Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: What Do You Think About Sunday School?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What Do You Think About Sunday School?

Since my graduation from Belmont University in 1998, I have had the privilege of serving at 4 churches in 3 states in both senior pastor and associate pastor roles. All of the churches had some things in common just as they all had their own unique characteristics. One of the common threads that ran in every church I have served and that seems to run in most evangelical churches is the dilemma of Sunday School. I use the word dilemma not in the sense that Sunday School is a bad idea for the church, although I suppose such a conclusion is possible to draw, but rather that churches are dumbstruck as to how Sunday School can be a thriving, penitent, growing, meaningful bible study experience where church members are genuinely excited about attending.

Again, in every church I have served many efforts were made. Sunday School leadership training was provided, with a minimal to average turn out of leaders. Sunday School attendance days were promoted that typically boosted SS attendance for a week or two but failed to carry much of an ongoing change. Additional classes thought to be culturally or age relevant were added, again making a temporary change.

So, what's the deal?

Tell me what you think. Here are a few questions for consideration:

1. Is the morning time for SS a problem?
2. Is the typical "quarterly" material a problem? Should we instead incorporate a dated "theme" of study that has a beginning and an end instead of an ongoing quarterly type lesson plan.
3. Are leaders just downright boring and uneducated?
4. Does the church adequately promote and explain SS?
5. What about new church members? Are SS classes outreaching and discipling?
6. Should SS be the "entry point" into the church as it once was?
7. Should SS be the primary outreach and growth program for the church?

If anyone is serving or attending a church with what you think is a successful SS program, tell me why you think it is successful. If you are struggling, tell me what you think the problem is.


Anonymous Agog said...

From my church perspective sunday school is very outdated. Not that the message is outdated but the method of the message. We use the quarter material you refer to and it leaves something to be desired. I don't have any great suggestions but I do sense a need for change.

April 29, 2007 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Paul, in Bethel Park said...

I have led Sunday School classes at our Church for the last year. Ours is a small congregation of about 40-50 regularly attending members.

We average about 20-25 in Sunday School. I have some ideas that I have not shared with anyone, but since you asked, here goes.

First, I believe the material should be a mixture of Books of the Bible and outside material. What I mean is, taking the Book of Acts, for instance, and covering a chapter per week can get tedious. I mean this from a regular attendance point of view.

By outside materials, in our case we use the Good News publication to intersperse stories, paintings, etc. with the Word. The topics we have covered include: Heaven, Suffering, Worship and Forgiveness.

By doing the above, Sunday School has enough diversity to hold the interest of those members who might not be inclined to attend regularly.

Second, I believe it is important as the leader to practice listening to what the participants have to say, not jump in to "correct" what they have said. Jumping in tends to subconsciously make them feel apprehensive about speaking at a future time. I try to remember what Vince Lombardi once said..."The more I listen, the better I sound." Listening also helps with something I never expected...many members either don't have the beliefs I thought they have, or don't fully understand the beliefs we have as Lutherans, Baptists, etc..

Finally, I believe it is important to ask "open-ended" questions often...not "closed" questions that require a specific answer. This happened this morning when our truly wonderful, young Vicar asked only the "closed" variety which caused most of the folks to look uncomfortable/fearful about answering the questions wrong.

Overall, the most important point is that it gives us another opportunity to be in God's Word. This can not be stressed enough.

I know these points may sound minor, but having spent several years as a motivational speaker in other settings, please believe me when I tell you they mean a lot.

Have a great day for the Lord.

April 29, 2007 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Agog said...

Paul - what you refer to as "outside material" is what our quarter material is supposed to be accomplishing. This seems to be a "negative" rather than a "positive." Of course it might be that our material is just not good.

I like what you said about not interuptting people.

April 30, 2007 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Paul, in Bethel Park said...

Agog - I seem to get a lot of people asking for "how to apply the Word in every day life". I realize that the Word ALWAYS applies to every day life, but the
"Good News" publication has excellent references. Check out Concordia Publishing House for information. The folks are very kind and helpful.

April 30, 2007 6:59 PM  

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