“Why are we always trying to start new Sunday School classes?” I am asked every once in a while.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food
From this quotation from Hebrews, I see the general pattern that maturity in Christ is expected to lead to the transmission of the Gospel. Though I don’t believe that this book was written by Paul, I believe there can be no doubt that it was associated with his mission (in fact, I believe that Luke wrote the book, and further that Luke is Paul’s relative, perhaps his nephew).
It is an often repeated example of mine, but Paul is a great model of mentorship that begins with Barnabas and continues on to Timothy, Titus, and all the other “fellow workers” that he lists at the end of most of his epistles. We gain insight into this process in one of Paul’s final letters to one of his “children in the faith”
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Paul is sketching “discipleship.” As the mentor Paul taught these young men the Kerygma (κήρυγμα), the message that we perch, i.e. the Gospel. This formal transmission was done by Paul teaching these men, not in isolation, but in the presence of witnesses. His charge was for Timothy to do the same. Timothy is told to find “faithful men” who would then be able to do the same thing, and so on and so on.
When we receive the Gospel, we need to learn, we need to study the Bible and we need to grow in our faith, however, if you are never leading towards “teaching others also” then you are not participating in the process of discipleship that was given to us in the Great Commission (cf. Matt 28:16ff)
Discipleship cannot simply be instruction, it has to lead to your disciples teaching someone else, why? Because “students” make poor “learners.” That is why my goal in the church’s discipleship ministry is not to get more people into classes, but to get more classes into the church. Discipleship happens when more people are teaching, not when more people are sitting.
Studies have show that people retain only about 5% of what they hear in a lecture. Here’s the breakdown of retention.
Lecture – 5%
Reading – 10%
Audio-Visual – 20%
Demonstration – 30%
Discussion in Groups – 50%
Practice by Doing – 75%
Teach Others – 90%
This is why we are always trying to create new classes. This is how discipleship happens in Adult Sunday School, not the discipleship of the students by the teacher, but discipleship of the teacher by Jesus. When you teach you dig, you stretch yourself, and you (if you are good) think about others. You minister and you use the giftedness that God gave you (which, by the way, doesn’t have to the “teaching”).
I would much rather have 50 classes with 10 people in each than 10 classes with 50 people in each, hands down, no question, more discipleship would take place in the former. What if in stead of simply teaching a Sunday School class, they started by developing a few people to rotate in as a team, developing them all the way. Then, move to be a “department,” perhaps with an opening time of encouragement towards evangelism, and then break into several smaller classes each week. As this is going on, you continue to help each teacher along, not simply in teaching, that comes with the territory, no, you help them in developing their own teams to rotate in as teaching and then eventually form their own departments with multiple classes. This, I think, is one model of discipleship that would produce more fruit.
So what about you? How long have you been a Christian? If more than a few years, shouldn’t you be a teacher by now? That doesn’t mean you have to lead a Sunday School class, but we can all teach someone, we can all be a mentor. Then, beyond that, what are you doing to make disciples? Not simply “teaching people” but preparing people to be teachers themselves, that’s discipleship. If we are to reach the world, othing less will do.