Bob’s previous post reminded me of something I wrote back in 2008 about Sunday School. I hope this adds to the analogy he started. Have you ever had an aquarium? No matter whether they are large or small, Bob reminded us that they require regular care. Today, there are even companies that service those large aquaria you see in restaurants and doctors’ offices.
In getting started, there are so many issues to address. For instance, what kind of fish will occupy the space? How many is the right number for the space? Will they be marine or freshwater fish? If they are marine fish, how will the proper balance of salt be maintained? How will the aquarium be oxygenated? Will it be provided by plants or supplemented by an aeration system?
What about keeping the water and aquarium clean? Will you clean the tank and replace the water regularly? Will you use a filtration system? What temperature is best for the fish? How will you maintain that temperature? Will room temperature work, or will you need to provide a heater? According to the size of the fish, how much space do the fish require?
In a similar way, your Sunday School is a living, breathing system requiring regular maintenance and care. Without proper care, the Sunday School becomes unhealthy. This requires attention and leadership or else space gets too full. Growth does not take place. Classes die. People stop inviting their friends. Budgets become tight. Training stops. Teachers quit. People leave. And more.
In an effort to anticipate some Sunday School system needs, allow me to suggest that you read Bruce Raley’s article, 7 Questions to Assess Your Present Education Ministry. (Bruce serves at LifeWay Christian Resources.) In the article, he asks seven great questions that may help you keep your Sunday School system in a healthy balance. In Part 1, I will share his first three questions which are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- HOW MANY NEW UNITS HAVE BEEN STARTED IN THE LAST YEAR? TWO YEARS? This checks on so many important areas. Are you regularly planning for growth? Have you run out of space? Have you considered any off-site classes? Are you apprenticing and releasing new teachers/leaders? Are you expecting new people? Are you reaching out? Have you asked every adult class to birth another class? No Sunday Schools will continue to grow without the addition of one or more new units.
- WHAT PROCESS ARE YOU PRESENTLY USING TO IDENTIFY AND TRAIN NEW WORKERS? This is also an expectant question. Are you constantly on the look out for new leaders who have gifts, experiences, and passions that God wants to use in His service? Are you intentionally praying for potential workers by name? Have you helped them do develop some skills? Do you expect your current teachers and leaders to apprentice another? Are you enlisting face-to-face? Have you set up potential teacher/worker training annually? Do you calendar regular training times delivered in a variety of methods?
- WHAT IS YOUR [SUNDAY SCHOOL] USING AS A SYSTEMATIC PLAN OF STUDY (CURRICULUM)? Allowing your teachers to choose anything they please can lead to unhealthy choices. I have been in classrooms and discovered unChristian “Bibles.” Teachers are human and have preferences. Would studying the book of Revelation for ten years be a healthy choice? My bias is that classes need a healthy balance in a study plan between Old and New Testament. Most good curriculum plans provide this balance. Providing a curriculum option committee to look at occasional alternatives may be helpful in some circumstances.
How is the balance in your Sunday School aquarium? Which of these questions needs to be addressed in your system? What steps can you take this month to begin making needed adjustments? In Part 2, I will share Bruce Raley’s final four questions about space, outreach, evangelism training, and facilities. Then look at all seven questions and assess your Sunday School as a whole. Then take steps to maintain a healthy, growing Sunday School aquarium!
Darryl Wilson has been the Director of the Sunday School Department for the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 1997. He has served as Minister of Education in churches in South Carolina and Kentucky and is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.