Making Your Sunday School Evangelistic – Part One
Bro. T. Massengale
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In many denominations, and even within some of our own fellowship, the Sunday school has fallen on difficult times. Some are abandoning their Sunday schools in favor of a simpler children’s church format. Others have gone to a single Sunday afternoon service with no Sunday school at all. And perhaps the most common trend is to still have age-graded classes for children, but eliminate the Sunday morning class for adults. Has the Sunday school lost it’s usefulness? Should we abandon it all together?
No! — At least, not according to the research of the leading authorities in church growth. They strongly advocate the Sunday school as being a vial, if not a key, element within most all growing churches. While I may not agree with all the growth research and methods being published (not all of it applies to the Apostolic concept of revival and growth), this is one area I support with a resounding, “Amen!”
It has been my observation that most growing churches are strong Sunday school churches. When the pastors of these growing churches are asked about their key growth ministries, they repeatedly point to the Sunday school as a major element. In fact, one well known pastor put it simply that “it is impossible to build a great church organization of an enduring nature without building a great teaching program through the Sunday school.” Even a casual glance at the large, growing, Apostolic churches in United States will attest to this statement as being truth. The ten largest churches in Oneness Pentecost are almost all strong Sunday school churches. This is not just a coincidence.
An institution, the Sunday school is over two hundred years old. First conceived by Robert Raikes in 1780, it began as an educational outreach to children – the street ruffians of the ghettos – to teach them the word of God. Having it’s foundation on two solid rocks – evangelism and education – it has endured the test of time to become the primary method of evangelism by the fastest growing fundamental denominations within the United States. Why is Sunday school so important to growth?
Provides Spiritual Strength For Growth
The Sunday school provides spiritual strength for growth. The Sunday school is the only place in most churches that provides a systematic, comprehensive, and complete coverage of the Bible. As good as the preaching and teaching on Sunday morning, evening, and mid-week services is, it is usually very selective and focused on needed areas. The messages are aimed at changing lives rather than providing a balanced Bible education. This balanced diet is as important to the spiritual man as good nutrition and eating habits are to the physical man: when people eat a balanced diet they feel better, act better, think clearer, and are more productive. Without an established “through the Bible in seven years” curriculum, we have a tendency to “major on minors” and “plow the same Gospel ground.” Your people need more than that. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Unless you teach through the Bible in one of your other services, you need to have a strong Sunday school for all ages. Their spiritual health depends on it.
Involves Workers In Christian Service
The Sunday school trains workers for Christian service. More than any other program in your church, the Sunday school is a place to develop workers for all types of labor within the church. It can utilize saints from the new convert level all the way to developing preachers and elders for full-time service. They can gain valuable experience in administration, motivation, organization, evangelization, instruction, as well as a multitude of skills and talents. A growing, evangelistic Sunday school utilizes teachers, supervisors, assistants, secretaries, office help, musicians, bus workers, story tellers, craft workers, puppeteers, artists, and dozens more. How will you use this vast reservoir of talent if not in the Sunday school? How will you begin to train leaders for other areas of service if you have not a Sunday school? Look at most of the key leaders and department heads in growing churches where they started – the Sunday school! Ask most preachers where they first developed their abilities to teach – the Sunday school! The old saying, “use them or lose them” is true in every aspect. Working Christians are happy Christians, fulfilled in their labor for God.
Strong Evangelistic Tool
The Sunday school is a vital tool of evangelism. A real problem in many churches is their limited number of family, friends, and acquaintances to witness to and carry the truth. The longer a person lives for God, the fewer non-church friends and contacts he or she will have. A Sunday school that is reaching out into it’s neighborhood and community will be continually expanding it’s reach to people who would have otherwise never had any contact with the church.
Using a bus, van, or car ministry, not only will you have an opportunity to plant the word into the hearts of the children, but a weekly reason to visit the home and become friends with the parents. Special promotional events such as Easter, Christmas, Mother and Father’s Day programs give a prime opportunity to invite the parents to church and see “Suzzie” perform her part. Such contests and promotions also encourage all church members to invite their friends and neighbors to the service.
An evangelistic Sunday school will also seeing the children – both of saints and sinners – come to full Bible salvation. Often when the child makes a move for God, it motivates the parents to move also.
Sunday school provides a perfect format and organization for all types of outreach: door knocking, bus ministry, special day promotion, bringing visitors, personal witnessing, and home Bible study to name a few. How much a church would be losing by not having a Sunday school! If your Sunday school is presently not productive in winning souls, the answer is not to eliminate it, but to change it – into the powerful evangelistic tool that it was meant to be.