To continue the conversation about the purpose of Sunday School, let me remind you of my definition: “Sunday School, at its best, is to provide an ongoing learning experience which leads to: discipleship (closer relationship with Christ) through Bible study that lingers throughout the week, ministry to each other, service in the community, reaching people for Christ and providing a deeper fellowship.” We have talked about the importance of an ongoing learning experience, so I want to tackle “ministry to each other” and “providing a deeper fellowship” for this one.
We need to help our teachers understand that Christian education is about community of faith rather than classroom learning. Dr. Israel Galindo in The Craft of Christian Teaching should be a textbook for all Christian educators to learn the difference between traditional schoolroom and community of faith (Christian education). For this blog, let me just say that the object of Christian education in Sunday School is about developing a deeper relationship with Christ and with each other (Matthew 22:36-40) which leads to a change in knowledge, attitudes and behavior (Dr. Galindo’s Learning formula).
For us to be effective in the community of faith as teachers, it must begin with ministry to each other and provide an environment for a deeper fellowship. Of course, this means providing an environment where people feel comfortable sharing where they are in life without fear of judgmental attitudes or confidentiality concerns. It requires the teacher to be confessional at times about their own lives in order for others in the class to do the same. A level of trust and a covenant relationship in the class is essential for this type of caring to take place.
Ministering to each other and providing a deeper relationship means a change in our understanding of persons on the rolls. One of the worst mistakes the Sunday School Board made was providing SS Class Attendance Rolls. Teachers began to equate attendance as success or failure for their class. Class rolls should really be “Ministry Care Lists”. (If you get nothing else out of this blog today, help your teachers and workers see this list as a ministry care list and not an attendance roll!) When we see it as a ministry care list, whether the person is actively coming or not, we will continue to pray for and seek to minister to the person. They are a part of the community of faith!
Ministering to each other requires intentionality for all class members. Organizing your class with Care Group Leaders (Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the document sent to you.) which function much like deacons in the deacon family ministry plan will bring about intentionality in your care for each other. For this to be effective, Care Group Leaders will need regular contact with each other with some sort of training tips on how to best care for persons on their list. Their list should include active and inactive SS class members along with one or two prospects. Keep the list to 6-8 people for it to be effective.
To get the point across, I remind you of one of my own quotes from a previous blog: “Teaching is as much about cultivating and nourishing the soil as it is planting the seeds.”