As the Sunday School Goes…

Although he has gone to his reward, the ministry of Ira North enlightens us still. In his book “Balance, A Tried and Tested Formula for Church Growth,” he outlines a range of crucial factors involved in congregational development. He adopted one from a colleague, C.J. Garner, whose fifty plus years in ministry afforded him with an abundance of valuable insights into church life. North wrote, “One of C.J. Garner’s favorite expressions is, ‘as the Sunday School goes, so goes the congregation.’” My observation, after a mere twenty-five years in ministry, is that both of these heroes in the faith were right on target.

When talking with fellow-Christians who are joyfully serving God today, it is not unusual to learn that one of the most influential people in their lives was a childhood Bible class teacher. On the other hand, it is not unusual to discover that adults, who are wrestling with major issues in their lives, did not have the opportunity to learn the basic truths of God’s Word as young people.

One thing is certain, we need to instill into the hearts of our young people a love for God’s Word—for their own good as well as for the benefit of the church. One way of doing this is to foster a sense of loyalty to their Bible Classes. How do we teach our children and grandchildren to love their Bible classes? Let me suggest the following:

Be Prepared— Rushing around at the last minute, scolding your kids for not being ready, fussing at them to “hurry it up” all the way to the car… these are all things that reflect a lack of preparedness. They also make it very difficult for your children to want to attend class. Make plans ahead of time to attend Bible class; and, stick to those plans! Arrive early; instead of “on time.”

Be EnthusiasticYour excitement about attending Bible class is contagious. Start there! Since you can never outgrow your need for spiritual nourishment and guidance, there is good reason to be enthusiastic about attending Bible class. Make sure you’ve got the “want to’s,” rather than the “have to’s.” Additionally, there are many practical ways of showing enthusiasm. Often, the best step to take is to be sure your child or grandchild has an age appropriate Bible for use in class. Encourage her take it to class every week. You can also show interest in your child’s studies by reviewing his or her take-home materials. You can help your grandchildren work on their memory verses. Whatever you do, be enthusiastic about Bible study.

Be PositiveIt’s easy to develop the bad habit of destructive criticism. Exercise caution in the things you say, because they will likely take up permanent residency in your child’s heart. Don’t automatically criticize or blame the teacher or others if your child or grandchild says something negative about class. Never criticize your child’s teacher in his or her presence. If there are issues which need to be addressed, do so in person and in private. Remember, those who are teaching classes are motivated by love. They are, generally speaking, making significant sacrifices in order to do so. Encourage them by what you say and do. It’s amazing how much good a few kind words will do.

Be Prayerful— What happens in our children’s and grandchildren’s Bible classes has great bearing on the future of the church and the faithfulness of our children when they grow up. As goes the Bible School, so goes the church! So, please pray! Pray for the teachers, for the students, for everyone who has anything to do with our teaching program! Pray that God’s Word will be deeply rooted in the hearts of our children and grandchildren in order that each and every one might faithfully and fruitfully serve the Lord throughout all their days!

© Bill Williams

August 15, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Children, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Following Jesus, Leadership, Life. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to As the Sunday School Goes…

  1. Jeff Slater says:

    Great post, Bill. I’m going to print it out and give it our elders and our education committee.

  2. Bill says:

    Thanks for your kind words, Jeff.
    May God bless you and good brethren in Ashland who are “united in love to serve”! That’s an excellent vision statement!
    Shalom,
    -bill

  3. Greg England says:

    I’ll be sending this over to our adult ed guy.

  4. ksreyes says:

    Hi Bill,

    Can I be a cousin too and request that you respond to my posts or email? I like this piece and will share it with our childrens’ ministry folk as we are currently in a transition phase (lost our children’s minister…) so we all pitch in to help.

    peace+
    kiersten

  5. Bill says:

    Yes, Kiersten, you can! Just make sure you have the correct email address! -bill

  6. cwinwc says:

    Good thoughts Bill. A church can rise or fall based on it’s Bible School program for it’s kids.

  7. Kathy says:

    I agree that a strong Bible School program for kids is of utmost importance. However, I do believe we make a mistake in scheduling those programs to coincide with the parents’ worship services.
    It has long been my concern that our kids are separated from corporate worship until they finish high school and then we cut them loose, sending them into a worship culture they know nothing about, nor have any historical references to – no ownership of where they’re expected to go As a result, we have lost so many of our young people.
    IMHO, our kids are better served having their Bible programs at the same time the adults have theirs, are with their families during “big church” until possibly sermon time, and then into age appropriate activities. They then develop a love and again, ownership of our prayer time together, music, communion, sharing of family concerns. But to shunt them off into a separate area altogether, is again imho, a huge mistake. I know I’m in a majority of ONE here, but just had to mention it.

