If I were to survey a group of Christians and ask, “Why does your church offer Sunday School?” (or some other equivalent Bible study plan), you might be surprised at the variety of responses. I’ve actually asked this question while leading training for group leaders, pastors, and Sunday School directors, and here are some of the top responses:
- We have Sunday School because we value fellowship…it’s where people get to know one another.
- We think prayer is really important, and we have a lot of groups that take prayer seriously.
- To teach the Bible.
- We have a Sunday School so we can serve others through our groups.
Those aren’t bad answers, but in almost every venue in which I ask the question, “Why does your church offer Sunday School?” one response is left out. It’s the most important reason why we “do Sunday School.” Do you know what it is?
We provide Sunday School so that we can make disciples.
Period. Sunday School is our expression of obedience to the Great Commission, which tells us to go and make disciples (which starts with evangelism). We share the gospel, we explain the gospel, we teach the gospel, and we make and grow disciples. Period. Yes, fellowship, prayer, and ministry happen in the process, but the reason we have Sunday School, the “why” behind this important ministry, is so we can make disciples. Since this is the case, what are the implications for Sunday School?
- Disciples are not made in large groups. If they were, that would have been Jesus’ primary strategy. He’d have gone into a dusty town, told His disciples to have a fish fry, and get the whole town there so they could hear him preach and teach. But that wasn’t his plan. For us today, the wrong strategy would be to have increasingly large groups that study the Bible together. Instead, we need groups that get this important point, and are excited about “splitting, dividing, franchising, or birthing new groups.” However you want to describe it, we need groups to get smaller, not larger.
- Disciples are not made by filling out workbooks. If this were true, we’d probably all be mature disciples by this point. Somewhere along the road, we’ve made discipleship about sitting in a class and having a group leader do an information dump on us. It’s not all about that.
- Disciples are not made from a distance. This relates to #1 above. Making disciples requires proximity. We make disciples as we share life together with others. Disciples aren’t made by sitting in rows, listening to a teacher. They are made by walking with the teacher, observing and questioning him or her about things they see and experience with them. This is partially how Jesus prepared the 12 disciples.
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Great article. Thanks for sharing, Ken! This is a word that all Sunday School leaders need to keep pounding! We must recapture evangelism and outreach through the Sunday School!
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