Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sunday School for Today

The Sunday School has been under attack for a number of years by those who believe it is no longer an effective tool for reaching people for Christ and assimilating them into the life and ministry of the church. In his book, High Expectations, Thom Rainer writes, “Many church leaders have helped perpetuate the myth for twenty or so years. The myth is that Sunday School is no longer effective evangelistically or as an assimilation tool.” Study after study shows that indeed this is just a myth. Many churches in America are continuing to see people come to Christ through their Sunday School and these same churches are experiencing growth primarily through their Sunday School ministry.

Dr. Lawrence Phipps of Vaughn Forest Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama has seen significant church growth in his church. What does he claim to be the two keys to the growth of his church? Prayer and Sunday School. Phipps writes, “The largest vehicle most churches have for fulfilling the Great Commission is the Sunday School. The Sunday School . . . still remains the best chance a plateaued church has to reach people, teach application, minister and make disciples. The Sunday School remains the strongest tool to keep a growing church on the move.”[1].

In my study of Sunday Schools for my D.Min dissertation, The Sunday School as a Viable Tool for Church Growth in the 21st Century, I found that those churches that were seeing significant and sustained growth were placing a high priority on the Sunday School as the primary tool for evangelism and assimilation. Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources, also found this to be true. In his study of 300 churches he concluded that, "No methodology was deemed more effective than the Sunday School in retaining members."[2]

The church in America is in a state of decline. I believe one of the reasons is because most churches, in their attempt to try new fads for reaching and retaining people, have relegated their Sunday Schools to a low priority. The reason why Sunday School is not working in these churches is because these churches have stopped working Sunday School. Let's get back to work.

Just a thought.

[1] Lawrence Phipps and Daniel E. Edmonds, Growing Sunday School Teams (Montgomery, AL: For Life Ministries, 2002), iii.

[2] Thom Rainer, High Expectations (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1999), 32.