  8. ksreyes says:

    Hi Bill,

    I know this is off topic, but I need some help. R.G. over at Blue Passport is discussing reductionism in relation to Christianity. Not being a theologian myself, I asked him if he could please briefly define the differences between the following types of Christians:
    post modern
    reductionist
    post relative
    relative
    fundamentalist
    I realize this is a large task/question and he directed me to google. But now it is as though I am searching for needles in haystacks. Does anybody here have some simple answers for me? I just do not like commenting on issues that I am not familiar with or understand.

    Thank you!
    in peace+
    kiersten

  9. Bill says:

    Kiersten:

    I’ve got a meeting in about 20 minutes, but let met give you some tid bits right quick. I don’t mean this to sound evasive, but each of the words on this list have a variety of meanings, depending on who is using them and what their biases are.

    Example: I attended a workshop way back in 1997ish that was dedicated to the purpose of providing information on all the evils of the Post Modern Movement. As the years have gone by, I’ve learned that the presenter really didn’t have a clue about what he was talking about. If modernity was a movement, then post-modernism is a movement. Modernity identifies an era or epoch of time–a time of reason and rationalistic “solutions” to human queries and quandries. It is an era in which systems were thought to provided solutions. Problem is they didn’t. They couldn’t, because the people controlling them were/are flawed.

    We are now navigating the liminal space between modernity and whatever epoch will emerge–some have, in my opinion, jumped the gun and said all the non-linier thinking young people who have come of age and found the existing “systems” to be flawed and are trying to work out different, hopefully better, solutions are postmodern. Thus, you have it: the birth of POSTMODERNISM. There is so much more to be said. Hope that helps.

    Something similar to this has happened with relativism and post-relativism. Think of these terms as boxes that people use to contain their thoughts and pigeon-hole people. Problem is: thoughts are constantly developing and people are always changing. A good source for specific information on these topics, however, is: http://en.wikipedia.org. Also, look at Rutgers University’s Virtual Religion Index. This site sometimes has some good information, but it is fairly pluralistic. I like look at it, though, just to make sure that my views are balanced and informed.

    As for fundamentalism. I think Greg England needs to define that for you! Why not give it a whirl, Greg?

  10. Dee Andrews says:

    Is that right, Greg? Are you a “fundalmentalist” or just an expert on what it means? Interesting. I’m waiting to hear what you say about fundalmentalism, too.

    I agree with you, Bill, and you, also, Kathy, about not only the importance of Sunday schools, but also how they are structured (and when the kids are sent off to them, Kathy, as you say). I think they are vital to our children and grandchildren for many reasons.

    But even more important, I would submit, is the teachings of the parents of all children in their homes in all things. In my own childhood, some of my very earliest memories are of my dad having me invite all of the neighborhood children over one evening a week when he would conduct Bible studies for us, on our level, of course, from the “stories” of the Bible.

    He told us all that if we would memorize all of the books of the Bible, he would give us each a Bible of our own. And he did. I memorized the books of the Bible when I was 4 and my next door neighbor, best friend, Mary Margaret, who was Catholic, learned them, too, AFTER my dad gave her a Bible of her own to learn them from, as Catholics at that time rarely had Bibles in their homes and were NOT encouraged to study from them at all.

    I know. I understand – most parents would not do that, nor would it maybe be appropriate in this day and age. And Sunday School can have a great positive impact on kids of all ages. Absolutely.

    In the end, though, from my own experiences growing up and those of my children (in a very difficult, stultifying church situation), I have to say that for us as parents who know better, we have to be first and foremost ther first and last sebastion in presenting God’s Word to our children.

    Whichever way it’s done, whatever way, in ALL ways, it’s imperative that each and every one of us teach the generation to come in EVERY way we can God’s Word and His ways.

  11. Bill says:

    I’m not suggesting that Greg is a fundamentalist. He’s just got a unique way of looking at things. I’d love to read what he might write on this topic. -bill

  12. ksreyes says:

    Thank you Bill for explaining it to me ‘in a nutshell,’ as difficult as that was to do. I had an intuitive understanding and you have provided me the structure I needed.

    Also thanks for ‘taking the test!’ I know you have much on your plate, but I love your responses and have a larger glimmer of who you are as a person (as if I haven’t seen your great big heart already!!)

    peace+ my friend,
    Kiersten

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