Sunday School can trace its origins to England in the 1600’s. You can find Sunday School societies and their missionaries planting Sunday Schools in colonial America. You can also see Sunday School expanding West as the country was settled. Sunday School has been around a few hundred years. Many churches have used it as the means to reaching people and teaching them the Bible.
In spite of all that, I say do away with it.
Do away with Sunday school if:
- You can involve more people in Bible study some other way. In my experience, many Sunday schools average within a few percentage points of those people attending the worship service. Sometimes 85 to 95% of those in worship also attend a Sunday School group. If you can beat those percentages in a different Bible study system, then do away with Sunday school and go with the another kind of Bible study plan.
- You have a better plan for doing foundational discipleship for people of all ages. Sunday school provides groups for all kinds of people. In these groups, people experience age-appropriate Bible study. Because everyone has a place to belong, everyone hears and participates in ongoing, foundational Bible studies. If you can deliver foundational Bible studies off campus, and for people of all ages, then by all means, do away with Sunday school.
- You are starting plenty of new groups in a different Bible study system. Sunday school groups are designed to grow and multiply. Call it “splitting a group, birthing a group, franchising a group,” or some other term – the goal of Sunday school is to start new groups and reach new people. If you are starting plenty of new groups some other way, by all means, keep that up and do away with Sunday school.
- You have reached all the people in your ministry sphere. The mission of Sunday school is to reach all the people in a church’s ministry sphere. If you’ve found a way of doing that in another Bible study system, do away with Sunday school.
- You have a more dynamic plan for evangelizing men, women, boys, and girls. Sunday school’s primary mission is to make disciples. That starts with evangelism. Sharing Christ with people of all ages is done in age appropriate ways through Sunday school groups. Do away with Sunday school if your new system for teaching has the goal of reaching people for Christ in age-appropriate ways, and you’re reaching more people than you were through the Sunday school.
- You are willing to see 85%+ of your newest members disappear by their fifth year of membership. Dr. Thom Rainer’s research has demonstrated that people in groups stick with church. In fact, if people join the church but not a group, you can’t find over 85% of them by year five. Maybe you have something different than Sunday school, and its retaining people at an even higher rate. If yes, then do away with Sunday school.
- You want less volunteers, less people praying, and less people serving. The research for the book Transformational Groups revealed that people in Bible study groups gave more, served more, and prayed more than those not in a group. Do away with Sunday school if you have all the volunteers and prayer warriors your church needs.
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