So many times we do things with actually no purpose, or it is so clouded and blurry, we can’t even make it out. Clarity is an amazing thing when doing ministry and it must be the thing that shows us the way in our Christian walk. Through the years I have seen a lot of things change that should have stayed the same, and many things stay the same that should have changed. All of this comes down to the why of our purpose. Why sing this song? Because one person said they like it. Why start this group? Because one person said we needed to. Why build this building? Because we wanted to dedicate it to a someone. There are so many different reasons we do things that might not pass the God inspired test, and of those things, many of them get in the way of doing the right thing. The prayed for, God inspired action, that takes so much patience and tossing and turning. It’s easier to weigh things on the scales of human wants instead of following God’s why! God’s why means we have to speak to Him and then listen to Him and that is so scetchy for some who don ‘t really have that kind of relationship with the Father. That seems too mystical for them, so they decide to use human judgment and rationalize with human wisdom. Why? It’s easier and more within reach. Plus it doesn’t stretch us so much.
Just like Sunday school in Baptist life. Do we ditch it or call it something else, or just keep it and struggle along. Churches are doing away with Sunday school faster than church choirs nowadays and we use the lack of participation of those in those classes as a reason to do something different or do nothing at all. In the 70’s Baptist churches were glad to have 50% of enrolled in Sunday school actually attending regularly. In the 80’s we refired “visitation” up again and that salvaged Sunday school for the next decade. In the 90’s everyone kind of said “who cares?” And that brings us to today. So many churches are still doing Sunday school, but in homes and not necessarily on Sunday. Some are doing it at the church and trudge on. Some have totally gone away from it. I want to address these three and hopefully we can get a little clarity out of the Why Sunday school?
First off, those who have ditched it completely are missing the point of what Sunday school is all about, and probably still have it but they don’t call it that. Sunday school originated out of a need in church life to get people into small groups so they could discuss the Bible and build closer relationships with other Christians. When a Sunday school class fulfills the why, it will be a growing, thriving, group of growing Christians that strengthen the foundation of the local church and provide energy to reach out to their community. Any Bible Study group that meets with intent of having less than 20 people in it is a Sunday school class. Years ago Pastor’s saw the strength of those classes and formed Pastor’s Classes so they could interact with God’s People in that way. Those classes usually met in the sanctuary of a church and really became everything but a Sunday school class, because they didn’t meet the why of Sunday school. Just so you know. Classes like those probably weakened the intent of Sunday school over the years and contributed to the demise of the Sunday school organization. Why? Sunday school was intended to remain a smaller discussion group than a non-discussion worship service. Many of these flawed models led to churches just “giving up” on the Sunday school ministry. It lost it’s purpose and thus lost it’s value to churches that are striving to be current. Bad Move!!!
Secondly, I want to speak to the churches that do Sunday school off campus and not at the same time. I actually have no problem with that approach as long as those doing it are completely trustworthy in their love for building up the local church they are serving. Today’s church needs a bunch of little churches meeting away from it like a hole in the head. Those who do this “at home” approach must know and adhere to the purpose of the church they are attached to and know why they are having these groups and what their purpose is. Their why has to be very strong and very resolved. Small groups for Bible Discussion has to continue to be the mantra of those classes and a heavy accountability model has to be in place to continue to make sure they are functioning properly. In the Christian life accountability is sorely needed and small groups off campus must be very aware of that need and follow the churches guidelines for that accountability. Other factors, like insurance needs, food and drink needs, and good room space is something that also must be addressed when going to that approach. In reality, that too becomes old hand, so the cool thing wears off quickly and we are back to square one.
Lastly, I must address the churches that keep their Sunday school in the schedule and in the church building. This might be called the traditional way to do Sunday school and some boomers might freak at the mention of that word. Settle down and listen up. We must go back to the purpose of Sunday school. Remember, small groups with Bible DISCUSSION!! Some larger churches are still knocking it out of the park with Sunday school in this format and some are just barely hanging on and giving away prizes to keep people attending. The development of relationships in the Sunday school class is the only thing that will keep Sunday school intact!!! We live in a society where people would rather type their words to others, than talk to them one on one. We are a fearful, intimidated group of Americans and the only strength we have is when we don’t have to look into the face of someone we don’t agree with. We call that strength. We have allowed ourselves to become third person in almost everything we do and that has bled over to the Bible Study discussion group and how we minister in that group. If we would reclaim what Jesus was like by looking a person in the eye, getting involved in their stuff, and allowing ourselves to be real to them, our Sunday school classes would be full and overflowing. We would have to beat people off with a stick!! (not literally) So you can see why Sunday school is not growing anymore. We have lost the caring heart of Jesus that is in each of us through the Holy Spirit. We have found a way to minimize the Holy Spiri in our life and thus keep guilt from motivating us anymore. We have become detached and so has everyone around us. Detached from God and detached from others. This radical lack of fellowship can be turned around with a simple magical wand called friendship. That wand when activated will take our spotlight off of ourselves and put it on others and they will want to be around us because we CARE!!
Sunday school will grow as never before when we once again recapture the ability to care. Care about a person’s week. Care whether a person is in class or not. Care about a person’s family needs. Care. When we care for someone, we are caring for Jesus. Jesus sais, “if you have done this to the least of these, you have done it to me.”
Here’s the question. Do you love Jesus? Do you care about Jesus? Do you know your life purpose for Jesus? If you said no to any of those, you got problems!! Come back to CARING and marvel at the impact it has on those around you. If you are a person who believes in the Sunday school ministry, then allow it to come to life by CARING!! You don’t even have to have a group at your house. Just meet them at the church house. What is your why? My why is…..because God’s word says to do it. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Pilgrimage continues……