreciated for a job well done. It is a biblical principle, “Give honor to whom honor is due,” and it works.
It is also contagious. When the majority is doing well, it motivates you to want to do well also. A subtle “peer pressure” develops and provides the encouragement that we so often need.
The Aim for Excellence concept allows a church to steadily improve the quality of their Sunday school. After a year or so with your first Aim for Excellence goal, the pastor can raise the goal a little (perhaps from 75% to 80%), and give the teachers a higher goal to reach for. Everyone likes to be a faithful and dependable part of the team. Nobody wants to feel left out. Once the teachers are used to reaching the goal consistently, they hate to miss it. However, now they must try a little harder and reach a little farther. As they stretch themselves to do better, the entire quality of your Sunday school does better also. Over a period of time the Pastor and superintendent can see their Sunday School become a growing, soul-saving, and spiritual institution to be recognized for the Glory of God.