I love Sunday School. I’ve told people that I began attending nine months before I was born. It’s been a part of my spiritual pilgrimage all my life. But is the term “Sunday School” misleading? Does that capture the essence of what it is supposed to be? Does it communicate, or perhaps miscommunicate, the purpose and intent of this time-honored way of reaching people and teaching them the Bible? I’m going to propose that we must be careful and help our members understand why Sunday School exists in the first place, and that we don’t allow the term “Sunday School” to subtly imply something false about the most important ministry in our churches.
- Sunday – Yes, groups meet on Sunday morning. But do you want to communicate that Sunday School only happens in a three-hour window from 9AM until noon? If we do, then it becomes an on-campus classroom experience. This makes it easier for group members to forget about inviting guests if the focus is about what takes place on the church campus. I would prefer that my group members think of Sunday School as a 24/7 strategy for teaching, reaching, and ministering to others. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sunday School works best when we view it as an ongoing, round-the-clock ministry, and not just a “Sunday only” event. Some churches are having great success by starting new Sunday School groups on days other than Sundays!
- School – What kinds of mental images are conjured up when you hear the word “school”? If you’re like me, some not so great images come to mind! Large lecture classes, people sitting in rows, boring teachers, homework, and a general sense that none of what I’m learning matters. The word “school” in Sunday School” might miscommunicate what Sunday School is really about: reaching and discipling people for Christ. That’s exciting, dynamic, and ever-changing. Nothing boring about making disciples! Great Sunday Schools have groups of people sitting in circles, sharing life together and supporting one another as they fulfill the Great Commission. They pray together, serve together, discuss together, and actively learn together. The group members become a family as they relate to one another. Does that sound like “school” to you? It sounds much better, thank you very much!
If your church uses the term Sunday School to describe its Bible study ministry, you might think about helping members and guests understand that Sunday School isn’t just about getting together on Sunday morning between 9AM to noon; nor is it about having a school-like experience…it’s intended to be much more relational and life-focused than that. Work hard to over-communicate the mission of Sunday School, which is not dependent upon it meeting on Sunday, nor functioning like a school classroom!
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