One of the most frustrating things I hear from time to time is, “Sunday School isn’t deep enough.” Maybe someone has said that to you as a group leader. Maybe you’ve said that as a group member. Perhaps you’re a pastor or you lead your church’s education ministry and people have said something similar to you. Here are three things to remind people when they make the statement, “Sunday School isn’t deep enough.”
- Sunday School isn’t designed to be “deep.” Sunday School is an outreach ministry. Sunday School is an evangelism strategy. It is designed for anyone and everyone to attend. At any time. On any day. As such, I may have people who are long-time believers sitting next to “Joe Unconnected” who doesn’t own a Bible and knows very little about the Scripture. The real problem is this: too many of our groups have turned inward and we’ve forgotten about reaching out to the lost. We believe Sunday School is about “going deeper” and such. It isn’t. It is about studying, don’t get me wrong. It is about learning to obey all that Jesus commanded us (Mt. 28:18ff). But when we reduce Sunday School to being that one place where we get our weekly fill of the Bible, we ask it to do something it was not intended to do! Sunday School must strike a delicate balance between content and caring; it must strike a balance between the lost and the learned. It is meant to be foundational discipleship. “Going deep” is for other venues – things like closed-group discipleship courses or D-groups (accountability groups).
- Sunday School can be used to create D-Groups. To make sure that Sunday School remains open to new people attending weekly, it is imperative that the curriculum chosen is designed on a solid open-group philosophy. That means lessons stand alone and create a satisfying Bible study experience for each group member. It means that lessons are crafted with the assumption that people of all spiritual maturity will be present. But to answer the need of some more mature group members for more depth of study, Sunday School group leaders should seriously consider starting a D-Group through their class. What’s a D-Group, you ask? D-Groups are same-sex groups of 3 to 4 people who meet during the week for more in-depth study and accountability. By sponsoring D-Groups, Sunday School classes can remain open to prospective new members being in attendance, deliver satisfying Bible study lessons, but save the “depth” for another time with those group members who really desire that and are ready for it.
- We are all educated beyond our level of obedience. It makes no sense to ask for depth when we aren’t obeying what we already know to be the revealed will of God. There is actually depth in simplicity. Bible studies that help us focus on simple truths from God’s Word that we should be living out, but are not, challenge us to live out the Word in front of our family, friends, neighbors, and peers. What I don’t need are never-ending factoids about a Bible character. What I don’t need is another list of things that happened on a particular plot of ground in the Bible. What I do need is to love my neighbor and to love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. What I need is to be a Christian father, husband, son, employee, and friend. I need to be salt and light. I need to be an ambassador. Teach me something simple, but profound, and give me some practical ways to live it out. There’s depth! I don’t need another history lesson. I need a road map for living life in a way that pleases God. The depth will come.
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Outstanding article! Thanks, Ken!