Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve had a lot of experience with “Sunday School.” If you’re not a Southern Baptist, or aren’t a part of a church who does Sunday School, you might not know what it is.
Many churches are engaging in “Small Groups” and I personally think that these groups, which usually are in homes and not on Sunday mornings, can be just as effective, as long as they are “worked” in the same way. In fact, the place or time of groups is not what makes them successful, it is the effort, the work of the ministry.
One major advantage of Sunday School is that it takes place on Sunday morning when the people are already there for worship, there’s nothing else for them to “come back to.” It is also easier for people with children because the church can centralize a comprehensive program for preschool/children/youth etc. This means that more people generally participate. On the other hand, in-home small groups tend towards allowing for better connections because of the home setting and the lack of restrictions in time, but, in general, fewer people participate as a whole.
Another advantage of small groups over Sunday School is that Sunday School requires Educational Space, where as small groups meet in homes. I think this is the chief reason that most newer churches go with small groups, it’s more cost effective, they don’t have to build. So in general, if you have the space, Sunday School is more effective at reaching the most people, but small groups have an advantage at making deeper connections.
Personally, I think both can work together, provided both organizations are “worked” equally and neither one becomes the “preferred method.” All of the tried and true methods of Sunday School from the past 100 years of Southern Baptist life need to be equally applied.
In 1909 Arthur Flake joined the the SBC “Sunday School Board” (now LifeWay) and by 1920 he was the head of it. He was not a pastor or a minister, he was a lay person who understood the Great Commission.
The major motivating factor for Southern Baptists, our “marching orders” so to speak, has always been the Great Commission.
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matt 28:18-20This is what we do, that’s why we will be adding the optional tagline: “Great Commission Baptists” to describe who we are.
We send more missionaries than anyone, we send more aid than anyone else, we share the gospel through individual evangelism more than anyone else, and we use our Sunday School as a means to accomplish the Great Commission.
To that end, I am here at Sunday School in HD in Woodstock Georgia to “sharpen my sword.” Sunday School is the primary way that each individual church member comes into contact with the work of the Great Commission. Every Sunday School class engages in Reaching (making disciples), Teaching, and Loving (obeying Jesus’ commands). Every class engages in this, every member in a class, as they Reach-Teach-Love people in their immediate sphere, and then every class multiplies, we expand the kingdom and bring glory to our Lord in all the earth.
Flake was a faithful servant and a genius. He developed a process that has been affectionately called “Flake’s Formula.” When Sunday Schools follow this path, they are successful, when they don’t, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. So here it is.
- Locate the Prospects (find out who you can enroll in your class)
- Enlarge the Organization (create new classes that can reach people)
- Enlist and Train the Workers (Teachers, Directors, Outreach, Inreach)
- Provide the Space (every class >200 sq. ft. and 12 sq. ft. per person)
- Go after the people (enroll them in your class, then connect with them until they are active, then serving, then start over making more classes)