Sunday School=discipleship?

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by Robert Reardon, Captain –

I discovered a good website () the other day that offers resources for Sunday School and small groups. On one particular page, the site makes the claim that “Sunday School has proven its effectiveness by teaching biblical principles and godly living to people at every age and stage of life.” Is that a true statement? Has Sunday School in the western world proven its effectiveness? Has the teaching that takes place in the Sunday Schools throughout the western world affected the world?

Whatever your answer or opinion might be, I want to say that the concept of Sunday School remains a powerful tool for discipleship and evangelism. It has the potential to be a powerful force in the world for justice. As long as we’re investing our time and resources into it, that is. Sunday School cannot be an afterthought. It can’t be a thrown-together-at-the-last-minute event that is simply an annoyance on our calendar. I would even maintain that Sunday School is not only for children—it must be for all ages. Sunday School ought to be a time when people come together to break the Word of Life and digest it thoroughly. This would include dialogue, discussion and intentional discipleship. Gimmicks and tricks need to be reduced to a minimum so that the meaty stuff is given priority. We need to go beyond teaching the “fairy tale” Bible stories and give people real, solid Biblical truth.

This website goes on to make the following statement: “In order for Sunday School to remain effective in the 21st century, the Church must both reaffirm and retain the essential elements of this disciple-making strategy while also developing flexibility to address the diverse discipling challenges of our fast-paced, pluralistic culture.” Then it provided a list of Prime Directives that when followed would bring health and vitality back to any Sunday School:

• The Primary Purpose is obedient response to the Great Commission: Making disciples who will fulfill the threefold mission of the church—evangelism, worship and discipleship (or in Salvation Army terms, to Save Souls, Grow Saints and Serve Suffering Humanity).

• The Primary Strategy is the intentional, systematic development of leaders who can carry on the work of the ministry in the local church.

• The Primary Curriculum is the Bible, supported by appropriate teaching resources.

• The Primary Process is regular (preferably weekly), systematic teaching of Bible content and doctrine.

• The Primary Dynamic is the building of relationships that involve mutual commitment and accountability.

• The Primary Structure includes a full range of groups, developed with a sensitivity to culture, needs, interests and/or life stages.

• The Primary Oversight is the responsibility of the pastoral staff and church lay leaders in the local church.

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