So, What About Sunday School?
R. L. Lee
Some churches have disbanded Sunday School altogether. Some have tried to give it a face lift by changing its name and/or making it more of a fellowship time. Others are just limping along. Yet, some do continue to see growth.
What is sending Sunday School on a downward spiral or to extinction in so many churches? Problems with relevance? Problems with recruiting teachers? Problems with attendance?
If it is a matter of relevance, why not revamp the curriculum to make it more relevant? Why not add some methodology that brings it up to the 21st century? Why not do a better job of helping students understand how truth relates to life?
If the issue is a shortage of workers, why not restructure to accommodate your teacher-student ratio? Why not think outside of the box and delegate responsibilities of the Sunday School time to a variety of people for that which is more in line with their gifting, interests, and busy lifestyles?
If low attendance is the problem, why not work to rekindle the passion for Sunday School? Why not help people understand the importance of it? Why not pour everything into those who do come so they become disciples themselves and assist in the multiplication process?
In reality, solutions do exist but it takes much effort and perseverance. You need to be willing to start where you are rather than begrudge where you are. You need to work at attracting people rather than repelling them. You need to be ready to answer why you should have Sunday School rather than why you should not.
If you minimize or dismiss Sunday School altogether, where else will you offer the kind of teaching, fellowship, and outreach/ministry provided by a Sunday School class? How will you offer the dynamic of a mid-size group if you discontinue Sunday School? What will be your alternative for interactive, systematic teaching?
Teaching in the large group tends to be more formal and of necessity usually one-way communication. Teaching in a small group ministry is less formal and allows for interaction but is usually not the primary function of a small group and so a systematic approach to the Word of God is hampered in this setting. The mid-size group allows for elements of informality and interaction but yet sets the stage for more structure.
What will be your alternative for assimilation? Newcomers can get lost in the large group and fall through the cracks. Small groups may seem too intimidating. The mid-size group provides that in-between step for newcomers.
What will be your alternative for outreach/ministry? The large group setting provides only minimal and impersonal input and tries to make non-believers a part of worship. The small group ministry provides a more personal and relational context but tries to make non-believers a part of fellowship or community. True worship and authentic community are what believers do, not unbelievers. While non-believers may benefit by observing believers worship and fellowship, they need a setting that is more geared to finding out about God. “Faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). The mid-size group provides a relational context that allows for added input from the Word of God.
Sunday School, one structure of the church, has the potential to fulfill all of these objectives in just one setting. If you stop Sunday School will you find yourself adding more programs to accomplish all of this or will these objectives be neglected? Most of the churches with thriving Sunday Schools are those that use Sunday School as an outreach arm of the church, as a means of systematically discipling people, and as a way to assimilate people into the church.
Sunday School thereby provides a starting point for shepherding people. But, it will take teachers who are willing to do more than simply show up on a Sunday morning and teach the class. What’s a Sunday School teacher to do?
A Sunday School teacher must take time to get to know the students to effectively shepherd them. How can a Sunday School teacher do it all? Sunday School teachers must personally rely on the Chief Shepherd and point their students to Him.
This article “So, What about Sunday School?” by R. L. Lee was excerpted from: The Christian Educator Magazine. May 2010. The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”