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Perry Noble, young senior pastor of NewSpring Church of South Carolina, posted on his blog a piece about four random questions he struggles with.

His four questions are:
#1 – Why do people criticize a church that reaches people?
#2 – Why do churches continually invest in broken systems?
#3 – Why do “Christians” hate people who aren’t like them?
#4 – Why do pastors/church leaders listen to people who tell them what they should be doing…but have actually never done it?

Now all four are good questions, but it’s number 2 that I would like to address for a few moments. Perry’s entry under this question said this:

For example…I am from Baptist world (this will be fun)…and I never, EVER, understood the concept of Sunday school. The church begged and begged people to go…but the pastor didn’t go, the staff didn’t go–HECK, the Sunday school director didn’t even go!!!

If I am remembering correctly…SS attendance in ever major denomination has been DECREASING since the 1970’s…and yet churches STILL invest in the system that DID HAVE IT’S DAY…but needs to be let go of. (I am REALLY making a lot of new friends in Baptist world right now! Guys…I don’t hate you! My heart is built on nothing less than Lottie Moon and Broadman Press! I just desperately wish change would be embraced for the sake of HIS KINGDOM…and the SBC’s goal would not be merely to survive…but thrive!!!)

The other thing that comes to mind here is the way churches invest in youth and children’s ministry! Seriously…I’ve read statistics that say up to 80% of CHURCHED KIDS walk away from the church when they graduate high school…and very few EVER return. Could one of the problems be THE WAY the church approached ministry? If so…then does the church MAYBE need to make some adjustments?

If the system is broken then say it is…and doing so is NOT irreverent…it is actually honoring to God!!!

Now let me get this right. Sunday School is a broken system?

So what is the alternative? Do you start Bible study classes for all ages on Wednesday nights? That’s not a bad substitute, but you have to get folks to come to the church building or whatever other location you are having the study, separate from Sunday morning. That may or may not be a problem.

Or is he saying that it’s not a good and necessary thing for people, whether children or adults, to study the Bible? I think you probably know my answer to that one!

He tells us that Sunday school attendance in every major denomination has been declining since the 1970s. And he says that because of that, Sunday school is a broken system that churches need to “let go of”.

OK, so how do you revitalize a Sunday school in your church? (That is, if you believe SS is worth revitalizing.) Well, first thing, YOU’VE GOT TO OFFER IT! If you don’t have Sunday school, NOBODY is going to come to it!

In my own church we had a stronger Sunday school system 10-15-20 years ago, with lots of kids attending, and at least one adult class if not two. Our adult attendance was never too great since I’ve been there, with the biggest classes being 12 to 15 adults. More commonly they’ve numbered 6 to 8. I had been leading adult studies with 6-8 adults, but that dwindled down to 2-3 several years ago.

I’m not sure why attendance dwindled so much, except that it’s hard to get people to commit to a study for any real length of time. They want a short-time commitment, say, 4 to 6 Sundays. Now I have always wanted to study a whole book in the Bible, like say the Gospel of John, and to take as much time as necessary to do the job right. But there aren’t a lot of people willing to commit to that kind of Sunday school schedule in my church, at least.

Oddly enough, I think one reason our adult Sunday school classes dwindled so much over the last three years is due to our well-liked pastor. The guy is a fine preacher/teacher, and I think a lot of the members think they are being well-fed through his sermons on Sunday. And that’s a very good thing. It used to be, when we had liberal pastors, that people would attend my class because they said that was the only place they could hear the Word of God on Sunday mornings.

The problem is, our pastor’s sermons only last 15-20 minutes. Yes, you can hear the Word and have it applied in that amount of time, but seriously, how well-fed can a person possibly be on 15-20 minutes a week? They think they’re being well-fed, but they really don’t know how abundant the Word can be. Those people who stuck with me in my classes for years, now that I have taken a vacation from teaching, say they are sadly unfulfilled by the sermons. They are hungry for more!

No, Sunday school is not a broken system; it is not an outdated idea. It needs to be a place of learning, of feeding and filling. But it must go hand-in-hand with the Sunday worship service, in which people’s appetite for the Word of God is whetted. People should be coming away from the worship service hungering and thirsting after the Word of God, wanting more and more, since they have tasted and know that God is GOOD!

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