What comes to mind when you hear the word “missionary”? Far away places? Strange customs? Unfamiliar languages? Sunday School? Yes, how about adding Sunday School to your understanding of what it means to be a missionary! You don’t have to cross a border or an ocean to be a missionary. In fact, if you are a member of Sunday School, you are part of a 300-year-old missionary movement. In the 2011 book Transformational Class: Transformational Church Goes to Sunday School, author David Francis (Director of Sunday School, Lifeway Christian Resources) reminded his readers that the Sunday School movement began in Gloucester, England, through the efforts of Robert Raikes who was deeply moved by the plight of hundreds of young children who worked in factories six days a week. He wanted to help them achieve a better life and climb out of their poverty by teaching them to read, and the only day off they had was Sunday. He established a “Sunday School” and enrolled children in classes where they learned to read…and the Bible was their textbook. The missionary movement known as Sunday School had begun. Sunday School as a missionary movement didn’t stop there. During the early days of our country, Sunday School missionaries travelled from town to town in order to establish a Sunday School in the communities they visited. Those early Sunday Schools were typically non-denominational, and people of all ages were invited to study the Bible. Later, after the establishment of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Sunday School missionaries were sent out to establish community Sunday Schools in pioneer towns. Now think about your Sunday School and realize you are part of a 300-year-old missionary movement… you are a “Sunday School missionary.” Just like missionaries who travel to foreign countries to reach a specific people group, your Sunday School has a variety of classes designed to reach specific people groups such as children, students, single adults, married adults, senior adults, and probably many more. Through prayer and reflection, you can identify people who don’t currently have a place to fit in your Sunday School. When you identify those unreached people, pray for them, and start new classes designed to reach them specifically, you are being intentionally missional. You have become a Sunday School missionary.We all know missionaries leave behind the comforts of home in order to reach people who have not connected to God. Those same missionaries must also leave behind people they love in order to expand the Kingdom of God and be obedient to Christ’s command to “go and make disciples.” Being a missionary who travels to foreign countries is not too dissimilar from you and I being Sunday School missionaries. If we take our role as missionaries seriously, we’ll find ourselves leaving our comfortable, familiar classrooms behind in order to start new classes. We’ll leave behind people we’ve come to know and love in order to reach new people. Do you have people on your class role you never see? Start a new class to reach them. Are there people who attend worship but don’t fit into your current Sunday School? Start a new class for them. Are there people living all around your church who never attend? Begin a new class for them. When you think strategically and act missionally, you become part of the greatest 300-year-old missionary movement the world has ever known: Sunday School!
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