The most important Sunday School question

September 12, 2016

Why do some people join your Sunday School class while others visit once never to be seen again? At one time, everybody loved Sunday School, but lately it seems to have lost some of its fervor in a lot of churches. Then leaders evaluate anything and everything from curriculum to renaming the entire program. Maybe use PowerPoint slides and outlines instead of old-fashioned quarterlies. Or perhaps meet at a coffeehouse once a month instead of the same old sterile classroom.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul reminded the church at Corinth to examine themselves to see whether or not they were in the faith, and then he followed with an important question: “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” Wow! That’s a profound question. Is Christ Jesus in you? Is Christ Jesus in me? Is Christ Jesus in Sunday School?

TedTalks speaker Simon Sinek reveals “the world’s simplest idea” in a diagram called “The Golden Circle.” Sinek explains that most people evaluate their organizations based on three concentric circles with “what” at the center, “how” in the next circle and “why” as the outer ring. However, history proves the most successful innovators did the opposite. In other words, they went straight to the “why” or purpose instead of the “what” or program. The same philosophy can be applied to disciple-making, particularly in Sunday School.

The start of a new Sunday School year is a great time to gather leaders and brainstorm “why” you do what you do. Prior to meeting, study the life of Jesus and consider why He did the things He did rather than what. Why did He choose to hang around demon-possessed people, tax collectors and prostitutes? Why did He heal? Why did He feed multitudes of people? Why did He voluntarily take our punishment for sin? The answer is simple—love. The life of Jesus is characterized by two loves—love of God and people. What characterizes your Sunday School?


“The life of Jesus is characterized by two loves—love of God and people. What characterizes your Sunday School?”

While name and format changes may be good things, they aren’t game changers because they are part of the “how” and do nothing to address “why.” Historically, Sunday School was an informational event centered on a Bible lesson/lecture, a highly successful method in an age when people were forced to have face-to-face interactions to work or even purchase a book. But in a fast-paced, global, environment where friendships and meetings are virtual, people are starved for genuine relationships. When we look at Jesus, the most successful Disciple-Maker in history, we see Him walking, talking, breaking bread and spending time with people.

Fall is a good time to examine ourselves and our Sunday School to see if we have lost sight of the Great Commission, our primary objective. Sinek concludes: “All [people] know WHAT they do. Some know HOW they do it. Very, very few know WHY.” The first step to Sunday School revitalization is to reverse the objectives by starting with “why.”

by Terri Howell  
/  Disciple-Making Team /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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