8 Reasons Sunday School Still Works (if We Work Sunday School)

I realize that many younger churches don’t have facilities for on-campus small groups known as “Sunday School,” but this small group approach still works well for those churches that do have the space. Indeed, I won’t be surprised if more churches move back in this direction (without the “Sunday school” nomenclature) if/when they secure adequate facilities. Here’s why:

  1. It offers Bible training for all members of the family. Through Sunday school, your church can teach everyone from preschoolers to senior adults—all within the same hour.
  2. It promotes all four aspects that lead to good assimilation. Our research has shown that effective assimilation occurs when a church offers relationships, involvement, expectations, and convictional teaching and preaching (click here to learn more). A good Sunday school class with an effective teacher can offer all four elements.
  3. It provides systematic, intentional Bible study for attenders. Think in terms of a strategy that walks attenders through the Bible in 3-5 years. Few ministries and organizations provide a ready-made, tested process for doing so like Sunday school does.
  4. It supports corporate worship. It doesn’t always happen, but a strong Sunday school that meets prior to or immediately after a worship hour tends to contribute to increased worship attendance.
  5. It builds relationships in the church. This point, of course, magnifies one point of #2 above. It’s in the small group structure of Sunday school that we connect with people who become the “glue” that ties us to the local body.
  6. It opens the door for many to serve. Few ministries offer as many opportunities for service within one setting (e.g., teacher, assistant teacher, secretary, outreach leader, discipleship leader, care group leader, prayer leader, greeter, refreshment coordinator, etc., etc.). A well-designed Sunday school class can offer as many roles as the number of people who attend.
  7. It contributes to the church’s discipleship strategy. When the curriculum is clearly connected to the church’s overall discipleship plan, it becomes one piece of the larger discipleship puzzle.
  8. It provides an open door to evangelism. Historically, in fact, this was the purpose of Sunday school. We’ve lost that primary focus in some ways, but we must not lose it entirely. A good Sunday school class should still be a welcoming place for the seeker who has questions about the gospel.

Sunday school works, if we’re willing to do the hard work it demands. I happen to be one person who thinks it’s worth the effort.   

16 Comments

  • DH says:

    Maybe I just crawled out from under a rock or something, but what’s wrong with calling Sunday school “Sunday school?”

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Nothing wrong with it. In many cases, though, people associate “Sunday school” only with children. In fact, in some churches, that’s exactly what it means–Sunday school for children, and adult Bible fellowship groups that meet some other time during the week. 

    • Ken says:

      David Francis, who works for Lifeway, did a study of the same churches Thom Rainer studied in his book, “Simple Church.” Francis discovered that more than 80% of these churches still use Sunday School as an outreach tool, and half of those churches still call it “Sunday School”. Personally, I don’t care what you call it. It’s the principles that matter.

  • Mark says:

    It also matters because it is one of only a few places (the internet being the other) that questions can be asked and discussed, provided people are allowed to ask questions and not criticized for doing so.

  • ‪Adult Bible study is not a dinosaur, but a necessary component of discipleship.‬

  • Sunday School has a great disciple-making opportunity in teaching people how to open God’s Word to meet Him and respond in obedience. Where else will they learn how to eat meat rather than be spoon-fed as spiritual babes? See my book for more on that: http://www.kybaptist.org/encounters.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    If a church is fairly small and does not have a strong tradition of studying the Bible in a small group setting whether in the church building, a private home,or some other venue, it can be difficult to interest church members in group Bible study no matter how desirable that may be. I have found that to be the case. I offered to lead a Sunday morning Bible study before the worship service at the church where I preach but was told that I could not expect anyone to come for a Bible study as well as a worship service on Sunday morning. The two people who might have been interested were already attending a Bible class and a small group Bible study offered by other churches in the community. Under those circumstances the only church meeting where the congregation may be taught how to study and interpret the Bible is the worship service on Sunday morning. I believe that Schaller, Willamon,and others also point this out in the literature on small church ministry.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Robin. In that case, I’d probably pray for God to send me some new believers, and begin meeting with them. Sometimes, new believers are more open and willing to follow.

  • Sandy says:

    This is a great article. Thanks for sharing. Whether you are a student or teacher, you will always learn.

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