Why my 2 iron holds the secret to Sunday School success

Hybrid clubs have wide soles and are much easier to hit than 2, 3 and 4 irons

It’s no secret that I have enjoyed watching and playing golf over the years. My son sent me a text message several days ago with a picture of his golf scorecard from a recent round – he’d shot a 78 (six over par – not bad!). He and I have shared a love for the game for almost two decades. We’ve been to PGA events, spoken to Tiger Woods, and my younger son and I were once interviewed at the Colonial by David Feherty (I’d allowed my son to skip school in order to go see a round of the Colonial in Ft. Worth, Texas).  Needless to say, I became a golf nut. I bought and traded clubs regularly, spent way too much time after work hitting balls on the driving range, and could spend hours at my local course’s practice greens, chipping and putting and sharpening my short game.

There was always one club in my bag that I had a hard time hitting – my 2 iron. Until one day I spoke to the manager of a local pro shop who talked me into trading it in for a new 2 iron – a hybrid club. It had the loft of a 2 iron, but looked more like a fairway wood. I suddenly found that I could hit a ball off the fairway grass over 220 yards, where in the past I had the tendency to dig into the ground and hit the ball fat. My 2 iron hybrid club gently swept through the grass and hit the ball cleanly. It changed my game! The hybrid club had the best of both worlds – the distance of a 2 iron and the smooth sole of a fairway wood. What a great combination!

What Sunday School can learn from small groups to be more successful

Sunday School may not function like it should in all churches. I recently crafted a blog post about David Putman’s poor experience in a Sunday School environment. He mentioned having to sit in rows, staring at the back of people’s heads. His teacher lectured, and would not let people speak up much. The Sunday School experience that David Putman had completely turned him off of this time-honored approach to involving people in the life of the church.

What Sunday School needs is to take a “hybrid” approach – keep the best of what makes Sunday School, well, Sunday School, and bring in the best elements of small groups. If you take the strengths of these two philosophies for Bible study, you’ll have an unbeatable duo.

How to create a hybrid Sunday School

Sunday School can learn a lot from its small group counterpart. Sunday Schools need to hold onto their traditional strengths…

  1. Bible study
  2. Convenience (adjacent to the worship service)
  3. Open groups (new people are expected each week)

…and couple these with the best of small groups…

  1. Bible study in circles
  2. Discussion
  3. Relationships
  4. Regular contact outside of class by group members

In the book Discipleship That Fits, authors Harrington and Absalom say the following about having a hybrid approach (my term, not theirs) to Sunday School:

If your church is bound to an adult Sunday School model, explore reformatting that model into small groups…This may be a much easier transition for many churches…just make sure that it is a relational experience (in addition to Bible study) and that everyone also meets regularly in some fashion outside the Sunday School class. (p.157)

So what the authors are lobbying for is not an end of Sunday School, but a reformatting of it. They may have had experiences similar to David Putman, and therefore have a lower opinion of what Sunday School can be.

So in summary, if you have a traditional Sunday School class where people sit in rows and interaction is fairly minimal, you can create a hybrid approach that gives people solid Bible study, but can also give them relational experiences inside and outside of class. Sunday School doesn’t have to be all about education and an “information dump” from teacher to students. Teachers don’t have to do all the talking (it’s best they don’t) and they don’t have to approach the Sunday School hour with the idea that they are the experts. The best Sunday School groups have learned to borrow the strengths of small groups, creating a wonderful hybrid approach to this time-honored plan for involving people in Bible study.

What will you do this week to make your traditional Sunday School class a  hybrid of Sunday School and small groups?

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