2 reasons why I struggle with the name “Sunday School”

It’s time for total transparency. I love Sunday School! That should not come as a surprise to any of you who have followed this blog for any length of time. You’ll also know that if you’ve ready any of the books I’ve written, along with the ones in which I was a contributing author. My mother made sure that my sister and I were in Sunday School each week – no excuse other than sickness kept us away. But…

I struggle with the name “Sunday School.” I do like the fact that it has “brand I.D.” – people seem to know what it is. But not everyone has a positive view of this time-honored ministry, and that hurts my heart. I have been a part of really great Sunday Schools – both as a teacher and as the leader of the entire Sunday School ministry. I’ve seen Sunday School grow and thrive and do what it’s supposed to do. But…

I have wondered what people who do not have a background in Sunday School think about the term. I’m not suggesting that it be changed, but perhaps re-branded. Here are my two struggles with the name:

  1. “Sunday” implies that it happens only one day a week – we may accidentally and erroneously think that everything happens between 9AM to noon on a Sunday morning (and we all know that Sunday School, good ones, really begin at noon on Sunday and go through bedtime on the following Saturday).
  2. “School” implies that we sit in rows and listen to a teacher who lectures us – the word “school” may remind us of our public school experience, which may not have been a stellar one. For many people, their time in school was not marked by creative teachers who truly engaged them in the learning process.

So what do we do? Where do we go from here? If I happen to be right about these two things, is there anything that we can do in our churches to change the culture? I believe there is.

  • Constantly reinforce that Sunday School is about groups of people “doing life together,” and frequently remind church members and guests that a lot of life happens between Sundays. Sunday School groups should fellowship and relate to one another during the week. The people should serve and minister to one another, and to others in the community. Sunday School isn’t just about that one-hour meeting on Sunday morning.
  • Be known for having the best teachers in your city. Train them in the art (and science) of how people learn. Demonstrate this for them when you are in front of them. Teach them how to creatively engage men, women, boys, and girls in Bible study. If you don’t have a regular cadence of training, introduce quarterly training and get together four times a year to equip your leaders.

What other thoughts do you have about helping people overcome the stigma surrounding the term “Sunday School”? How can you help more people consider giving Sunday School a test drive?


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