Are small or large classes more essential in Sunday School?

Mondays on the blog are reserved for quoting from a book on Sunday School and/or small groups. Today I’ve chosen a book that is not on your personal leadership library shelf. It’s from a book titled The True Functions of the Sunday School by one of my heroes, Arthur Flake. Written in 1930 and revised several times, this timeless treasure of advice from LifeWay’s first Director of Sunday School has something to say about the need for smaller groups in the Sunday School. Here, from 1930, is what Arthur Flake had to say about this, which still rings true today in 2018:

Even at their best, large Sunday school classes of adults and young people with attractive orators as teachers will never function effectively in teaching the Bible. Until these large classes have been replaced by small groups of not more than ten to fifteen young people, and ten to twenty-five adults, and until sharing learning activities replaces lecturing as the main method of teaching, there will never be the most effective Bible learning by the rank and file of members of the young people’s and adult departments. – The True Functions of the Sunday School, p.17

Funny. Things we knew to be true in 1930 are still true today in 2018! You must downsize to make disciples. Jesus’ primary method for making disciples was life-on-life, and he made disciples by choosing a group of 12 and a smaller inner group of 3. If preaching to the masses and teaching large groups of people by the hundreds or even thousands would have been effective, that’s how Jesus would have spent His time. It wasn’t then, and it’s not today. Preaching in our church’s worship services is important, and must be paired with a system for placing people in smaller and smaller groups for the purpose of making them into the disciples they are called to be. Arthur Flake even acknowledged that the teaching changes in smaller groups – it is more participatory and engaging than a method like lecture that tends to be a one-way communication method. Used appropriately and sparingly, lecture can be a highly effective method; used inappropriately and too frequently, it deprives groups of much needed interaction around the Scriptures.

How large is the group you teach? Too large to effectively make disciples like Jesus did? If that describes your group, please consider downsizing in order to make disciples the way Jesus did – and the way Arthur Flake knew was best – by placing people in smaller groups!

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