The Problem with Sunday School
I recently participated in a round table discussion with Allan Taylor and David Francis of LifeWay, along with other church partners across the nation, for a discussion centered on the problem with Sunday School. The discussion sparked a thoughts and issues, but I want to share the highlights of that discussion time. The problem with Sunday School boils down to 3 areas; (Basics, leadership and vision)
Basics: When we speak in terms of basics we are referring to 4 major areas (enlistment, equipping, enrollment, and evangelism). Part of the problem is the church has moved from a process driven model to an event driven model and has neglected basics. When churches are enlisting new workers, workers are not given clear expectations of what is expected out of them as a teacher. Equally important, is that churches are not equipping or training the leader to excel in Sunday School. Churches have also neglected to utilize enrollments as a tool to be evangelistic and have become too inward focused and are missing the point of go and make disciples. We must reclaim the basics of Sunday School in order for it to continue to be vital in churches.
Leadership: If the saying “Everything hinges on leadership”, is true then the leadership must champion Sunday School. That task begins with the pastor. The pastor needs to often communicate and demonstrate that Sunday School is a key ministry. We are also seeing the trend that discipleship pastors are becoming fewer and fewer, thus the decline of Sunday School and discipleship ministry is becoming more evident. The reality is that SS leaders are primarily volunteers who have committed to at least a year to lead a group or class and are not valued by paid staff. Lastly under leadership, we can see that our seminaries are not training pastors to lead educational ministries in a church thus the result is a decline in Sunday School.
Vision: Our last discussion point to ponder was that of the church having too small of a vision for Sunday School. SS is the how behind the what. If the “what” is going and making disciples and teaching them to obey all that is instructed, then Sunday School is the vehicle used to drive that vision. Sunday School is the church organized to fulfill the Great Commission. Sunday School is also, Ephesians 4:11-12 lived out each week, as the church uses its gifts to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for building up the body. Lastly, many leaders fail to see the benefit of Sunday School, where reaching, teaching and ministering happens.
In short the problem with Sunday School is not a problem with Sunday School at all; but with the leadership within. We must do better in making SS and groups ministry better in our churches and realize the value it is providing to our churches.