Years ago Dr. Ken Hemphill wrote a book by the title, Revitalizing The Sunday Morning Dinosaur, It’s still in my library of Sunday School books, and this particular one is all about how to refresh the Sunday School. The very title conveyed that a challenge existed in the ministry that so many of us grew up with. Many of us were saved because of the influence of a Sunday School teacher. We memorized Scripture, learned the order of the books of the Bible, and developed a love for the stories of Bible characters through the ministry of Sunday School. In fact, many of the pastors and leaders in our churches today were deeply involved in Sunday School – it’s helped make them who they are today.
So what is the future of the Sunday School? Has it seen its day? Is it still relevant? Or should we have the funeral? I love the British humor in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Certain gags run throughout the movie, and a recurring line is, “I’m not quite dead – I’m getting better.” That’s what the poor fellow has just uttered in the image to the right. Lancelot’s trusted aide, Concorde, was accidentally shot by a wayward arrow. Lancelot pronounced him mortally wounded, but with an arrow in his chest, Concorde kept insisting, “I’m not quite dead, sir.” Lancelot refused to believe it, and the gag kept getting repeated. I believe that Sunday School is going to make a comeback and that it is “not quite dead.” In fact, I believe that to the point that I just released a book about breathing new life into Sunday School (see it here).
Why shouldn’t we give up on Sunday School? Here are 6 reasons why we shouldn’t pull the plug on Sunday School just yet – “It’s not quite dead.”
- Some home groups have realized the challenge in teaching children adequately and are shifting back to the church campus. I like the idea of adults getting together off-campus, sitting around a living room praying together, discussing a Bible study, and perhaps sharing a meal before the evening is over. The challenge for these groups has been with their kids – what to do with them while the adults are meeting together. While the adults may have a good experience coupled with Bible study, that may not be the case with the kids. Often an older child or a teenager from the church is paid to watch the kids, which leads to the children being babysat. Home-based groups don’t want to shortchange the kids’ Christian education, and home groups have realized that their kids get a better experience and Bible study on campus in a group with several trained adult teachers.
- God is not done gifting His people with the gift of teaching. I have the spiritual gift of teaching, as do others in my church. In fact, I keep discovering new people with that gift, and I’m working to move them into full-time teaching roles so they can exercise that gift. While some bloggers have bemoaned the irregular attendance patterns of people today, the committed core group that is in all of our churches typically beats the attendance pattern of the average church member. If God has called your church to have a ministry like Sunday School, I guarantee He has provided all the teacher-leaders you need. He is in the business of gifting His people to accomplish His mission in the world – the mission of making disciples.
- People aren’t getting less busy, and the convenience factor is bigger than you think. Sunday School works as a Bible teaching strategy because it allows busy families to attend worship and Bible study at a time that is convenient for everyone in the family. Busy families will struggle to attend worship on a Sunday morning and then set aside another night for small-group study during the week. Kids need that night for ball practice, homework, or rest. Sociologists say that we are all living “time compressed lives,” and Sunday School is a great solution that frees up families’ time during the week.
- Every member of the family has a consistent group leader. In a Sunday School ministry, people are placed in groups by age or life stage. The homogeneity principle comes into play; we place people in proximity to people similar to them under the leadership of a dedicated spiritual leader. Teachers are trained to lead a specific age group or type of person, and they typically do so one year at a time. In a Sunday School strategy, continuity becomes a major plus for families…teachers/leaders build relationships with group members throughout the year. Families learn to count on the help of teachers in teaching biblical truth to their family members.
- Sunday School has a positive “brand identity.” Call it what you will: LIFE Groups, Adult Bible Fellowship, Connect Groups, and a myriad of other names, Sunday School (that ministry that meets at a time adjacent to the worship service) is still widely regarded positively by members and guests. Yes, in many churches Sunday School is in need of a facelift, an overhaul, or a tune-up, but not an implosion. People who do (and would) attend know that Sunday School exists to make disciples, minister to people, and serve others.
- The church may provide a higher level of security and safety on campus. Security teams, classrooms with windows cut into the doors, directors and staff who monitor the activities in classrooms, oh and the “two adult rule” – are all reasons why on-campus children’s groups may be much more safe than warehousing children in an upstairs bonus room with a paid teenage worker who is doing little more than “crowd control.”
Sunday School isn’t dead…don’t let anyone tell you differently! In the days ahead, churches who have the facilities and trained leaders to have a Sunday School will see it become more important to families as they try to stay strong in a culture that doesn’t share the biblical values they hold dear.
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Great article, Ken. These six reasons are so valid. So, let’s get back to building our Sunday Schools as the Great Commission force for the local church!
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